The opening minutes of Comic-Con 2008 saw perhaps the most exciting announcement for fans of crime fiction in months” Darwyn (JLA: The New Frontier) Cooke will adapt the first four “Parker” novels by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) as a series of graphic novels for publisher IDW. The titles, which have a “mild continuity” as Cooke explained, will be: The Hunter (aka Point Blank), The Man with the Getaway Face, The Outfit, and The Mourner. The first title, according to Cooke, is targeted for a late 2009 release, with the successive three titles coming out in two year-intervals after that.
Cooke explained that this will be his first work outside the mainstream, and is something that he had pursued on his own and tried to make happen for years prior to this. The break came thanks to Cooke’s former The Spirit editor at DC Comics/Wildstorm, Scott Dunbier, now Special Projects Editor at IDW. “I don’t really read book series,” Cooke said, “But this is the only one I read through to completion.”
Cooke said that he sees bringing the novels to full graphic novels as a challenge, both in adapting, the stories, and bringing new readers to the comic book/graphic novel format. “Nothing is more important right now,” he added.
The graphic novels will be fully endorsed and approved by Westlake, as Cooke has been in contact with the author, and referred to the process between himself and the original author as a collaboration that will reflect the tone of the original novels.
In regards to his art style, Cooke said that Parker graphic novels will be similar to his usual style, but will be “choppier and grittier – a far rawer look” than his mainstream superhero work. The art will be in black and white with one color.
Explaining his appeal for the character, Cooke said that the character is compelling largely because he’s completely amoral. “The way Westlake described it to me is: ‘imagine he’s a plumber. All he’s concerned with is doing the job right, and if that means killing client…that’s what he’ll do.’ He’s amoral in the sense that he’ll kill you or he won’t, and it will never have anything to do with an emotional response. If you’re in the way, or you create a problem for him, he’ll put you out of the picture.
“He’s wonderful character because his emotions are all internal, and you never get to know what he was thinking. When Westlake was writing the books, he said that he tried an experiment where he would not show any actual emotion I the character, just let it manifest itself through physical action. So you get this portrait of a guy who’s so completely in control of himself, but so reprehensible on one level, that he’s completely compelling. You can’t help but to…not necessarily like him, but you have to admire the fact that he’s cut out his own process in the world, and goes out in his own way. And [Westlake] puts so much detail in about how he’s able to manage to live outside of the law, it’s part of what’s so fascinating about him. I hope I can get that across.”
As for the format of the graphic novels, Cooke said that he and IDW are still fine-tuning, but are looking at a trim that’s just a little smaller than a traditional comic book size, in order to make the graphic novels friendlier to the bookstore market. “We want to make sure we have a format that’s going to turn on a book reader,” Cooke said.
The creator added that he also has creator owned projects in the works, which he plans to announce at the Baltimore Comic-Con.