There are some authors, some artists, some works, that are near ubiquitous on their impact on a genre or style that their influence becomes almost unconscious. Something that’s present in a work within the genre, even if the person creating subsequent work isn’t directly influenced. Like possession tales all owing a debt to The Exorcist. Or superhero comics borne on the shoulders of folks like Jack Kirby and John Romita.

When it comes to hardboiled noir one of them is Donald E. Westlake. Part of it is just how prolific the man was, writing over a hundred novels. The other is that they’re incredibly captivating. Instead of following an investigator of some sort, like you’d typically have in a Hammett or Chandler piece, Westlake’s most popular character was a ruthless, brutal criminal. Under the pseudonym Richard Stark, he gave the world Parker.

“Try again, smart boy. Parker’s dead.”

Adapting a classic from another medium can be a daunting task. In bringing Westlake’s first Parker novel to comics, Darwyn Cooke proved in Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter that he was more than up for it. One of the rare instances where Westlake actually allowed the Parker name to be used. The introduction to Parker, a hardened criminal prone to identity theft to armed robbery, is a revenge story. He’s been betrayed, left for dead, and fighting to get back what he feels he’s owed.

Cooke’s storytelling abilities are exquisite here. There’s a deceptive simplicity to his artwork in general that is refined to its most essential points in this story. It visually mirrors the cold calculating behaviour of the protagonist. He carefully and deliberately progresses us through silent sequences, building Parker back up from nothing, and the narrative-driven flashbacks, bringing in much of that noir cadence as we find out how Parker got into that state.

What really cements the feel of the piece is Cooke’s colours. Or rather, colour. The entire book is in black and blue. A cool blue, almost an aquamarine, but only the one hue. It results in something that different from stark black and white, though it retains some of that quality. The single colour gives it a unique look, complementing the grim atmosphere of story, and helps give a focus visually upon the shadows and light.

“You said no more favors. You should have meant it.”

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter by Cooke is not a good comic about a good man. It’s a great comic about a bad man. Cooke turns a classic hardboiled crime tale, from one of the giants in the genre in Westlake, into a practical how to on building tone and atmosphere. Showing his immense level of craft and talent on every page in one of the best noir comics ever published.

The Hunter


Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter
Writer (original novel): Donald E. Westlake (as Richard Stark)
Writer (adaptation) & Artist: Darwyn Cooke

Publisher: IDW
Release Date: July 22 2009
Will be available collected in the forthcoming Richard Stark’s Parker: The Complete Collection (October 17, 2023)

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!