Read It: Richard Stark’s Parker by Darwyn Cooke

Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke

If you like crime fiction and caper stories, I have a pair of graphic novels that are required reading for you.

Parker is a cold criminal who is nearly killed when his wife and partner turn on him for money. Parker then methodically goes about seeking revenge, which brings him in conflict with the mob. Author Donald Westlake created the character after walking over the George Washington Bridge, where he was struck by how the cold steel bridge responded to the gusting wind and speeding cars. That speed, solidity and tension was transformed by Westlake into Parker, who debuted in the 1962 crime thriller The Hunter by Richard Stark (a pseudonym). The book was a hit and kicked off a series of crime novels starring Parker. It also inspired a number of movie adaptations (Point Blank, Full Contact, and most recently Payback starring Mel Gibson) but Westlake never allowed the use of Parker’s names in those movies, perhaps a statement that he never felt they were authentic enough. In fact Westlake has never allowed any adaptation to use the Parker name until a recent series of graphic novels.

Starting in 2009, illustrator Darwyn Cooke has been releasing graphic novels with the full approval and cooperation of Donald Westlake and his estate. Sadly Westlake didn’t live long enough to see the release of the first book, but he collaborated with Cooke during its creation. The Hunter and The Outfit are both wonderful adaptations that use the medium of comics to really enhance the feeling of being in the early 1960s, and seeing this compelling yet dangerous man named Parker go to work. Cooke uses differing storytelling devices and stylistic changes to lay out the various capers. His skills at depicting this world make for a fully engrossing and cool read.

The original plan was to adapt four books but there has already been talk of expanding it to five. The third book is expected to be The Score, where Parker joins a group of criminals for an ambitious heist of an entire town. It’s scheduled for next summer from IDW Publishing.

Richard Stark's Parker: The Outfit by Darwyn Cooke