|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...
rackajack Funnies (Whitman Publishing Co.)-- which begun in 1938 -- normally featured strip reprints and the occasional new feature. In the 23rd issue of that title 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.
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".
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...
here also where several comic book detectives who imitated the
The second installment in this category appeared on July 18,1943
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.