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Fantastic Noir

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Being a private Dick in this town was hungry work... and he was all out of bananas. note 

"The Butler Did It! With a death curse! From space! Take him away, Troll Patrol!"

A sister trope of "neo-noir" or cyberpunk, fantastic noir is a relatively small subgenre that blends the setting, characters (it usually stars a Hardboiled Detective who sometimes doubles as an Occult Detective), and plot structure of a Film Noir mystery story with the more colorful elements of fantasy and Science Fiction. The genre seemed to arrive all at once in The '80s and remains strong today, with the publication of such books as Anonymous Rex, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Sweet Silver Blues, Stalking the Unicorn, and The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse.

Compare Cyberpunk, Dark Fantasy, Dungeon Punk, Urban Fantasy. Androids and Detectives and Vampire Detective Series are specific variants.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Absalom features an alcoholic Defective Detective who is charged to uphold the pact between the British crown and the forces of Hell.
  • Pictured above is DC's Angel and the Ape, which is about a beautiful human Hardboiled Detective and a gorilla comic artist in New York City. Given that they're in a universe where all the other DC characters exist, the most "fantastic" aspect is probably that people don't freak out when they see Sam walking down the street (there are other intelligent gorillas in The DCU, but the most famous one is Gorilla Grodd, a supervillain... and Sam's grandfather). This is eventually explained as Sam having a psychic power that causes people to see him as human.
  • Astro City sometimes drifts into this trope, such as in "The Tarnished Angel" storyline, which follows a retired Chrome Champion supervillain as he investigates a string of murders targeting his fellow villains.
  • Batman stories will sometimes contain elements of this, particularly in Detective Comics.
  • One Beast Wars: Uprising story is written in the style of hard-boiled noir stories, following a cynical detective as he investigates a strange case. Given that all the characters are robots that turn into cars and vehicles, it qualifies as this.
  • Black Magick: Rowan Black is a police detective in Portsmouth, a town in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. She's also a practicing Wiccan, with real magical abilities, though she keeps this fact private from her fellow officers. And somebody has just started hunting witches...
  • Blacksad is a series of noir stories based in the U.S. around the 1950s, but in a World of Funny Animals, with the animal usually being related to the character's profession and/or personality (the chief of police is a German Shephard dog, a hitman seen in the first issue is a snake, etc.). The hardboiled detective protagonist, John Blacksad, is a black cat.
  • Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab is about a man whose taxi is haunted by the ghost of a boy who recently died in the backseat. Cyrus needs to help him solve the mystery of his murder so he can find peace and move on.
  • Daredevil becomes this during one of the volume 2 storylines involving a drug that grants superpowers to people, which leads to the titular hero stopping the distributor of it.
  • Fables is a Fairy Tale noir series about a werewolf (or more accurately, a wolfwere and The Big Bad Wolf himself) whose job is to keep the peace among his fellow Fables and keep them from killing each other, as well as keeping things in Fabletown from spilling over into the mundane world.
  • Fatale is set in the 1950s, with a bunch of detectives investigating a series of ritualistic murders, with a supernatural Femme Fatale at the center of it who's fighting demonic eldritch forces.
  • The Goon takes a Fantasy Kitchen Sink approach, but the core of the story's aesthetic comes from 1930s crime pulp. The two main characters are a pair of cartoon gangsters taking on zombies, robots, mutants, vampires, and more.
  • Hellboy involves the title character investigating supernatural mysteries and occurrences, and Mike Mignola's artwork helps give it that noir feel.
  • Jessica Jones, particularly in the original MAX run Alias, which was dubbed "Comic Book Noir" by Jeph Loeb in the introduction to the first trade paperback.
  • The Marvel Noir line, including Spider-Man: Noir, has this feel, especially for Spider-Man. Iron Man: Noir is a bit misnamed, since it's more of a pulp action story.
  • Powers involves two homicide detectives who investigate cases involving superheroes and supervillains.
  • Jeff Smith's RASL is a science fiction series with significant noir influence. RASL's an art thief on the run from his past, but he's running to Alternate Universes — and that's just the beginning.
  • Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-Boiled Shaman are classic noir stories following a jaded detective solving mysteries. The twist is that the "detective" is a shaman in the Siberian Taiga and his cases involve keeping peace between mortals and the Spirit World.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt fanfic "Bolt Noir" by Plonq is a spoof of Film Noir style mystery films and TV shows. After watching episodes of Peter Gunn, Bolt imagines himself as a detective with a needy dame for a client (Mittens) and a helpful sidekick (Rhino). There's no murder to contend with, however — just a hankering for cat treats and a point to prove.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Anita Blake series starts out as this and still has elements of it in the later works.
  • Anonymous Rex. The detective Vincent Rubio is a velociraptor in a world where dinosaurs aren't dead but are in hiding.
  • Tad Williams' Bobby Dollar series is about an angel advocate caught between the forces of Heaven and Hell.
  • Bone Song is a detective/conspiracy novel which takes place in a City Noir where humans live side by side with mages, witches, zombies, wraiths, cat folk, gargoyles, and other fantastic creatures.
  • City of Devils and its sequels Fifty Feet of Trouble and Wolfman Confidential, are noir mysteries crossed with a Monster Mash. The cops are all werewolves, the studio heads are crawling eyes, the machinists are gremlins, the blue-collar folks are zombies, the actors are doppelgangers, and so on.
  • Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. adds horror motifs and a hefty dose of humor into the mix.
  • Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently series is a parody of this genre. Dirk Gently doesn't believe in the supernatural, but he's happy to pretend he does in order to fleece people who do, and then it turns out that the supernatural does believe in Dirk Gently.
  • Discworld stories involving Sam Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch tend to edge into being these, especially The Fifth Elephant.
  • Vlad Taltos in the Dragaera novels is an (ultimately former) human assassin in a fantasy world where elves are in charge and narrates in a hardboiled First-Person Smartass tone. The plots of all of the novels involve mysteries solved through detection, and Vlad has the traditional Sassy Secretary in two nontraditional forms, his Dragaeran (elf) sidekick Kragar and his pet jhereg (more or less a Shoulder-Sized Dragon), Loiosh, a sapient animal that snarkily communicates with Vlad telepathically.
  • Many of The Dresden Files books, especially the earliest ones — Hardboiled Detective monologue running smack up against wizards, faeries and vampires. Results in many tons of awesome.
  • Alex Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse books are basically hard-boiled detective novels in a Sword & Sorcery setting.
  • The Elemental Assassin novels are about a magic-wielding Professional Killer who operates out of a Wretched Hive in a version of modern-day earth that includes elementals, vampires, dwarfs, and giants.
  • Stalking The Unicorn and the other books in the A Fable of Tonight series by Mike Resnick. Many of the stock noir characters are given a fantasy twist. For example, John's partner, who often acts as The Watson, is a famous semi-retired monster hunter, his "secretary" who also plays the part of the classic Femme Fatale is a Cat Girl, and John's persistent enemy and local crime boss The Grundy is a demon.
  • Forests of the Night by S. Andrew Swann (part of the Moreau Series) is a near-future murder mystery tale featuring anthropomorphic animals, genetically-altered humans, and aliens. The hard-boiled detective protagonist is an anthropomorphic tiger.
  • The Garrett, P.I. series is practically a Trope Codifier for this one, telling hard-boiled detective stories in a world of classic fantasy races.
  • Gun, with Occasional Music is a hardboiled private eye novel set in a future where Uplifted Animals are common, and the PI's role as the outsider who asks the uncomfortable questions is exaggerated by the circumstance that in this society asking a direct question is a major social taboo, so all questions are uncomfortable; police and detectives have Inquisitor's Licenses permitting them to ask questions in the line of duty, but they tend to make people uneasy all the same.
  • Robert Rankin's The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse takes place in a Clock Punk world where nursery-rhyme characters are real and toys are alive, but only in Toy City. The protagonist ends up getting recruited by a jaded, hard-drinking private detective who just happens to be a teddy bear to solve a series of murders, including the bear's late partner, Wee Willie Winkie.
  • In The Imaginary Corpse, the debut novel from Tyler Hayes, detective Tippy, a stuffed triceratops, is on the trail of a Serial Killer of imaginary friends. It contains many of the noir trappings, but with an extra layer of heart and hope — a hard-boiled detective who hits the (root) beer hard, in the Stillreal, where imaginary friends go when they are no longer needed.
  • Stephen King's Joyland blends this with Magic Realism as it's about a search for a serial killer at a haunted amusement park.
  • The League of Magi novella Coldheart, in the collection of the same name, is a noir story that uncovers monsters, mages, and possessed people.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's works:
    • The novella "Magic, Inc." directly deals with an investigator's pursuit into the workings of a sinister organization, in a parallel version of the modern urban world where magic is commonplace — including flying carpet taxicabs.
    • "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" surrounds a man-and-wife PI team investigating the titular character, although the magic in that story is more of the divine sort. (Sort of.)
  • Mr Blank and the sequel Get Blank feature aliens, chupacabras, brainwashed super-killers, pretty much every conspiracy under the sun, and a few garden-variety unkillable mobsters.
  • Idriel Ramirez spends all of Nerve Zero in a noir plot, despite being in the distant future on a false planet with no gravity.
  • Kim Newman:
    • "The Big Fish" takes an unnamed 1940s gumshoe, heavily implied to be Philip Marlowe, and pits him against the Esoteric Order of Dagon.
    • In a sequel, "The Trouble with Barrymore" (part of the Seven Stars sequence), the same gumshoe gets involved in the hunt for an Artifact of Doom.
    • "Castles in the Air" has the Anno Dracula counterpart of the same character on a missing person case connected to a vampire cult.
  • Simon R. Green's work, particularly his Nightside and Hawk & Fisher novels, has elements of this.
  • Baen Books published an anthology titled Noir Fatale, focusing on stories containing noir aspects and Femme Fatales, with various genres added into the blend from pure fantasy to science fiction.
  • Nursery Crime blends fairy tales with a Police Procedural/'70s-style Cop Show aesthetic. To a degree, Thursday Next qualifies, too.
  • The Resurrected Man by Sean Williams is a noir detective story set in a futuristic world with teleporters, artificial intelligences, and brain uploading.
  • Shadow Police: Occult Detectives patrol a horrifying hidden London.
  • Nigel Findley's Dirk Mongomery, a Private Investigator in over his head in two Shadowrun novels, 2XS and House Of The Sun. Both are set in a Genre-Busting world of Cyberpunk, Magitek, and Noir.
  • A Study in Emerald has Sherlock Holmes in a world ruled by the Great Old Ones. Sherlock Holmes isn't noir, technically speaking, but this short story is a near-perfect snapshot of this subgenre.
  • Simon Kurt Unsworth's Thomas Fool series follows the titular character, an "Information Man" (essentially a police detective) employed by Hell's bureaucracy.
  • Undead on Arrival: Noir with Zombies.
  • The anthology Weird Detectives is all about this.
  • Who Censored Roger Rabbit? has human detective Eddie Valiant solving crimes in a world where cartoon characters are living, breathing people (some of whom happen to work in comic strips, television, and movies) discriminated against by the more numerous humans.
  • The Witcher is a Standard Fantasy Setting with an outcast professional being dragged into doing the dirty work of powerful people while trying to cling to his sense of decency.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel is very much this, especially the first four seasons when the eponymous vampire runs his own private detective agency.
  • Daredevil (2015) starts off leaning towards more mundane noir (bar the presence of Matt's super-powered radar-like "vision") and gradually introduces the more fantastic Marvel Cinematic Universe elements like the Japanese gangsters actually being undead ninjas, and a Chinese drug baroness who's possibly from an extradimensional city of mystical kung-fu masters.
  • The Defenders (2017), which is a crossover of the Marvel Netflix shows, is also fantastic noir, as those two syndicates are actually part of the same organization, the Hand.
  • Fringe has a noir-style detective story with definite fantasy elements in the episode "Brown Betty".
  • True Detective may or may not qualify depending on where you fall on the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane fence. Either it's just a typical detective story, or it's a Cosmic Horror Story about dysfunctional detectives coming into contact with Lovecraftian horrors beyond their understanding.
  • Twin Peaks combines — among other genres — a murder mystery with some Mind Screw supernatural events. Although not much happens in a big city until the third series, there's definitely a noir sensibility right from the start, perhaps most noticeably in the jazzy soundtrack.

    Tabletop Games 
  • City of Mist has all the trappings of Film Noir (the main characters are detectives, play largely revolves around solving cases, and sessions even start with a voiceover monologue by the players), but with the twist that the people involved have magical powers.
  • Deadlands Noir is a spinoff of the original Deadlands; as you might guess from the title, it's meant to evoke classic noir. Player character options include "grifter" (think Addiction-Powered wizard) and Mad Scientist, and multiple published adventures involve Voodoo Zombies.
  • Eberron is mostly known as a Dungeon Punk setting, but its basis in New Weird "pulp fantasy" means it can readily support this playstyle as well. Indeed, the setting is often described as "noir inspired", and there's even an in-universe term for detective analogues: inquisitives.
  • There's a noir sourcebook for Mutants & Masterminds 2nd edition which discusses how to mix noir themes with superhero protagonists, although it leans pretty hard on noir "thematic purity" in the process.
  • New World of Darkness is made for this trope. Most of the gamelines are very suited for Gothic Punk noir, with Hunter: The Vigil probably being best for it (due to the Badass Normal nature of the PCs), and Demon: The Descent going straight into cyberpunk territory with an even more noir-influenced style.
    • There's a historical supplement for Mage: The Awakening called Mage Noir, set during the immediate aftermath of World War II, which aims to evoke classic noir and goes into detail on how the war affected both the Sleeeping and Awakened worlds, for good and for ill.
  • The style is workable (albeit spookier) in Ravenloft, if one stays in the more urbanized cities.
  • Shadowrun in general lends itself to this style of campaigns, being set in a world that blends Cyberpunk with magic.
  • Urban Jungle by default is just noir in a World of Funny Animals, but the "Occult Horror" and "Astounding Science" supplements allow one to run a Lovecraft Lite or Alien Invasion campaign.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 

  • Problem Sleuth mixes this with a World of Chaos and a flavorsome combination of awesome and weirdness.
  • Walking in the Dark fits this perfectly. Ben Westford is a vampiric tabloid reporter/detective in a '30s-style city; he spends his nights solving supernatural mysteries along with his sidekicks, an overenthusiastic Tengu, and a journalism professor-turned-witch.
  • Girl Genius brings in this trope with the side story featuring Ivo Sharktooth, Private Jäger, who is hired by Agatha and Vanamonde to investigate the theft of a trophy.

    Web Original 
  • The Juno Steel storyline of The Penumbra Podcast is a noir story set centuries in the future in Hyperion City, the largest city on Mars. Some cases are more traditional, while others deal with things like mind-reading pills, bionic eyes, and ancient alien superweapons.
  • Blake Skye Private Eye starts as your typical noir story but then takes a turn into cosmic horror, complete with old forbidden tomes, costly spells, and eldritch beings.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • A few episodes of Codename: Kids Next Door use this genre, especially with Numbah Two playing the role of the detective. Given the strange happenings the KND deal with on a normal basis, Hoagie's cases will often include cases such as the murder of a Rainbow Monkey or a series of pink-eye infections caused by the school nurse so their eye crumbs can be used as crust for her desserts.
  • Gargoyles strays into this sometimes, usually if the episode in question features Broadway (who's a fan of Film Noir) or Matt Bluestone.
  • Episode 50 of Samurai Jack, "The Tale of X9", distinctly follows this route despite it set in the far future. X9 is a robotic assassin wielding a laser Tommy and driving a hover-Hudson who, by gaining sentience, grew disillusioned with his job and was the first of Aku's robots to quit. The episode begins when Aku forces him out of retirement to fight Jack, X9 knowing he won't make it out alive.


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