RARA-AVIS: The Dark Night. No, the Noir Knight. No, the Black Knight. Oh, good night...

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 26 Jul 2008

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    Dick wrote:

    > And the great thing is: in another month or so this group can spend
    > days and
    > days on speculating if The Spirit is noir.

    Of course, it will depend on the finished film, but the strip itself was always a little too goofy (even more so than BATMAN) and inconsistently dark to really be considered noir. But it was fun.

    And Mark (#254 in a series -- Collect them all!) wrote:

    > Sin City
    > > may be third rate Spillane, but it manages to skirt the edge a few
    > > times.

    Third rate? You're being generous.

    SIN CITY was pretty pictures: nice to look at, but emotionally hollow; PULP FICTION without the wit or grace or narrative muscle. If PULP FICTION at its best aspired to BLACK MASK or DIME DETECTIVE, SIN CITY quickly settled for 5 CENT AMAZING DETECTIVE STORIES or some D-list pulp, barely worth the splinters, filled with stories by writers several notches below Hammett/Chandler/Spillane wannabes (Hammett/ Chandler/Spillane wannabe wannabes?).

    As for it being noir, even if you want to waste your time arguing that point, it was noir mostly by trope and rote; not so much written as a list of noirish cliches checked off one by one, with big f/x-laden
    "scenes" substituted for actual character development. Like a lot of what passes for noir these days.

    And let's remember: "noir" does not automatically mean good. Most stuff labelled "noir" these days is often not only only arguably noir, but also not very good.

    And speaking of not very good, last interview I saw, Miller was still threatening to "do" Chandler. He's already probably going to destroy everything that was great and fun about THE SPIRIT (a feeling shared by, among others, Art "Maus" Spiegelman, a guy who probably knows more about comics than most of us); the fact some idiot in Hollywood thinks Miller's qualified to do Chandler is astounding -- and shows how alliterate the decision-making bag men of the industry are. Knowing who Chandler is isn't the same as having actually read him.

    They want a "comic book guy" to do Marlowe, they could go with Ed Brubaker and/or Michael Lark, the two comic book guys whose work probably comes closest. Or Greg Rucka, David Lapham or Max Allan Collins, all very fine crime writers. Or even Dennis O'Neil who, for years, edited and often wrote "Batman" and several Chandleresque-type back-up features (he also did the recent Dark knight novelization tie- in). All have shown more "feel" for Chandler than anything in Miller's over-hyped and over-rated canon. Drawing guys in trenchcoats and fedoras does not make you an expert on Chandler. And using lots of black ink doesn't automatically make you noir.

    I'm not sure I want a cartoon Marlowe with Schwazneggerian muscles bulging his trenchcoat going down those mean streets in some homoerotic fantasy geared to closeted fan boys, a la 300.

    Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Miller has hidden depths for depth (he did do BATMAN: YEAR ONE, after all) and an heretofore undisclosed appreciation for and understanding of Chandler's work but if he does, it's not immediately evident in any of his most well-known comic work. And certainly not in his movie work.

    Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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