Dex Parios

Created by Greg Rucka

“I don’t suppose we can talk about this?”
— Dex tries to charm two thugs who’ve driven
her to a deserted spot to kill her.

Talk about a losing streak.

All DEXEDRINE “DEX” CALLISTO PARIOS, the sole operative of Portland’s Stumptown Investigations, has to worry about is her gambling jones, the eighteen large she owes the Confederated Tribes of the Wind Coast Casino, tracking down the messed-up granddaughter of the casino’s manager and taking care of her kid brother Ansel, who has Down’s Syndrome. And seems to have more social skills than she does.

And — oh yeah — being shot point blank in the chest by two mouthbreathers-for-hire who’ve warned her off of her latest case.

And that’s just in the first few pages of Stumptown (2009-10), Greg Rucka’s twisty, turny four-part comic book mini-series which bears the unwieldy sub-title of “The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo But Left Her Mini,” which introduced Dex to the world.

It was about time the recent glut of first-class, high-faluting graphic novels focusing on crime fiction finally tricked down to the monthly comic book spinner rack. And Stumptown was well worth the wait — by 2009, it was a four-color treat for anyone who’d despaired of ever seeing an honest-to-God P.I. in a regular (or as regular as small comic book press runs go) comic book again. There are no muscle-bound dudes in tights here; no silicone-fed Amazons fighting crime in G-strings and high heels, no time-traveling evil entities from the 8th dimension, no scratch-and-sniff foil covers – just good old dirt-under the fingernails hard-boiled grit set in a world as real as morning breath.

Recalling such classic no-nonsense latter-day private janes as Max Allan Collins’ Ms. Tree, Brian Bendis’ Jinx Alameda and Ed “Criminal” Brubaker’s late, lamented all-too-brief take on Dakota North in the pages of Daredevil, Rucka’s Dex is nobody’s bimbo. She’s a scrappy, blue collar smart ass and certified tough cookie whose “up yours” take on life, tattered professionalism and rough-edged compassion make her one of comicdom’s (and the genre’s) most compelling female characters of recent years. Jessica Jones? She’s okay, but what with the drinking, the anger management issues and the superpowers, she can be a little too high maintenance. Dex maintains a more ground-level stance — Rucka cites the P.I. television shows of his youth such as Magnum, P.I., Simon and Simon, and The Rockford Files as influences.

She’s loyal to a fault, fiercely protective of her friends and especially Ansel, her kid brother. She drives a ’64 Mustang and likes her Jack “rocks, water back.” And, just for kicks, she’s apparently bisexual.

Meanwhile, artist Matthew Southworth’s moody, cinematic depiction of  Portland is a wonder to behold, all blotchy shadows, telling details and under-the-fingernails grit. Greg Rucka, of course, is the Eisner Award-winning comic writer and crime novelist who writes the Atticus Kodiak books. In fact, Dex inhabit the same fictional universe as Kodiak, with several minor characters occasionally popping up.

Although it didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it did get some pretty decent reviews, and so in 2012, Dex returned in another story arc, this one bearing a slightly less long-winded subtitle: “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case,” again with Southworth handling the art chores. If anything, it was even better.

2014 saw the release of another five-issue miniseries, “The Case of the King of Clubs,” which saw Southworth replaced by Justin Greenwood, and Dex delving into Portland’s fervent soccer culture, investigating an attack of a friend following a Portland Timbers match. That was followed in 2015 by “The Case of a Cup of Joe,” with Dex caught up in Portland’s hyper-competitive coffee scene. It was by far Dex’s slightest case, although still quite enjoyable, but it seemed to be the end of the road, as Rucka moved on to bigger things.


So imagine my surprise when it was announced in early 2019 that Dex would be returning… on television. Slotted for ther 2019-20 season, Stumptown, will air on ABC, with Cobie “How I Met Your Mother” Smulders starring as the troubled P.I., with the pilot  shot on location in Vancouver, British Columbia. Which just happens to be Smulders’ hometown.

But two episodes in, I’m thinking we have a winner. The first American P.I. TV show in a long time worth watching. Oh, they’ve tinkered with the character a bit, giving her a tragic romantic backstory, a bad and undiagnosed case of PTSD due to a stint in Afghanistan, and a P.I. car that’s so uncool it’s cool: a faded red junker of a 1992 Mustang GT with a temperamental cassette deck and the source of one hell of a running gag. But it’s the same old Dex: she’s still rough around the ages, and is still an inveterate gambler who drinks too much. But the show — four episodes in —  feels tight and right — possibly because Rucka himself is one of the producers and writers, so he’s there to keep an eye on things.

But maybe I spoke too soon. The early episodes were truly a wonder for this P.I. fan to behold. Like, casting Donal Logue (of the late and mostly lamented Terriers) as Artie Banks, the grizzled older private investigator Dex hopes will show her the ropes and help her get her P.I. license, is just one of the many in-jokes tossed into the mix. But by the end of the sixth episode, with the show downplaying the crime and detection angle and spending way too much focus on not one, not two but three potentially budding relationships, and the preview for the next episode promising a “very special” Thanksgiving episode with the entire cast (and their — for now — potentially significant others) gathering to all spend “Friendsgiving” together.

Please, God, no!


    (2009-10, Oni Press)
    4 issues
    Written by Greg Rucka
    Art by by Matthew Southworth

    • “Part One” (October 2009, #1)
    • “Part Two” (December 2009, #2)
    • “Part Three” (April 2010, #3)
    • “Part Four” (November 2010, #4)
    (2012-13, Oni Press)
    5 issues
    Written by Greg Rucka
    Art by Matthew Southworth
    Colors by Rico Renzi

    • “Part One” (September 2012; #1)
    • “Part Two” (October 2012; #2)
    • “Part Three” (November 2012; #3)
    • “Part Four” (December 2012; #4)
    • “Part Five” (January 2013; #5)
    (2014-15, Oni Press)
    5 issues
    Written by Greg Rucka
    Art by Justin Greenwood
    Colors by Ryan Hill

    • “Part One” (September 2014; #1)
    • “Part Two” (October 2014; #2)
    • “Part Three” (November 2014; #3)
    • “Part Four” (December 2014; #4)
    • “Part Five” (January 2015; #5)
  • STUMPTOWN: THE CASE OF A CUP OF JOE | Buy this book 
    (2015-16, Oni Press)
    5 issues
    Written by Greg Rucka
    Art by Justin Greenwood
    Colors by Ryan Hill

      • “The Case of a Cup of Joe (Part One)” (June 2015; #1)
      • “The Case of a Cup of Joe (Part Two)” (August 2015; #2)
      • “The Case of a Cup of Joe (Part Three)” (October 2015; #3)
      • “The Case of a Cup of Joe (Part Four)” (March 2016; #4)
      • “The Case of the Night That Wouldn’t End” (July 2016; #5)


  • “Mustang Ranch” (2011, Stumptown, Vol. 1)
    A rare early prose story


    (2019, ABC)
    Premiere: September 25, 2019
    Based on characters created by Greg Rucka
    Writers: Greg Rucka, Jason Richman
    Adapted by Jason Richman
    Starring Cobie Smulders as DEX PARIOS
    With Jake Johnson as Grey McConnell
    and Cole Sibus as Ansel
    Also starring Jake Johnson as Grey McConnell
    Michael Ealy as Michael Hoffman
    Camryn Manheim as Lieutenant Cosgrove
    Tantoo Cardinal as Sue Lynn Blackbird
    Adrian Martinez as Tookie
    and Fiona Rene as Detective Kara Lee
    Guest stars: Donal Logue, Janeane Garofalo, Monica Barbaro, Clayton Chitty, Toby Levins, Ioanna Gika, Blu Hunt, Joe Pingue, Dusty Sorg, Kory Abreu

    • “Forget it Dex, It’s Stumptown” (September 25, 2019)
    • “Missed Connections” (October 2, 2019)
    • “Rip City Dicks” (October 9, 2019)
    • “Family Ties” (October 16, 2019)
    • “Bad Alibis” (October 30, 2019)
    • “Dex, Drugs and Rock & Roll” (November 6, 2019)
    • “November Surprise” (November 6, 2019)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. |

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