Chandler

Created by Jim Steranko

CHANDLER was the eponymous Manhattan private detective hero of Chandler (1976), comicmeister supreme Jim Steranko’s love letter to the hard-boiled private eye heroes created by Hammett, Whitfield, Gardner, Williams and of course, Chandler himself.

It’s got all the classic P.I. stuff you need: a 1930s hard-boiled dick is cooling his heels in his office when a guy stumbles in claiming he’s been poisoned and he’s got only seventy-two hours to live hours to live (shades of DOA!) and wants Chandler to find his murderer. Along the way Chandler has to deal with the usual mobsters, crooked and/or incompetent cops, a femme fatale and a snaky plot that ends with a nasty twist.

So come for the story, but stay for the absolutely amazing art.

One of the very first American “graphic novels ” (although it’s called a “visual novel” on the original cover), this black-and-white (I think) 130-page digest pulp edition originally appeared in the seventies, for like a buck or something. It’s –shockingly — never been reprinted, although there were a few different versions. One was a limited edition put out by Steranko himself, and there was a double-sized newsstand edition that bore the title of Fiction Illustrated Volume 3, and came in colour (I think). Those early editions are all now collectors items, but well worth the hunt, because it’s simply a great and beautiful read.

The cover is nothing particularly special (beyond the fact that Steranko himself looks suspiciously like the private eye), but inside? Fantastic artwork, all stark shadows and stabs of light, reminiscent of old RKO and Warner Bros. films noir, and a stunningly innovative layout that added, not subtracted, to the dynamics of the story, making this one of the most visually stunning of all American graphic novels.

And, as I said, one of the rarest. Out of print forever, although Red Tide, a deluxe, re-mastered, colourized hardcover version has been promised/threatened for years, and was even once slotted for release by Dark horse in 1999. And then 2011. The closest they got was a 13-page “preview” in Dark Horse Comics #3 in 2011.

We’ll see….

UNDER OATH

  • “More than twenty years after its publication, it still stands as the ne plus ultra of noir graphic novels”
    from Steranko: Graphic Prince of Darkness by Peter DePree & J. David Spurlock

GRAPHIC NOVEL

  • CHANDLER | Buy this book
    (aka “Chandler: Red Tide”)
    (1976, Fiction Illustrated No. 3)
    123 pages
    Written and illustrated by Jim Steranko
    Introduction by Joe Gores

ALSO OF INTEREST

  • Steranko: The Self-Created Man (2018; by James Romberger) | Buy this book
    An in-depth study of the comics and film work and life of Steranko, making the case for him as “America’s first comic book auteur.” Aa the publisher says, “an insightful and readable commentary about one of the most enigmatic and influential creators of our time.”

RELATED LINKS

  • Steranko.com
    Steranko’s “corner of the new frontier,” but rarely updated. Don’t hold your breath.
  • Chandler: Red Tide
    Edo Bosnar takes a close look at the Steranko classic (Bronze Age Babies, March 2015)
  • The Groundbreaking Work of Jim Steranko
    Okay, this one works. An overview of the master’s work by Michael Gonsalez (May 2019, CrimeReads)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks forever to my pal Rick for lending me his copy.

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