Hooray Robot Apocalypse! Read Hard Boiled!

As a fan of Pete's Basement you may know that I'm not a big comic book reader. But that doesn't mean I am without love for the paneled storytelling form. In a time before ’WWW’ was something any sane person would say, around age thirteen, I spent many afternoons at my local Library. Somehow, perhaps via particles traveling backwards in time from the writing of this very article, a copy of Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow's Hard Boiled seemed to magically appear onto those cold metal shelves.

A cool older library worker alerted me to its existence.

"...we have Hard Boiled!" he said, "I don't know how, but we have Hard Boiled!"

There it was, harsh and green in that fluorescent light, an oversized middle finger next to several stout collections of Garfield, Calvin and Hobbs, and the Far Side.

Futuristic freaks, underboobs, and big guns adorned the cover, titled with bold slab type interspaced with cool highway-diner-sign font. I vaguely remember that book blowing up my whole world at that tender age.

A quick flip through revealed the most twisted insane art I'd ever seen, and more guns, and robots, and lots more boobs. I slapped that paperback closed with a twap. Clutching it close I quickly looked left then right.

Surely I couldn't just walk up to the counter and check this book out. Or could I?

Surely the pug-faced short-haired woman in the clear pink plastic framed aviators would look me squarely in my fresh teen face and say "I'm sorry young man, how did this obscene trash slip in here? Also you are under arrest."

But she didn't.

Library card - beep. Book barcode - beep.
Not a word, just soft tap-tap of stamp to pad then card and a slide of paper against paper. I push my way through the gate and she slips me the book on the other side. "I made it," I thought.

And a joyous block and a half home and ... there it was. All mine for two whole weeks. Straight to my room to pour over every page and panel a hundred times.

If you're familiar with Frank Miller's more famous work Sin City, then you're prepared for the tone of Hard Boiled, but not the depths of this book. It's like Sin City took a bunch of speed and acid, a week after swearing off its prescription antipsychotics.

Delusion. Revolution. A gritty future where mass orgies casually occur on random street corners, mega-corporate kingpins, and tax collectors who execute their charge with extreme violent prejudice. Or at least that's what we're led to believe.

In the first few pages the main character Nixon, busted-up and broken, standing at the dead-end of a brick-wall-alley, guns down a 'tax dodger' while being blasted with hundreds of rounds of ammo from the approaching car's built-in Gatling guns. They collide and Nixon is smashed against the window, driver shot and dead, and they crash through the brick wall into some crazy sex-club-thunderdome-thing. A voice from the car indicates that its self destruct has been activated, and moments later Nixon is the only one miraculously left, thrown from the blast.

He is next being reassembled in a sick jacked-up operating room reminiscent of something out of The Matrix (Not surprising considering Geoff Darrow did a lot of the concept art for that movie.) He wakes up as if it was all a nightmare, which prompts his smoking hot wife to have sex with him-- right in front of their two young kids-- who meanwhile prepare a needle and inject him with something, which quickly makes him slip away and forget his life's strange abnormality.

There's just no way around it, Frank Miller is fucked up.

The plot, twists and bugs out as the book progresses. Robot revolutionaries, giant nude fat guys guzzling soda can after soda can and being tended to by tiny windup naked chicks, talking dogs and robot sex.

But the art is in my mind the main reason you must see this book. There is really nothing to prepare you for the intensity and sheer magnitude of detail contained in every panel.

A flurry of shell casings on one page. Hordes of revelers in the chainsaw orgy scene. Streets filled with scores of retro-looking vehicles extending to the horizon. The grime of the city is carefully illustrated. Geoff Darrow has achieved a graphic feat beyond anything I've ever seen before.

But density aside, all of it beautifully executed. And buildings and machinery and people rendered as carefully and dimensional as the finest industrial designer. Tons of Easter eggs and logos tattooed on every surface.

I got the chance to talk with Geoff at the New York Comic Con. He's a wise-cracking smart-ass with a love for old episodes of Police Squad! Calmly drawing away on books and posters with a blue sharpie marker for a line of fans. And humbly he remarks to me, “I don't think I draw very well, … but I thought if I put a lot of effort into it, at least I'd get an 'A' for effort …” as he keeps trying to nervously ruin our interview by holding up a bottle of diet coke to the camera. What I failed to ask him is how long the pages took him to do, but something told me he must get asked that a lot.

Pete's Basement interview with Geof Darrow

That thirteen year old kid in me always perks right back up when I thumb through the pages of Hard Boiled. I bought my very own copy when I could later in life.

Recently, an awesome long-time fan and friend of the show, Jorge Burgos, presented me with a copy of Big Damn Hard Boiled, signed to me by Darrow.

It's an oversized ink-only version of the whole book. No color, no words. Only clean and smooth black line on white.

I turn those giant pages often and lose myself in the incredible world created by these two titans of the sequential art arts.

Hard Boiled on Amazon

Big Damn Hard Boiled on Amazon


Whoa whoa. That picture where

Whoa whoa. That picture where the dude is covered in barbed wire and glass! He's one hardcore Mother. After all this, all that's left is to get set on fire and swim through a lake of piranhas.