Friday, June 18, 2010

Forgotten Books: Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer: The Comic Strip


TRIVIA QUESTION: How many hardboiled private eyes had their own comic strip?
ANSWER: I don’t know, but I can think of only one. Mike Hammer.


Sure, there were other hardboiled dicks, like Dick Tracy and Kerry Drake, but they were either cops or working in some official capacity. So Mike Hammer, if not unique, was at least a rarity.


“From the Files of Mike Hammer” appeared in the funny pages in 1953 and ‘54. Half of the strip’s run is collected in this 1982 Ken Pierce book, and the rest in a second volume that seems to be missing from my collection (ain’t life a bitch?).


This 64-page first volume features four stories from the daily papers, one 17-week Sunday continuity and a fine introduction by Max Allan Collins. As detailed in the intro, scripting for the dailies was initially the work of Joe Gill, who had worked with Spillane writing Timely comics in the 40s. At some point early on, Gill dropped out and artist Ed Robbins took over the writing chores as well, with at least some input from Spillane. As seen in the samples here, Gill and Robbins were certainly up to the task. All the writing in these panels is theirs, with the exception of “Wait a minute - I know this guy… from someplace -”, which is from the Sunday story “The Sudden Trap”, written and scripted by Spillane himself.


This fun stuff. Short, sharp mysteries with plenty of hardboiled attitude. Adding to the fun is Robbins’ rendition of Hammer - a taller, tougher and more chiseled version of Mickey Spillane himself.


As Collins points out, the strip is all the more interesting because Spillane’s hardboiled hero was originally intended to be a comic book character (to be called Mike Danger). Because comics had then fallen on tough times, Spillane changed they guy’s name to Hammer and wrote I, the Jury. And the rest is hardboiled history.


Explore more of this week's fine Forgotten Books via Patti Abbott's pattinase!

41 comments:

Brian Drake said...

The Hammer comic strips are top notch. A few years ago, several copies of both volumns turned up on ebay, and it took me three or four tries before I finally was able to acquire a set. I should go back and look them over. Great stuff. In fact, if I remember right, Spillane actually had a hand in plotting the Sunday strips. I think Collins talks about that in the intro; maybe he'll stop by and clarify. If you haven't read the "Another Lonely Night" story, do so right away. That one is awesome.

Deka Black said...

Interesting story how turned to be a book character from the initial project.

Jerry House said...

Great choice! I really enjoyed this book and I've been trying to get an affordable copy of Volume 2: The Dark City and Other Stories for quite some time now. [The title story from Volume 2, however, is more readily available in the Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics (2008), edited by Paul Gravett.]

pattinase (abbott) said...

You always have wonderful visuals to accompany your post.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Would Ms Tree be another?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Or does the fact that she had a comic book instead of a strip disqualify her?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Burma Shave.

Evan Lewis said...

I know at least one other who had his own comic book (eventually) - Mike Danger. No, that doesn't count.

Richard R. said...

I've never seen this before, didn't know it existed. Looks pretty cool, though something I'd skim rather then want to own.

George said...

This is wonderful stuff! Evan, you're sitting on a Gold Mine!

David Cranmer said...

I hope Mike goes on forever.

Gonzalo B said...

These comic strips were great. I no longer have my copies of the two volumes with me, but I remember the second one had an unfinished story. One of the intros mentions that this storyline was later turned into a novel by a mystery writer whose name I can't remember. It wasn't a Mike Hammer novel but the plot was exactly the same as the one in the comic strip. Does anyone have the second volume?

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