Comic Shots #15 with Josh Christie: Unibroue’s Noire de Chambly and ‘The Cabbie’

Each week, the iFanboy “Comic Shots” staff passes along a tasty drink recipe and an even tastier comic book recommendation. The cocktail and the comic can both be enjoyed independently, but they have a common theme and when served together they can make for the perfect reading experience.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like good booze, and I like a good cocktail. Hell, I even enjoy a tipple of wine on occasion. But when I chatted with the iFanStaff about ideas for Comic Shots, I just had to ask: what about beer? Lots of  craft beer is just as flavorful as the most complex cocktail or vintage wine, and there’s as much diversity in beer styles as any other libations. Luckily I didn’t have to push too hard, as Ali, Chris and Ryan are big beer geeks just like moi.

So, your first beer Comic Sláinte Shot? Marti’s fabulously weird Dick Tracy-in-a-funhouse-mirror series The Cabbie and Unibroue’s Noire de Chambly.

Brewed by Unibroue in Chambly, Quebec, Noire de Chambly is a Belgian-style black ale. If you’re used to fizzy lagers, you’re in for a shock. The Noire is a deep brown beer with a beige head – take a whiff and you’ll get rich, bitter smells of coffee and licorice. You get a lot of both those smells in the taste as well, along with peppery spiciness and just a touch of citrus from the hops. A sweet brew with bitter notes and a bit of sugar, the Noire de Chambly isn’t unlike a piece of coffee cake baked with anise.

The biggest reason to match up The Cabbie and the Noire is right in the ale’s name. Set in the crime-ridden “Big City” and staring an adrift loner with his own (very very odd) moral code, Marti flaunts his crime noir influences. So, noir and Noire. The Chambly is also a big beer, a strong beer at 6.2% alcohol, and, if you’re not familiar with Belgian Ales, a strange beer. Those are three adjectives that I’d absolutely use to describe The Cabbie, too.

[Can’t find Unibroue Noire de Chambly in your neck of the woods? Sub in Leffe Brune, Tilburg’s Dutch Brown, or any other Belgian Dark Ale.]

The Cabbie

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Writer: Marti
Artist: Marti

Even most casual comic fans know about the post-underground “alternative” comics scene that exploded in the US in the 70s and 80s. Robert Crumb, Charles Burns, Art Spiegelman – these are names that had a big impact on the comics industry, and I’d venture a good number of today’s creators would name them as influences. Perhaps less well-known is the countercultural press that was simultaneously thriving overseas. While we had RAW and Weirdo in the states, the newly liberalized Spain had El Vibora and scores of talented creators. One of these new voices was Marti, author and artist behind The Cabbie.

Clearly inspired by Scorcese’s Taxi Driver -which Marti admits “gave [him] moral support” while drawing the strip — The Cabbie follows a righteous cab driver in Big City. Our “hero,” Cabbie Fourdoorsedan (more on the book’s incredible subtlety later), is a model citizen and a model neighbor, a guy so kind that he helps deliver babies in the back of his cab. He also helps to clean up the dirty city, using his souped-up cab to catch criminals and deliver them to the police… or the cemetery. In the opening pages we see one more petty criminal removed from the streets, as Cabbie throws John Peterson in jail. His son, also in the pen, happens to be getting out that week, and the senior Peterson commands junior to get revenge on Cabbie. Parents are killed, an inheritance is stolen, and we are off to the races.

You don’t have to be familiar with Chester Gould’s classic comic Dick Tracy to read The Cabbie, but a fluency with the prior makes reading the latter a trippy experience. The heavy lines, negative space, character design and even comic strip format of Marti’s book are so similar to Dick Tracy you may think the two had the same author. Even the violence and moral vicissitude of The Cabbie were in Gould’s P.I. strip, though nostalgia has stripped away some of Tracy’s rough edges. I wouldn’t say The Cabbie is a rougher, darker take on source material like Taxi Driver and Dick Tracy, but a look at them through a really messed up funhouse mirror. Just as Sergio Leone’s films gave us a uniquely European take on the American western, The Cabbie gives us a flabbergasting version of the states’ crime noir.

One major difference between The Cabbie and modern crime serials like Scalped and Criminal is a degree of subtlety. Even when Brubaker and Aaron’s books go over the top, there’s a tacit agreement between the reader and the author that the heroes and villains will act like real people. There are shades of grey. The bad guys aren’t irredeemable cackling maniacs, and the good guys aren’t white knights or paragons of virtue. Things happen in their heads and behind the scenes. They are people, rather than cartoons.

Not so in Marti’s book, which is gleefully untethered from reality. Like the Fantagraphics’ reprint, everything in the world of The Cabbie is black and white.The criminals are eeeevil, at one point cutting a man open to get money out of his body. Our hero Cabbie, on the other hand, is directed literally by the voice of a saint. He is convinced that everything he’s doing is for the greater good. This includes some downright creepy activities, like packing one of the villains into a suitcase. Still, he thinks what’s right is right, and these are bad people.

The Cabbie deals in dark themes; not just often graphic violence, but drug addiction, prostitution, and loads of other scourges you’d recognize from classic noir and modern crime fiction. And, to top it all off, it’s like other underground comics of its era in that it is just. Freakin. Weird. But dark doesn’t mean bad, and I strongly recommend picking up a pint, sitting down with The Cabbie, and getting lost in both.

Not convinced? Fantagraphics kindly offers an 8-page PDF preview of The Cabbie. It give a nice sense of how strange the book is, but rest assured that it only gets odder from there.


Josh Christie is a beer-drinker, bookseller and lovable scamp. If you want to get what’s honestly probably too many recommendations for beer and books on a daily basis, you can follow him on Twitter.

Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy the comics that make you happy, and when they do, pass them on!


  1. Oooh oooh a Quebec Beer! I knew I liked you Christie! Added The Cabbie to the wishlist.

  2. Unibroue is a fantastic brewery.They brew some of my all time favorites. Check out Maudite, a Belgian style red ale, so delicious. Also La Fin du Monde and Trois Pistoles are both terriffic.

    • I’m a big Unibroue fan, but I’ve started to like them a bit less these days. Finding the Unibroue Yeast is making them all taste a little similar. Now they all taste GOOD, but I wish they didn’t have that same taste note across the whole line.

  3. Nice beer suggestion. The Cabbie sound right up my alley too.

    If you ever need a wine suggestion to pair with a comic, I’ll be happy to to lend my sommelier experience 😉

  4. Just read Cabbie in one sitting. Harrowing. The Chester Gould influence is pervasive, and I see a lot of Charles Burns there too (not sure which way the influence flowed there, if at all, but i see it…).

    If I had to pick a drink to pair with this, I’d go for prison moonshine but really glue straight from the bag is the way to go.