"hard-boiled fantasy" sandbox has moved a little from the mean streets walked by Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. Not that the City doesn't have those streets--it certainly does, but consideration of the wider, weirder, world, and thinking about all the disparate elements of fantastic Americana I'd like to include has caused a shift in tone, or at least a broadening. Of late, I've been thinking of the ironic humor of perennial favorite (of mine anyway) James Branch Cabell, or, more apropos to this setting--Damon Runyon.
Anyway, with all that said, here are the current major ingredients of my strange stew of American fantasy/pulp weirdness:
L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: American fantasy at its most quintessential. W.W. Denslow illustrations help, but the classic film versions are probably influential, too.
Dashniell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon: I didn't say the hard-boiled influences were totally gone. It's got tough guy dialogue, a femme fatale, and double-dealing to get an ancient artifact.
Manly Wade Wellman, the Silver John, Judge Pursuivant, and John Thunstone stories. Fantasies that draw on American traditions--but also aren't afraid to make things up.
Max Collins and Terry Beatty, Johnny Dynamite. The 1994 limited series. A private dick out of Mickey Spillane takes on a criminal Faust, in a psychotronic yarn.
Eric Powell, The Goon. The title character and his side-kick against zombies and other weird menaces in a fictional (and somewhat surreal) American city in a period vaguely between the Depression and the 50s.
E.C. Segar, Popeye. Fisticuffs, quirky characters, a Sea Hag, and a Goon (no relation ;) ).
Animation & Film:
Baccano! (2007) anime (based on the light novel series by Ryohgo Narita) about warring criminal families, immortal alchemists, and a host of other quirky characters vying for an elixir of immortality in the 1930s.
Carnivale (2003): HBO series about a secret battle between Manichean forces coming to its resolution in the Depression-era dust bowl.
7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964): An mysterious Chinese man brings his fantastic circus to a small Southwestern town. Plenty of weirdness in an American setting.
45 minutes ago