Titan Comics’ Doctor Radar, Building on Many Genres

Guest Writer: Mike Case

Writer: Noël Simsolo
Art: Bézian
Translator: Ivanka Hahnanberger

Noël Simsolo’s Doctor Radar hits a lot of what I like about historical detective fiction (or whatever genre I’m supposed to call this. Maybe I’ll stick to the probably too broad term “graphic novel”). The past not completely rewritten; but rather like being reminded of the past or maybe half remembered in a surrealistic dream. Believable but subtly changed and exaggerated.

Doctor Radar Cover A © Titan Comics

Doctor Radar Cover A © Titan Comics

The art of Bezian does exactly that in this issue. I’m without a doubt no expert in European illustration of the early 20th century but for me the illustrations are definitely evocative of the time. It’s easy to imagine Doctor Radar being fully animated. Set in a noir Paris of 1920, Doctor Radar reminds us Following the First World War new concepts of art emerged and cutting edge science hinted at massive change in the near future. The use of the term “telex’ and the name “Radar” itself being used add to this sense. In our real world time line, the word radar was still 20 years in the future, but I suppose “Doctor Telemobolioscope” doesn’t sound quite as good.

Ferdinand Strauss is a wealthy and famous gentleman detective and a flying ace. Likely, I’m guessing, from the recently ended World War I. Strauss is a perfect addition to the tradition of literary gentleman detectives and specifically gentleman Francophone detectives. Strauss has “Dadaist friends” who are balanced against “fanatics” who believe in traveling to space. The dismissal of space travel as pure fantasy was a thing in the 10’s and 20’s. The New York Times had even printed an editorial in 1920 dismissing the ridiculous idea of space travel. One associate of Strauss is the real life Bulgarian artist Pascin who while fairly obscure makes for a good personification of the changing notions of art at the time.   Less is known of Doctor Radar, only his flair for the dramatic, fondness for poison, and use of disguise. I‘m looking forward to learning more about the who and why of Doctor Radar.  Doctor Radar lies at the center of a Venn diagram comprised of a number genres and sub-genres, each with its own familiar traditions. It would easy to re-hash the familiar but Doctor Radar manages to build on and honor those traditions. Doctor Radar should definitely be on the radar of any one who enjoys historical detective fiction, pulp, retro-future, noir, and so on.

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