But Portland isn’t always the happy-go-lucky uncle. Sometimes there are murders, kidnappings, and police car chases, just like in Chicago, LA or New York. OK, not exactly – we have a couple beautiful snow-covered volcanoes in the background, and some of the cops ride mountain bikes. But there’s also a dangerous and ugly underside to the City of Roses, and it’s in this culture that Greg Rucka sets his graphic novel “Stumptown.”
As Matt Fraction mentions in the foreword, “Stumptown ” is vaguely inspired by “The Rockford Files.” It has a subtitle, appearing at the end of the chapter as if it was the name of episode: “The Case of the Girl Who Took her Shampoo (But Left her Mini),” done in 70’s style Cooper font. It has the angry chief, the rough and tumble locations: a bar, a casino, the hotel parking lot, a shooting under a bridge. And central to the story is the tough, independent PI named Dex Parios, who hangs her shingle as “Stumptown Investigations 503-389-2135”
“Stumptown” has all the trappings of an early 70’s detective show, yet Rucka has cleverly twisted everything to make it fresh, and wrapped it around a world he’s envisioned so completely it’s almost tangible. The cheap bar Parios uses as a meeting spot, the Ringside, actually exists as a Portland landmark, known mostly for the steaks and onion rings, and it’s not really cheap. A meeting in Mt. Tabor Park is rendered by the comics’ artist Matthew Southworth with sufficient chiaroscuro to portend danger, unlike the actual park I’ve visited with my kids. And my favorite twist is the minor chase scene / standoff inside and outside the Heathman Hotel. I could see Jim Rockford in a similar scene, but only Dex Parios would be in this one.
|Dex Parios showcases her messy car, bad ass style & bad luck|
Bottom line: Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth have taken the 70's LA detective TV show, breathed a new life and story into it, and steeped it in Portland culture, and poured everything into a graphic novel. I hope to read more Stumptown investigations in the future.
"Stumptown" by Greg Rucka has been nominated for an Oregon Book Award in the category of best "Graphic Literature." To learn more about Rucka, check out his blog at www.gregrucka.com or his fan page on Facebook. On twitter he's @ruckawriter. Or, if you need a detective, here's theStumptown Investigations website, or call 503-389-2135.