Sunday, November 16, 2008

Red Tide: A Chandler Novel by Jim Steranko

Chandler by Jim Steranko
Red Tide: A Visual Novel
Fiction Illustrated, Vol. 3
Copyright 1976

Before they were called graphic novels, Jim Steranko created hardboiled P.I. Chandler in what was called a visual novel. Thinking it was a Philip Marlowe story, I purchase one in 1976, (the cover price was a buck, which was a lot to me at that time) What Steranko did was pay homage to Raymond Chandler and all the other classic private eye authors from that golden era. Being a nut for this stuff, I was blown away when this came out and remember reading the issue many times over.

"Something exploded at the back of my skull. Then the whirlpool opened at my feet. I dropped in.
I tried to stop the avalanche that roared toward me, then realized it was all in my head.

My head felt like I 'd stuck it in the barrel of a cannon during an artillery barrage..."

The title of the novel is "Red Tide" and the story contains the great images and text that are found in all classic P.I. yarns. A client walks in Chandler's office with a murder case. Chandler's jobs are mostly insurance frauds or cheating husbands, and he hesitates to take the case. But the money is green and off he goes. Chandler tackles broads, guns, and gangsters, taking a good amount of graphic punishment along the way. Full of shadows and suspense, it's over 30 years old and still provides pure hardboiled enjoyment.

The title rings a little like Raymond Chandler's short short "Red Wind," but don't be fooled -this is Steranko's creation. If I have to compare it to anything, I would say it has the resplendent noir atmoshere of Dick Powell's 1944 Marlowe film "Murder, My Sweet."

Formatted in a 5x7 digest, this might be the first graphic novel ever published and may have started the genre in America. Billed in in the back as Steranko's "first movie-length visual novel, created in the tradition of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, a bare-knuckled mystery that will keep you guessing right up to the last page."
And I won't argue with that statement....

Note: Author Joe Gores provides a damn good, one page introduction to the story.


David Cranmer said...

Oh man, this looks right up my alley. I have never heard of this before. Thanks. I will be adding this to my next big Amazon order.

Prof. Hex said...

I haven't thought about this in ages and I bet I still have it in a box somewhere. I also used to have the large signed promotional poster that Steranko sold through Premiere magazine. Thanks for the memories.

Juri said...

I think the first graphic novel (an American one, there were earlier in Europe) is It Rhymes With Lust from 1950. It was written by Leslie Waller and Arnold Drake who both wrote lots of other stuff, and it was illustrated by Matt Baker. The publisher was St. John, who'd been doing comics. They did another graphic novel also, written by the later Nick Carter hack Manning Lee Stokes. The Case of the Winking Buddha, I think it was called. The books were classic paperback size and called "Picture Novels".

It Rhymes With Lust was reprinted by Dark Horse one or two years back and it's also available in 30 Years of the Comics Journal.

Juri said...

Some proof-reading:

..there were earlier examples in Europe..

..who both wrote lots of other stuff, too...

Logan Lamech said...

It's a classic, there is no doubt about that.

Logan Lamech

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Yeah I hope I can get hold of this. It's Ebay searches for me - I too was unaware of this. Love that cover.

Anonymous said...

There is a great discussion about Steranko's Chandler (with lots of great artwork too) here:;act=ST;f=3;t=4995;st=0

pattinase (abbott) said...

Shall I link this tomorrow, AW? (