Nate Hollis
Created by Gary Phillips

LA writer Gary Phillips, the creator of black private eye Ivan Monk, is no stranger to comics. Which may explain why the comic book exploits of private eye NATE HOLLIS in Angeltown from DC Comics' Vertigo smacks the sweet spot with a vengeance.

Originally, the star of the series was to be Ulysses "Gravedigger" Hazard, who first appeared as a black WWII American soldier way back in 1977 in the premiere issue of DC's Men Of War, written by David Michelinie and drawn by Ed Davis.

It would have been an interesting revamp of the character for Phillips to redevelop. In those bygone days, Captain Hazard had had to fight just for the right to fight, but eventually worked as an undercover op for the military, under the codename "Gravedigger." Men of War may have only lasted 26 issues but Hazard was in all of them, actually taking command of Easy Company from Sgt. Rock in the final issue. But it turns out Hazard was a creator-owned deal, so Phillips had to start from scratch.

But that makes it even better -- Phillips is no slouch when it comes to creating hard-boiled characters, and Nate turned out to be pretty interesting in his own right. He's an LA-based private eye, a former investigator with the district attorney's office, who's as "cool as a frozen cucumber and tougher than a box of nails."

He's just been hired by high-priced defense attorney Monica Orozco (a former ladyfriend) to track down her client, Theophus 'The Magician' Burnett, a pro basketball superstar. It seems Los Angeles' favourite bad boy jock conveniently took a powder just as his wife was found brutally murdered. Making things more difficult for Nate is the fact that several other people, including a politically ambitious district attorney, a gangster and Irma Ducett, a deadly-but-beautiful bounty hunter are also apparently on the trail of the missing hoopster. And then there's Nate's complicated personal life, and a shadowy, violent past that includes a murdered ex-pro football player and Korean War vet father, whose long-ago killing has never been solved.

Phillips has a knack for kickass street-level action, and this bad rascal is well worth catching. Keep your orbs open.

TRUE CONFESSIONS

  • "While Angeltown is set now, its antecedents are a long line of noir and crime tales centered in Los Angeles. From Chandler's Philip Marlowe (who was also at one time an investigator for the D.A.) to Mosley's Easy Rawlins (whose books offer a kind of alternate history of Los Angeles) and James Elroy's police and politics procedurals to the modern L.A. you'll find in the stories of Denise Hamilton (Last Lullaby) and Michael Connelly (The Narrows), and on the TV show, The Shield'
    .
    "You see Los Angeles is actually a lot of different cities. It's the movie business and those who work in the 'industry' who live west of the 405 freeway or north of Montana in Santa Monica. It's Latino immigrant Pico-Union where those who aren't nannies or housekeepers to the folks north of Montana might work for piece rates as garment workers or for cash at car washes.

    "It's the burgeoning Koreatown overlapping the edges of Pico-Union and it's where ex police chiefs - Bernard parks -- now sit on the City Council and is running for mayor, to take the job of the man who fired him as police chief. It's the videotaped flashlight beatings of alleged car thief Stanley Miller and it's a place where the population is still growing because it's still the place where you come to reinvent yourself. Where you can be parking cars one day and sell that million dollar script the next day

    "And where multi-million dollar sports stars with out-sized egos command our attention. That's L.A. That's
    Angeltown."
    -- Gary Phillips, from a
    Comic Book Resources article)

COMICS

  • ANGELTOWN
    (2004, DC/Vertigo)
    5-part mini-series
    Monthly
    Written by Gary Phillips
    Artist: Shawn Martinbrough

COLLECTIONS

  • ANGELTOWN....Buy this book
    (2011, DC/Vertigo)
    Written by Gary Phillips
    Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
    Collects the original five-part series, and tosses in two, original, illustrated prose short stories by Phillips.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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