Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter

The Hunter, Donald Westlake?s first novel concerning tough-guy criminal Parker (issued originally under the pseudonym Richard Stark), masses a trim 198 pages. The new graphic novel adaptation of this caper, illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, weighs in at 140 pages. Given the fabled thousandfold ratio of pictures to words, this statistic should tell you that the new version is an uncommonly faithful retelling. But what mere numbers won?t reveal is how authentic the book feels, as a movie-on-paper capture of Westlake’s original ambiance and tone. Anyone who read Cooke?s ’50s superhero saga DC: The New Frontier, knows Cooke?s flair for limning America in her postwar, populuxe, pre-swinging-’60s glory. Given the 1962 setting of The Hunter, Cooke is in his glory, drawing seedy settings and characters. Anyone who read Cooke?s Spirit stories knows of his facility depicting Eisnerian gangsters and femmes fatales, and his portraits here translate Westlake?s descriptions with flair and accuracy. And anyone who read Cooke?s Catwoman heist tale, Selina?s Big Score, knows of his affinity for the crime genre. In short, this talented artist-writer is the perfect fellow to adapt Westlake, and he never falters. He retains Westlake?s convoluted chronology and shifts in perspective without baffling the reader. He makes very few cuts and interpolates very little new material. Dialogue and narration comes straight from Westlake, although certain swears forbidden in 1962 are now intermixed for verisimilitude, and a couple of the killings are grimmer. This is one of those rare instances where translation to another medium produces a work which not only honors the original but also reveals new angles and aspects to the story, in a manner unique to the new format.