Forget It, Eddie, It’s Toontown – The Crime Fiction Roots Of Roger Rabbit

roger rabbit

My friend’s dad took us to see Willow one sunny summer’s day in 1988.  It was a good movie and all, but honestly I was extremely distracted throughout the whole thing.  All I could think about was one of the coming attractions I’d seen for a film called Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  I’d seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks and other fare where cartoons were mixed with live action.  But this flick looked much different—it had sex and violence and swear words.  Mix those with cartoons, and it was everything my almost adolescent heart could desire.

Thing was I was gonna have to wait until the next summer.  Sharp-eyed kid that I was, though, I’d seen in the trailer credits that the flick was based on a book called Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by a guy name of Gary K. Wolf.  The next weekend, I rode my bike down to the local library and checked it out.  The futsy librarian seemed a bit weirded out that a little kid like me wanted to read something that looked if not a little unsavory, then at the very least over my head.

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Victimless Emmys – Crime TV In 2012


The thing one must always keep in mind with industry awards is, aside from a marketing perspective, they mean exactly nothing.  Less than that, even.  If a show I particularly enjoy can move a few more DVD sets on the after-market by slapping an “Emmy winner!” sticker on it, or if that little gold statuette helps convince the suits upstairs that said show should be renewed for another few seasons, then that’s just hunky-dory.  But if the Academy of Television Arts(?) and Sciences(!) doesn’t see fit to acknowledge certain shows or actors for their fine work, that certainly should be no skin off anyone’s nose.  The Emmys are like whipped cream: Great as a nice topping, but if you eat them right out of the can, you’re likely to get a stomach ache.

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My Name Is Markham – The TV Sensibilities of NEAR DEATH

Near Death

Near Death is one of the spate of high-quality comic books Image has been cranking out over the past couple of years, and I finally did myself the favor of reading it.  Of course, now it appears the series has gone on hiatus just as I am getting on board (sad trombone).  Fingers crossed that it starts up again and soon, but in the meantime, Near Death is a nice little jumping-off point for talking about comics for comics’ sake.

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Scam Artist Hall Of Fame: M. Sgt. E.G. Bilko

Phil Silvers

Welcome, dear friends and other suckers, to a new regular feature here at the Criminal Complex.  Yes, the Scam Artist Hall Of Fame, as demanded by none of you, will highlight those great men and women, fictional and non, who through their erudite shrewdness and intelligence part money from its fools.  Our inaugural inductee is none other than that captain of the cardsharps, the service’s own shuckster, Sergeant Bilko.

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The City Of I Will – Why BOSS Is Kelsey Grammer’s Greatest Work

Kelsey Grammer

It’s strange when you consider that Boss is Kelsey Grammer’s first major dramatic role.  He has always been known for playing upright, no-nonsense roles, but for laughs.  Boss season 2, which premiered this past Friday on Starz, is definitely no laughing matter, and regardless of how lauded Grammer has been for his comedy work, the role of Chicago mayor Tom Kane will be what he is remembered for, if there is any justice in the world.

Then again, a major theme of Boss so far is that there is no justice in the world.  So there’s that.

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Get A Haircut Robert Pattinson – COSMOPOLIS


Well, kids, it’s almost here.  The wide release on August 17th of Robert Pattinson’s latest vehicle, the David Cronenberg film Cosmopolis, is only days away, and if you listen closely, you can hear the eager squeals of anticipation from Bobby’s legions of fans.  And now there have been brand-new stills released from the film, which we bring to you today courtesy of The Playlist.  It never quite fails to fascinate just how these guys, these screen idols, continue to elicit such rabid devotion from so many.  It’s not that I don’t understand or anything; after all, I’ve nursed quite a few celebrity crushes over the years and still do.  And as we’ve discussed here before, Pattinson’s presence in this film will lead many to the works of his director and co-stars, many who may not have shown any interest in such otherwise.

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The Posthumous Donald Westlake: It’s All Bullshit

Donald Westlake

Donald Westlake, ever the prolific author, has had two novels released since his death on New Year’s Eve of 2009, both brought to us by the stellar Hard Case Crime imprint.  The first, in 2010, is called Memory, and was thought to be his only “lost” novel, until crime writer Max Allan Collins unearthed a manuscript for The Comedy Is Finished, which was published earlier this year.  Now, I’m not sure that these novels carry a certain extra weight for their timing—that is to say, had Westlake published these novels when he had written them, would they ring so much more important to me?  Or would they be just two more examples of Westlake’s superior writing skills, part of a canon that was revered within the genre well before the man’s passing?

It doesn’t matter.

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Joe R. Lansdale: Where Does He Find The Time?

 joe lansdale

Seriously.  I can hardly find the time to read the man’s voluminous output, and that must take at least a little less time to write it.  So how does he do it?

Joe R. Lansdale’s first book, Act of Love, went into print in 1980, a novel about a truly psychopathic serial killer set in Houston, TX.  Lansdale has not slowed down in the thirty-plus years since, this past year seeing the release of his YA novel, All the Earth, Thrown to to the Sky; a novella, “Hyenas“, featuring my personal Lansdale favorites, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine; and now the latest from Little, Brown’s crime imprint, Mulholland, Edge of Dark Water.

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What Are The Odds That INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS Will Turn Out To Be A Crime Movie?

Carey Mulligan

Though largely regarded as humorists, directors Joel and Ethan Coen have produced some of the finest crime movies ever committed to film.  Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, and their adaptation of No Country for Old Men are straight-ahead crime movies enriched with the Coens’ visual style and lip-smacking dialogue.  Even Fargo, though the thick Minnesota dialect draws huge laughs, couldn’t be more of a crime movie.

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Odds That Oliver Stone’s SAVAGES Will Be Any Good?

Director Oliver Stone is bringing Don Winslow’s SAVAGES to the big screen.  But will it be any good? “Bet.”

Don Winslow’s 2010 novel Savages is one of those books you chide yourself for not reading sooner, even if you were able to get your hands on an ARC in ’09.  The drug-dealing anti-hero(es) and the adventures of the Mexican drug cartel are all reinvested with some relevance and some actual personality in the pages of Winslow’s novel.  Opening with a brief first chapter, the twin thematic powerhouses of minimalism and breakneckism (in both pace and morality) shoot you through to the conclusion, which is about as Mexican a stand-off as you’re likely to read.  There’s no time to do anything but take a deep breath and hope you come out on the other side (not all of you will).  If/when you do, it’ll be a day and half later and you will not have eaten and your hair will be all messed up.  That’s how good Savages is.

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Whitechapel Squad: The Detective Comics of Warren Ellis

I’ve long believed Warren Ellis is a crime-fiction writer at heart.  The first series of Wolfskin was a clear example of sword-and-sorcery comics, but had that distinct Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars feel, a dyed-in-the-wool crook playing both sides.  Comics like Aetheric Mechanics and Captain Swing are solid steampunk works, yet revolve around cops-and-robbers shenanigans.  One of the driving tenets of our work here at Criminal Complex is that any good story is going to have a vital aspect of crime fiction in there, even if it’s a small one, and the oeuvre of Warren Ellis is about as nearly perfect an example of that as I can find.

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Spanish Prisoners: 5 Indispensable Books of Scam Fiction

American Gods

Neil Gaiman and Jim Thompson bonded by Scam Fiction?

It’s all a scam, isn’t it?

My alarm goes off in the morning and I eat some cereal some marketer scammed me into thinking tastes good and is good for me.  I wash myself with products I’ve been scammed into thinking will make me more pleasant company.  I buy cigarettes I’ve scammed myself into thinking won’t really shorten my life from a convenience store clerk who scams me into thinking I’m paying a fair price.  I go to my day-job and scam my boss into thinking I’m working hard just as he scams me into thinking my paycheck is as much as I deserve.  Then I come home and attempt to scam you fine people into thinking I know what I’m talking about when it comes to crime fiction.

But of course, you’re too smart for that.  So instead, I’m just gonna lay out some of the finer examples of scam fiction—fiction by, for, and about scam artists—and let these works scam you into reading them.

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The Entertainers: 5 Essential Movies of Scam Cinema

dirty rotten scoundrels

Hollywood: it’s all a scam, isn’t it?

For all of our lives, the movies have promised us big, big things.  Action and adventure are just out there waiting for us.  Good always triumphs over evil.  A simple confusion of gender will result in a humorous situation.  And everybody is having way more sex than you.  Like the good little marks we all are, we run frantically to these show-biz con-men with fistfuls of dollars, just begging to be parted with our money and our senses.  And then as with any good con, once it’s all over, we stand there on the sidewalk, squinting in the sunlight, our dreams crushed by reality and our pockets empty.  The movies are the longest running scam in world history.

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J. EDGAR Is Leo’s Show, All The Way | Movie Review

It struck me as I was watching J. Edgar that as much as I enjoy James Ellroy’s work and how funny I find his depiction of Hoover in his Blood’s a Rover, it actually is a really cartoony version of the guy.  Ellroy kinda does that a lot, and that’s fine, as not only do I like cartoons a lot, it was also Ellroy’s mission in his “Underworld U.S.A.” trilogy to deflate the images of these men that have defined 20th century American history.  Clint Eastwood’s film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, also seeks to do this, but in a much more subtle way, which also still ends up (in my eyes, anyway) severely discrediting the man who created the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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Crime Imitates Life: Danny Ocean Gets More Chicks than Terry Benedict

‘There are myriad reasons why people become artists—creative drive, fame/notoriety, money.  Actually, that’s about it.  But one reason not discussed all that often is simple boredom.  The non-creative life can be a real drag, working a regular job, marrying a regular spouse in order to birth regular kids.  Artistic endeavors, especially in this modern western culture, are just as much a product of the artist’s malaise/ennui/boredom as it is the demand of the public for such distractions from their own malaise/ennui/boredom.

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What Are the Odds Tom Sizemore Is Gonna Get Killed on Hawaii Five-O?

Despite his most recent snag with the law, Tom Sizemore has turned over a new leaf, one not grown from the coca plant.  His guest role this season on CBS’s Hawaii Five-O as straight-laced IAB cop, Captain Vince Fryer, fits nicely with Sizemore’s new-found path of cleanliness and sobriety.  We here at Criminal Complex truly hope this all pans out, as Sizemore has always been a fine actor and seems like a cool guy to hang out with.  But if life imitates art, this new role could also mean that Tom Sizemore might get mortally wounded.  Again, we can’t stress enough how horrible this would be, but let us take a look at Tommy’s track record so far, shall we?

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Crime Imitates Life: CASINO’s Ace Rothstein Is an Artist of Chance

Sam “Ace” Rothstein is the number one gambler in the country.  He is so good at betting on sporting events that by merely betting on a team, he increases the odds for that team on a national scale.  A talent like this is not inherent; Ace may be something of a natural at gambling, but he only got to be this good because he remained focused.  As his best friend Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, narrates, “He didn’t bet like you or me…He bet like a fuckin’ brain surgeon.” When we see Ace on the floor of his Tangiers casino, his face is grim, determined.  Focused.

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Takin’ ‘er Easy for All Us Sinners: The World According to Jeffrey Lebowski

The Big Lebowski enjoys what is probably the largest cult following of all the cult-attracting films of Joel and Ethan Coen, and has pretty much since its release over a decade ago.  And “cult” has become more apropos a term since the advent of Dudeism, the official unofficial philosophy of Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski ( Dudeism teaches that we all need to just take it easy, man, and on a personal note, if there is one thing I’ve figured out about myself in the past few years, it’s that I am not perfectly calm here.  But I am learning to abide by adhering to a pretty strict Dude regimen.  Here’s some of the stuff I’ve figured out.

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Run, Micro, Run

punisher max marvel comcis

The notion of the sidekick has been a popular one in story-telling since time out of mind, yet it has most likely been brought to its highest prominence in superhero comics.  The majority of these sidekicks, like Batman’s Robin, have been cheeky teenagers, created in order to act not only as foil for the hero, but also for the ostensibly young male readers to have a regular character to whom they could better relate.

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A Glorious Waste of Time: Jordan Brady’s I Am Comic

There’s an old Chinese curse that a lot of hacky writers use to set up the premises of their articles, and it is as follows: May you live in interesting times.  And for stand-up comedy, these are very interesting times, indeed.

This is not to say that stand-up is cursed.  At least, it isn’t any more or less than it was when you could only see it performed in the Catskills or on Ed Sullivan.  But since the stand-up boom of the 1980s and ‘90s has waned completely, there is no longer an intense national focus on stand-up, which leaves the rest of us enthusiasts, those of us with a deep passion for this art form regardless of its popularity or lack thereof, in a unique position to analyze and dissect it, to find out how and why it works.

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Troy’s Bucket (and Why I Ain’t Riding Up It)

If you’re anything like me, you’re broke.

Not quite selling-your-plasma-for-lunch-money broke.  But definitely dodging-bill-collectors-and-praying-to-a-God-you-don’t-believe-in-that-your-car-won’t-break-down-again broke.

The real trouble with this kind of broke is that it’s mostly voluntary.  That is to say, I’ve been afforded ample opportunity in my lifetime to achieve material success, and I have essentially ignored said opportunity and will more than likely continue to do so.

Why, you may ask?  Why cling to this plebian lifestyle of mine?  Why work not one, but two jobs well below my level of education?

Simple answer: The Goonies.

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Arrivederci, Eltingville

Comic book nerds are easy targets.  Fish in a barrel and on crutches, to boot.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but going to down to comics conventions and making fun of grown men dressed in tights or in Klingon make-up is not unlike heckling the Special Olympics.  Maybe it’s less guilt-inducing, but that’s about it.

But like a lot of sub-cultures, you’re not really allowed to make fun of it unless you are also of it.  I often self-apply the epithet “nerd,” but if someone else deigns to call me that, that person shall feel my wrath (mostly just a dirty look, but a very wrathful dirty look).  To my understanding, this is the same with labels like “queer,” “bitch,” or The Racial Slur That Dare Not Be Named: you’ve got to qualify in order to bandy those words around.

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