|n 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
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
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...
Funnies (Whitman Publishing Co.)--
which begun in 1938 -- normally
featured strip reprints and the occasional new feature. In the 23rd issue of that
reappeared for the first time in "The Adventure of the
Coffin Clue". (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.
The Coffin Clue story reappeared digitally restored in a
Source Point Press publication with a collection Ellery Queen
comics. "J. Werner Presents Classic Pulp series" (release April 29. 2020)
Classic Pulp: Ellery Queen:
Above (from L to R and top to bottom).
Covers for the Crackajack Funnies N°23 to N°34) which included
Ellery Queen stories.
Issue 23 with "The Adventure of the Coffin Clue" based on the short story
"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".
Above (from L to R and top to bottom): Covers for the Crackajack Funnies N°35 to N°42.
here also where several comic book detectives who imitated the
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 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.