Peter Scratch
Created by Elliot Caplin and Lou Fine

(September 13, 1965.)

PETER SCRATCH was an attempt to cash in on the popularity a few years earlier of succesful semi-tough TV private eyes such as Peter Gunn, Richard Diamond and 77 Sunset Strip and the like by adapting it to a daily comic strip in the mid-sixties.

Pete was a big, hot-tempered, broken-nosed "slightly used" private eye of the hardboiled school, but there were a few off-kilter touches that added considerably to the strip's charm. Peter may have been tough as hell, for example, but he lived with his mother. Granted, his mom was a tart old bird, a chain-smoking dame he refered to as Lucretia who wasn't above busting his chops.

In fact, considering the way both mother and son chain-smoked, the air in their home must have been tfairly oxic.

Perhaps living with his mother was the reason Peter spent so much time out of town, including a memorable story arc that took place in Intanbul. And the slang-loaded first person narration was a nice touch, keeping things hip and breezy.

The strip only lasted a few years, despite a last-ditch (and in my opinion, misguided) effort at the very end to save the strip by jumping on another -- and more current -- bandwagon, the James Bond-led spy craze. Still, from all accounts, it was, for the most part, an honorable attempt to bring the hardboiled eye to the comics medium.

The strips, both dailies and Sundays, were rendered in the slick, clean illustrative style of Golden Age great, Lou Fine, and scripted by Elliot Caplin, who "typically allowed the artist to take credit." Fine was a natural choice, having previously done a series of hair tonic newspaper ads and comic book tie-ins featuring Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade for Wildroot Hair Oil, the sponsor of the popular radio show, The Adventures of Sam Spade.

The strip was syndicated by Newsday, a Long Island newspaper tried to get into the syndicate business with limited success in the sixties, which may have been one reason Peter Scratch only ran for a couple of years. Rookie artist Neal Adams, later of Batman fame, even ghosted the strip for a few weeks in 1966.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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