Now that I no longer buy or read contemporary comic books of any stripe, I have the pleasure of digging through 18 (yes, that's right, 18) long boxes full of comic books. These contain books that I've read and want to read again, books that I've never read but want to and books that I look at and wonder, "where did this come from?" I swear, there are comics in my collection that I have no memory of either buying or trading for and I look at some books and think "what was I thinking?"
The flip side of that, of course, is the thrill of stumbling across a book that I forgot I have. That "I didn't know I had this!" feeling is a good one, let me tell you. I'm in the process of sorting out these long boxes of comics into books I want to read and keep, books I want to read and trade and books I don't want to read but will gladly trade to a fellow comic book collector or sell on eBay. By the way, if you're reading this, collect comic books and would like to trade comics with me, send me an email at email@example.com and I'll send you my trade list. Always happy to have new comic book trading partners.
The other day I came across a reprint of CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #1 published by EC Comics in 1950. That's the cover by Johnny Craig pictured above. I hadn't read an EC comic in a very long time and I thought I'd treat myself to this one. CRIME SUSPENSTORIES was, as the title says, full of crime stories all of which feature those oh-so-clever twist endings that became an EC trademark. It's a collection of film noir on paper and it's a great comic book title.
This first issue features stories illustrated by Johnny Craig, Wally Wood, Graham Ingels and Harvey Kurtzman. The first story, MURDER MAY BOOMERANG (drawn by Craig) is the story of a young man and his father. The father works hard to support the son and when the son achieves success, the two spend a great deal of spare time together. While on a hunting trip, the father is brutally beaten by an escaped convict while the son is away from their cabin. The son takes the father to find his assailant. They find a man in hunting clothes walking along the road. "That's him!" proclaims the father and the son proceeds to kill the man in an act of revenge. Later, they drive by the police station where another man in hunting clothes is seen. "That's him!" says the father and the son realizes, with horror, what he's done.
It's a terrific little tale but it seemed familiar to me. I recall seeing an episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS a few years ago that had an extremely similar premise. Some research confirmed what I recalled. The very first episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS to be broadcast was REVENGE, which aired October 2nd, 1955. The episode was directed by Hitchcock and starred Ralph Meeker and Vera Miles. In the story, Miles is a stay-at-home wife who is assaulted and raped one day while her husband Meeker is at work. Enraged, Meeker puts Miles in the car and starts driving around the neighborhood trying to find his wife's assailant. She identifies a man, Meeker kills him and they drive on. Then Miles points to another man and says, "That's him!"
The teleplay was written by Francis Cockrell from a story by Samuel Blas. Blas, it turns out, published his original story, REVENGE in COLLIER'S WEEKLY for January 11th, 1947. So, rather than Hitchcock stealing from EC as it originally appeared to me, EC may have "borrowed" from Blas as his story was published three years prior to the first issue of CRIME SUSPENSTORIES.
I'd love to hear from readers who know more about EC Comics than I do. Did the writer (Kurtzman, Feldman?) of MURDER MAY BOOMERANG, ever admit to swiping the story? Was it just a coincidence, an innocent case of lightning striking twice or was it something more intentional? Was Blas ever aware of the comic book story? And if so, what was his response to it?
I don't have the answers but I'm curious to find out. Readers, can you help?