First, cover copy on one of the Batman collections referred to the story's murder mystery. Then a staffer at my local comics shop, as slacker-like a slacker as any who ever called a customer "Dude," surprised me when he said he wished the Watchmen movie had played up the story's murder mystery more. And then there are writers like Duane Swierczynski, who write both novels and comics.
My latest eye-opener in this regard is Alan Moore's Top 10, which I discovered thanks to the comic-store dude cited above. The story has a typically fantastic Moore premise: A city called Neopolis is built after World War II to house a population that consists entirely of superheroes. Their population explodes. Unemployment and associated social problems proliferate. And a wild squad of cops with odd superpowers of their own is charged with keeping order in this messy world.
Moore, I have read, cited Hill Street Blues as an influence, which means that Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels were an influence, too. The books have extensive fantasy and science fiction trappings, but at their heart they're ensemble police stories. That an imaginative writer such as Moore finds this time-honored form fertile ground speaks well for the vitality of crime fiction.
The books are vehicles for Moore's humor and social commentary, and the fantastic setting makes a wonderful background for the stories. That setting? Think of the bar scene in Star Wars, with all those weird creatures drinking and socializing. That's a nice set piece, right? Imagine all those creatures with lives and problems of their own, inhabiting a New York-like city, trying to survive, committing crimes or trying to solve them. That's Top 10.
I expect I'll have more to say once I've read all of the books. For now, though, I'll share a snippet of dialogue from The Forty-Niners, a Top 10 prequel:
"`Uh, say, buddy, excuse me? This'll sound kinda nuts, I know, but ... are you a vampire?'
"`I'm a Hungarian-American with an inherited medical condition.'"
© Peter Rozovsky 2009