Holiday Gift Guide: Richard Stark’s ‘Slayground’ And ‘The Blackbird’
When it comes to the holiday gift-giving season, comic book readers are notoriously difficult to shop for. I mean, most of us are down at the shop buying our favorite stuff every single week, so when the time comes for people who like us to get us something we want, well, a lot of times we already have it. That’s why we’re stepping in with a public service, bringing you comics-related items sure to make the season brighter, whether you’re browsing for a gift or just looking for something to drop hints about so that you don’t get stuck with a random assortment of back issues again.
Today saw the release of Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Slayground, but if you’re curious about the original, you might want to pick the novel up, too… along with the story that runs parallel to it in a completely different novel!
ITEM: Slayground andThe Blackbird
I absolutely loved Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of the Parker novels by Richard Stark (one of the many pen names of Donald Westlake, the man who also brought you Nackles, the Evil Santa Claus), to the point where they got me hooked on reading the source material, too. Unsurprisingly, Westlake’s crime novels are fantastic, and my favorite by far has been Slayground, the one adapted for the latest in Parker’s series of graphic novels. The premise is simple: A heist goes wrong (as it always does), and Parker ends up escaping from he cops into an amusement park that’s been closed for the winter. He’s surrounded by enemies who want the take from his job, but they make one big mistake.
They give him enough time to rig all the rides and attractions into an amusement park full of deathtraps. You can just imagine Westlake walking with his kids through Disneyland, smiling like the Grinch as he figures out how to turn everything from It’s A Small World to the gift shop into something lethal. It is probably the perfect novel.
I couldn’t be more excited to see what Cooke does with it (his adaptation of The Outfit is in my top ten of the decade), but the original novel is well worth reading, too. There is, however, one more piece of the puzzle that I don’t think is making it to the shelves in comic book form. See, at the beginning of Slayground, one of Parker’s frequent partners, the flamboyant Actor/Thief Alan Grofeld, doesn’t escape the heist. He gets picked up by the cops, and that’s where The Blackbird comes in.
After using the same first chapter for each, The Blackbird spins off to let you know what happened to Grofeld while Parker was battling his enemies on Pirate Island. If you know someone who’s getting Cooke’s Slayground and has a curiosity about the rest of the Westlake/Stark canon — or if you’re getting it for yourself — then it makes a great companion piece that completes the story. I don’t think there are any murders-by-rolllercoaster in it, but still, it’s well worth reading.