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Nightmare Alley Paperback – February 18, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stanton Carlisle runs toward a light at the end of a corridor of outstretched arms. In underground cartoonist Rodriguez's skilled hands, such imagery gains an inexorable visual and narrative logic. Like the original 1946 novel by Gresham, and the subsequent Tyrone Power film, this Nightmare Alley is a portrait of greed seen through the rise and fall of a carny con man. Carlisle starts off as a small-time magician in a travelling show. The show's kindhearted mentalist teaches him the art of fortune telling, but Carlisle soon makes a bid for more elaborate cons. He ascends to high society parlors and becomes addicted to the idea of tricking the wealthy. How he ends up selling his act to a skeptical, high-powered industrialist is a study in both psychological savvy and moral deterioration. Cons always rely as much on intuition as on sleight-of-hand, so it's no surprise that Carlisle's downfall comes from his own lack of self-understanding. After manipulating so many people for so long, he ends up as the stooge for the one person who could outthink him: his therapist lover. Rodriguez, who spent seven years on this adaptation, makes no such miscalculation. His extreme angles and high-contrast imagery help him remain faithful to the story's cynicism, while his deft handling of carny jargon give readers a inside look at everything from how cons are played to the origins of the word "geek." The alley of Stanton Carlisle's nightmare might be his own arid soul, but it's revealed through the pitiless precision of Rodriguez's art.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Rodriguez, one of the original alternative comics creators, is best known for tales of his youthful 'hood in urban Latino California. Sex and money count in many of those stories, as they do in Gresham's archetypal roman noir Nightmare Alley (1946), the up-the-long-ladder-and-down-the-short-rope tale of a con man who starts and ends in a traveling carnival. In between he climbs from clairvoyant's helper to spiritualist preacher who has hooked a multimillionaire guilty about the long-gone girlfriend who died from the abortion he bought her. He almost makes the big killing, but he, who meanwhile has betrayed two women, the first after offing her husband (and getting away with it), is flimflammed himself by the curvaceous (natch) shrink he sought out to assuage his guilt. Rodriguez is pretty reverent toward Gresham's almost ludicrously downbeat scenario heavy with pop Freudianism, which means he includes so much of Gresham's prose that he just must give the novelist coauthor credit. Despite too much text and Rodriguez's square drawing style, the lurid yarn still grabs and holds. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books; 1st Fantagraphics Books Ed edition (February 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560975113
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560975113
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.3 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,077,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a fan of the original novel and the film, I was very much looking forward to this graphic novel (or comic book) version. Unfortunately, this misses the mark. Rodriguez's style, which is great for "underground" comix, doesn't feel right for this material: everything looks sleazy, which is fine for the Carnival stuff, but the overall look needs a veneer of class as the main character's odyssey advances. The biggest problem is that there is not enough visual storytelling here. Some of the scams that are clear in the novel are completely incomprehensible here; if you've never read the novel you won't understand some of them (I had to go back to the novel myself to refresh my memory). The page layouts are basically all the same -- 4 equal size panels per page -- so there's no use of the medium to create interesting layouts and compositions to enhance the story. Small panel closeups and smaller multiple panels to break up incredibly long speeches would have helped tremendously. Everything is line drawings -- no use of wash and few attempts to create interesting lighting. The novel is considered "noir," and it would have benefited from a Frank Miller or Alex Maleev type of approach. If you've never read the novel, pick up the excellent collection "American Noir: Crime Novels of the 30's and 40's" and read it in its original form. This adaptation just doesn't work.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mark Newbold on May 19, 2003
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A noir classic that has received classic treatment under the pen of Spain Rodriguez, one of America's foremost under/above ground cartoonists. I first became fascinated by this book & William L. Gresham, by realizing that his ex-wife Joy, became a Christian and took off to England with the intention of meeting that best known Christian apologist of the 20th century, CS Lewis. They later married in the midst of her terminal illness from cancer. What would have made Joy flee the communist esoteric pleasures of living with Mr. Gresham to the arms of a rather sexless University Don?

This is the great novel of the American underbelly. A society that has it's own culture both inside and out of the norm. I often see "Nightmare Alley" as the progenitor to the later fantasies of Wm. Burroughs. The grotesque & arabesque of the seemingly mundane American landscape is explored with a naked eye in this. And this Fantgraphics edition is your best bet for becoming aquainted to this lesser known masterpiece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LAX on December 31, 2013
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This dark noir comic is the goods. Spain's artwork and adaptation of the move script are totally in synch. If you like sleazy sideshows and geek stories this is the best. Masterful.
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