Featured Columns

November 3, 2009

Web Comic of the Month: The Retriever

More articles by »
Written by: Eli
Tags: , , ,


Welcome to the first Web Comic of the Month! On the 3rd of every month I’ll feature a different comic from the internet. There are many different varieties of comics to be found online, offered in several styles. Some are presented as a comic strip like what you might find in a newspaper, some are laid out in traditional sequential format, while others are sort of free range. Some even have printed editions of the online content. Basically, they all have one thing in common – they’re comics on the internet. Our web comic for the month of November is done in a comic book format.

This month we’re taking a look at The Retriever, a noir-fu web comic created by Daniel Fu. This happens to be the very first web comic that I ever read, and I think I loved it from the start. Now, you may be wondering what in the world I mean by noir-fu, much as I did when I first saw it. Well, I’ll let the creator explain it….

The Retriever introduces a new genre of comic books. It may sound cheesy, but Noir-Fu is the best name I could think of for it. Inspired slightly by the legend of the Monkey’s Paw and my desire to explore irony and the unexpected, The Retriever blends crime noir and the kung-fu genre to explore these themes in a new light.
–Daniel Fu

I know what you’re thinking … crime noir and kung-fu, awesome! That’s exactly what Daniel Fu delivers, a nice blend of crime noir (one of my favorites) and kung-fu. Everyone loves some good kung-fu action, right?!?

The Retriever

This comic follows Jackson Lau, a “retriever” whose clients hire him to bring back something they’ve lost. Be it a lost cat, stolen property, runaway child, or whatever else, Mr. Lau will get it back. The first few books have Lau in different adventures, and are all great reads. The current story arc, beginning in book four, is particularly interesting. Some new characters are introduced, and a mystery is laid out. I won’t give you anything else; you’ll have to go read it for yourself.


Daniel Fu


I got a hold of The Retriever‘s creator, 34-year-old Daniel Fu, and I learned a little bit about the man behind noir-fu.

Eli:Are you married? Does your wife like The Retriever?
Daniel Fu: Single, never married. She hates it!

Eli: Do you remember the first comic you ever read?
DF: Hmm… Comic book? Wow, tough one. I think it was Casper the Friendly Ghost or Ritchie Rich. Some Disney comic. Of course I read newspaper comics long before then.

Eli: What was your first newspaper strip? Your favorite?
DF: Hmm… That’s a tough one to answer. Long time ago! I guess the FIRST one would be whatever was at the top left corner of the comics page at the time. Beetle Bailey? Born Loser? B.C.? Might have been B.C. Of course I didn’t actually have a favorite until Calvin and Hobbes came out a few years later. Still the best comic strip ever created.

Eli: What was the first comic that you created? When?
DF: Haha, boy. First comic was a really bad giant robot comic with a bunch of stereotypical anime-type characters. Basically ripped off Tranzor Z and Voltron. I can’t even remember what it was called, but it was awful. That was back in 8th grade, so about 1988? (The main character’s name was…. *shudder*… Lance.)

Eli: Noir-fu, the combining of crime noir & kung-fu, is very interesting. What’s your favorite Kung Fu movie and/or comic?
DF: That’s a tough one. I think Drunken Master 2 and Fist of Legend are up there. Some of Donnie Yuen’s stuff, as well. Don’t know if I can pick a favorite.

Eli: Your favorite crime noir movie/comic?
DF: Oldboy, hands down. About the most twisted, beautiful, screwed up piece of storytelling ever, and has had a profound impact on how I think about storytelling.

20080330Eli: How did you come up with Jackson Lau (a very cool character in my opinion)?
DF: Hah. Good question. A couple of things happened. 1. I noticed Jet Li’s American movies all sucked ass. Nobody would give him a good script/story. 2. The movie The Rundown had an interesting concept, but underwhelming execution. So I thought I could craft a better overall story and put Jet Li in it in case the property ever got picked up! Of course, it’d never happen.

Eli: Have we seen your work anywhere else?
DF: In my college paper, the Daily Texan, I did a comic strip called “Utter Confusion” back in the mid-90’s, then self-published a book by the same name to wrap up the story arc. Over the course of the next 10 years, I did various short stories for a small San Antonio-based company called Radio Comix, including a short-lived romance series called “Love Bites” and a very incomplete neo-fantasy series called “Fall into the Sky.” So no, you’ve probably never seen my work anywhere else!

Eli: What do you do when you’re not working on Mr. Lau’s next retrieval? Day job? Hobbies?
DF: I have a day job working as a Flash/multimedia designer for an E-learning company in Austin, making learning into a cinematic experience. I’ve taken up bike riding, of late. Computer games and movies serve as inspiration for both my comic book work and my day job.

Eli: What do you use to make your strip? Hardware, software, gadgets? Why?
DF: I still go old school. Pencil and ink on paper, scanned in and cleaned up with Photoshop. I prefer working on paper because it’s tactile and feels good when I lay down lines.

Eli: What’s your creative environment like? Noise, silence, day, night, what?
DF: I can’t stare at the paper for too long. My eyes get tired really quickly, so I usually sit at my computer with a stupid TV show on so I can look up every so often and give my eyes and hands a break. I usually work on it during evenings after work and during the daytime on weekends.

Eli: Do you have any tips for aspiring web comic creators in our audience?
DF: Have more sense than me. I create a web comic with a minuscule audience out of some kind of unfounded passion for the medium. I can afford to do this because I have a job that I enjoy that pays my bills. If you want to do this for a living, know EVERYTHING about the business side of it. If you draw it, they will not come unless you have a business plan and a way to bring in huge readership numbers. Be canny. If you can’t do that (i.e. you hate marketing yourself, like I do), then find a job you like and do it on the side.

Eli: You’re given the chance to do a mini-series for any character you want, who do you choose? Why?
DF: Good question. I haven’t even thought about this. Probably Terry Holt from The Retriever in a spin-off series called…. “The Golden Retriever!” I wouldn’t want to ruin anyone else’s creations.

Eli: Person you’d love to get the chance to work with on a comic?
DF: Oh, man. I will give you the names of a few… Robert Kirkman, Mike Mignola, Brandon Graham, Mark Millar, Warren Ellis… But more likely than not, I will simply get intimidated, shit myself, and then choke on everything I’m doing.

Eli: What are your comic related goals?
DF: I just want to get this book DONE. I’m burnt out! I need a break! Although I already have my next idea swimming around in my head. The Retriever is basically a comic book I happen to be posting on the web. The next project will be more of a true web-comic.

Eli: What’s your favorite book right now?
DF: Comic book? Invincible, I think, by Robert Kirkman. I don’t know what kind of voodoo mojo he’s cooking because it’s not a perfect book, but I somehow think it’s brilliant and fantastic and look forward to reading it more than any other thing in my pull.

Eli: Favorite comic movie?
DF: I think The Dark Knight has hold of the pinnacle of comic movie-dom so far and probably will for a while.

Eli: What’s the one book you’d want to have if stranded on a deserted island with no rescue in sight?
DF: Probably not a comic book, actually. “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” by Christopher Moore. I’d cut a hole in it, though, to store a gun, with which I would shoot myself before starving to death. If you are talking about comics only, probably The Ultimates.

Eli: Marvel or DC, both, or neither?
DF: Neither. Creator owned, all the way! Actually, I would lean towards Marvel. They’ve managed to get their hands on a ton of good writers, lately, and have angled their stories in more interesting directions.

Eli: Who’s tougher: Batman, Rorschach, or Jackson Lau?
DF: Damn. Batman’s dead. Rorschach is dead. Jackson Lau, baby! Still alive! Of course, Jackson’s universe doesn’t have any blue god-beings or psychopathic cackle-heads. Depends on who’s writing the crossover, I suppose.

Thanks go to Daniel Fu for taking the time to talk with us, and for giving me my first web comic experience; Though definitely not the last. I’ll be looking forward to his next project after The Retriever finishes up. Next month we’ll do it all again folks, so be here on the 3rd of December for another great comic from the web.


Book 1 |  Book 2 |  Book 3 |  Book 4 |  Book 5 |  Daniel Fu’s site |  Daniel Fu on deviant art




  1. Billy

    Good job Eli! That issue with the bloody scissors really jumps out at me.

  2. Eli

    Billy, that bloody scissor issue, book 3, is a little different from the rest. It’s really pretty creative, I suggest checkin’ it out.

  3. Kristin

    I may have already glanced over this answer….
    Is the story completed, or is it still ongoing?

  4. Eli

    @Kristin — It’s ongoing for a little while longer. The current story arc, which began in book 4 and is still ongoing, will finish up the series.

  5. I want to know more about Lance and his robot friends!

    And it’s nice to see another “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff” fan!

  6. Thanks again to Eli for posting this as his first Web Comic of the Month on this site!

    Lamb is a fantastic book on many levels. If I had a complaint about it, it would be about the abrupt and somewhat awkward ending of Biff’s story. Seemed out of character.

    Lance and his friends are forever relegated to the very darkest corners of some packed boxes somewhere. Or I may have tossed them away to prevent any blackmail attempts in the future.

  7. […] month’s web comic is rather different from last month’s feature, both in its format and style of content. City Limits is presented in more of a traditional comic […]

  8. Dan

    Thanks Eli, I’ve got a new favourite…

  9. Eli

    @ Dan – No surprise here, Daniel Fu’s stuff is top notch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *