According to legend, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer was originally meant to be a comic book eye called MIKE DANGER. After his comic attempts were rejected in 1946, Spillane (a former writer for the Timely Comics line) tried to sell it 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 sydicated stuff, and comics collectors know about my Spillane fixation...if this existed, I'd have seen an example by now." (At this point, if anyone can straighten this out, both Max and I would be extremely grateful.)
Either way, though, Danger wasn't the success Spillane had hoped for. Spillane changed the character's last name to Hammer, and decided to turn it into a novel.
But, seven years after Mike Danger was rejected by his publisher, the unsold stories actually did make an appearance -- in Crime Detector #3 and 4 in 1954. Evidently someone dug up the pages for Spillane's original Mike Danger comic book and published them. The intro to the first story let's us know what we're 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!"
And that's the story of Mike Danger, until 1995, when fellow P.I. writer and long-time champion Max Allan Collins dusted off the original name and had another whack at it, with a comic book.
But the Mike Danger of the 1990's is a far cry from what Spillane originally envisioned. Sure, MIKE 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 pre-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. 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 defense-he's 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.
The editor, Christopher Mills, was 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 PI named Gideon King, who's also a monster hunter." Aren't they all?
At one point Mike Danger was optioned for a feature film by Ed Pressman, producer of "The Crow" and "Judge Dredd." nothing came of it...
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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