Charles Barkley And The Referee Murders (1993).

§ December 27th, 2004 § Filed under indies Comments Off on Charles Barkley And The Referee Murders (1993).

Tom Spurgeon, on his fine Comics Reporter site yesterday, made a list of sports-related comics and mentioned in passing a certain Charles Barkley And The Referee Murders comic book. Well, it just so happens that I had a copy or two of this still floating around the shop….

In 1993, Hamilton Comics published this full-color album-sized graphic novel, written by science fiction author Alan Dean Foster and illustrated by veteran comics artist Joe Staton. Somehow they managed to convince basketball star Charles Barkley into directly participating rather than just licensing out his name, and according to the copious behind-the-scenes material included in this book, they had him in a studio for an hour, taking reference photos.

And boy, did Hamilton get its money’s worth on those photos. Those pictures are everywhere in this book, and I don’t mean just how they’re used in Staton’s art. The back cover is comprised of 15 reference shots of the many emotions of Charles Barkley:

and there is even a whole sheet of perforated stamps — as in lickable, stickable stamps — inserted into the book:

Plus, at the outer bottom corners of the pages inside are two different “flip-book” picture sequences of Barkley:

…one with him taking off his hat, and the other of him turning around to give you the stink-eye. This clearly wasn’t planned (or, at least, told to Mr. Staton) until after the artwork was completed, since the flip-pictures are placed over what appear to be fully-drawn panels.

As for the story itself…well, there are murders, and apparently basketball is instrumental in solving the crime. Okay, maybe there’s a little more to it than that…Barkley finds himself under suspicion after referees he had argued with at prior basketball games are found murdered, and he sets out to find the real culprits (complete with his Dick Tracy-style get-up he conveniently receives as a gift from a fan). Trying to plug a basketball star into a hardboiled detective story sounds like an idea whose time hasn’t quite come, but it’s not as bad as you’re probably thinking. There is a sense of humor and lightness to the dialogue, and it’s a breezy read. Not deep, you’ll forget it two minutes later, but pleasant enough.

Speaking of the dialogue, Sir Charles does receive an “additional dialogue” credit. During the photoshoot, he was presented with several situations from the story, and Barkley came up with his own lines for those sequences. All together, nine word balloons are his doing, and the behind-the-scenes material indicates which ones they are and where they can be found in the story. My favorite line: “Listen! Them country bumpkins are a lot tougher than they look!”

Alan Dean Foster has a memory or two of his own from working on this book, which can be found in this short interview.

This wasn’t Sir Charles Barkley’s only foray into four color fun…there was also the immortal Godzilla Vs. Barkley, which may sound silly to you, but darned if we didn’t sell out of it when it came out. And darn again if we don’t keep selling it whenever we get it in as a back issue. I do wonder what sort of lawyer meetings were involved to determine who got top billing.

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