THE SECRET FILES OF DR. DREWMedium: Comic books
Published by: Fiction House Magazines
First Appeared: 1949
Creators: Will Eisner (studio head), Marilyn Mercer (writer) and Jerry Grandenetti (artist)
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Dr. Drew was a product of the time when superheroes were falling out of favor in American comic books, and other types of characters were rushing in to fill the void. He wasn't startlingly original, any more than the typical western hero like contemporaries Kid Colt and The Wyoming Kid, or the typical Archie clone like contemporaries Patsy Walker and Cookie were
startlingly original, but he did have a distinguished creator — Will Eisner, whose credits also include Blackhawk, Hawks of the Seas and of course The Spirit.
Eisner, still dabbling in packaging comics for the likes of Fiction House Magazines (Kaanga, Señorita Rio), sketched out the original idea, then assigned his office manager (and a future journalist) Marilyn Mercer (who has few if any other credits in comics) and artist Jerry Grandenetti (Prez, Strong Bow), to the new feature. Most commentators who have written about Dr. Drew remark on how strongly the early stories resembled Eisner's style in depicting a cityscape. That was the instruction Eisner gave in assigning the series to Grandenetti (who, by the way, got his first credit in comics here).
But startlingly original, Desmond Drew wasn't. He had points in common with contemporaries such as EC Comics' The Crypt Keeper, in that it's evident he was intended as more a narrator or observer of stories, than a participant. He also resembled DC's Dr, Thirteen, who maintained a residence/office to which people would bring their supernatural problems, for him to investigate. Three years later, DC introduced The Phantom Stranger, who also did supernatural consulting, and often gave appearances, at least, of being supernatural himself. Dr. Drew wasn't an actual spook (tho he looked creepy enough, especially at first), but did sometimes display magical powers. The early Doctor Strange could have been a remake of him.
Fiction House launched "The Secret Files of Dr. Drew" in the 47th issue (June, 1949) of Rangers Comics, replacing Tiger Man. The sover-featured Rangers star was their best-known western character, Firehair. Other series in Rangers were Jan of the Jungle, Glory Forbes and Sky Rangers.
Dr. Drew came along relatively late in Fiction House's existence — the company folded during the 1950s. But he didn't even last long enough to take advantage of the '50s trend toward grisly horror, exemplified by ACG's Forbidden Worlds and Marvel's Journey into Mystery. In fact, he lasted only until Rangers #60 (August, 1951), after which he was replaced by re-worked reprint of a Suicide Smith story from Wings Comics. Fiction House later reprinted a couple of Dr. Drew stories in Ghost Comics, its attempt to exploit that '50s trend. And, like many of Fiction House's properties, he fell into the hands of Israel Waldman (Super Rabbit, Wambi), who would reprint anything he could get away with and did so with Dr. Drew a couple of times circa 1960. In the '90s, AC Comics (The Avenger, Nyoka the Jungle Girl) reprinted some of his stories as part of their program to see that no comics hero is left behind.
But as far as new stories go, when Dr. Drew was finished in Rangers Comics, he was finished. Mercer wrote, and Grandenetti drew, all 14 of his stories.