Nathaniel Dusk

Created by Don McGregor and Gene Colan

NATHANIEL DUSK was a 1930’s private eye walking the mean streets of Depression-era New York City in two wonderful comic book mini-series put out by DC in the mid-eighties.

No masks, no tights, no super-powers, it marked a real return to DC’s Detective Comics roots, and the days of Slam Bradley, et al.

Dusk was a WWI veteran who’d seen far too much action in the trenches. Upon his return Stateside, he joined New York’s finest, hopng to maintain as much of his integrity as possible, but with Prohibition and the Depression in full bloom, he couldn’t stomach the corruption and  he quit the force in 1931 to became a private eye. He maintains a rented office in the East 80’s with the name on his office door saying ‘Nathaniel Dusk – Private Investigator’ on the obligatory pebbled glass door, and keeps the obligatory bottle of scotch in the lower right hand desk drawer. Yet, despite the pretty generic set up, the series is actually quite good. McGregor adds just enough depth and humanity to the script, that, coupled with Colan’s roughly-sketched rendering style, a shimmering combination of pencil and watercolor with virtually no inking, we’re treated to a solid tale and a warmly-nostalgic view of the genre we rarely get to see, much less in a comic book.

The first series, Lovers Die at Dusk, kicks off on January 31, 1934, with Dusk about to wrap a case up by giving photographic evidence to a married society woman about her husband’s extra-curricular activities. But then Dusk’s lover, Joyce Gulino, a woman with two small children (Jennie and Anthony), is killed and it becomes the focal point of the entire series as he tries to solve her murder.

A lot of research and period color shows up in series. In Lovers, the NYC taxi strike of 1934, during Mayor LaGuardia’s tenure as mayor, is worked in, and the second series has Nathaniel taking the kids to the Capitol Movie Emporium to catch “some light-hearted mystery called ‘The Thin Man,’ starring Myrna Lo and William Powell, and the Fourth of July fireworks.

McGregor, who’s a contributor to this site, also scripted Detectives, Inc. for Eclipse, another great mini-series about private eyes, and also worth looking for. And Gene Colan is an artist’s artist, one of the true greats, having worked for most comic book companies at one time or another.

The opening page also contains a dedication to Robert Culp, “who writes from the heart, shoots straight, and would make one helluva Nathaniel Dusk.” Alas, Culp never took the hint. The second series offers a dedication to McGregor’s mother-in-law, and the Private Eye Writers of America “who helped the P.I. survive all those whacks on the cranium and fusillades of bullets.”

UNDER OATH

  • “The P.I. form…is readily apparent in the storyline’s grittyy dialogue, moody 1930’s setting, street level characterizations, and complex plotting…The tone is right. The mood is right. The feel is right. McGregor and Colan have good reason to be proud of their creation.”
    — Paul Bishop, The Thieftaker Journals (1985)

COMIC BOOKS

  • NATHANIEL DUSK: LOVERS DIE AT DUSK
    (1984, DC Comics)
    4 issue mini-series
    Colour
    Written by Don McGregor
    Art by Gene Colan
  • NATHANIEL DUSK: APPLE PEDDLARS DIE AT NOON
    (1985, DC Comics)
    4 issue mini-series
    Colour
    Written by Don McGregor
    Art by Gene Colan
  • NATHANIEL DUSK:THE COMPLETE COLLECTION | Buy the book
    (2018, DC Comics)
    Includes both mini-series.

RELATED LINKS

  • donmcgregor.com
    The creator of Detectives, Inc., Nathaniel Dusk, Alexander Risk, et al, has his own homepage. Here you can catch up on Don’s latest, and even order the new Detectives Inc. collections from the Gift Shop.
  • Detective Comics
    A listing of all the private eyes who have shown up in DC comics.
Respectfully submitted by Peter M. Bellani and Kevin Burton Smith . Thanks to Mark Shinton for the tip.

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