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Head Games: The Graphic Novel

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In this graphic novel adaptation of the Edgar-nominated novel Head Games, Craig McDonald blends history and legend to tell the tale of the classic hard-drinking, hard-living, and hard-boiled protagonist. Artist Kevin Singles brings this noir thriller to life with a style reminiscent of the golden age of dime-store paperbacks. It's 1957, and aging novelist Hector Lassiter th In this graphic novel adaptation of the Edgar-nominated novel Head Games, Craig McDonald blends history and legend to tell the tale of the classic hard-drinking, hard-living, and hard-boiled protagonist. Artist Kevin Singles brings this noir thriller to life with a style reminiscent of the golden age of dime-store paperbacks. It's 1957, and aging novelist Hector Lassiter thought that his adventures were long behind him. But then he receives a treasure worth killing for: the skull of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. With his partners in crime, brooding poet Bud Fiske and hard-as-nails beauty Alicia Vicente, Hector must make a mad dash across the American southwest. If the trio can survive long enough to sell the skull to the highest bidder, they'll score big. But in the meantime, Hector must dodge bullets from deranged fraternity members, aging soldiers of fortune, vicious warlords, and crooked feds.


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In this graphic novel adaptation of the Edgar-nominated novel Head Games, Craig McDonald blends history and legend to tell the tale of the classic hard-drinking, hard-living, and hard-boiled protagonist. Artist Kevin Singles brings this noir thriller to life with a style reminiscent of the golden age of dime-store paperbacks. It's 1957, and aging novelist Hector Lassiter th In this graphic novel adaptation of the Edgar-nominated novel Head Games, Craig McDonald blends history and legend to tell the tale of the classic hard-drinking, hard-living, and hard-boiled protagonist. Artist Kevin Singles brings this noir thriller to life with a style reminiscent of the golden age of dime-store paperbacks. It's 1957, and aging novelist Hector Lassiter thought that his adventures were long behind him. But then he receives a treasure worth killing for: the skull of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. With his partners in crime, brooding poet Bud Fiske and hard-as-nails beauty Alicia Vicente, Hector must make a mad dash across the American southwest. If the trio can survive long enough to sell the skull to the highest bidder, they'll score big. But in the meantime, Hector must dodge bullets from deranged fraternity members, aging soldiers of fortune, vicious warlords, and crooked feds.

30 review for Head Games: The Graphic Novel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    I'd be curious to read the original story, but this adaptation didn't cut the mustard for me. There's a gazillion characters, the art is not defined enough and the panels are too small to keep track of who's who in any of the many gun battles. It made it really had to keep track of what was going on in the story. The 2 epilogues decades later felt out of place as well. They just felt like addendums to get the page count where it needed to be for the publisher. This felt like a wannabe Parker, Da I'd be curious to read the original story, but this adaptation didn't cut the mustard for me. There's a gazillion characters, the art is not defined enough and the panels are too small to keep track of who's who in any of the many gun battles. It made it really had to keep track of what was going on in the story. The 2 epilogues decades later felt out of place as well. They just felt like addendums to get the page count where it needed to be for the publisher. This felt like a wannabe Parker, Darwyn Cooke adaptation to me that never succeeded.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    In his afterword, McDonald refers to Head Games’ “... rather blackly comic, Kerouacian pedigree. “ And, true enough, at its heart, it's a road novel. The story opens in 1957. Aging novelist, Hector Lassiter, stumbles onto the score of a lifetime: the skull of Pancho Villa. There are many who would give anything to possess it. Some want it for its symbolic value, others for the rumors of a treasure map contained within. If Lassiter plays his cards right, he could score big. All he has to do is sta In his afterword, McDonald refers to Head Games’ “... rather blackly comic, Kerouacian pedigree. “ And, true enough, at its heart, it's a road novel. The story opens in 1957. Aging novelist, Hector Lassiter, stumbles onto the score of a lifetime: the skull of Pancho Villa. There are many who would give anything to possess it. Some want it for its symbolic value, others for the rumors of a treasure map contained within. If Lassiter plays his cards right, he could score big. All he has to do is stay alive and keep the skull from being stolen from him. Piece of cake. The book is rich in period detail. There are, of course, encounters with famous people like Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich. Ernest Hemingway appears in a few flashbacks. And, given the history and rumors surrounding the actual skull of Pancho Villa, it should surprise no one that Yale’s infamous Skull & Bones Society figures into the story, along with some of its more famous members … There's something of a noir-ish feel to the story, lots of hanging out in bars and fighting, and cryptic conversations punctuated by puffs of cigarette smoke. McDonald has written a whole series of books about Lassiter, of which this was the first published. While I enjoyed this graphic novel, I don't know that I’ll necessarily seek out the books. This is one of those cases where I think I like the idea of the story more than the story itself. At the very least, I might check out the opening chapter of one and see what his prose is like ...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    This is my 1,000th Goodreads review. A few weeks ago I thought about setting aside a book I thought I'd rate highly, but then I lost track of the count in my usual frenzy of reading and here I am. Considering my 2.75 rating average, it's probably most appropriate that my 1,000th review is a two-star book that I considered stopping when I read the introduction. I mean, I keep vowing to stop reading graphic novel adaptations of books, movies, TV shows, etc., that I have never read or watched, and y This is my 1,000th Goodreads review. A few weeks ago I thought about setting aside a book I thought I'd rate highly, but then I lost track of the count in my usual frenzy of reading and here I am. Considering my 2.75 rating average, it's probably most appropriate that my 1,000th review is a two-star book that I considered stopping when I read the introduction. I mean, I keep vowing to stop reading graphic novel adaptations of books, movies, TV shows, etc., that I have never read or watched, and yet, at the libraries where I work, I keep compulsively picking up random new graphic novels after a quick glance at their covers. And as I have stated before, checking out a book, in my mind at least, creates a contractual obligation to read it. So I read this, even though the introduction told me that it was the adaptation of a middle book in the Hector Lassiter series of novels, of which I had absolutely no knowledge. I wonder if the original novels are satirical? I mean, all the action here sort of comes off as the creators playing it straight as a hardboiled crime noir, but the story is so ridiculous they surely couldn't mean it that way, right? And the constant barrage of real-life celebrities like Pancho Villa, Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, and George W. Bush has to be more tongue in cheek than serious, right? Just like that cliched romance thrown in for the protagonist must have more levels than stupid, right? Right? I don't know. Based on what I read on the page here, this is about as generic as crime thrillers come. If more was intended, the author shouldn't have left it to me to do the heavy lifting without providing more motivation. Bleh.

  4. 5 out of 5

    First Second Books

    Aging crime novelist Hector Lassiter thought that his adventures were long behind him. But then he’s delivered a treasure worth killing for: the skull of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Join him as he makes a mad dash across the American southwest.! Originally published as an Edgar-nominated novel, this adaptation is brought to life with beautiful two-color art reminiscent of the classic era of pulp fiction.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Craig McDonald’s first graphic novel is an adaptation of his first Hector Lassiter novel, which is the seventh Lassiter novel chronologically. It’s still impossible to tell which order he wants you to read them in. As a graphic novel, Head Games is a verbatim adaptation of the novel, without most of McDonald’s prose. It’s a good story, but it works better as pure prose. The best thing this incarnation of Head Games has going for it is that its George H.W. Bush is accurately rendered, but there’s Craig McDonald’s first graphic novel is an adaptation of his first Hector Lassiter novel, which is the seventh Lassiter novel chronologically. It’s still impossible to tell which order he wants you to read them in. As a graphic novel, Head Games is a verbatim adaptation of the novel, without most of McDonald’s prose. It’s a good story, but it works better as pure prose. The best thing this incarnation of Head Games has going for it is that its George H.W. Bush is accurately rendered, but there’s not enough room on the page for Lassiter to breathe, or Bud to hold his own. It’s another instance of providing an entrée for the main course of a novel: read Head Games instead.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nicola Mansfield

    Based on the novel, this graphic adaptation is an action-packed thriller. I've not read the original but this has piqued my interest in McDonald's series. It has a noir feeling to it like an old Bogey movie, but this character is an adventurer as he takes a Kerouician road trip to Mexico with a young journalist friend. Mission: bring the missing head of Pancho Villa to the buyer, but others are trailing him to get that skull including a certain Yale fraternity with a penchant for skulls. As an i Based on the novel, this graphic adaptation is an action-packed thriller. I've not read the original but this has piqued my interest in McDonald's series. It has a noir feeling to it like an old Bogey movie, but this character is an adventurer as he takes a Kerouician road trip to Mexico with a young journalist friend. Mission: bring the missing head of Pancho Villa to the buyer, but others are trailing him to get that skull including a certain Yale fraternity with a penchant for skulls. As an introduction to the series this gave me a feel for all the characters and was a tight plot with lots of twists. I'll be looking out for McDonald's work in the future.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    Good noir-ish pulp in this graphic adaptation of the Edgar-nominated novel.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matt Graupman

    “Head Games,” adapted here as a comic by Craig McDonald from his own debut novel, wants to be a juicy slice of film noir. All the elements are there: a gritty, macho “man’s man” of a protagonist; a beautiful, sensual, and deadly femme fatale; a plot that mines the little-known history of the Mexican Revolution; and enough bullets, booze, and betrayals to keep the reader continually on edge. Rough and tumble author (jeez, writers just love making authors these super-masculine heroes) Hector Lassi “Head Games,” adapted here as a comic by Craig McDonald from his own debut novel, wants to be a juicy slice of film noir. All the elements are there: a gritty, macho “man’s man” of a protagonist; a beautiful, sensual, and deadly femme fatale; a plot that mines the little-known history of the Mexican Revolution; and enough bullets, booze, and betrayals to keep the reader continually on edge. Rough and tumble author (jeez, writers just love making authors these super-masculine heroes) Hector Lassiter is entrusted with the severed skull of Pancho Villa and must orchestrate its sale to help a struggling young - and gorgeous, obviously - single mother. Pretty nutso, huh? But what should be a whole lot of pulp fiction fun is undermined by convoluted plot threads, distracting shoehorned cameos, and an emphasis on style over substance. Most people agree that “the book is better than the movie” and I think that applies to “Head Games” as well. As a novel, McDonald’s story is probably a layered and intricate crime drama, given what I’d assume is more space to explain and build the plot (I’m not sure because I haven’t read the book). This adaptation left me feeling like I missed a step. Often I felt like a key piece of information or event had been left out; in fact, I often checked back while reading the comic to see if I’d accidentally skipped a page or two. Maybe McDonald assumed that a comics reader might already have been familiar with the novel so this is more of a “Cliff’s Notes” version. I’m not sure. Also, the resolution of the book felt very drawn out to me, with several false endings; that probably could’ve been tightened up. What I did like was Kevin Singles’ art. It’s unfussy and energetic and it has a slight Art Deco-y edge to it; his pages felt like he was illustrating an Elmore Leonard story in the style of “Batman: The Animated Series.” Very cool. I love some good hard-boiled twisty-turn-y crime drama but there’s always the risk of making it too complicated. Double crosses pile up on top of triple crosses until eventually it’s too messy to even make sense of. I am intrigued to check out Craig McDonald’s prose work, though, so maybe I’ll track down a couple of his novels. At least “Head Games” reinforces my belief that the Bush family is an insidious and dangerous institution. Ha!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark Smith-briggs

    Craig McDonald’s classic noir novel Head Games is adapted into a graphic novel in this impressive release by First Second Books. Set in 1957 and following the story of Hector Lassiter, an author turned screenwriter who finds himself embroiled in a wild Hollywood crime caper over the hunt for a former Mexican rebellion leader’s skull, it’s an entertaining pulp noir that blends history with fiction. Kevin Singles stylised black and white artwork captures the era perfectly and is very much a homage t Craig McDonald’s classic noir novel Head Games is adapted into a graphic novel in this impressive release by First Second Books. Set in 1957 and following the story of Hector Lassiter, an author turned screenwriter who finds himself embroiled in a wild Hollywood crime caper over the hunt for a former Mexican rebellion leader’s skull, it’s an entertaining pulp noir that blends history with fiction. Kevin Singles stylised black and white artwork captures the era perfectly and is very much a homage to the panelwork of the times. The story, again penned by McDonald, ticks over nicely with a fun cinematic style and is a fun throwback to the age golden comics.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Novelist Hector Lassiter thought his adventure days were behind him. At least, he thought that until an old acquaintance lures him into one last run. He’s found Pancho Villa’s skull and a buyer, he just needs someone to get it to them. Money in the bank, easy as easy can be. At least until others get wind of the skull. Feds, frat boys, and soldiers of fortune are on Hector’s tail and the only folks he can count on are himself, a poet, and a woman hard as nails and twice as beautiful. So, the Head Novelist Hector Lassiter thought his adventure days were behind him. At least, he thought that until an old acquaintance lures him into one last run. He’s found Pancho Villa’s skull and a buyer, he just needs someone to get it to them. Money in the bank, easy as easy can be. At least until others get wind of the skull. Feds, frat boys, and soldiers of fortune are on Hector’s tail and the only folks he can count on are himself, a poet, and a woman hard as nails and twice as beautiful. So, the Head Games graphic novel is an adaptation of Craig McDonald’s debut novel of the same title. It’s content is more than a little bit of a surprise, given that I’m used to more kid friendly graphic novels from this publisher. That threw me for a bit of a loop. The book very much not my usual thing. The lead character is very much a man losing his place in the world and becoming more aware of it day by day. This might be his last big adventure and he knows it. He knows that the world is changing without him and that he can’t, or won’t, keep up. That’s actually part of the problem with the book. The protagonist, Hector Lassiter, spends so much time looking back to his glory days early on in the story that, while I’m interested in those stories, I don’t really care what’s going on in the actual plot. The action is tied too much to Lassiter’s past and his adventures in his youth. That’s where most of the characters who are after the skull come from, they’re people he knew from his army days or folks who have been hired by those people. I would have liked for there to have been more characters who weren’t connected to him or, failing that, if the protagonist had been Bud, the poet side character. I could have also done without the second and third parts included, combined they’re about half the size of part one and they don’t really add much to the story proper. This is the part where I admit that my problems with the book are probably more due to the nature of it being a graphic novel adaptation of a novel rather than an original comic. Some connective tissue and character details were probably cut to make it flow better. For what it is, the writing is pretty solid even as it’s not exactly my thing. The art fits really well with the plot. It’s blocked out with a lot of heavy shadows and sparse color. The character design is also solid, the characters are distinct and the backgrounds are detailed without distracting from what’s going on. At the end of the day, Head Games isn’t really my kind of story. There isn’t much of anything wrong with the writing, and very little that couldn’t be attributed to it being an adaptation. It’s a first book as well, so others in the series could easily have less of the looking backward. I would probably be willing to read one of them. So, given that, I give it a three out of five. First Second sent me a copy of Head Games for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dakota Morgan

    Fast-paced, mostly fun, and pretty weird. A washed-up author trades heads (literal human skulls) with a Yale secret society, Mexican warlords, and a host of other murderous treasure hunters. In classic noir fashion, there's a femme fatale and a young sidekick just waiting to be corrupted by the anti-hero's bad habits. It all goes off the rails pretty quickly, and then further off the rails, and then even further. By the time the rails have receded into the horizon line, the story gets too weird Fast-paced, mostly fun, and pretty weird. A washed-up author trades heads (literal human skulls) with a Yale secret society, Mexican warlords, and a host of other murderous treasure hunters. In classic noir fashion, there's a femme fatale and a young sidekick just waiting to be corrupted by the anti-hero's bad habits. It all goes off the rails pretty quickly, and then further off the rails, and then even further. By the time the rails have receded into the horizon line, the story gets too weird and outlandish to be particularly fun. But the conclusion - time-jumping forward with the anti-hero and the sidekick - is an interesting and unexpected way to wrap things up. It's an odd, kinda pleasurable denouement that I wouldn't mind seeing repeated.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dan Clark

    Head Games is old school pulp in all its guts and glory. Like classic noir you have a story of shady characters doing shady things, but despite their misgivings, you understand their plight and desire to make their final score. You can see the influence of classic crime stories everywhere, including Touch of Evil that actually shows up with that story. Similar to many of those narratives there is a lack of coherence at times, and the pacing is all over the place. There are many different pieces Head Games is old school pulp in all its guts and glory. Like classic noir you have a story of shady characters doing shady things, but despite their misgivings, you understand their plight and desire to make their final score. You can see the influence of classic crime stories everywhere, including Touch of Evil that actually shows up with that story. Similar to many of those narratives there is a lack of coherence at times, and the pacing is all over the place. There are many different pieces moving in many different directions so it may not be able to fully grasp everything on a full read. But all the major points that makes an enjoyable crime story are there. This is another example of a recipe you know well being executed correctly.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jilly

    This is a fun take on pulp and the graphic novel works well for that type of story. I really enjoyed the pure pulp aspects of it. However, the story falls apart in the last fifty pages. It jumps from pulp/campy/smart to ridiculous, and that was the impression that (unfortunately) has stays with the reader. That said, I definitely still plan to pick up more novels by Craig McDonald featuring the main character, hoping that the pacing pick ups a bit and the ridiculousness is more toned down. **I wa This is a fun take on pulp and the graphic novel works well for that type of story. I really enjoyed the pure pulp aspects of it. However, the story falls apart in the last fifty pages. It jumps from pulp/campy/smart to ridiculous, and that was the impression that (unfortunately) has stays with the reader. That said, I definitely still plan to pick up more novels by Craig McDonald featuring the main character, hoping that the pacing pick ups a bit and the ridiculousness is more toned down. **I was provided an e-copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.**

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kokie

    This graphic novel was like watching an old black and white noir film. It was fun, if a bit hard to follow at times. The quick moving dialogue and panels made it a quick read full of more action than mystery. The book mentions some Ivy League secret societies that I feel I should know more about, but I don't, and that lack of background knowledge might have messed with some of my understanding and enjoyment of the more nuanced sections of the plot. Overall I liked the book, but it has a few too This graphic novel was like watching an old black and white noir film. It was fun, if a bit hard to follow at times. The quick moving dialogue and panels made it a quick read full of more action than mystery. The book mentions some Ivy League secret societies that I feel I should know more about, but I don't, and that lack of background knowledge might have messed with some of my understanding and enjoyment of the more nuanced sections of the plot. Overall I liked the book, but it has a few too many risqué scenes for me to feel comfortable putting on my classroom library shelf.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Same_device

    I definitely enjoyed this graphic novel. It was broken into 3 parts, part 1 being the bulk of the novel and the strongest portion. I'm not a huge comic book reader, not to say that I don't know anything about them. It was nice to read something that included some merge of fiction and nonfiction with a sprinkle of conspiracy theory. All-in-all I really enjoyed it. It was a quick read and I would probably pick it up again on a rainy day.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Let me just say I usually can't stand graphic novels and I'm giving this one a 2 1/2 star and was pleasantly surprised. That's a very high grade for me for a graphic novel. I got it in a "blind-date" book at the library. I unwrapped the package and almost refused to read it because it was a graphic novel. So, I went into it with very low-expectations and thought it was OK. It only take 45 minutes to read it and the main character is salty and fun.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John

    Pure pulp craziness, adapted from McDonald’s own novel by the author. A little too desperate to shoehorn in historical figures, a little too sure that Yale fraternity boys would serve as footsoldiers. If you like a fun dig at the trade in historical skulls you might enjoy this but I would probably send you to McDonald’s novel or else the Parker graphic novels by Darwin Cooke which does exactly this with better source material and execution.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Mihelic

    A fun little noirish adventure story that is well paced. The palettes evoke the movies, running in the background – AMC or Turner Classics. It is a flight of fancy, but there was one too many conspiratorial elements chasing the MacGuffin. For some reason the Skull and Bones were part of the chase. It just didn’t fit for me. Otherwise, fun read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Kelsen

    Exciting story, colorful characters and classic illustrations! Loved the inclusion of the Bush family. All in all a great read for a graphic novel. The adventure was thrilling and well played out. I’ll definitely look to read more of these.

  20. 4 out of 5

    BDW

    Graphic novel adaptation of the Head Games novel . This atmospheric noir thriller attempts the a style reminiscent of the golden age of dime-store paperbacks. While somewhat compelling I really struggled to enjoy this graphic novel.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    This was so great! I don't get a chance to read graphic novels much and this one made me really want more.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    My full review of this will be up on No Flying No Tights in the near future. My full review of this will be up on No Flying No Tights in the near future.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Albert

    Did not know that this was an actual book as well. Awesome graphic novel that will have me looking for the actual book to read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joy Davenport

    Pg-13 language, sexual situations

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sonic

    I loved this book!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Seb

    I'm a pretty easy sell for a crime comic that interweaves film-noir history into the story, but this was really great. Had a real sense of sadness and history. Is apparently an adaptation of a prose novel. Want to look more into it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Weller

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

  30. 4 out of 5

    Punn Wiantrakoon

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