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Hard Boiled Defective Stories

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  694 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
An early classic from the author of Black Hole.

Meet El Borbah, a 400-pound private eye who wears a Mexican wrestler's tights and eerie mask. Subsisting entirely on junk food and beer, El Borbah conducts his investigations with tough talk and a short temper. He smashes through doors and skulls as he stalks a perfectly realized film-noir city filled with punks, geeks, busine
Published (first published 1987)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,156)
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Anthony Vacca
Cyborg cults ran by robots, gun-wielding babies with dead geriatrics' heads transplanted atop their uncoordinated bodies, a fast-food chain whose burger patties contain mind-controlling additives, a cabal of wealthy hedonists, blackmail, runaway teens, missing dames, and an endless array of shady characters (and all of them lying out both sides of their mouth): it's all in a day's work for El Borbah, the heavy drinking, hard eating, perpetually smoking, two-fisted, rude-mouthed luchador turned p ...more
David Schaafsma
I just finished Burns's most recent 3 volume trilogy, ending with Sugar Skull, and found it pretty amazing. So, glancing over what I had never read from Burns, I found this, which is the same size and colored similarly on the cover (the actual stories are black and white, and would be improved by being in garish color), and it is more than 30 years old, rereleased in 2010. It has the same funny nightmare weirdness of Sugar Skull series, but is a kind of mashup of horror/fantasy/noir/Mexican wres ...more
Feb 13, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Charles Burns, detectives, Mexican wrestlers
Shelves: comix-novel
El Borbah is a rude, obnoxious, selfish, and incredibly stupid masked wrestler detective.
When he's not chain-smoking and strong-arming his clients for his advance fee, he's investigating missing persons that have either been converted into robots, had their adult heads grafted onto baby bodies or secretaries brainwashed into behaving like 4-year old infants.
Burns is a very cool artist and El Borbah is a pisser, elbowing his oafish way through every case.
Mar 21, 2016 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A masked Mexican wrestler detective... what more could you ask for?
Mar 07, 2011 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Prior to this, the only work I've read by Charles Burns was Black Hole - I was entirely unprepared for El Borbah. The main character is crass, violent, and not incredibly bright, while the story lines are random, dark, awkward, and painfully amusing. This is a fantastic collection; Charles Burns is a brilliant author and artist - he couldn't write enough of this stuff to satisfy my interest.
Erik Erickson
Feb 01, 2012 Erik Erickson rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, fiction, pulp, crime
Fun stories that lampoon and celebrate the detective pulps. Along with that great heavy line weight and high contrast Charles Burns does so damn well. The extra large format is much appreciated (I can't stand how Pantheon shrunk down the pages of Black Hole for the collected hardback, what on earth were they thinking??).
Jason Bradshaw
Feb 10, 2014 Jason Bradshaw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
This is a collection of all of the noir-esque crime stories featuring Burns’ hard-boiled Mexican wrestler/detective for hire, El Borbah, that were originally published in Raw and Heavy Metal magazines respectively.

The stories here are pretty straight noir, but everything is just a bit off. El Borbah, the protagonist in all of these stories, plays into most of the hard boiled detective troupes – he’s basically a tough that won’t take shit from anybody – and also, for some reason, happens to be a
Fantastic compilation of early detective stories by Charles Burns, the comics revolve around the bizarre adventures of El Borbah a giant private detective with a Mexican Luchador outfit and passion for cigarettes and smashing up criminals. The stories are filled with graphic references to old pulp detective mags, film-noir, aliens, robots, evil secret brotherhoods and all kinds of sci-fi parafernalia, and like all Burns comics the pure black and white artwork is stunning. Definitely a must read.
May 23, 2007 Bryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charles Burns takes Roy Lichtenstein, blends him with early 80's downtown NY and puts them back into a surrealist glee-ride of a book. Not a masterpiece like Black Hole but chock full of signifiers both fun and profound. Can't even imagine how weird it must have been to read these tales in 1982.

Originally published as Hard-Boiled Defective Stories, I read a few of these stories while I was in high school and was turned off by the art edge. Didn't get it. Now I can't get enough.
I strongly believe that Burn's Black Hole is a masterpiece, but I have a hard time trying to champion his other works as anything more than highly enjoyable. This book isn't for everyone. It's about a luchador/private eye who battles robot cults, the fast food industry, and elderly men with their heads grafted onto the bodies of small children. This is what you get when a smart man with an incredible eye for the grotesque wants to write a dumb book, and it's a laugh a minute.
Jon Hewelt
Jan 22, 2015 Jon Hewelt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man, this was so much fun. Amidst the body grotesquery, Charles Burns can be quite a serious and meaningful author. so it's great to see him cut loose and just have some manic adventures.

El Borbah goes to some strange-ass places, and I loved every minute of reading it.
Came to Charles Burns late. I like this one least, but should should qualify that as being the least among an insanely beautiful oeuvre. If you pick this one to begin you might love friend does, anyway...not my favorite, but still superb and original.
Thurston Hunger
Not too far off my Flaming Carrot fixation. Hard-boiled absurdist hero/detective solves crimes of greedy corporate factions and seedy science fictions. Is damn shame Orson Welles is not around to direct and star in the movie versions of these...
Jun 06, 2014 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A series of stories about El Borbah, a hard boiled detective who wears a Mexican wrestling mask and jumpsuit, originally published in alt comic mags in the 80s. Fantagraphics has collected and repackaged these oddball pieces lovingly and they have aged well- if you pulled out the odd reference to cassettes these easily could have come out yesterday and Burns' oddball style and weirdo subject matter are both in evidence. Not as complete as more recent work like Black Hole or the XXed Out trilogy, ...more
Federiken Masters
Ese Borbah sí que es un maldito gordo bastardo despreciable. Me gustaría hacerle un moño con sus tripas gordas y mandarlo de regalo a su mamaíta que espera la muerte en el asilo. Pero sus malditos casos sí que son condenadamente entretenidos.
La Revistería Comics
Más rápido que Fer Canconi en redada policial, más fino que Ric Villa en tenedor libre. Más sutil que Alejándrito tirándole los galgos a una cheta. Él es... El Borbah, el detective más revisteril del ambiente.
Allan Kemp
Aug 19, 2015 Allan Kemp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wrestling detective. What more do you need to know. Read these originally in Raw and was happy to get them collected.
Aug 12, 2007 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
El Borbah! Yes! Thats all there is to say. Stupid and surreal. These stories almost seem commonplace now, making burgers out of people - sewing your head onto a babies body to live longer - getting a burn mark of JC`s very own face on your-sen, but for me, they just get better with age, and I love them!
It`s maybe no Black Hole, but El Borbah!!! Come on! YES!
Ben Bromage
Dec 26, 2013 Ben Bromage rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I love this! A psycho-drama staring a hard-boiled detective/wrestler solving bizzaro-world mysteries. He takes no shit, and you should go watch him do it!

The artwork is OCD impeccable. No one can draw a screwed up face like Burns.
sweet pea
May 24, 2009 sweet pea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-content
it's hard to come up with reasons not to like this book. a Mexican wrestler, genetic engineering, old man heads grafted onto babies, secret cults, robots, baby doll fetishes. really it has it all. more a fun read and less, um, meaty than Black Hole. but still twistedly brilliant.
What is there not to like about this? Because this is full of awe and good. I am biased towards anything by Burns, but this is an excellent read and Burns' style, while not for everybody, is so great here. I actually have no idea what to say, because, there needs nothing saying - GO BUY IT.
Darran Mclaughlin
Pretty good collection of early comics from the author of Black Hole. The stories are fun, goofy surreal detective stories featuring a tough, macho Mexican wrestler, but the main attraction is Burns's incredible art. He is a tremendous comic artist.
Rocco Versaci
Sep 15, 2012 Rocco Versaci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
El Borbah follows the titular hero, a masked wrestler/detective, as he encounters all sorts of strange characters. Classic Burns in terms of weird, haunting story & art.
Jamie Felton
Apr 01, 2008 Jamie Felton rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
I enjoyed this compilation from Burns starring El Borbah. The artwork, as always, is fucking awesome, and the stories are incredibly creepy and dark.
Sep 17, 2011 Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious, bizarre defective noir. What a colorful thug El Borbah is. Is this really all? If so, I want an animated film, dammit!
Kevin Ho
May 05, 2009 Kevin Ho rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious. An oversized masked Mexican-wrestler solving crimes, detective style. What more could you want?
Jan 02, 2009 Eric rated it it was amazing
This guy is the jam. Tabloid-sized paperback of freaks and geeks and the insane world they live in.
Aug 23, 2012 i! rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics-and-comix
One of my favorite luchador-detective-almost-noir-comedy-horror-scifi comics.
Brendan  McAuliffe
Wish there was more
Aaron VanAlstine
Oct 28, 2012 Aaron VanAlstine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
Pretty amusing sic-fi comics from the 1980s.
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CHARLES BURNS grew up in Seattle in the 1970s. His work rose to prominence in Art Spiegelman's Raw magazine in the mid-1980s and took off from there, in an extraordinary range of comics and projects, from Iggy Pop album covers to the latest ad campaign for Altoids. In 1992 he designed the sets for Mark Morris's restaging of The Nutcracker (renamed The Hard Nut) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He ...more
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