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Comic Book / Hard Boiled

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Hard Boiled is a 1990 three-issue comic written by Frank Miller and illustrated by Geof Darrow. It follows Carl Seltz, a gun-toting, tougher-than-nails, kicking ass and taking names, hard as steel, cold as ice, ultra-deadly insurance investigator.

The first issue picks up during Carl's previous tenure as a municipal tax collector, who is on his latest pursuit of a tax evader through an urban hell. The mostly dialogue-free chase crashes through many of the city's environs, including a murder-themed sexporium. The sequence ends with Carl's apprehension of his target, though the physical demands of the hunt leave his life in the balance. Fortunately, he's a cyborg, and his bosses at The Company can rebuild him.

As the story progresses, Carl's seemingly normal life starts looking less and less so—his family knocks him out when strange dreams disturb his sleep, and his memory seems to be so full of holes that he can't remember his own name, frequently referring to himself as "Nixon". Eventually, while (violently) pursuing a delinquent account, he is horribly injured (again) and discovers the truth: He is actually more than a cyborg, he's a robot built by Willeford Home Appliances for use as an assassin, and his family are all paid handlers. The people he was chasing, also robots, attempt to recruit him into their planned revolution against their human masters, but all Carl/Nixon wants is to go back home after a long, hard day at work...

Hard Boiled features examples of:

  • Downer Ending: Nixon is ultimately defeated, rebuilt as Carl once more, and ends up right back where he started. Barbara's robot revolution fails, and she commits suicide by hooking up to a generator and overloading her own circuits.
  • Covers Always Lie: The hardback's cover shows the protagonist facing off against hordes of punks, suggesting a Death Wish-style plot; nothing to do with the actual story. The closest it gets to is a massive battle against a killer grandma.
  • Determinator: Nixon—you can shoot him, beat him and ram your car into him but he’ll still insist to see all your paperwork. However, after being torn up something fierce by his boss he finally relents and says “Uncle”.
  • Fat Bastard: Mr Willeford, head of Willeford Home Applainces.
  • Fembot: Barbara and Blanche.
  • MegaCorp: Willeford Home Appliances.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: At least in issue one, Carl's actions are all part of his 9-to-5 job.
  • Police Brutality: "POLICE, FREEZE!" Followed by a massive barrage of assault rifle fire. At least they deliberately spare the kids.
  • Used Future: Future Los Angeles is covered in graffiti and litter, and the traffic jams are nearly constant. Some things never change.
  • Zeerust: A lot of the technology is very fifties.