Slam 'slams' a foe. Artist: Howard Sherman.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1937
Creators: Jerry Siegel (writer) and Joe Shuster (artist)
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Writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster were responsible for the most successful character in comic book history, Superman. Their second-greatest success is a good deal …

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… less well known — a common, ordinary private detective named Slam Bradley, who beat Superman into print by more than a year and ran about as long as Siegel and Shuster stayed with DC Comics.

Slam also has the distinction of being the longest-running of the detectives that gave Detective Comics (the first successful themed comic book consisting entirely of non-reprinted material) its name. He started in the very first issue (March, 1937) and outlasted Speed Saunders, Cosmo the Phantom of Disguise, Flat Foot Flannigan and all the rest. When the cops and private eyes started being displaced by more superhero-like detectives, such as The Crimson Avenger, Air Wave and Batman, Slam Bradley held on. He weathered the entire World War II superhero trend, and was still in Detective's back pages well into the post-war years. He even turned up in a couple of comics DC published to celebrate the 1939-40 New York World Fair, tho those were his only contemporary appearances outside of Detective Comics.

Slam started out working in Cleveland, his creators' home town; but later, without any mention of having moved, seems to have operated in New York City. "Yellow Peril" style menaces being popular at the time (the first Detective Comics cover featured a villain who looked like Fu Manchu), his first adversary was a guy named Fui Onyui. An annoying hanger-on named Shorty Morgan, pudgy and pie-faced, helped defeat Fui, and thereafter became Slam's comedy relief sidekick (tho he got less comical as comedy relief fell out of fashion). Slam himself had a healthy sense of humor throughout. In fact, that was his most prominent character trait other than the fact that he really enjoyed a good fistfight.

Fictional private eyes tend to work undercover more often than real ones; and Slam and Shorty did so even more than most, especially in the early years. They posed as prize fighters, construction workers, bellhops, college students and many other types. In fact, Slam sometimes took on roles that required talent and/or highly specialized skills, such as stage magician, Hollywood stunt man and professional singer.

Siegel wrote most of the stories, but Shuster didn't stay on the art for long. Others, such as Jack Farr (who mostly drew humor series such as Three Ring Binks and Super Sleuth McFooey) and Martin Naydel (creator of McSnurtle the Turtle) came in after the first couple of years. The one who handled most of the later stories was Howard Sherman, who co-created Doctor Fate, Tommy Tomorrow and several other DC characters.

The series ran until Detective Comics #152 (October, 1949). The following issue had Roy Raymond, TV Detective in what had been Slam's place. Exactly why it ended isn't absolutely clear. It could be that it simply ran out of steam — but since Siegel and Shuster were suing DC at the time for ownership of Superman, it could also be that the company was ridding itself of its last remaining expendable character that they'd created.

Whatever the reason, Slam Bradley wasn't seen again until March, 1981, when, to celebrate the 500th issue of Detective Comics, he was brought out of mothballs to co-star with Captain Compass, Pow Wow Smith, Mysto the Magician Detective and others that had formerly inhabited the back pages, never mind how unlikely it was for a private detective, a sea captain, a lawman of the Old West etc. to appear in the same story. He was back again in #582 (the 50th anniversary issue), teaming up with Batman, Robin, Elongated Man and someone who may or may not have been Sherlock Holmes. To the delight of many fans, Shorty had been killed off in the interim.

During the 1990s, there was a Metropolis police detective with his name, but not everyone is convinced that was really him. In 1998, his brother Biff was prominently featured in Guns of the Dragon, a mini-series by cartoonist Tim Truman (Grimjack, Scout), set in the 1920s, in which he, the aged Bat Lash and Enemy Ace, and a youthful Chop Chop (from Blackhawk) had an adventure on Dinosaur Island.

He was last seen living in Gotham City and had a regular gig in The Catwoman's comic, where he and the protagonist carried on a May-December romance.


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Text ©2004-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.