Hawaiian Dick: Byrd of Paradise

There are so many hooks to this story I hardly know where to start talking about it. It’s been variously described as tropical noir, a hardboiled supernatural thriller with a tiki-influenced setting, and a retro island take on Sam Spade. (Younger folks might see it as Thomas Magnum as written by Raymond Chandler.)

Hawaiian Dick: Byrd of Paradise cover
Hawaiian Dick:
Byrd of Paradise
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It’s 1953 in Hawaii. Byrd was a mainland police officer until a mysterious shooting drove him to semi-retirement. He works as a private detective with help from his ex-Army buddy Mo, a local police officer. When Byrd is hired to find a missing car, the locals say it was taken by spirits. The story expands when a mob boss’ girlfriend turns up missing and Mo and Byrd think they see the Night Marchers, native ghosts.

The setting, combined with the pre-statehood time period, is an exotic paradise with a seedy underbelly. Imagine someone like Jim Rockford in this setting, steeped in cocktail jazz culture but dealing with gangsters and bar girls. The details, like bar decorations or mailboxes, really ground the story. The creators have done a lot of research to get them just right.

While the writing is well-done, it’s the art that I found immediately gripping and gorgeous. The deep painterly style and incredibly vivid use of color perfectly set the stage for the time period and genre. Whether it’s Byrd’s sun-splashed apartment or a spooky nighttime assignation, the look is amazing and atmospheric. The digital painting is phenomenal.

The Hawaiian Dick site includes art samples. The book has a ton of enjoyable extras beyond the story. There are several comic strips with the characters, a text story about Byrd and Mo’s first meeting during the war, lots of character design sketches and notes, a cover gallery showing the development process, and even illustrated cocktail recipes.

This is a refeshing take on the private eye genre made special through a strong sense of place. Hawaiian Dick is a great crime story read, especially if you’re looking for something that makes full use of the comic medium.

The followup series is The Last Resort. There’s a Hawaiian Dick story in the Negative Burn Winter 2005 Special with black-and-white art by Shawn Crystal. Moore and Griffin also teamed up for a short story in Four-Letter Worlds about reminiscing over young love.

5 Responses to “Hawaiian Dick: Byrd of Paradise”

  1. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] On a lighter note, Isotope Comics is posting free comic previews all week. Although they’re not full comics, only previews, there’s a good range of material included. They started with The Leading Man, an upcoming Oni miniseries by B. Clay Moore (Hawaiian Dick) and Jeremy Haun (Paradigm). (The two previously worked together on Battle Hymn.) […]

  2. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Charming and garrulous B. Clay Moore signed my Hawaiian Dick: Byrd of Paradise, and I got my copy of Human Target: Living in Amerika signed by Cliff Chiang. I especially wanted that one because it’s got his behind-the-scenes section on how he creates each page. We talked about the Baltimore Convention, coming in September; I hope he’s able to attend. […]

  3. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] The Last Resort is a welcome followup to Byrd of Paradise, the story that introduced island private eye Danny Byrd and his police officer friend Mo Kalama. […]

  4. Coming Up in August 2008 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] has a new Hawaiian Dick paperback, collecting the first six issues of the series. I like the characters, I love the look of […]

  5. Tiki Joe Mysteries » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] was curious about this short graphic novel because I enjoy Hawaiian Dick, and this sounds similar: a WWII vet detective in an exotic locale with a strong tropical flavor, […]




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