Black Hat Blues by Gene Kendall is a darkly humorous tale about an aging comic book artist whose supervillain creation comes knocking at his back door. The villain and creator come into direct conflict with the current cultural moment, and kidnapping, murder, and other hijinks ensue. Being a comic book supervillain, Mr. Scratch’s inner (and outer) monologue is appropriately over the top in contrast to his peace-loving hippie creator Mark.
Black Hat Blues lands Mr. Scratch directly in the current cultural moment, grappling with such issues as the contradictions of the modern social justice movement, the distortions of online culture and fandom, and the realities of police militarization, all with commentary by a megalomaniacal psychopath. Not only that, but along with the dark humor there are genuine moments of real human connection that will tug at the heart strings, and the bittersweet ending does not tie every thread into a neat bow – in fact, spending time dwelling characters’ choices leaves some disturbing questions left unanswered.
I highly recommend Black Hat Blues for anyone who ever wondered what it would be like if Lex Luthor or the Riddler stepped out of the pages of the bronze age comics and into the real world. I only wish there were a graphic novel version to accompany it.