Other media

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COMICS

In a sense, the few Ellery Queen comics that were published compliment the radio series the most. It was the 40s that saw the bloom of this medium. At first glance perfect fit for the detective stories. But alas a truly successful product never reached the audiences. Lee and Dannay provided material for a series of Ellery Queen comic books (John Bainbridge's "Crime Made Him Famous an His Authors Rich"). But the precise extent of this remains speculation. Ellery Queen probably first appeared in nine four-page comic, an adaptation of the radio script "The Secret Partner" (08-27-39) in The Gulf Funny Weekly Example of a few panels from Gulf Funnies issue 370 Issue 366 dated April 26, 1940, distributed by gas stations on successive Sundays during May and June of 1940. Nowadays rare and as one may think expensive!  In this series clues were 'given away' rather than concealing them by placing a star in the panel containing the all important clue. It is also during this time (April) Gulf Oil assumed sponsorship of the radio show. Each week's episode was flanked by an advertisement for the CBS radio show. "The Adventure of the Secret Partner" concluded with the June 28,1940  issue (Nr.374). Artists and writer are unknown, it's clearly not done by the regular crew possibly Bill Ely. We said 'probably first' because in those days it was common to distribute a comic well before it's cover date to guarantee more time on the shelves. Around the same time Ellery made it into another comic...

 

Crackajack Funnies (Whitman Publishing Co.)-- which begun in 1938 -- normally featured strip reprints and the occasional new feature. In the 23rd issue of that Issue 23 featured the start of Ellery Queen Detective in The Adventure of the Coffin Cluetitle EQ reappeared for the first time (May 1940), the scripts would include one or two adaptations of Ellery Queen radio stories which resulted in stories of widely varying quality.  As for Lee and Dannay having contributed material to some of the comic series Dannay once said the deal was set up by his literary agent and the script were neither by him or Lee, though they had the right to approve all scripts and art. As for this art there are similarities between both series to suggest that the same artist may have drawn both series.

Issue 23 with "The Adventure of the Coffin Clue" based on the shortstory "The Adventure of the Invisible Lover"Issue 24 with "The Adventure of the Blood Red Stamp" faithfully based on "The Adventure of the Penny Black"Issue 25 Issue 26Issue 27Issue 28Issue 29Issue 30Issue 31Issue 32Issue 33Issue 34

One of those Bill Ely said his editor Oscar Lebeck or himself may have scripted some stories. The first stories were copyrighted to Ellery Queen, indicating that they had been borrowed. Eleven of the twenty stories appear to be newly written and nine were  adaptations of Queen prose or radio work, or sampled after the stories, hence the copyright. Later in the run the copyright disappeared, so possibly his adventures were written by Dell staffers from some point on. The tales were done in EQ style, to as great a degree as comics then allowed, complete with a "Challenge to the Reader" at the end -- imitating probably the radio show rather than the novels. As the covers clearly indicate Ellery was never the 'main event' in the Crackajack series which continued through December of 1941 Frank Thomas' "Owl" feature took that part. Issue 42 ended the series with the best adaptation: one from the radio story "The Adventure of the Scarecrow and the Snowman".

Number 35Issue 36Issue 37Issue 38
Issue 39Issue 40Issue 41Issue 42

The Crackajack and Gulf Stories are the only comic book stories to draw plot material from the prose and/or radio canons. Crackajack Funnies survived the EQ-series with one issue as it folded with #43 the January 1942 issue. Ellery as a figure would return seven years later...

There also where several comic book detectives who imitated the
Queen format. Most notable among them was Bentley of Scotland Yard who appeared in the early 40's in Pep Comics. In his cases (The Case of the Whistling Doom
#13  03/1941, The Case of the Dancing Ghosts #9  11/1940) by Sam Cooper and Joe Blair, Bentley came across several demonic figures but the main event was a panel challenging the reader: "Inspector Bentley knows the killer of... Do you?
The Queen-stories also seemed popular with the comic book writers of the day and supplied, without credit nor payment,  plots to at least two of "comicdom's" most beloved crime fighters, both in 1943. Again due to the Batman # 18 August-September 1943Detective Comics #443, October-November 1974 - click on the cover for the titlepage of "The Secret of Hunter's Inn"predating of comics it is difficult to say which one was first but this may have been Batman #18 (August-September 1943, reprinted in Detective Comics #443, October-November 1974).  The first story in this issue "The Secret of Hunter's Inn" (scripter unknown, art by Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson) is the second encounter of Batman and Robin with the criminal team 'Tweedledum and Tweedledee", twin brothers patterned after the characters of the same name from Alice in Wonderland. The central gimmick of the story - an actual country inn that keeps disappearing- is lifted from 'The Lamp of God'.  

The second installment in this category appeared on July 18,1943
in the Spirit comic section #164 of
The Baltimore Sun, a weekly Sunday newspaper, created by Will Eisner. The story in question in which the Spirit deduces how a woman can be accurately shot dead in total darkness is lifted

Issue 164 of July 18,1943 the Spirit comic section of the Sun, created by Will Eisner.The story in question in which the Spirit deduces how a man can be accurately shot dead in total darkness is lifted from Queen's 'The Adventure of the House of Darkness'

from Queen's 'The Adventure of the House of Darkness'. The story is signed by Eisner.... Given the number of crime-related comics published in that era, and the fact that comics were for decades considered a 'disposable medium', these two stories may only be the tip of the iceberg. Paradoxically the plagiarized stories are better examples of how a Queen story could be successfully translated to the graphic medium.

(continued...)

 

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