Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Chandler: Red Tide

James Steranko (b. 1938) could be considered a true Renaissance man. Early in his life he became a talented illusionist, magician and musician. By 1966, Steranko's comic book pursuits led to the iconic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics. He penciled and inked issues of
Strange Tales, Nick Fury, Captain America, X-Men, etc. In 1969, Steranko began painting covers for paperbacks and pulps, including Wildcat O' Shea and The Shadow

In 1976, Steranko's love of crime-noir and pulp-fiction led to a graphic novel called Chandler: Red Tide. Steranko penciled, inked and authored the book in a very specific format. Each page features 26 lines of text with two panels of art above each page. This is not to be confused with a standard graphic novel or comic because there are no dialogue bubbles. For all purposes, this is a unique novel with accompanying artwork, similar to a vintage pulp magazine. 

Set in the 1940s, Chandler explains to readers that he was originally a professional boxer. After a knockout defeat, Chandler stopped boxing and fought in the Mexican Revolution, became an arms dealer and eventually moved to New York City to become a skip tracer for a bail bondsman. Later, he became a special investigator for the District Attorney's office. When the new administration arrived, he was bounced. Now, he works on 47th as a private-detective, complete with a sexy secretary, long coat, and a Colt. 45.

An older gentleman named Todd approaches Chandler about finding a murderer. Todd explains that he was a guest on a yacht off of New York Harbor when a gangland slaying took place. Unfortunately, he was one of a handful of witnesses that saw the gunman. Now, the witnesses are being killed off and Todd is next. Chandler can’t protect Todd because his murder has already happened. Todd was poisoned, and, according to medical professionals, has 72-hours to live. Nearing his demise, Todd offers Chandler a stack of bills to find his murderer before he dies.

Chandler is a glorious nod to the early, hardboiled private-eye stories and novels. The hero's name is a tribute to Raymond Chandler, but the book's most striking resemblances are Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op and Carol John Daly's Race Williams. Chandler possesses all of the genre tropes: sleuth, big appetite, attractive, fighter. He is quick with a gun, smooth with the ladies and uses a lot of stealth and intuition to locate clues.

On a frenzied, shortened timeframe, Chandler paws through leads and interviews various people connected to the ship. The cold trail eventually leads to an old flame named Ann. Chandler rekindles a spark with her, but begins to suspect Ann's motives and network of associates. 

With intense gunplay, sexiness and a bold hero, the narrative moves quickly through New York’s brightly lit streets. The vivid artwork panels purposefully align with each page's dialogue and scene, enhancing what was already a rock-solid and compelling story. 

Unfortunately, as remarkable as Chandler is, it didn't meet sales expectations. A planned story-arc for Penthouse never came to fruition and Chandler was shuffled into forgotten history. If you can get your hands on this masterpiece, pay whatever the asking price is. Steranko’s Chandler kicks total ass. Buy a copy of this book HERE


  1. Watching the price for this one climbing, I've been thinking of selling my copy.

  2. A cherished book in my collection, I was fortunate enough to buy it off the rack when it was new,

  3. I found a copy at a Sally Ann. beat up, but beautiful. Almost a Big Little book. Love it

  4. A little better than 15 years back Dark Horse was set to print an oversized hardcover reissue of Chandler. I was working with books then and got a beautiful advance poster, but the project kept getting delayed until it was finally cancelled. I heard through the grapevine that Steranko’s quality demands got in the way enough to finally kill the project. A real shame.

  5. A "Deluxe" version of this was published at the same time. Its a larger, Magazine size, edition. Same content. Crazy prices that folks are getting for Chandler now. For decades it would set you back a few bucks is all.... I too got mine off the stands at Walden Books back in 1976 I believe. Good stuff, some of Steranko's very best.

  6. Another interesting bit of trivia related to RED TIDE is that the artwork printing plates were photographed from Steranko's pencils - no inking involved. That gave elements of the art - hair, flowers, etc. - a softer edge that an inked line.