Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Road To Perdition!

Road to Perdition is a fantastic read. This period crime drama is famous because they made a movie out of it. (More on that in a few moments.) But the original story was produced as part of DC's experimental Paradox Mystery imprint which was used to tell grittier stories in a format more akin to Japanese Manga in size. Typically, a story would be presented in three installments and then collected together. The editor of this effort was Andy Helfer. Road to Perdition was contracted to follow that pattern but then the line was nearly cancelled and so it was released all together in a single volume in 1998.

Max Allan Collins began the project in the mid 1990's and worked patiently with artist Richard Piers Rayner for four years to complete the assignment. Collins had been inspired by a number of things, but foremost among these was the Manga classic Lone Wolf and Cub about a displaced Samurai and a small child having adventures together. (I confess I've never read the stories, nor have I watched the movies, but I plan to rectify the latter at least.) Collins also say this story was a parallel of sorts to an independent movie he directed called Mommy in which a young girl slowly learns the dreadful news that her mom might be a serial killer. He of course wrote a novel about this as well. 

In Road to Perdition, we meet Michael Sullivan a loyal soldier and assassin in the Looney crime family. Circumstances change and this quiet and deadly man loses his family, all save his son who is our narrator. We follow father and son as they roam the Midwest of America in the 1930's slowly and resolutely seeking revenge on the Looney clan and at the same time trying to steer clear of trouble from big time crime bosses like Frank Nitti and Al Capone. It's a harrowing tale, told with economy and surprising elegance over the course of three hundred pages or thereabouts. And if you've seen only the movie you don't know the ending. 

The movie was quickly tapped by Hollywood and powerhouse actors like Paul Newman and Tom Hanks gave it a cache that resulted in a hit. The movie successfully captures the atmosphere of the graphic novel, though as I've said the denoument is decidedly different. I like both endings well enough, but I have to give the nod to the original novel because it's more in keeping with the overall tone. 

DC recognized they had a hit and brought out a sequel of sorts title Road to Perdition 2 -On the Road. This is not so much a sequel but a trio of individual tales which occur within the frame of the original story. This was not hard as Collins says he was originally intending for the saga to ramble on a bit more before circumstances required a firm and fast resolution. More on these misadventures next time. 

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  1. I haven't read "Road to Predition" but it have read so many good things about it . Perhaps it's time to do that based on your article, it sounds intriguing as does the "Mommy's book.

  2. I've watched the movie several times, but never read the source material. Interesting that Hollywood opted for an ending that nixed a sequel. One of Hanks' better roles IMHO.

    1. It was the first time I saw Hanks as more than a comedy actor.