Mike Danger

Created by Mickey Spillane (1918-2006)

mike_dangerAccording to legend, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer was originally meant to be a comic book eye called MIKE DANGER, allegedly a harder, tougher version of a Mike Lancer backup feature he had written for Harvey Comics’ Green Hornet #10 back in 1942.

Danger worked out of New York City’s Hackard Building, and was your typical rough, tough private eye of the era, complete with faithful secretary (called Velda), fedora, trenchcoat and gun.

The intro to the first story let us know what we were in for:

“He’s rough…he’s tough…he’s terrific! 190 pounds of bone and muscle…and afraid of nothing! He backs up the law with his two fists and a .45 slung under his left armpit, ready to slug or shoot it out anyplace, anytime! Yes, meet Mike…but be smiling when you do!”

In his two cases, he punches a witness under police custody, shoots a guy’s ear off and ruffles the feathers of his police buddy Pat, watches his girlfriend (not Velda) get mauled to death by a gorilla and ends up committing murder by monkey.

Unfortunately, his publishers weren’t interested, and the stories were rejected in 1946. Spillane then tried to sell Mike Danger as a comic strip.

According to Mike Benton in his The Illustrated History of Crime Comics, “In 1947, Spillane wrote a ‘Mike Danger’ comic strip for the newspapers. Drawn by Mike Roy and offered by Jerry Iger’s syndicate, the comic strip appeared briefly in New York area newspapers and disappeared. Spillane decided to leave the world of comics to become a mystery writer.”

In fact, writer and Spillane fan extremis Max Allan Collins thinks this is probably a mistake, and questions whether the Danger strip was ever actually published. He figures Benton may have confused a non-existent Danger strip with the later From the Files of… Mike Hammer. As Max points out, “I’ve seen lots of Iger syndicated stuff, and comic collectors know about my Spillane fixation… if this existed, I’d have seen an example by now.”

Either way, though, Danger wasn’t the success Spillane had hoped for. Spillane changed Danger’s last name and re-introduced him as Mike Hammer in I, the Jury (1947), which he pounded out in a few days.

But several years after Mike Danger was rejected by his publisher and Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer had both become household names, the unsold stories finally made an appearance — in issues #3 and #4 of crime comic Crime Detector in 1954.

* * * * *

And that’s the story of Mike Danger, at least until 1995, when when Collins and Spillane dusted off the original name and had another whack at it with an all-new comic book.

But the Mike Danger of the 1990’s is a far cry from what Spillane originally envisioned. Sure, this new Danger‘s a tough-talkin’, babe-lovin’, two fisted, hard-drinkin’ yadda yadda yadda kinda P.I., straight out of the 1950’s, a sort of retro-Hammer figure. But then Collins really gets cute (and it’s almost certainly Collins running the show here, despite Spillane’s name being plastered all over like bait. Instead of leaving Danger back in the bosom of the Eisenhower decade, he’s catapulted a hundred years into the future and ends up with a new office in the head of the Statue of Liberty and a holographic replica of his old secretary (long-time dead) Holly. And what a passionless, proper, squeaky-clean future it is. Eating meat is a felony, “incorrect” political views are illegal, and you can be fined for saying the wrong thing to a woman.

Charged with murder after killing a would-be assassin in self-defense (in 2052 there’s no such thing as “justifiable homicide”), he beats the rap with an offbeat but original defense — he’s already dead! Since he supposedly died a century earlier, he can’t be charged with any crime. However, because his remains were found on bigshot Simon Holden’s land, Mike is Holden’s property.

Eventually, Mike manages to get back home, but by then both the storyline and the publisher were running out of steam, and the book vanished. Too bad. The direction the book was taking showed some promise, with Mike continuing to become involved in some rather hinky doings; sort of an X-Files with tailfins.

Not a bad series, but Collins has done much better, more solid work, both in comics (Ms. Tree, Johnny Dynamite) and straight novels (Nate Heller).

The editor of this new Mike Danger, meanwhile, was Christopher Mills, also the editor of the late, lamented Noir mystery mag, The Detectives comic book, and Shadow House. He wrote an ongoing series for that publication called Nightmark, which is a hard-boiled detective/horror fiction hybrid, very much in the pulp tradition. It’s about a P.I. named Gideon King, who’s also a monster hunter.” Aren’t they all?

COMIC STRIPS

  • MIKE DANGER
    (1947, Jerry Iger’s syndicate)
    Appeared in New York area papers
    Written by Mickey Spillane
    Art by Mike Roy
    The existence of this strip is highly questionable. (see above)

COMICS

  • CRIME DETECTOR
    (1954, Timor Publications)
    5 issues
    Written by Mickey Spillane
    Art by Mike Roy

    • “Meet Mike Danger, Private Detective!” (May 1954, #3)
      Written by Mickey Spillane
      Art by Sam Burlockoff
      Cover art by Bernard Bailey
    • “Murder at the Burlesque” (July 1954, #4)
      Written by Mickey Spillane
      Cover art by Mort Drucker
  • MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE DANGER
    (1995, Tekno)
    Created by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
    Written by Max Allan Collins
    Artists: Eduardo Barreto, Steven Leialoha, Jose Delbo.

    • “Danger Ahead”
    • “Danger in the Future”
    • “It, the Jury”
    • “Old New York”
    • “Sin Syndicate”
    • “Man Out of Time”
    • “A Dangerous Ppast (Death in Duplicate #1)
    • “The Perfect Wife” (Death in Duplicate #2)
    • “Sunday in the Park” (A Child in the Future #1)
    • “Escape from New York” (A Child in the Future #2)
  • MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE DANGER
    (1996-97, Big)
    10 issues
    Created by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
    Written by Max Allan Collins
    Artists: Eduardo Barreto, Steven Leialoha, Jose Delbo, Brad Gorby, Terry Beatty

    • “Virtual Man” (Kitty Mann, Mike kidnapped for his memories)
    • “Bring Me the Head of Michael Danger” (Mike loses his head)
    • “Brand New Me”
    • “A Woman Called Mann”
    • “Time Heels” (Mike teams up with Kitty Mann to get Dekker)
    • “The Paradox Rule”
    • “Abduction” (Red Menace Part 1)
    • “Look To The Skies!” (Red Menace Part 2)
    • “Better Dead” (Red Menace Part 3)
    • “Close Encounter of the Worst Kind” (Red Menace Part 4)

RELATED LINKS

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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