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The Great Comic Book Detectives: A Nearly 70-Year Old Mystery

Here’s the bit. You, the readers, send in descriptions of comics that you remember vague details from the past and either I, or one of the readers of the piece will use detective work to figure out what comic you’re talking about!

This time around, it is a mystery that is nearly 70 years old. Here is the request from a fellow named Malcolm:

Having been evacuated from London during the bombing raids of the last war, my uncle (who lived in Washington) used to send me a small selection of American Comics. I was away for about five years until my eleventh birthday in 1945. I very much enjoyed these comics, although some of them were pretty horrific to my young eyes. Later I developed a long career in Social Work where the most often asked question was ‘Why?’. Although I had worked out many answers to that question it occurred to me one day that part of my motivation lay in a comic that I had read in those early years.

The comic in question was an adventure comic of that time, full of brave wartime heroes but in the middle pages was a story with a ‘moral message’. That was probably in black and white although I think the rest was in colour. The one that came so dramatically into my memory went as follows:

The first scenes showed a regular American lad at his high school sports, winning the race and being hailed as a hero. The second sequence went to the other side of the tracks where a lad was caught stealing. As he was challenged by a cop he ran off and was shot dead. The message was that in those seconds he had run faster than the posh boy. The message was clear!

This issue would probably have been published between about 1942 to 1945.

I have searched every comic shop in the United Kingdom. Now that my family live in Brooklyn I am in America frequently and have spent many days in the archives of the New York Public Library searching for the publication but unfortunately to no avail.

I am stumped myself. So I leave it to you fine readers to see if you can solve the mystery of the nearly 70 year old comic book!

8 Comments

This sounds like the kind of thing that Charles Biro might have written for Boy Comics or Daredevil. I’m not familiar with the specific story, though, it doesn’t ring any bells in terms of being a Crimebuster tale.

I’ll take this to my fellows in the Classic Comics section of the forums, they have a pretty good track record on this sort of thing.

Now that I am aware that this feature exists, I have a slight enigma I’m hoping the Great Comic Book Detectives can help me with.
I have a copy of Sensation Comics #89 (May, 1949).
Inside, the Wildcat feature(“The Strange Case of the Explorer”) bears the notation “Sen93″ in small print within one of the first page’s panels. I’m curious about this.
Does the notation mean the story should have appeared in Sensation Comics #93?
Because according to the Grand Comic Book Database, the Wildcat feature ended with issue 90.
If your group can satisfy my curiosity, you have my thanks

The description reminds me of the kind of stories that would be reproduced in the 100-page JLA giants in the mid-1970′s. I can’t recall the exact title, but it definitely sounds like something that would have appeared there – guy in a trenchcoat telling a story with a moral, something like that. Hope that helps a bit.

I’m not 100% sure, but it probably does mean the story was originally commissioned for Sensation 93. There are quite a few stories from then that were “Written off” and not used as the features ended; several of them turned up in the late silver-early bronze era. Not sure exactly WHY they would have taken them out of order, but pretty sure that is in fact what they did.

Craig B,

I had the same thought. This does sound like those stories that were reprinted in the JLA 100 page giants. They were called “Just a Story” if I remember correctly. Don’t know where they were reprinted from though.

A little update on what we know so far, which is not much. I’ve run this by people on a couple different boards I frequent, and both boards came up with the same answer: This story is a variation on the classic 1938 James Cagney movie “Angels with Dirty Faces.”

Board members here also came up with the same “Just a Story” connection as Craig and Argo. That feature originally ran in Comic Cavalcade from #15-21 (in 1946-47) before the series became “Johnny Peril.” I’ve checked the GCD, but there are no story descriptions for those tales.

Also, one poster thought it might be actually be a Batman story, and since he has been reading Batman himself since the late 50′s, I think this might be a lead worth looking into.

Brian, we might have a match. I posted this inquiry on the CGC boards along with my hunch that it was from Boy Comics or Daredevil, and a poster indicated that he believes the story is from Daredevil #50. This is from 1948, but the story appears to match up. It’s possible it may be an expansion of an earlier tale, of course, but it looks like the right story to me from the description.

Here’s the great splash page showing the one runner heading to the Olympics, while the other runner is headed to an early grave:

http://i.imgur.com/dLvkjR8l.jpg

And here’s the two-page sequence where the doomed runner gets shot in the back by cops even though he’s faster than the Olympian:

http://i.imgur.com/wQwQHfCl.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/a1erZ9Tl.jpg

The entire issue is available for download at the digital museum.

That pretty much has to be it, I’d imagine, Scott.

Nice work, CGC Boards!!

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