Mike Hammer Comics First Time Ever (sort of)

February 27th, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

Titan and its Hard Case Crime line of noir comics has officially announced the Mike Hammer comic book – actually, a graphic novel that will first be serialized as a four-issue comic book series – and word about it is all over the Net.

We even made the Hollywood Reportersee for yourself.

One of the most exciting aspects of all this is having the great Robert McGinnis provide a cover for a comic book – isn’t that a first? As I kid I dreamed of having a book of mine appear with a McGinnis cover – now I’ve had five!

The other covers are great, too, and you can see some of them here.

A lot of the Net write-ups take the angle that this is the first time Mike Hammer has appeared in a comic book. Well…kind of. Hammer was originally conceived by Mickey Spillane as a comics character, first materializing as Mike Lancer in Green Hornet Comics #10, December 1942. Mickey probably wrote this right before going into the Army Air Corps. Mickey re-named Lancer as Mike Danger, with the same artist, Harry Sahle, and tried to market it after the war. The lack of success of the comics version led Mickey into doing a prose version of the character, re-named (do I have to tell you?), Mike Hammer. Hammer’s first appearance in print was in 1947’s I, the Jury.

Two of Mickey’s unsold Mike Danger comic book stories appeared in Crime Detector #3 and #4 in 1954. Mickey didn’t know about this till years later – somebody pulled them from a drawer and sold them…the unsigned artist maybe? Not Sahle, who did not draw the two stories that were published; but Mickey apparently put together an entire issue, so one or two other stories remain lost.

Hammer himself hit the comics in ‘53 – not funny books, but in newspapers as a daily and Sunday strip, written by Mickey and sometimes by Joe Gill and the strip’s terrific artist, Ed Robbins. It ran for about a year and was collected, and edited with an intro by me in a fifty-buck book from Hermes Press. But you can get it here (in digital form) for under $15.

Here’s where we get into technically murky waters in claims that my comic book series is a first for Mike Hammer. I have two issues of an Australian Mike Hammer comic book from the ‘50s doing reprints of strips. Not original material, however….

Remember Mike Danger? Well, some of you know that Mickey and I revived the original character for Big Entertainment. The differences between Danger and Hammer are slight, but the comic book stories we did from 1995 – 1997 were science-fiction-oriented. For most of the run, Danger was thrust up into a politically correct future. Toward the end we returned him to the 1950s for X-Files type s-f. The first cover was by Frank Miller, a longtime Spillane enthusiast, and my pal Terry Beatty worked on the book for the last year or so, inking several other artists. I would love to see these collected.

You can read about Mike Danger’s torturous history in even more detail here, at Kevin Burton Smith’s fine Thrilling Detective web site.

Does this take anything away from the upcoming Mike Hammer four-issue comic book series? Not at all. It’s just that he and Mickey Spillane – who once wrote comic books for Timely and other Golden Age outfits – are not strangers to the medium. And it will be a great, significant part of the Mike Hammer centenary celebration.

My graphic novel, “The Night I Died,” has a basis in an unproduced Spillane screenplay from the early ‘50s, although I have set it in the vague 1960s, around the time of the Darren McGavin TV version. The art by Marcelo Salaza and Marcio Freire has a lot of flair, and I am glad to be part of bringing Mike Hammer more officially to the world of comic books…back again for the first time ever!

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Two quick notes on movies….

Do not come to our house with torches, but Barb and I did not like Black Panther. In fact, we walked out after about an hour. We are not racists (although most people who say they aren’t are), but found it dumb and convoluted and pandering, with a torturously slow set-up. Speaking of racist, I found the central notion of an African country developing advanced technology but hiding it from the world by pretending to be backward tribesman, well, racist as hell. Now ours is obviously a minority (you should pardon the expression) opinion. We are probably wrong. But we don’t sit through anything we don’t like anymore. We have better things to do, and to watch.

Speaking of which, Game Night with Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, both wonderful, is one of the best comedies of recent years. Reminiscent of Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, it’s a crime story and wild comedy about a group of couples going after a shared goal; along the way it pays surprising attention to character. Mostly, though, it’s just very funny. Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemons of the great TV series Friday Night Lights are among the stars, and both are hilarious. One imagines every time “Cut” was shouted at the end of a Plemons take, everybody on set fell apart laughing. This had two directors, apparently collaborating (as opposed to one of them getting fired and replaced), one of whom is John Francis Daley who was the main geek on the great Freaks and Geeks TV series. Good for him!


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4 Responses to “Mike Hammer Comics First Time Ever (sort of)”

  1. Tep says:

    I appreciate the critique of Black Panther. I’ve been wanting to see it but, have been a little wary because of the over-the-top, rave reviews. The premise sounds very interesting to me (I know the comic character) and the clips look good. I like solid, entertaining stories with good cinematography. When asking friends who had seen it to give me their reviews, I became a little skeptical when not a single person could offer one thing negative to say about it. No movie is that good. I think I will wait to see it on Netflix or Amazon. As a side note, if anyone ever says “reminiscent of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, I will go see that movie, no more questions asked. I’m looking forward to the new Mike Hammer graphic novel collection!

  2. Mike Doran says:

    I wasn’t going to see Black Panther anyway; I’m completely off that whole genre.
    Having said that, I wonder if you’ve heard that the devoted fans of That Man In The White House have adopted Black Panther for their very own.
    In the interest of your own physical and emotional well-being, you might want to skip this next paragraph.


    The principal writer of Breitbart’s Big Hollywood, a plasmoid being which calls itself John Nolte, has written some posts in his blog (.com-posts?) in which he likens the hero of this movie to Mr. Trump, and the villain group to Black Lives Matter.
    Likens, hell – Nolte says that in so many words, and BBH makes it the headline of the review.
    Several subsequent BBH posts indicate that the whole group plans to go to town with this notion.
    No way does this end well for anyone.
    You can check this out for yourself at the BreitSeit yourself –
    – or better still, don’t.
    Why make yourself needlessly upset?
    I already did that …


    Back in the Real (?) World …
    Good to see that the Spillane Centenary is proceeding apace.
    Since I still can’t get my E-mail to work properly from my end, I fear I’ll be no help with getting NAL/Penguin/Signet/whatever to see the light regarding Hammer v.4; still I do live in hope.

    I see from the Centuries & Sleuths site that Bob Goldsborough will be there on Sunday, April 22 with his latest Wolfe novel.
    I mention this just in case you happen to be in the neighborhood that weekend (Couldn’t hurt?).

    Meantimes, I am slowly but steadily accumulating your latest inventory in anticipation of your next C&S sortie, whenever that may be.
    Who knows, I may even think up a new joke …

    ‘Til Then …

  3. JohnJ says:

    Saw Black Panther today and just thought I would mention that your concerns about Wakanda hiding technology from the rest of the world becomes a big part of the second half with the bad guys looking to use the Wakanda weapons to beat down the rest of the planet and the good guys ending up at the UN to do the right thing. Lots of kick-ass fight scenes and the only appearance by another Marvel character comes during the scene after the credits.
    I hope you’ve had the opportunity to listen to the Rifftrax commentary of Batman v. Superman. My highlight might have been TV’s Frank bitching about the scenes picked for Trace and him to riff on. They got the big-ass fight scene with Doomsday near the end and Frank was more than a little upset. Don’t know why, there are so many riffable moments in that movie.

  4. Thomas Zappe says:

    Just finished BLOODY SPUR. Very tidy resolution.

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