Mike gives an uncharacteristic greeting.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Key Comics
First Appeared: 1954
Creators: Mickey Spillane (writer) and Mike Roy (artist)
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Mike Danger was originally intended to be the first comic book release of a publisher that never succeeded in publishing any comic books. He was also intended for a newspaper comic that, from all indications, never appeared in any papers. If he hadn't been picked up as another small comics publisher's filler, more than seven years after he was originally written and drawn, he might not have been published at all. It's amazing how …

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… close he came to not even existing, especially considering the major impact he had on mainstream American culture of the middle 20th century.

Mike was a hard-boiled private detective, created by comic book writer Mickey Spillane in 1946, before hard-boiled detectives had become a mainstay of movies, paperbacks, television, and all other American media. Spillane's comics credits, starting in 1941, include Dick Cole, Target & the Targeteers, The Human Torch and The Sub-Mariner. In 1946, after an absence of some years, he decided to return to comics, this time as a publisher, and, superheroes having become passé since their heyday during World War II, wrote about Mike, a member in good standing of the up-and-coming crime story genre, to fill his first publication.

Spillane brought in illustrator Mike Roy (Little Wise Guys, The Heap) to draw his story. Roy also did the story in the form of newspaper comics, and it's said (but not documented) to have been distributed by a minor syndicate, at least in the New York area. Max Allan Collins (Ms. Tree, Dick Tracy) opines that no such strip was ever actually published, because if it had been, as widely-known a Spillane fan as he is, somebody would have shown it to him by now.

Mike was a tough guy, weighing 190 pounds (as his introductory story stated), and made a lot of cynical but clever remarks. He was headquartered in a tiny office in a seedy part of town, operated by his "girl Friday", Holly. He was extremely violent in his dealings with the human scum he ran into in his line of work, justified only by his attitude that he was perfectly entitled to judge and condemn them.

But he ran into a situation that could have been from one of his own stories. The publishing venture collapsed, a partner disappearing with the funds, and Mike didn't get published as planned. Eventually, the finished work wound up in the hands ot Key Publications, which put out such early '50s titles as Blazing Western, Ideal Romance and Battle Squadron. Key published them in Crime Detector #s 3 and 4, in 1954.

Meanwhile, Spillane, unable to profit from his comics creation, reworked those stories into a novel, renaming the hero "Mike Hammer" and Holly "Velda". Tho despised by critics, I the Jury, the first Mike Hammer book, sold millions within a few years of its 1947 publication. Spillane quickly lost interest in Mike Danger, and lived the rest of his long life as the best-selling creator of Mike Hammer.

Mike Danger made so little splash, a couple of years later the name was used by Charlton Comics (Captain Atom, Kid Montana), with no indication that the new publisher even knew it had been used before. Its title Danger & Adventure, which had hitherto only reprinted Ibis the Invincible, Lance O'Casey and the like, got a pair of title characters with its 24th issue, Mike Danger and Johnny Adventure. This Mike Danger was also a tough private detective, but with nothing even remotely resembling the panache. The title lasted only until its 27th issue (February, 1956), and the second Mike Danger was as thoroughly forgotten as the first.

In 1995, Big Entertainment (Technophage, Primortals) brought Mike back … sort of. In this scenario, he lived as an ordinary detective in the late 1940s and early '50s, and was revived a century later into a dystopian world where he was even more of a misfit than before. Collins was behind the new version, which lasted 21 issues between 1995 and '96.

Other comics heroes, such as Amethyst and Speedball, have been totally inverted from their original creation, because there wasn't enough interest in their original forms. That's true of Mike, too; but in his case, the comic was viable at all, only because of readers' interest in his creator.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Key Comics.