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" MS. MICHAEL 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 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. And hints of Ms. Tree's return had been whispered in various quarters. Recently, however (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."
Always one of my favourite P.I.s, I've long hoped that somehow, some way, Ms. Tree would return, be it in comics or television or feature film. Something, anything.
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'm 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 writes "(Marvel's) Dakota North has often gotten dismissed as a knock-off of Ms. Tree, so much so that I point you to this amusing pair of advertisements (from a great 2008 CSBG column by Greg Hatcher):"
|"Marvel tried jumping on the tough-girl detective bandwagon briefly with Dakota North...
||... but mostly wound up embarrassing themselves. Dakota was a poser and we all knew it. Certainly Collins and Beatty knew it; it didn’t take them long to run this ad in response."
- "I, for an Eye" (1981, Eclipse Magazine #1-6)
- MS. TREE'S THRILLING DETECTIVE ADVENTURES
- "Death Do Us Part" (1982, Ms. Tree #1-3)
- "The Cold Dish" (1983, Ms. Tree #4-8)
- "Murder at Mohawk" (1984, Ms. Tree #9)
- "Deadline" (1984, Ms. Tree #10-13)
- "Skin Deep" (1984, Ms. Tree #14-15)
- "Runaway" (1985, Ms. Tree #16-17)
- "Muerta Means Death" (1985, Ms. Tree #18-21)
- "Right to Die" (1985, Ms. Tree #22-23)
- "Prisoner in Cell Block Hell" (1985, Ms. Tree #24-25)
- "Heroine Withdrawal" (1986, Ms. Tree #26-27)
- "Roger's Story" (1986, Ms. Tree #28)
- "The Other Cheek" (1986, Ms. Tree #29-31)
- "Runaway II" (1986, Ms. Tree #32-34)
- "New Year's Evil" (1986, Ms. Tree #35)
- "When Dynamite Explodes" (1987, Ms. Tree #36)
- "Like Father" (1987, Ms. Tree #37-40)
- "Coming of Rage" (1987, Ms. Tree #41-44)
- "Murder Cruise" (1988, Ms. Tree #45-48)
- "Fallen Tree" (1989, Ms. Tree #49-50)
- MS. TREE QUARTERLY
(1990-1993, DC Publications)
- "Gift of Death" (1990, Ms. Tree Quarterly #1)
- "The Devil's Punchbowl" (1990, Ms. Tree Quarterly #2)
- "Skeleton in the Closet" (1990, Ms. Tree Quarterly #3)
- "Drop Dead Handsome" (1991, Ms. Tree Quarterly #4)
- "Cry Rape" (1991, Ms. Tree Quarterly #5)
- "Horror Hotel" (1991, Ms. Tree Quarterly #6)
- "The Family Way" (Spring 1992, Ms. Tree Quarterly #7)
- "Maternity Leave" (Summer 1992, Ms. Tree Quarterly #8)
- "One Mean Mother" (1992, Ms. Tree Special #9)
- "To Live and Die in Vietnam" (1993, Ms. Tree Special #10).
NON-SERIES COMIC BOOK APPEARANCES
- "Four Colour Crime" (1985, The P.I.s #1-3; with Cuti and Staton's Mike Mauser)
- "Death, Danger and Diamonds" (August 1985, Ms. Tree 3-D; with MIKE MIST)
- "Music to Murder By" (August 1986, Ms. Tree Summer Special #1)
- "Ms. Tree's Three-Dimensional Crime" July 1987; a collection of JOHNNY DYNAMITE reprints introduced by Ms. Tree)
- "Word Warriors" (1987, Word Warriors; special comic book to benefit lieracy, published by Literacy Volunteers of Chicago, also featuring STREETWOLF and JON SABLE)
Non-graphic short stories by Max Allans Collins
- "Red Light" (1984, The Files of Ms. Tree)
- "The Little Woman" (1985, The Files of Ms. Tree, Volume 2)
- "Louise" (1992, Deadly Allies)
- "Inconvenience Store" (1994, Deadly Allies #2)
- The Files of Ms. Tree (1984)
- The Cold Dish: The Files of Ms. Tree, Volume 2 (1985)
- The Mike Mist Casebook: The Files of Ms. Tree, Volume 3 (1986)
- Ms. Tree (1988, small paperback collection, reprints issues #16-23)
- Optioned numerous times, including once by ABC, scripted by producer Michael Braverman (Life Goes On), and tentatively scheduled for 1994 season (it didn't make it). Collins liked it, despite "some cosmetic changes -- a locale shift, some alterations of names, a few composite characters."
- F.O.M.A.C. (Friends, Fans, and Family Of Max Allan Collins)
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, who wants to go to college. So, buy his dad's stuff!
- Terry Beatty and Wendi Lee's Homepage
Ms. Tree co-creator Terry Beatty shares a website with his wife, author Wendi Lee, creator of Old West P.I. Jefferson Birch and modern gal private eye Angela Matelli.
- Hard-Boiled Friday
Comic buff Greg Hatcher explains his love affair with Ms. Tree, Max Allan Collins, Terry Beatty and Mickey Spillane. Part of the CSBG archives.
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.
Drop a dime. Your comments, suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.
"...and I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk."