It's Hammer Time

Send-ups and Put-Downs of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer

.......

"I passed this kid sucking a lollipop. Don Brown dead, and him sucking a lollipop. I rammed it down his throat. I hate injustice."
-- from "Don Brown's Body" by Jean Kerr

"It would be a lot more fun (and a lot easier) to write a parody of these Mike Hammer books instead of an article..."
-- Christopher LeFarge in a 1957 essay

As literary poobah Christopher La Farge pointed out way back in 1957, the Mickey Spillane phenomenon and his eternally polarizing Mike Hammer certainly merited examination, and through the years everyone from the "literary establishment" to Max Allan Collins has taken a swipe at propping up or tearing down Spillane's legacy, trying to explain what it all means.

But far more entertaining have been the sideways (and occasionally ass-backwards) tributes, coming from sources as diverse as MAD Magazine, Daffy Duck, Jean Kerr and Fred Astaire. Perhaps fittingly, several of them appeared in comic books -- the very same place where Spillane, as a young writer, first got his start.

  • "The Super Snooper"
    1952 Cartoon
    Written by Tedd Pierce
    Directed by Robert McKimson
    Starring Mel Blanc, Marian Richman
    Daffy Duck stars as Duck Drake, a "private eye, ear, nose, and throat," in a parody of both Hammer in particular and 1940s detective flicks in general. In this seven-minute cartoon from Warner Bros., Daffy, complete with trenchcoat, fedora and eternal cigarette, receives a mysterious phone call summoning him to the J. Cleaver Axe-Handle Estate, where a murder has supposedly taken place. A slinky femme fatale lady duck greets our hero and promptly puts the moves on him, but a suspicious Daffy smells something fowl. When he investigates further, he's shot, crushed by a falling piano, and run over by a train, before being informed he has to the wrong address.

  • "The Bloody Drip" by Muckey Spleen
    1953, from Uncle Pogo's So-So Stories
    By Walt Kelly
    Appearing in his first published volume of new Pogo material, Uncle Pogo's So-So Stories (1953), this dead-on spoof features Albert Alligator as "Meat Hamburg, Private Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat, and Leg Man" (upping the ante on the gag used in the previous year's Daffy Duck parody), sporting at one point what looks like a lampshade, and a cross-dressing Churchy LaFemme as Tundra, the obligatory femme fatale.

  • "Me, the Jury"
    Parody by Ira Wallach
    Included in
    The Defective Detective: Mystery Parodies by the Great Humorists
    One of the great parodists wields a mighty hammer. Poor Mickey.

  • "The Night He Cried"
    1953,
    Star Science Fiction Stories #1
    By Fritz Leiber
    The noted sf writer gives us this clever pastiche, imagining Spillane's possible influence on the fantasy genre, as an alien lifeform comes to Earth disguised as a babe to clue pulp writer Slickie Millane, author of the Spike Mallet crime novels, in on the real purpose of sex. Slickie, of course, tries to get the doll drunk and seduce her. In an afterword to a later collection, The Best of Fritz Leiber, that included the story, Leiber confesses: "I wrote "The Night He Cried" because I was distantly angry at Mickey Spillane for the self-satisfied violence and loveless sex and anti-feminism he was introducing into detective fiction and because he had the temerity to publish a couple of stories in the fantasy field, about which I have a parental concern. My rage seems remote, now, yet the point was valid."

  • Girl Hunt: A Murder Mystery in Jazz
    Sequence from the 1953 film "The Band Wagon"
    Directed by Vincent Minelli
    Choreography by Michael Kidd
    Featuring Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire
    In Mickey Spillane on Film (2012), Max Allan Collins calls this extended, twelve-minute dance sequence one of "the best and most high-profile" Spillane parodies on film, appearing as a sort of show-within-a-show in Vincent Milelli's 1953 musical The Band Wagon, labelled as "Girl Hunt: A Murder Mystery in Jazz." It stars Fred Astaire as Rod Riley and Cyd Charisse as The Blond/The Brunette Loaded up with sirens, gun fire and a montage of pulpy paperback covers by "Mickey Starr," it's an affectionate and loving tribute, complete with spot-on dialogue, an actual plot, and more than enough attention to detail to suggest somebody truly knew their Spillane. And needless to say, Astaire and Charisse can dance. You get extra points for spotting a pre-Catwoman Julie Newmar in a small bit. A huge fan of musicals, Spillane must have been pleased -- and in fact he named his 1962 comeback novel The Girl Hunters.

  • "My Gun is the Jury"
    February/March 1954,
    Panic
    Written by Al Feldstein
    Art by Jack Davis
    The kick-off story in Panic #1, EC Comics short-lived rip-off of their own MAD Magazine, this spoof featured the rather foppish "Mike Hammershlammer" awash in a sea of guts and gore, blowing away several women ("I let her have it, right in the gut, a little below the belly-button..."). The story even boasted a typical socko Spillane-type ending: seems Mike Hammersshlammer is... a woman.

  • Murder in Pastiche
    1954 Novel
    By Marion Mainwaring
    This classic parody of fictional detectives lays waste to nine (count 'em, NINE!) of them.The world's greatest gumshoes find themsleves on board the R. M. S. Florabunda as it sails from Liverpool to New York. Of course, murder soon rears its ugly head, and M. Atlas Poireau (Hercule Poirot), Sir Jon. Nappleby (Sir John Appleby), Jerry Pason (Perry Mason), Broderick Tourneur (Roderick Alleyn), Trajan Beare (Nero Wolfe), Miss Fan Sliver (Miss Silver), Mallory King (Ellery Queen), and Lord Simon Quinsey (Lord Peter Wimsey). rush to discover the culprit. But by far the funniest -- and sharpest, or at least nastiest spoof -- is of Spike Bludgeon (Mike Hammer). Bludgeon is a complete psycho, shown as willing to kill just about anyone to get to the truth, and there are a slew of in-jokes for those familiar with Spillane's work.

  • "Gore Blimey: The Bloody Drip Writhes Again" by Muckey Spleen
    1955, from The Pogo Peek-a-Book
    By Walt Kelly
    Another whack at the Spillane canon. One bit features an impatient Hamburg getting busted for shooting at slow-changing traffic lights. La Farge called it "brilliantly done."

  • "Kiss Me, Dudley"
    January 1955,
    Manhunt
    By Hunt Collins
    An absolutely hilarious parody of Hammer by Hunt Collins (actually Ed McBain).

  • "Don Brown's Body"
    1957, from Please Don't Eat the Daisies
    By Jean Kerr
    A two-fisted send-up of Mickey Spillane AND of John Brown's Body, a then recent-Broadway production directed by Charles Laughton, that starred Raymond Massey, Tyrone Power and Judith Anderson. The skit, a staged dramatic reading, with props and sound effects, was originally written for a Broadway revue called John Murray Anderson's Almanac, starring Cyril Ritchard and Hermione Gingold. "Don Brown," with Orson Bean as Mike Hammer, was the big hit of the evening. Kerrlater slipped it into her bestselling collection of humourous essays Please Don't Eat the Daisies.

  • "I'm Tough"
    May 1961,
    Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine
    By Davis Dresser
    "A cute little Spillane parody," also collected in the collection Best Detective Stories, 1965.

  • "If Mickey Spillane Wrote NANCY"
    April 1969, MAD Magazine
    By Wally Wood and Frank Jacob
    This piece originally appeared in the April 1959 issue of MAD Magazine, as part of an article entitled "If Famous Authors Wrote the Comics."

  • "My Gun is Cute"
    May 1972,
    National Lampoon
    By Henry Beard
    Spillane re-envisioned; now feminist-friendly.

  • "Mike Hammy"
    1985
    By Sam Viviano
    MAD Magazine #255
    A 2-page story spoofs the then-current TV series starring Stacey Keach, and his arrest for cocaine possession. The cops arrive to arrest him and he protests that "You can't arrest me right in the middle of this MAD satir--"

  • Mickey Spillane for Miller Lite Beer
    Some would argue that the ultimate parody was Spillane's own long-running (nineteen years!) string of TV commercials for Miller Lite Beer, which deftly played off his carefully constructed persona over the years. In each ad, Spillane sported a fedora, a trenchcoat and there was usually a "Doll" (Lee Merideth, usually) lingering close by. Although others might argue that the ultimate parody was actually Spillane casting himself as Mike Hammer in the 1963 British film
    The Girl Hunters, and the beer ads were simply a long, drawn out encore...

RELATED LINKS

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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