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SAN DIEGO -- At a press conference at its booth on Wednesday at Comic-Con International, IDW Publishing announced that it will be releasing four original graphic novels by Darwyn Cooke based on the Parker crime fictions series of novels by Richard Stark (a pseudonym for author Donald Westlake).

The first of these graphic novels will be released by IDW in mid 2009. Many of Westlake's books have been brought to the big screen, including Point Blank, The Hot Roc, and Payback. He also wrote the screenplay for Stephen Frears' 1990 movie The Grifters.

Originally published in the 1960s, Stark's novels featuring the Parker character - The Hunter, The Outfit, the Mourner and The Man with the Getaway Face - are tough and tautly composed. The Parker character is known as one of the most fascinating and compelling criminals in crime fiction. Lee Marvin played Parker in John Boorman's film Point Blank.

At the press conference, Cooke said it was key for him to do "something outside the mainstream." The project came about when Scott Dunbier, his former editor on DC Comics' The Spirit, became special projects editor at IDW.

"I wanted a new challenge," Cooke said. "To me, the challenge is to bring in readers to comics. Nothing is more important right now"

Cooke said he has worked with Westlake over the last two months to make certain the graphic novels "reflect the tone of the books." He said his art style will be "choppier and a lot grittier," with black and one color.

"It will be a little looser, more darker," he said.

Cooke said he liked the character because his emotions are all eternal.

"The way Westlake described it to me is, "Imagine that he's a plumber. All he's concerned with is doing the job right, and if that means killing client, that's what he'll do,'" Cooke said. "He's amoral in the sense that he'll kill you or he won't, and it will never have anything to do with an emotional response. If you're in the way, or you create a problem for him, he'll put you out of the picture."

Cooke said the format for the graphic novels hasn't been determine yet. "I want to make sure it's friendly to the book market," he said.

Cooke said he will continue with his other projects, including one that will be announced later this summer at a Baltimore convention.

At the convention, IDW is offering a set of three signature cards featuring original illustrations by Cooke - available only from specific locations. One card can be found at Cooke's booth, another at the IDW booth, and another at the 1IDW panel on Saturday at 11 a.m. The cards are limited to 500 of each.

E-mail the Continuum at RobAlls@aol.com

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