“Graphic Novel PEEPLAND’s Bloodstained Mystery Oozes 80’s NYC” by R.J. Huneke is the last part in a series unveiling both a New York Comic Con interview with the creators as well as a review of the gritty Hard Case Crime graphic novel TPB that was released on August 1, 2017.
Peepland is a page-turner that leaves delicious grime under your fingernails!
The book by Christa Faust (Author), Gary Phillips (co-author), and Andrea Camerini (Illustrator) is 128 pages of mayhem in 1980’s Manhattan.*
Peepland’s beauty lies in the eerily entangled corruption that clings to a New York murder merging 40’s gangster noir with 80’s NYC for a historically bound bloodbath.
The protagonist is a complex and intriguing character, a peep booth worker named Roxy Belle, and she is an unwilling participant in the murder mystery at the thick of the plot.
She has the kindness, craftiness, and nastiness (including willing to do some pee porn promos for a favor or two) to make this tale sexy, thrilling and innovative.
Such insight into the underworld living upworld in the heart of 80’s Midtown is the brainchild of Christa Faust and the help of her editor and the founder of Hard Case Crime Charles Ardai who partnered with Titan Comics for the comic book.
We were fortunate to receive an interview at New York Comic Con 2016 with none other than these two talented people.
R.H.: “How do you get the female perspective from a peepbooth?”
C.F.: “I grew up in the city . . . I have a vagina and I once worked in the peepbooths. So double-chromosome easy-peasy; write what you know.”
That is simple enough.
As a pornographer’s latest tape is bestowed upon Roxy during her shift, she goes home and finds a surprising strangling at the end of the video that is spit out of her VCR.
Later she learns that after dropping off the tape and fleeing her booth, porno filmmaker Dirty Dick is snuffed out in the subway.
Someone is erasing that video.
Roxy does not know who the murderer is or why they are wiping out anyone tied to the flick.
But what is a very well connected real estate mogul’s son to do when he might be implicated?
The world crafted in Peepland is its own badass character.
The writing is top-notch and with the art matches the stunning clarity with which the greasy alleys and shadows contrast the neon lights of Times Square in the 80’s.
The air is stuffy with exhaust and cigarette smoke, and the bangs of gunshots go off at random twists and quakes as the plot unfolds.
The white versus black racism, even in New York, is palpably disgusting, and accurately adds an unease that was felt in the city at the time.
This affects the story and the poor characters caught within, for none are wholly unscathed in such a story as this.
You may be thinking: where do NYC’s punk haircuts, perms, and thongs (hiked way over the hips!) get off attempting to spawn a noir crime thriller sans the razor-sharp suits, tommy guns, and fedoras?
Well this book perfectly merges the 40’s noir age of gangster to the 1980’s NYC.
The web of crime and organized crime outfits, from the smallest pimps, hookers, peep booth operators to the corrupt cops, either detectives on the take from a Mafioso or detectives trying to sell out to the highest bidder mirror, in a kind if circus-mirror-way that works, the Al Capone days of Chicago.
The long gone New York age is brought to life again.
Is the Mayor's office in on it? . . . Maybe . . .
It becomes quickly apparent that noir was meant for the mid-1980’s New York City era and Faust delivers it in spades.
R.H.: “What was your inspiration for PEEPLAND?”
C.F.: “It was mostly just because . . . you know being a fellow New Yorker it’s so different now.”
R.H.: “The way that is was, the city.”
C.F.: “That’s never coming back . . . and I wanted to tell that story [of NYC] in a visual medium, because you can tell people what it was like, but if you can show them, it’s more visceral, it’s grittier, it’s more true.”
And the tale of Peepland could not be more ‘'visceral’ and pointed, as cops use any excuse to grab an African American male, a minor, and accuse him of rape and murder of the white victim in the park.
The depth of the corruption is staggering in its ferocity, as is the massive body count stemming from constant plot twists, from blowjobs turned wrong to shocking melees enveloping any and all characters in a variety of guns and knives as only the 80’s could do it.
R.H.: “What I loved is that the historicism is there. I love the 80’s perms [for example].”
And at this point Charles breaks in.
C.A.: “This person,” he says with a smile and playfully accusing point to Christa, ‘was the police person, policing in acronyms.”
C.F.: “I was the G-string Nazi – I was like ‘hike that aaaall the way up to be here,” she says pointing to high over her hip.
C.A.: “What were the buildings, what were the posters, what were [the] hairstyles, ads, shoes . . . what were the characters?”
Yes, the “Thriller” jacket is present and yes there were peep booths, and XXX video stores by the dozen in Times Square during the 80’s.
If you do not believe the history, view the photographs Christa includes at the end of the graphic novel.
Without giving away too much, this tale spins faster and harder building up and up and up to a furious conclusion coinciding with the countdown on New Year’s Eve at The Deuce, Times Square.
Nothing expected happens in Peepland, and it is truly wicked and wonderful.
POWkabam REVIEW GRADE: A+
At New York Comic Con 2017 Hard Case Crime and Titan Comics will be announcing and giving interviews for their newest comic book title Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini by Cynthia von Buhler and more.
Created by acclaimed artist, author, director, and playwright Cynthia Von Buhler (Speakeasy Dollhouse, Evelyn Evelyn, The Countess & Her Cats, Emily and the Strangers), Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini has already garnered praise from legendary author Neil Gaiman (Sandman) who said: “I was seduced by Cynthia Von Buhler’s artwork. She is a wonder.”
*CORRECTION: Gary Phillips (co-author) was previously listed as an illustrator, but he is the co-author of PEEPLAND. Our apologies, Mr. Phillips.
“Peepland Brings Hard Case Crime’s Grit, Noir To Titan Comics” by R.J. Huneke is the first part in a series that will unveil a New York Comic Con interview with the creators as well as offer up a retrospective of each issue of Peepland leading up to the fifth and final book coming out on February 22, 2017.
Peepland brings Hard Case Crime’s grit and noir to Titan Comics in a new ongoing series of thrilling graphic novel titles that began with the premiere releases of Triggerman and Peepland in the fall and winter of 2016/2017. We were fortunate to receive an exclusive interview at New York Comic Con 2016 with none other than two of the talented people behind this new visual chapter in Hard Case Crime: writer and founder and editor of Hard Case Crime himself, Charles Ardai, and the co-author of Peepland,and homegrown New York novelist, Christa Faust.
The backdrop for the interview was beneath the shadow of a Javits Center pole that stood as a beleaguered island amidst the swarms of hungry readers and fans waiting outside the Titan Comics booth to meet the Hard Case Crime team for a signing of their revolutionary break into the comic book medium.
"That one image had to drag you kicking and screaming through 200 pages." ~Charles Ardai on the cover art for Hard Case Crime's novels.
With authors ranging from Lawrence Block to Stephen King, Hard Case Crime’s paperback books have brought literary quality to a force that is good old-fashioned mystery and gritty noir, the way Raymond Chandler always hoped the world would receive such stories.
The release of the graphic novel comic book series, partnering with Titan comics, is just another step in the evolution of Hard Case Crime, and it is one its co-founder Charles Ardai pictured early on.
C.A.: “We started in 2004 as a reference to the old paperbacks of the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. And those were driven by illustration, but only one illustration per book.
“You had the cover art, painted beautifully, and then you had 200 pages of text, and that one image had to drag you kicking and screaming through 200 pages.”
Hard Case Crime brought back the dime paperback era noir and hardboiled crime novels with intriguing and innovative new tales.
All of Hard Case Crime’s novels feature stunning cover art that is often featuring heroines dripping of sexuality or fearsome scenes, snapshots into murder scenes, mysterious carnivals, or the darker soul emanating from a key character’s off-putting expression.
But as Charles points out there is only one, albeit incredibly enticing and often enthralling image, for an entire novel.
C.A.: “From the beginning I had the notion it would be fun to do something with more visuals where the ratio between art to text was different. And I was a comic reader from childhood.”
This vision was put in motion in 2010 when Hard Case Crime hooked up with Titan Comics and began to formulate a plan for half a dozen noir-esque titles, the first of which are Triggerman, whose final issue came out on February 8, and Peepland, whose fifth and final book comes out in just two weeks.
Both of the premiere Hard Case Crime comic book titles are masterfully illustrated and written.
Triggerman, written by Matz and The Warriors director Walter Hill and illustrated by Jef is a gun-toting smash of a tale; the heat of the gun barrels can nearly be felt through the art on the page.
But what took this writer thoroughly by the tufts of his beard, and ‘kicking and screaming’ – as Charles puts it – from panel to panel and page to page was the utterly unique tale of murder and mystery coming from a peepbooth in 1986 Times Square, when New York City was at its height of derelictness meets art meets punk rock; this is the story held within the pages of Peepland.
When porno filmmaker Dirty Dick rushes into Peepland, he begs a young woman he knows working a peepbooth, Roxy, to take his VHS tape before he takes off for the subway without explanation.
What is on the tape?
We will get back to that in a minute.
The mohawks, lightning rod spikes and 80’s perms adorn the heads of the vintage New Yorkers in Peepland, as this piece reflects a unique era in history that you can see so well you can almost smell the hairspray in the crowds and the black clove cigarettes being smoked beneath the bright neon signs of “XXX” and soda ads at Times Square.
Christa Faust and Gary Philips write Peepland; the artwork is by Andrea Camerini, the colors by Marco Lesko, and the letters by Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt.
Each centimeter of the page pours history and makes the reader long for more.
The great characters, especially the formidable female protagonist Roxy and her enticing storyline break new ground in this 1980’s noir work of art.
Christa brings an intelligent, courageous and attractive New Yorker Roxy to life with past experience from her hometown.
C.F.: “Well [for] Peepland, I grew up in the city. My mother’s . . . off of 9th Avenue . . . she’s been there for forty-I-don’t-know-I-foget-how-many years, and I used to work the peepbooths back in the day.”
After thinking on this an apt question followed.
R.H.: “How do you get the female perspective from a peepbooth?”
C.F.: “Well I have a vagina and I once worked in the peepbooths. So double-chromosome easy-peasy; write what you know.”
She says this, and it is great advice for any writer, with an infectious smile that is almost a wink of knowing.
Again the question of Issue #1:
What is on the tape?
$SPOILER ALERT$ Roxy gives in to her curiosity and the VCR shows a public porno session that turns voyeur, Dirty Dick-style, as the camera floats over and captures two lovers, unbeknownst to them, as they embrace up against a wall . . . until the important-looking suited man murders the young woman with his bare hands.
What happens to Dirty Dick, you ask? Well, his run from Peepland does not throw off two pursuers desperate for the tape, and his journey ends abruptly as one of them pushes him in front of the “A” train.
$END OF SPOILER ALERT$
This is just the first part of our Rune Works [where it was first published] and POWkabam Comics series of articles conveying the interview of the creators of Peepland. In the Part 2, we will continue the interview, explore Peepland Issue #1 a little further and then delve fully into the second scintillating issue.
Peepland Issue #1 is on sale February 22, 2017.
Comics News & Reviews: a POWkabamBlog
Artists looking at art. POWkabam! FYI The background image you are enjoying is from the first page of WEIRD TERROR #6, the story titled "DIE" penciled and inked by Rudy Palais!