Tropical Noir: Serving Up Rum Drinks, Island Flavor and Gangsters in 'Hawaiian Dick'

The recent success of crime comics by creators such as Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka might well eventually end up a landslide of "me too" imitators.

But for writer B. Clay Moore, creator of the new Image miniseries "Hawaiian Dick," there's not much danger that his creation will blend in with the crowd.

"The term we've sort of coined is 'Tropical Noir,'" Moore told CBR News on Friday. "It's a pastiche of pop cultural influences, attempting to bring some of the spirit of fifties' noir to comics. Not as grim and dark as a lot of 'noir' influenced things out there. We're trying to have fun with it, make use of the colorful locale without coming across as stereotyping. And, of course, we've thrown supernatural elements in for good measure. After all, it's a comic book. We can do anything we want and the budget doesn't increase a penny. So why not throw as much stuff into the stew as we can?"

It's an eclectic mix, to be sure, and one most creators wouldn't think to jam together. For Moore, the motivation was simple:

"I'm selfish. Those are all things I find fun and interesting, so I thought I'd jam them together and see what happened. It's really that simple. Luckily, it turns out I'm not the only one who thinks it's fun. I honestly sat down one day and made a mental checklist of stuff that I get a kick out of (hence the jazz references), and decided to see if I could make them work together."

One of those things he gets a kick out of is tiki culture. What's that, you ask?

"Well, there's this entire subculture devoted to the kitschy tiki style of art and entertaining that ran rampant across the country in the 50s and 60s. A bastardization of South Seas island culture, filtered through suburban backyards and cocktail bars like Trader Vic's. And the 'Tiki Nation' has embraced our book. It's hard to explain the appeal, but I like the illusion it paints ... you can be sitting in a bar in Las Vegas (home of the Taboo Cove), surrounded by bamboo and tiki carvings, listening to cocktail music and sipping on rum drinks, and it's easy to just kind of slip away into another world. Byrd's world. In the second issue we recommend a book called the Book of Tiki, by Sven Kirsten. It's the ultimate Tiki Bible. Sven is even the proud owner of a signed copy of 'Hawaiian Dick' #1."

If you seem to recall this book being discussed by Image during the 2002 convention season as "Byrd of Paradise," it's not your imagination playing tricks on you.

"Yeah. That was the working title, but artist J. Bone (with whom I'd originally intended to work on the book) kept referring to the project as 'Hawaiian Dick,' which was originally just kind of a 'wouldn't it be cool?' joke title. That was the one everyone remembered, so we moved 'Byrd of Paradise' to the subtitle. And, actually, we ditched that before it was solicited, but it keeps popping up here and there. It doesn't actually appear anywhere on the book."

Issue two has just hit the stands, but readers who want to catch up in time for issue three should be able to find the first issue, but here's Moore's recap for those who are coming in at the middle of the story:

"In the first issue (still available, for a bit longer), we meet Byrd, a stateside cop who's been kicked off the force, and his old army pal, Detective Mo Kalama. Mo tosses Byrd a stolen car case, and things get rolling. Basically, Byrd finds out the car contains a package that was stolen from the island's notorious drug lord, Bishop Masaki. By the end of the first issue, the true identity of the package has been revealed, and the mysterious Night Marchers, the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors, have appeared on the scene. As for issue two, the notable addition to the cast is Bishop Masaki himself, making his first physical appearance. And there are revelations about various cast members."

Moore should have good news for "Hawaiian Dick" readers eager for more later this year.

"There are plans for more 'Hawaiian Dick,' and they seem pretty firm. If things go right, we should see a follow-up series featuring Byrd (and Mo) sometime later in the year, as well as a trade. We're also in the process of working toward expanding Hawaiian Dick into other media, which we hope will encourage interest in the comic book. As for other projects, there are things in the works, though very little that's etched in stone. I'm doing a short story with artist Mike Giba for an anthology ('Paper Museum') being published by writer Jai Nitz. That should be out by con season. Artist Azad (who's doing 'Sammy: Tourist Trap' for Image) and I have a project we're working on, and I'm developing something with artist Kalman Andrasofszky, who contributed the gorgeous pin-up in 'Hawaiian Dick' #1. And I'm working on a romance comic, among other things. Everything's still in developmental stages, though."

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