CCI: Darwyn Cooke on the "Parker" Graphic Novels

Wednesday's preview night at Comic-Con International in San Diego saw the announcement that Darwyn Cooke will be adapting the "Parker" series crime novels by Donald Westlake (under the pen name Richard Stark) as a series of four full-length graphic novels for IDW Publishing. As previously reported on CBR in an interview with Special Projects Editor Scott Dunbier, a series of three cards with art by Cooke will be available from specific locations exclusively at Comic-Con. We spoke with Cooke about the "Parker" graphic novels, which will begin appearing in summer 2009.

While comics adaptations of prose fiction can take many forms, Cooke said that the "Parker" series of graphic novels would leave much of Westlake/Stark's source material untouched. "The concept here is to simply edit the existing novel to remove visually descriptive passages and any narrative that can be expressed through pictures," Cooke told CBR. "It is my hope to keep every word of Westlake/Stark's dialogue intact, making minor changes only when the adaptation process demands it.

"Donald Westlake has been very involved in the development process and we've had a very productive back and forth through the email. With a character as low key and internal as Parker, Donald's explanation or understanding of his motivation was revelatory."

The original Parker novel will also be the first Cooke brings to IDW. "The series begins with 'The Hunter,' a novel many consider seminal in crime fiction. Published in 1962, it slapped readers in the face with the story of Parker, an amoral and emotionally lean criminal on a quest for vengeance," the artist said. Westlake's novel is also known as "Point Blank," having been renamed following the release of the 1967 film version directed by John Boorman. "What really compels readers is Westlake's presentation of this somewhat reprehensible man as an effective protagonist. The prose is as clean and stripped down as a story can afford to be. Westlake contends it was the result of an experiment where he tried to avoid narrative explanations of his character's feelings, instead focusing on external physical cues to carry the story's emotional weight."

Though known largely for his work on superhero comics like "New Frontier" and "Catwoman," Cooke is not unfamiliar with grittier noir stories. "I've always had more natural affinity for crime stories," the artist said. "If you look at my work on 'Catwoman' and 'Slam Bradley,' you'll see my love for the genre."

Adapting Westlake's books has, in fact, been a longtime goal of Cooke's. "This particular project came about because of Scott Dunbier and his tenacity regarding our working together again," he said. "I had tried to initiate the Parker series with a couple different publishers over the last five years and when Scott landed at IDW Publishing we naturally talked about doing something together. I had the pitch material for Parker and had a dim knowledge that IDW was proficient at acquiring the rights to properties for comic book adaptations. The rest was Scott and Ted Adams reaching out to Donald Westlake's people."

Commenting briefly on the sketch cards that will be distributed at Cooke's table, IDW's booth, and IDW's panel Saturday afternoon at Comic-Con, Cooke said that he hoped the art seen on the cards would provide a glimpse into the tone of the Parker graphic novels. "The idea with the sketch card images came about while developing Parker's visual look. Each image is supposed to represent a classic Parker situation-The Heist, The Doublecross, The Trap and The Getaway," he said. "The books bristle with controlled tension and I tried to capture that with these images."

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