Created by Harry Lucey (1913-80) and ???
"His hand darted for a gun, but mine darted faster."
-- Sam in "The Cutie Killer Caper"
Out of the Archie Comics stable (under the Close-Up, Inc. imprint) came two-fisted SAM HILL, another short-lived private eye comic book from the early, pre-Comics Code fifties.
Sam had the usual faithful gal Friday (Roxy) and the usual cop buddy (in Sam's case, Lieutenant Dugan, supposedly "Ireland's gift to the homicide department") but what really set Sam apart from the rest of the comic book eyes of the time that he looked like a bit of a dweeb. I mean, the guy wore a bow tie! And drank milk!
He coulda been Archie Andrews' older brother. At least if you didn't read the stories.
Certainly, Sam wasn't as violent as his contemporaries, such as Ken Shannon ("The Mad Irishman!) or Johnny Dynamite ("The Chicago Wild Man!"). Wholesome Sam was simply "America's Hard-Boiled, Wise-Cracking Sleuth".
But don't let the well-scrubbed collegiate look fool ya. Sam was one surprisingly tough operator and the actual stories were a far cry from the typical Archie Comics fare of the time (hence the release of them under a different imprint), and featured plenty of good ol' American sex and violence, including severed limbs, well-stacked showgirls, murderous thugs, half-naked babes and even drug references (not only "Mary J" but heroin!).
In "The Cutie Pie Killer Caper," for example, he corners the obligatory femme fatale with these comforting words: "You tried to be smart, sister, but you were dumb! They'll put you in the hot seat and you'll fry...fry!"
And did I mention the half-naked babes?
But the real pleasure is that the stories were far better written and far more complex than they had to be, and the artwork had a visceral, emotional edge to it. Clean and well-delineated, of course, but artist Harry Lucey's characters always seemed to be doing something, and his use of multiple viewpoints gave the art an almost expressionist vibe reminiscent of film noir.
In fact, the only one credited in most of the issues is Lucey. Lucey attended the Pratt Institute in New York, and began his career in comics in the late 1930s, drawing for such features as Madam Satan, Magno, The Hangman, Crime Does Not Pay, and even, for a few issues, Captain America, finally settling down at MLJ, which published Archie and later became Archie Comics.
Beginning in 1950, artist Lucey drew (and may have written) Sam Hill for seven issues, before the book was cancelled. But someone must have remembered. In October 2010, Archie Comics announced they were reviving the character, with plans for new stories and well as several reprints, although no release date has been set yet.
Unfortunately, in the 1970s Lucey was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease and died in Arizona in 1980.
PUT THIS ON MY WISH LIST
Hey, if Archie Comic's rejuvenated Dark Circle imprint wants to bring back Sam for more than a one-shot (as they did in 2015 with the digital "trade paperback" Sam Hill: In the Crosshairs), I certainly wouldn't object.
-- from Issue #1
-- Sam talks the talk
ALSO OF INTEREST
A beautifully produced book by comic book historian Dan Nadel, offering an interesting survey of forgotten comic book artists and writers, including two complete stories each of Harry Lucey's Sam Hill and Pete Morisi's Johnny Dynamite.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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