For the last 25 years, Steven Grant has written for virtually every major comics company and worked on almost every major character, from The Avengers to GI Joe to Miracleman. With artist Mike Zeck, he transformed the Punisher from a minor supporting character to a cultural phenomenon, and became an acknowledged crime comics master with creations like WHISPER, BADLANDS, X and DAMNED. He's currently involved in several movies and continues to write comics, essays and short fiction.
Lori G: Hi guys! Thanks SO much for taking time out of your busy schedules to answer a
few questions. Let me ask both of you
guys, did you come to this project already knowing who Pat Novak was?
Can one, or both of you, give us a little
summary of who Pat Novak is, for those out there that may not be hip to Old
Time Radio Characters?|
Steven: I'd actually never heard of Pat Novak For Hire until Moonstone publisher Joe Gentile brought it to my attention. Pat Novak, in the radio program, was a sort of unofficial private eye, a guy who ran a bait shop on the San Francisco pier and hired himself out for sordid odd jobs for a quick buck and usually ran into trouble with the cops for doing it. The stories were a little wackier than average hardboiled private eye stories, but the dialogue was the real kicker, a rat-tat-tat barrage of elaborate euphemisms and tortured similes that were so arch they were hilarious. And there was almost never more than one, they'd build on them. It's hard to tell if they were written by guys who were trying to make fun of that whole '40s cynical hardboiled style or whether they really thought they were getting it right, but Pat Novak was played by Jack Webb, who shortly afterward became famous for DRAGNET, and the cop who dogged him was played by future Perry Mason/Ironside Raymond Burr, and they both played it desperately straight.
Tom: Although I've been listening to old radio shows pretty much all my life, I had never heard of Pat Novak For Hire. Episodes of PN are readily available online though, and I quickly became a fan!
Lori G: Steven, will you be a dear, and set up this new tale for our readers?
Steven: I thought about doing a story set in the Novak
stomping grounds of the radio show, which would have put it in the late
'40s. But way too many crime stories in
comics these days are set in the '30s and '40s, which is getting a bit remote
from us, it's mainly a way for writers to layer on familiar clichés from movies
and play against them. At the same time,
I didn't think simply taking the Novak character and transferring him to modern
times was the right way to go; a '40s style wisecracking pseudo-P.I. would just
be too much of an anachronism. Then I
got the idea of Novak as a man in his '70s – I was thinking Kirk Douglas as he
got older but could still project that image of a tough guy – living in modern
times but still behaving like it was the '40s or '50s.(I had to monkey a little with his timeframe
to keep him from being too old.)|
So Novak's now retired, living on a houseboat off San Francisco, he's got a granddaughter who makes sure he's watching what he eats and drinks and various other things that are a nuisance to him. He's semi-famous in the area, his reputation made off his exposure and remov Only the politician's granddaughter has surfaced to get Novak to reinvestigate the case, because she believes he was wrong. And someone doesn't want her lighting that particular fire. Novak doesn't believe she was wrong but he doesn't like what someone's trying to do to her either, and he sets out to prove to her he was right all along but what he discovers will only undermine his own reputation if he pursues it. Novak, in his head, is still the tough guy he was in his youth, but it's a question whether he can pass on reputation or whether age will get him killed, because he learns he's not quite up for what he used to be, as a mob boss and a mysterious woman from Novak's past try to stop him from turning over old rocks and uncovering an unsuspected conspiracy that has been going on for decades.
Lori G: Steven, is there any thing in particular that draws you to old time radio characters? What about Pat Novak himself, what compels you to tell a Pat Novak tale?
Steven: Though I did have a passing interest in old radio programs, mainly THE SHADOW, in junior high school, I can't really say anything draws me to them. I barely hear any and wouldn't have the time to listen to a lot of them if I wanted to. But where Pat Novak nicked me was the patter. It's so over the top it gets in your head and gnaws at your brain like a pit bull gnaws at a rubber bone soaked in barbeque sauce and blood. The point where I really got interested in writing the character was when I figured out how to work that in a comics story: the arch narrative comes from Pat Novak himself, talking aloud, much to the annoyance and bafflement of everyone around him, including his granddaughter. So Novak himself provided the running commentary for the story, only where on the radio show he's talking to the audience, in the graphic novel he's talking to himself. Out loud.
Lori G: Steven and Tom, did you listen to any of the old radio adventures for Pat Novak, to get “in the mood” for this story? If so, what did you like or dislike about this original interpretation of Pat Novak? What makes your version of Pat Novak similar or vastly different than the Pat Novak of old?
Steven: I didn't listen much to the shows, one or two just to get the tone. I read transcripts. Those were much better for translating the show's rhythms and speech patterns to the page. The main difference, as I said, is that Novak's much older than he was on the show, and while the story's a fairly intricate mystery drama, the narration in particular is amped up just a bit more and played more for comedic effect.
Tom: I've listened to just about all the episodes that are available. Pat Novak For Hire is well written, perhaps a little repetitive in format, but really lives and dies on the clever tough guy banter between Pat and his pals, women and enemies. I think we have stuck pretty close to the original character of Pat Novak and Steven does a great job of getting the patter down!
Lori G: Tom, as an artist, did you approach this book any differently than other comics you have worked on? Take us thru the process of drawing “Pat Novak”, if you would be so kind for our readers. Do you work from thumbnails? Do you layout your pages first? Or, after drawing comics for a number of years, you can just dive right in?
Tom: I try to establish a set of parameters for myself on a project before I start. In some cases I'll allow myself to pull out all the stops and use all the storytelling and art techniques available to me. With Pat Novak however, I decided to tell the story without inset or megapanels, a straightforward approach to the storytelling that wouldn't get in the way of the fairly complicated detective style plot and would mimic the linear feel of the radio show. I also chose to do minimal pencilling, forcing myself to do most of the work in the inks. This is a great technique to make yourself a better artist, a challenge to fly without a net. I think if you look carefully at the art through the story, you'll see it develop from a fairly controlled, classic approach to a more energetic style as I gradually released myself from the pencils and relied more and more on what I could do with the inks. I really had a great time playing with the art on PN!
Lori G: Steven, I know you’ve written Batman for DC, so can
you compare/contrast, for our non-noir fans, Pat Novak to DC’s most famous
detective Batman? Would the average Batman fan find something appealing in the
ALL NEW Pat Novak for Hire Graphic Novel here at Moonstone? |
Steven: I guess that would depend on what the average Batman fan finds appealing in Batman. They don't play him as a detective all that much anymore. More than anything, I wanted the Pat Novak graphic novel to play as a credible detective story, and it's a lot more noirish than a typical Batman story. If people read Batman to watch him beat up supervillains, no, there's not a lot of that going on in PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE. (None, I'd say.)If they read Batman for good detective stories, and these days that's kind of like looking for water in the Mojave desert, then they should get a big kick from Pat. If any of them liked my handful of Batman stories, I don't think they'll be at all disappointed in PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE, though it is quite a bit funnier than anything I ever did with Batman.(Except for maybe a couple of the scenes when he guested in my CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN.)
Lori G: Tom, did you have to do any research to get that “perfect” noir look for Pat Novak? Or do you just have an innate ability to draw hats and guns?
Tom: I do love film noir and accessing the style was not really a stretch. It was a chance for me to watch a lot of movies as "research" and think about who I would want to see as Pat Novak. My choice ultimately is Robert Mitchum, he played tough guy detectives all through his career and became my role model for Pat.
Lori G: So guys, what other projects have you two been
working on? Please, plug away!|
Steven: I've been working on a lot of behind the scenes things lately, like several movie projects and advising on several independent comics projects, and haven't had much out lately. But I've being doing CSI mysteries over at IDW, with the first collection, SECRET IDENTITY, out now, and a second series, tentatively called DYING IN THE GUTTERS, currently in production. I've also written a few short stories, like the one recently published in Moonstone's KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER CHRONICLES. I've got a secret project coming out from Boom! Studios later in the year, if we get the artist of choice firmed up. Unfortunately, most of the things I'm working on haven't been scheduled or announced yet, so it'd be bad form for me to talk about them yet. Of course, every Wednesday I publish a column on comics, culture and society at Comic Book Resources (www.comicbookresources.com) called Permanent Damage (http://damage.comicbookresources.com). That's my main point of visibility at the moment.
Tom: I've just started a Batman project with John
Ostrander for DC Comics. I recently completed a movie project, a film version
of the off Broadway musical Zombie Prom which will be premiering in early
Febuary in Hollywood. I was
"Art Director for Comic Book Illustrations". Besides organizing and
coordinating the art team I did quite a bit of the art and got some great pros
on board including Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, Joe Corroney and Butch Adams. I'm
just wrapping up illustrations on a childrens book, The Forest King; The
Woodlarks Shadow through Komikswerks and have a couple DVD box covers for
Goregolyles Back to the Flesh and Clean for Helltimate Studios out now.|
Lori G: One last question for you two: if you could have one
superpower, what would it be and why? |
Steven: Incredible luck, which I think speaks for itself.
Tom: The power to give myself more powers, then I could have them all!
Well, that’s all the time we have kids. I hope everyone gives Pat Novak a try; Steven and Tom have done an amazing job with this book! If you aren’t a crime/noir fan, don’t be shy! Pick up Pat Novak, you will be glad you did! It will be shipping to fine comic shops everywhere in February. If you can’t find it at your LCS, you can always order it direct from us here on the Moonstone website. My thanks to Steven and Tom for taking the time to answer my questions.
Until next time! Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!
Moonstone Gal out!
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Saturday, March 08, 2014