Friday, June 18, 2010
Forgotten Books: Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer: The 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!