Betty Blake

Created by Harry Parkhurst (1876-1962)

"The Girl Super-Detective Who Always Gets Her Man!"

-- the tagline announcing a story coming up in the next issue

A sort of classier, more upscale version of Sally the Sleuth, BETTY BLAKE appeared in a handful of two-page comic book stories in Super-Detective, a sister publication of Spicy Detective Stories, the pulp where Sally's own comic adventures appeared.

Betty worked as an operative at her father's private detective agency, her dad being a retired NYPD Inspector. Her duties seemed to include everything from opening the mail and presenting a pleasant front for potential clients to working cases, such as going undercover as a jeweller's secretary. And just like Sally, Betty couldn't help but get into trouble. Fortunately she could handle herself, following up leads on her own, and carrying not just a small gun in her purse, but also a secret cache of "powerful sleeping gas" that could be released by pressing a special button.

Sure, Betty's self-preservation skills were occasionally as dubious as Sally's, and her habit of falling into predicaments that seemingly required rescue, preferably by a male, were as predictable as mold on bread. To her credit, though, Betty usually had things well in hand before the cops would bust in in the last panel or so.

Another big plus was that the almost-obligatory bondage and rape scenarios that Sally had to deal with, particularly in her earliest adventures, were absent, at least in the adventures of Betty I've been able to track down. Also, at least as drawn by H.L. Parkhurst, Betty worked in a seemingly more stylish and less raucous -- if no less treacherous -- world than the one Sally inhabited.

It's tempting to call Betty Sally's big sister, but they made their debuts almost simultaneously, in the November 1934 issues of Super-Detective and Spicy Detective (both Trojan publications) respectively. Apparently, "spice" sold better -- whereas Betty hung on for a scant half dozen or so stories in the thirties, Sally went on to appear in comics into the fifties.

Betty was the creation of H.L. Parkhurst, a prolific artist who worked as a freelance illustrator before opening his own Manhattan advertising agency. When the Depression hit and the magazine advertising biz went kaput, he began working as an illustrator for the pulps, most memorably for Harry Donenfeld's Trojan line. He did some interior work, including a couple of comic strips (including Betty Blake), but he drew acclaim for his covers for sucjh pulps as Complete Detective Novel, Easy Money, Fighting Western, Hollywood Detective, Private Detective, Romantic Detective, Romantic Western, Short Stories, Spicy Adventure, Spicy Detective, Spicy Mystery, Spicy Western, Triple-X, Wild West Stories, and West Magazine.

COMIC STORIES IN THE PULPS

  • "A Narrow Escape" (November 1934, Super- Detective)

  • "Betty Blake" (December 1934, Super- Detective)
  • "Betty Blake" (March 1935, Super- Detective)
  • "Betty Blake" (June 1935, Super- Detective)
  • "The Dart of Death" (July 1935, Super- Detective)

RELATED LINKS

Lady Eyes from the Comics

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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