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Mystery writer Janet Evanovich joins the graphic novel fray

Evanovich

"My daughter and I have always loved comics," said soon-to-be graphic novelist Janet Evanovich. "I actually still get a subscription to Uncle Scrooge. That’s because I’m so old."

Evanovich has made an agreement with publishing company Dark Horse to write a new set of illustrated titles from her Alex Barnaby series. "We’re thinking two books right now, and then we’ll figure it out from there," she said.

As Times staffer Geoff Boucher has pointed out, comic book publishers are rediscovering noir in a new spree of crime-centered graphic novels. IDW Publishing was able to get the late Donald E. Westlake’s blessing for its just-released adaptation of his first Parker novel, 1962’s "The Hunter." DC Comics, meanwhile, has committed an entire imprint, Vertigo Crime, which launched earlier this month; Scottish superstar Ian Rankin's "Dark Entries" is the lead title.

Evanovich is best known for her sassy Stephanie Plum mysteries, about a bond agent in New Jersey, but it was her comic NASCAR thrillers (the Barnaby books) that got her thinking about getting into a new medium.

"When I wrote ‘Metro Girl,’ that was really when we looked at it, and we thought this would be a fabulous comic," she said of that series’ first installment, released in 2004. "It was so visual, we could see the flashy cars and the sexy scruffy guy and the entire dynamic we felt would really lend itself to the comic book."

Evanovich and her daughter have already plotted out much of the story, she said, but beyond its Miami setting and its major characters -- the wise-cracking heroine, her race car driver boss Sam Hooker, his dog and "these three Cuban ladies" -- they aren’t giving up many details.

Meanwhile, Dark Horse, also home to the "Buffy" comics as well as "Star Wars" titles, is working with Evanovich to develop the right visual style. The author says she hopes for something between the Betty-and-Veronica she grew up on and the Japanese manga of which her own daughter, Alex, is such a fan.

"This is an action comic," she said. "We want the action not just to be shown through what they do and what they say and by ‘ka-pow!’ We actually think it’s very important that these figures portray movement an action and fluidity."

An erstwhile painter herself, Evanovich believes conjuring up the right images won’t be difficult. What’ll be trickier is rendering her trademark voice.

"I don’t think we’re going to know [about that] until we get that sucker out there," she said. "We just have to work at it, and we have to make sure the voice is there, because that’s an important part of it."

Readers can judge for themselves one year from now. The book is scheduled for a July 2010 release date, timed to take advantage of next year’s Comic-Con, the annual explosion of comic books, pop culture and their costume-clad fans, which wrapped up this summer in San Diego. Evanovich has already made plans to be on hand with her graphic novel at the next one.

"I have a whole year to decide what I’m going to dress up as," she said.

-- Mindy Farabee

Photo: Janet Evanovich  Credit: Deborah Feingold

 
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