King confronts a suspect.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Novelty Press
First Appeared: 1945
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The detective story genre was among the first to be featured in comic books. In fact, the first successful one-genre series of comics with original stories was DC's Detective Comics, which featured Speed Saunders, Slam Bradley, Eagle-Eyed Jake and several other "gumshoes" — one of which was actually named "Gumshoe Gus". The medium's very first masked hero, The Clock, was …

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… basically a detective with a secret identity. They were quickly eclipsed by superheroes, as even the venerable Detective Comics was taken over by the likes of Batman and Air Wave, but that fad passed after a few years, and detectives made a comeback.

One of the earliest comic book private detectives to appear after the fading of the superheroes was Young King Cole, who debuted in his own title with a cover date of Fall, 1945. The publisher was Novelty Press, aka Premier Group, which also did Blue Bolt, Sgt. Spook and more. Other detectives appeared in his back pages, including Toni Gayle, who doubled as a glamorous model; Doctor Doom (no relation), a professor of criminology; and Larry Broderick, a police detective.

King (no relation) was a "junior", meaning he wasn't even the first in his family with the same name as the famous nursery rhyme character. His father, "Old" King Cole, was enough of a supporting character to justify the "Young" part of the comic's name. Another regular supporting character was his secretary, Iris, the "girl Friday" without whom no detective series would be complete.

In the spectrum of fictional detectives, King leaned more toward the Rip Kirby end rather than that of Johnny Dynamite. That is, he did more brain work in tracking down his quarry, as opposed to concentrating on violent brawls. Not that it wasn't occasionally necessary for him to do some physical fighting, which he was good at, but he tended not to get his suit wrinkled too often.

After 23 issues, with Crime Does Not Pay and its host of imitators becoming a large part of the comics industry, the Young King Cole title was changed to the more generic-sounding Criminals on the Run. The first issue with the new title was dated September, 1948. Unlike the typical crime comic of the time, it continued to feature its series, rather than stories about the criminals themselves, who would always get killed in the end. But that changed in 1950, when the title became Crime-Fighting Detective, and King's stories appeared only in a couple of issues. By '52, when it became Shock Detective Cases, he'd been dropped completely.


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Text ©2007-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Novelty Press.