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A note to my clients:

Roger Rabbit and his screwball buddies play fast and loose with historical accuracy. That's the way things happen in Toontown. Take it from a guy who's been there. Relax, hang on, and enjoy the ride.

Eddie Valiant
Private Eye
Los Angeles, California
1947, more or less

An urban fantasy novel by Gary K. Wolf, originally published in 1981.

Eddie Valiant is a private detective in a world where cartoon characters—called "Toons"—are real, living beings who coexist with humans. Although he strongly dislikes Toons, Eddie accepts a case from a Toon rabbit named Roger, a small-time cartoon actor, who wants to know why his boss, Rocco DeGreasy, won't sell his contract to a mystery buyer who promises to make him a star.

As Eddie investigates the case, Roger is unexpectedly shot dead and robbed of a seemingly worthless tea kettle. Eddie is then met with Roger's "doppelganger"—a kind of ghostly double that Toons are able to manifest to help with their more difficult stunts (such as being flattened by an anvil or blown up by a stick of dynamite)—who implores him to find his killer before he crumbles to dust. Meanwhile, DeGreasy and Roger's estranged wife Jessica independently approach Eddie, offering handsome rewards in exchange for the missing kettle.

The novel is an affectionate parody of both Chandleresque hard-boiled detective fiction and classic comic strips and cartoons, frequently highlighting the former's cheesiness (especially via Eddie's over-the-top gumshoe patois) and the latter's gruesomeness and violence. Its more famous film adaptation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, made several radical changes to the story, making it much Lighter and Softer.

It has two sequels, Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? and Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? Curiously, they're both sequels to the movie, not the original novel, even though both were written by Wolf himself. They're also mutually exclusive, to mimic the loose continuity of the classic cartoons that inspired it.The prequel, Jessica Rabbit: Xerious Business has even less continuity.

This series contains examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: of Comics, Western Animation, and Film Noir
  • The Alcoholic: Unlike the film, Eddie doesn't cure himself of it, nor does he feel he needs to, either.
  • All Just a Dream: The entire plot of the (no-longer-canon) first book is retconned into Jessica's dream in the second book.
  • Ambiguously Human: Crossovers, Toons that can pass for human.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The ending of the second book.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Well, it's technically Roger's doppleganger who attends disquised as his aunt, but still.
  • Author Avatar: That's Mr. Wolf portraying Eddie on the cover.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • The genie will grant you your wishes, in a technical sense. Roger wanted to be famous - fine, but he'll always be a second banana. He also wanted Jessica to love him - he gets it, but for only a year.
    • The genie also did this to Rocco and Dominick, who both wished to become humans and then to become rich and successful; when their fortune inevitably started running out, they began searching for the kettle again so that they could use their respective third wishes to fix all the reversals.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Eddie and Carol in the first book. She and Eddie have the same cynical potboiler attitudes, and seem like a match. Unfortunately, she ends up on the lam due to an unraveling forgery scheme.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Carol. Eddie initially scoffs at the idea of her being a murderess, until he remembers her jungle cat personality and eyes.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The first book.
    I looked up at the sky. It was one of those rare days when the Earth revolves a little faster and shoos away the smog. You could see a long way, but not half as far as Roger had gone.
  • Body Horror: When Roger's doppel finally starts disintegrating.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Toon police Captain "Clever" Cleaver.
  • Canon Discontinuity: As mentioned above, the sequels are sequels to the film adaptation.
  • Canon Immigrant: Dolores and Benny the Cab make cameo appearances in the second book, and Teddy Valiant is also mentioned.
  • Cargo Envy: Jessica's cigarettes tend to inspire this.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Roger Rabbit, in all but his first-book incarnation, and even then, he's seeing a psychiatrist and acts nutty around Eddie. When Eddie tells Carol that Roger is a bit unhinged, she explodes back, "Of course he is! He's a cartoon bunny!"
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The DeGreasy Brothers, and millionaire Hollywood exec "Big Bull" Topman.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Sid Sleaze. He claims it's only a disguise to avoid protesters, but his not-so-subtle flirting with Eddie undermines that claim.
  • Deconstruction Crossover: Quite possibly, the Ur-Example.
  • Detective Patsy: Roger tries to do this to Eddie in the first book. In the final chapter, Eddie admits that the plan would have worked were it not for two things that Roger had no way of seeing coming - an unraveling art forgery scam causing unexpected witnesses to be present at the murder scene, and Roger's teapot containing a homicidal genie.
  • Disney Creatures of the Farce: In the second book, Roger wakes Eddie up when he summons a few Disneyesque birds to sing outside the bedroom window. Eddie isn't amused.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": In the third book Eddie gets a cute Toon puppy, which he names "Mutt" because it's clearly not pedigree.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Eddie's response to pretty much any problem that comes up. (Admittedly, he drinks a lot anyway.) In the second book, Roger tries it after he finds out that Jessica is philandering, and Eddie notes that there are whole bars meant just for catering to this kind of difficulty.
  • Dying Clue:
    • Toons create word balloons when they speak (unless they consciously choose not to). A word balloon containing Roger's final words is found at the scene of the crime, but it's ambiguous without knowing the way the words were said.
    • In the sequel, the same thing happens when Enigman dies.
  • The '80s: The first book seems to take place in The '80s, with several references to it.
  • Evil Plan: Well, this is a parody of detective stories...
  • Evil Twin: Dodger Rabbit.
  • Expospeak Gag: Delancey Duck gets one in the second book.
  • Expy:
    • The magic lamp/teakettle from the first book is one for The Maltese Falcon, a MacGuffin that is literally the stuff dreams are made of.
    • Poopdeck the Pirate, an incidental toon character. He is described as having "ape-arms," getting his strength from spinach, and playing jolly sea shanties on his corncob pipe. Hmm... sounds awfully familiar. However, 'Poopdeck' Pappy is also Popeye's real father, so maybe more of a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo?
    • Roger himself is an Expy for Bugs Bunny.
    • In Who Wacked Roger Rabbit, the Disney-exclusive characters from the movie have been replaced by Expies in order to avoid legal problems — such as Charlie Cycle, the tough-talking motorcycle, who's an obvious stand in for Benny the Cab.
  • Fall Guy: Eddie, if Roger's plan succeeded.
  • Family Theme Naming: In the second book, Eddie's siblings are named Teddy, Freddy and Heddy. Heddy, said to have taken after her mother as far as theme-naming goes, named all three of her sons after their dad.
  • Fantastic Noir: Possibly the Trope Maker.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Toons are heavily discriminated against; one scene in the first book has Eddie and Roger having difficulties finding a good meeting spot, since bars are either human-only or toon-only, resulting in a Deconstruction. It is also revealed that in this world, toons have fulfilled the roles that certain non-white minorities have fallen into in ours, such as building the railroads. Captain Cleaver is a Toon police detective, but still has to defer to his human counterparts, despite having the same rank.
    • The film adaptation either glosses over or outright retcons the institutional racism in the first book. For example, Toontown is not some happy, cheerful cartoon world, but a down-ridden slum that receives no support from Los Angeles.
    • Toons themselves are divided into humanoid Toons and "barnyards". Humanoid Toons almost exclusively date other Humanoids, and even date humans. Barnyards are treated as an underclass in Toon society.
  • Femme Fatale: Jessica Rabbit.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Justified in the second book; apparently, it's more common than not for Toons to lose fingers in dynamite accidents.
  • Good is Not Nice: Eddie. He's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, despite his insistence he's a plain Jerkass. It's his Incorruptible Pure Pureness that allows him to resist the genie's magic.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!:
    • Ferd, Eddie's brother-in-law in the second book, constantly delivers speeches that would qualify as Cluster F-Bombs if he didn't replace said F-bombs with really weird nonsense words beginning with "f". Not surprising, since he is a Toon.
    • In the first book, Roger blurts out an obscenity, but crosses it out in his word balloon and replaces it with "Widdle". He does it because of his instinctive Family Friendly Filter.
  • Growing the Beard: invoked Roger's doppel becomes quite the PI under Eddie's tutelage. Unfortunately, not only was Roger the murderer, but his doppel disintegrated after 48 hours.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Played with. Little Rock is human, because his Toon father was magically human when he was conceived.
  • Handshake Refusal: At one point Eddie declines to shake hands with a beetle-like Toon, though this is less out of rudeness and more because the beetle is offering him four hands at once.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Eddie Valiant.
  • Historical Domain Character: Any of the movie stars appearing in the second book.
  • Honor Before Reason: Eddie had every right to drop Roger's case, especially after he's killed, but resolves to see it through because he feels it was his fault that Roger got offed.
  • Humanity Ensues: A major plot point in the second book is a substance called "Toon Tonic", which can transform humans into Toons and vice-versa. Roger brews himself some and becomes a red-haired, pale-skinned, large-eared man, adjusting rather awkwardly to changes such as the fact that he now has five fingers and no longer produces speech balloons; this can be considered a weird sort of Ink-Suit Actor example, since that describes Charles Fleischer.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Plenty. For instance, in "Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?", the narration of the scene in which Eddie Valiant visits Delancey Duck's office is overflowing with duck puns. A few examples:
    • Delancey got his degree at Drake.
    • When Delancey gets up, he "duck-walks" around the room.
    • Eddie accuses Delancey's protégé of "following in the foot webs of the master," and asks her why Delancey "took her under [his] wing."
    • When Delancey spreads his tail feathers, he becomes "a dead ringer for the centerpiece at the signing of the Declaration Of Independence."
  • I Lied: The rare heroic version, by Eddie when he dunks the genie in a salt water fish tank, which is lethal to it, after the genie conjured up a false but realistic confession note by one of the DeGreasy brothers claiming he'd killed Roger.
  • Interspecies Romance: Of course, Roger's and Jessica's romance only looks like one; Toons take radically different shapes, but they're a species unto themselves. A more straight example would be Jessica's affairs and flirtations with various human characters. Humans and toons can't conceive, however. Rocco DeGreasey had a boy, Little Rock, with a human woman, though at the time, he was turned human by a genie for a year. In the second book, Eddie's sister Heddy is married to a Toon and they have three children.
  • It Has Been an Honor: After Eddie reveals that he knew Roger was the murderer and still helped him out, Roger's doppel replies:
    "So, while I played dumb with you, you played the sap for me." The rabbit uncorked a smile, but I'd seen better on a dead dog. "You're a decent human being, Eddie. What is it you private eyes call it? A standup guy."
  • Jackass Genie: Roger found one, and it ultimately causes his death.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Eddie Valiant and Baby Herman.
  • Kick the Dog: Done literally, and as an Establishing Character Moment, by Louie Louie Louse in the third book.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Roger. Unfortunately for Jessica, whom everyone believes killed him because he died saying her name.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Several famous cartoon characters, such as Bugs Bunny, are mentioned throughout the first novel.
  • Living on Borrowed Time / Your Days Are Numbered: Roger's doppelganger can only last 72 hours, at most. Ironically, his death is a Tear Jerker even after we learn he was a murderer and trying to frame Eddie for it.
  • Lighter and Softer: The sequels are both this and Denser and Wackier to the original book.
  • MacGuffin: Roger's teakettle, which everyone is after. According to Jessica, it is actually an ancient Templar relic made of pure gold with precious stones. It is a lie; in reality, the teakettle is a magic lamp with a Jackass Genie.
  • Manipulative Bitch / I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Jessica, in full Femme Fatale form.
  • Meaningful Name: Frequently.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover:
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Roger's Berserk Button. Unfortunately, not only is Jessica Rabbit a porn star when not enchanted by a genie to love him and be a good wife, but she loves doing porn.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Eddie suffers a bout of serious regret when he realizes that because he didn't take the rabbit's claims someone was trying to murder him seriously, Roger got killed.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The founders of the Toontown Telltale: Sleazy, Slimy, Dreck and Profane. Then you have DeGreasey Brothers in the first book.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Well, Eddie's not a policeman, but he really doesn't like Toons at all. He grows to like Roger even after figuring out Roger was trying to set him up for the fall.
  • Not Growing Up Sucks: Some Toons age normally, but others can't—Baby Herman, for example.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Roger in the first book. When Eddie finally reveals he knew Roger was lying the entire time about being a murderer, the tone in Roger's voice changes, and you can feel the Tranquil Fury about wanting Rocco dead, and how his plans for framing Eddie fell apart. When asked by Eddie if the detective deserved to be an innocent dupe and Fall Guy, Roger darkly sighs, "Oh, how you tire me." All of Roger's lunacy had partly been a put on by a guy (even if a bunny) pushed to his limits by Rocco and the world as created by the genie.
  • Occam's Razor: In the first book, Eddie invokes the Duck Test ("if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck") at Roger. Three witnesses put him at the scene of the crime holding the murder weapon, he was ID'ed by the gun seller, he publicly threatened to kill the victim, the gun was found in his bedroom and had his fingerprints on it, and his doppelganger lasted far longer than the usual hour or two. There was no elaborate frame-up, which is why Roger didn't pursue clues with any diligence in the DeGreasy case — they'd lead back to him.
  • Odd Couple: Roger (cheery, silly, and naive) and Eddie (serious, no-nonsense, and street-smart), in the second and third book and the movie.
  • Older Than They Look: Baby Herman, who resembles an infant but is, in fact, thirty-six years old.
  • Only Sane Man: Tadbitty Stifles, a hapless human dramatic actor and part-time bodyguard to Big Bull Topman's wayward son.
  • Our Founder: the founders of the Toontown Telltale, a gossip tabloid.
  • Pass Fail: The DeGreasys.
  • Pet the Dog: Characters like Rocco and Jessica both claim Roger has no talent at all, and since we never see any of his work save a brief appearance in a Baby Herman strip, it's easy to take them at their word. However, near the end of the book, Little Rock (Rocco's son) and Sid Sleaze both gush about how talented Roger is, the latter doing it front of Roger's doppel, so at least he dies knowing that he was right that people wanted him to star in his own strip, and that he really did have the stuff to be a lead.
  • Porky Pig Pronunciation:
    • Averted in the first book. In the film-inspired sequels, Roger Rabbit stammers his p's, a quality given to him in the film adaptation so he would be more like the characters from the golden age of animation. After this, the author carried over the quality onto his subsequent written work, as well as some of his more Cloudcuckoolander-ish tendencies. (He was originally written as paranoid and neurotic, but still very sharp-minded.)
    • Roger's cousin Dodger stammers his D's instead. This is the only distinguishing quality between them, other than the fact that Dodger combs his hair to the side, which according to Roger makes them totally different.
  • Purple Prose: The first novel was a parody of 1940's potboilers, so it's filled to the gill with cheesy metaphors.
  • Race Lift: Roger is a brown bunny in the first book (even calling himself "The Great Brown Hope" at one point.) The movie and sequels turn him white.
  • Run for the Border: Carol is fleeing town because of her involvement with the art forgery scheme. She flirts with Eddie briefly, telling him if he's such a good detective, he could use his skills to find her address without her help. Eddie grins in response.
  • Ship Tease: Eddie and Carol do a healthy bit of flirting, and it seems like if the Roger Rabbit case didn't exist, they'd be a twosome.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: The Genie claims he's rather proud of the cursed wish he gave to Romeo and Juliet.
  • Sidekick: Roger isn't sure if he's Eddie's sidekick or if Eddie is his sidekick. (He seems to use "sidekick" merely as a term of endearment.)
  • Smug Snake: Hiram Toner, the art fence, who doesn't care if Eddie rats him out to the police, presumably because he has the police in his pocket.
  • Spanner in the Works: Carol turns out to be the person who removed the teakettle from Roger's house after his murder, having no knowledge of its significance, and ended up inadvertently foiling multiple other characters' attempts to steal it back; this also gets the teakettle into Eddie's hands before any of the others searching for it figure out where it is.
  • Species Surname:
    • Before meeting Jessica Rabbit, Eddie assumes that she's a Toon rabbit. Turns out that "Rabbit" is her married name via Roger Rabbit and she's a humanoid Toon. The trope is also frequently used for background characters —Dodger Rabbit, Carbuncle Chameleon, Delancey Duck, etc. —in the tradition of Golden Age cartoons.
    • Eddie thinks Sid Sleaze is a Toon because of his name. Roger dismisses that and tells him that his real name is Sid Baumgartner; "Sleaze" is just an industry name.
  • Speech Bubbles: They literally appear above the toons as physical objects. One bubble becomes a piece of evidence in Roger's murder.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Delancey Duck can't even remotely swim. He mentions that just because Donald and Daffy can do it doesn't mean all ducks can.
  • Supreme Chef: Roger in the first book. He casually makes ratatoille that Eddie can't help but eat three servings of, and tops it off with perfect coffee and homemade Boston creme pie.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Roger, in the first book.
  • Talks like a Simile: Eddie Valiant.
  • They Walk Among Us: The Toons.
  • Toon Town: The titular district, home to the Toon community. Offhandedly mentioned in the first book, a key setting in the second.
  • Toothy Bird: Delancey Duck in the second book.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Roger and Jessica.
  • Undying Loyalty: Carol Masters is the only one to stick up for Roger, through thick and thin. She even admits when she thought Roger was the murderer, she'd continue to help him in any way, even illegally. It's mentioned that she's an activist for Toon rights in general.
  • Ungrateful Bitch: Jessica, even when Eddie tells her Roger asked him to take her on as a client to prevent her from being jailed. Part of it is that she is prejudiced against "barnyard" toons, but also she was forced to marry him and act like the good wife by a magical spell, and could do nothing about it.
  • Unusual Ears: Subverted. Roger has typical rabbit ears because, well, he's a rabbit. However, Eddie notes Roger is 6 foot tall — if you count for his 18" ears.
  • Verbal Tic: Eddie's sister Heddy says "Hi-de-ho-ho-ho" a lot (and, it turns out, his brother Freddy as well).
  • Villain Protagonist: Roger was the original murderer, and had intended to frame Eddie Valiant. Unfortunately, a genie killed Roger before he could finish his plan.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Eddie and Roger. Especially noticeable in the third book, where Roger enthusiastically calls Eddie his best friend, while Eddie makes no secret that he really doesn't like Roger.
  • Whodunnit to Me?: The first book, and HOW.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Sid Baumgartner thinks of himself this way. In truth, he a duplicitous porn producer who flirts with Eddie while in drag.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Eddie gives Jessica a "love tap" that knocks her out when she's too clingy to the magic lantern / teakettle. At that point, she deserved it.
  • Ye Olde Butchered English: How the Genie speaks, despite being Arabic. Justified, in that he has to speak with English speakers.