Wednesday, May 20, 2015

31 Days of Comics: Day 20 – A Comic with Witty Dialogue

ROB'S NOTE: May has become the go-to month of the Comic’s Industry (even though National Superhero Day is late April, but whatever… Congress… pshaw).  It is when Marvel drops their big movie of the year.  May also sees the annual Free Comic Book Day celebration take place on the first Saturday of the Month, so I hope you all got to check that out.  May also has 31 days of the month so what better way to celebrate the wonderful world of sequential art with the 31 Days of Comics?

Seth Hahne, who runs the blog GoodOkBad, has put together the 31 Days of Comics challenge.  A daily challenge in which you are given a category and you have to fill it with a comic that you think fits it the best.  You’re all on the internet, I shouldn’t have to explain it to you.  For the rest of the month I will be taking this challenge.  It is my hope it encourages others to make and share their own lists either in the comments here or on their own websites.  The sharing not only might turn comic fans on to works they have yet to sample but maybe catch the eye of a few non-comic fans and highlight the diversity of the form. 

Our prompt for Day 20 is “A Comic with Witty Dialogue.”

One Hundred Bullets “The Counterfifth Detective”

Written by Brian Azzarello
Pencils by Eduardo Risso
Colors by Patricia Mulvihill
Letters by Clem Robins

100 Bullets is a work that divides people into two camps.  On one hand it’s fans paint it as a great modern crime book that paints a fully realized world in which there is a conspiracy, steeped in the tradition of noir fiction, in which those with power wield it above the concerns of us common folk.  The detractors of the book usually attack Azzarello’s dialogue as an attempt to be “clever” rather than authentic and claimed the story got away from him along the way.

I also think those people are reading into the story what they want it to be and not what it is actually about, but that’s an argument for a different day.

When it comes to the dialogue aspect of 100 Bullets I beg to differ with its critics.  If you go back to old school noir fiction, both in the novels and the movies, you won’t find authentic speech.  It’s often said the creator often tries to portray his “ideal” world though his work.  Azzarello’s ideal isn’t reality.  It is a world where everybody speaks like they are in a 1940s crime novel.  Where there are guys who think they are tough and then real tough guys.  And while all of 100 Bullets moves along these lines, “The Counterfifth Detective”, is Azzarello’s tribute to those novels and movies.

There is a long running backstory that plays out throughout the story which we won’t get into here.  Suffice to say all that’s needed to know is that the arc is centered on Milo Garrett, a private investigator who wakes up in the hospital after an accident with his face bandaged up.  We find out he was hired by Echo Memoria, one of the two fem fatales will we meet, to track down a stolen painting.  As with all noir stories there is a double-cross, followed by a triple-cross, and the “good guy” doesn’t win at the end.

But this is about dialogue and, in my opinion, Azzarello’s word play and double meanings are outstanding.

Agent Graves, a mysterious benefactor of revenge (tip of the iceberg but to explain the backstory would take up way too much time) shows up when Milo is in the hospital recovering from his accident where they have this exchange:

GRAVES: I’m Agent Graves
MILO: Peachy. I’ve been waitin’ for you to show up.
GRAVES: Have you?
MILO: GODDAMN RIGHT.  An’ you better be here to tell that after my deductible, I’m covered.
GRAVES: Oh.  I’m not an insurance agent, Milo.  Though once you look over what I’ve got, you’ll find I do have everything covered.

Or Milo interviewing one of the art dealers, Frankie Monroe, at a strip club.

MONROE: Do I know you?
MILO: No, but I know you.
MONROE: I don’ like the sound of that
MILO: (Opens coat to show his gun): You like the sounds a one of these?
MONROE: Not really. I got a nervous disorder.  Loud noises’re bad for my heart
MILO: I’m sorry to hear that
MONROE: Then I’m sorry I said it.  What would you like to hear?
MILO: You take requests?
MONROE: Name the tune.
MILO: Karl Reynolds
MONROE: Reynolds. Reynolds.. could you hum a few bars maybe, get me started?
MILO: Sure.  How ‘bout tra la la you double-crossed him
MONROE: The melody you got- but the lyrics are all wrong
MILO: Well pardon me Frankie. Why don’ you sing for a while?
MONROE: Look, I don’t know Karl Reynolds from a hole in the head.
MILO: Interesting choice of words, seein’ how I found Karl sportin’ one.

This leads probably my favorite scene in the book from a banter point of view.  Milo finds himself going to one of his regular bars, to hook up with one of his regular girls, a bartender named Nadine.

(Milo enters bar, face still bandaged)

NADINE: Well well well, look who it is… What the hell happened to you Milo?
MILO: Nadine. How’djoo know it was me?
NADINE: You could walk in here with yet head up yer ass, I’d still recognize that cheap suit.  Usual?
MILO: Make it a double.
NADINE: So what’s the other guy look like?
MILO: Like his next suit is pine with a satin lining.
NADINE: You in trouble?
MILO: I’m in here. Any around? (hand motion insinuating sex)
NADINE: Knock it off, Milo.
MILO: How ‘bout I knock this back first (holds up drink)
NADINE: Then what?
MILO: That depends.
MILO: What time you knock off?
NADINE: Yeah? We got a date tonight?
MILO: You buys?
NADINE: You really you?
NADINE: (Looks) Twelve
OLD MAN BARTENDER: On a scale of what?
NADINE: I get off at twelve.
(Scene cuts to bed room)
MILO (CAPTION): So I got off at ten to one.
MILO (CAPTION): And two fifteen.

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