Created by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty
Since Mike Hammer was originally planned for comic books, it only seems fitting that Spillane defender/apologist and hard-boiled renaissance man Max Allan Collins' "female Mike Hammer" MICHAEL "Ms. Tree" TREE should appear in the appropriate medium.
And who knows? Collins is probably most famous for his historical detective novels featuring fictional Chicago private eye Nate Heller or real-life untouchable Eliot Ness, or perhaps his continuation of the Dick Tracy comic strip after creator Chester Gould's death or maybe even writing the graphic novel Road to Perdition but, as excellent as that work may be, to tell the truth, I think the Ms. Tree series represents Max's most ground-breaking and exciting work.
I mean, look at the facts. How many other P.I.s have been institutionalized? Had an afterlife experience? Tracked down a killer while pregnant? Watched her husband murdered on her wedding night? Dealt with the topics of homophobia, abortion, devil worship, child pornography, date rape and incest? And not just dealt with them, but asked some pretty damn hard questions that aren't easily answered by either end of the political spectrum. And all this in a comic book! It's a shame how many readers will never know of the existence of this series (due to the medium) because Ms. Tree is one of the most thought-provoking, and entertaining, private eyes around.
And Ms. Tree's publishing history is almost as complicated as her fictional life, jumping from publisher to publisher, finally ending up, appropriately enough, at DC (which, of course, originally stood for Detective Comics). An eight-issue run as a quarterly, and an annual in both 1992 and 1993 is the end, it seems, of a long and erratic run. A few short stories have appeared, and rumours of a television series kept popping up, visions of Teresa Russell dancing in Collins' head.
However, in June 1998 Terry Beatty confirmed that there would be "No new Ms. Tree from DC. We were in line for something at Vertigo for several years, but could never get anything OK'ed. DC recently bumped the rights back to us. Whether we will do anything at this point, I don't know."
And then, in early 2007, it was announced that Ms. Tree would indeed return, in a 2007 paperback original novel, to be put out by the boys at Hard Case Crime.
Suffice it to say I was stoked.
Creators Collins and Beatty are also responsible for Mike Mist, a comic strip update of the old minute mysteries, who has also shown up occasionally to help out Ms. Tree on a full-length case or two. They're also responsible for the rebirth of Johnny Dynamite, Pete Morisi's old 1950's Mike Hammer-like comic book eye, first as reprints in the Ms. Tree book and later as a stand-alone 1994 mini-series.
-- John McDonagh
NON-SERIES COMIC BOOK APPEARANCES
Max's Official Website! Here you can find information on Max and his latest works, all done up in a most excellent fashion by his son, Nate. So, buy his dad's stuff!
The Ms. Tree co-creator's official site.
Comic buff Greg Hatcher explains his love affair with Ms. Tree, Max Allan Collins, Terry Beatty and Mickey Spillane. Part of the CSBG archives.
Lady Eyes from the Comics
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with a special thanks to John McDonagh for the heads up on the Dakota North/Ms. Tree ads.
Remember, your comments, suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.