El Borbah

Created by Charles Burns

Here he comes, 400 pounds of heavenly fun, in a Mexican wrestling mask, no less! Who says I don’t listen to you guys?

A few years back, I received this letter from Frank Patterson:

Kevin,

I love the Thrilling Detective site! I’ve been a frequent visitor since I stumbled upon it about a year ago.

However, one of the greatest comic book detectives of all time is not included on your site. I am referring to EL BORBAH.

El Borbah, if you aren’t familiar with him, is a tough-talking, fat, masked wrestler who takes on detective jobs. His stories are a combination of the noir and the bizarre. In one tale he is trying to find a runaway kid for his parents — the only clue is that the kid is into “robot music”. When he finds the kid, it turns out he has joined a robot cult and has replaced his arms with robotic arms.

Well, how could I refuse? So I did some digging, and came up with a little more :

EL BORBAH weighs in at 400 pounds, and is indeed a private eye. A particularly grumpy and violence-prone private eye, mind you, who just happens to favour wrestler’s tights and a mask. He storms through his cases, living on junk food and beer, kicking down doors, kicking ass and taking no guff from a varied assortment of freaks and geeks, each more bizarre than the last. In El Borbah’s pulpish, purplish noir-tinged world, in fact, he’s the “normal” one.

There were, as far as I know, only five stories, all in glorious black and white, that originally appeared in Heavy Metal and in Art Spiegelman’s Raw Comics (under the title of “Defective Stories”, each accompanied by a old-style pulp magazine cover) in the eighties, but there may have been a couple of collections of the stories since.

UNDER OATH

  • “Are the El Borbah stories actually, you know, important? Hell no. This is Burns pop recycling at his manic and hysterical best. For all his later work, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Burns is, you know, a really funny guy. And never has this been more on display as through El Borbah’s adventures, vague detective tales where our hardboiled antihero is a misanthrope in a Mexican wrestling outfit, unraveling mysteries with equal doses of contempt and fisticuffs, like every weird television moment of the fifties and sixties exploding onto a page. El Borbah is a giant book with beautiful stuff inside. Well worth it at twice the price.”
    — Matt Fraction at www.artbomb.net
  • “El Borbah is wonderfully perverse.”
    — Village Voice Literary Supplement
  • “El Borbah is a rude, obnoxious, selfish, and incredibly stupid masked wrestler detective. When he’s not chain-smoking and strong-arming his clients for his advance fee, he’s investigating missing persons that have either been converted into robots, had their adult heads grafted onto baby bodies or secretaries brainwashed into behaving like 4-year old infants… Burns is a very cool artist and El Borbah is a pisser.”
    — Andy on GoodReads

COMIC STORIES

  • “Robot Love” (January 1983, Heavy Metal #70)
  • “Dead Meet” (August 1983, Heavy Metal #77)
  • “Living in the Ice Age (Part One)” (March 1984, Heavy Metal #84)
  • “Living in the Ice Age (Part Two)” (April 1984, Heavy Metal #85)
  • “Living in the Ice Age (Part Three)” (May 1984, Heavy Metal #86)
  • “Living in the Ice Age (Part Four)” (June 1984, Heavy Metal #87)
  • “Bone Voyage (Part One)” (January 1985, Heavy Metal #94)
  • “Bone Voyage (Part Two)” (February 1985, Heavy Metal #95)
  • “Bone Voyage (Part Three)” (March 1985, Heavy Metal #96)
  • “Bone Voyage (Part Four)” (April 1985, Heavy Metal #97)
  • “Bone Voyage (Part Five)” (May 1985, Heavy Meta #98l)
  • “Love in Vein” (1987, Raw Book; also 1988, Hard-Boiled Defective Stories)
  • “Epilogue” (1999, El Borbah)

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Hard-Boiled Defective Stories (1988) Buy this book
    Collects all five “Hard-Boiled Defective Stories” that originally appeared in Raw.
  • El Borbah (1998)Buy this book
    Reprints the Hard-Boiled Defective stories, adds an epilogue.

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Frank Patterson, with very little additional info by Kevin Burton Smith.

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