Ellery Queen in Unusual Media


Ellery Queen's 1st Appearance in Comics

In 1940, the Ellery Queen radio program was hot. Dell Publishing was emerging as a major comic book publisher with their Four Color series -- Donald Duck had just appeared in issue 4. Crackajack Funnies was an earlier title -- begun in 1938 -- which normally featured strip reprints and the occasional new feature. Text stories of Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, apperaed in many issues. It was the 23rd issue of that title which brought EQ to comics for the first time (May, 1940, issued as early as January or February).

The comics adventures were largely based on the radio program, and ad first the stories are copyrighted to Ellery Queen, apparently indicating that they had been borrowed directly from EQ. 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.

The Crackajack series continued through December of 1941, and even though Ellery was overshadowed by Frank Thomas' "Owl" feature for much of the run, at times he even made the cover.

Contemporary with the Crackajack series was a set of giveaway issues of Gulf Funny Weekly. That title had begun several years earlier and featured a serialized comic strip format. The first issue to feature Ellery was numbered 366 and dated April 26, 1940. The issue shown above is number 369 (5/17/40). "The Adventure of the Secret Partner," which was featured in Gulf Funny Weekly, had been a radio program. Since Gulf Oil began sponsoring the Ellery Queen radio show in April, it seemed natural to promote the radio show using their giveaway comics. Each week's installment contained an advertisement for the CBS radio show. The adventure (and Ellery's inclusion in Gulf Funny Weekly) concluded with the June 28, 1940, issue of the giveaway.

Although the Ellery Queen character did not appear in comics for several years, ideas from EQ stories began popping up in the medium. Batman #18 (Aug-Sept 1943), featuring Tweedledum and Tweedledee -- characters introduced in Detective #74, contained as an important story element a disappearing house like the one in Ellery's Lamp of God. Even some of the clues are the same as in the EQ short novel. That same year (July 18, 1943), an episode of Will Eisner's Spirit contained elements of the EQ short story, "The Adventure of the House of Darkness."

Ellery's next foray into the comic book genre was brought about by Superior Comics in 1949, lasting just four issues. Despite the artwork by Kamen, L.B. Cole, and the Iger shop, the series was essentially forgettable -- appearing bimonthly from May through November. A fifth issue was in the works when the title was canceled, and so the lead character in one story was changed to "Jim Blake," and the story appeared in Our Secret #7 (April, 1950). The stories from the four EQ issues were reprinted in Haunted Thrills #'s 1 and 2 a few years later (6/52 and 7/52).

However, October of the following year brought Ellery to television. The Thursday night show (later Sunday and Wednesday) featured Richard Hart has Ellery (replaced by Lee Bowman after Hart's death in January of '51) and Florenz Ames as Inspector Queen. The Dumont Network show moved to ABC in December of 1951, where it continued for another full year with the same cast. Ziff-Davis Publishing was producing comic books then, and they chose to issue an Ellery Queen book in conjunction with the television program.

Despite the Saunders painted covers, the book lasted just two issues (Spring and Summer of 1952), becoming more obscure than the Superior title that had preceded it.

Although Ellery appeared in a syndicated television program from 1954 through at least 1956 (Hugh Marlowe as EQ and Florenz Ames as Richard Queen), and although NBC brought Ellery to life with "Further Adventures" during the 1958-59 season (with George Nader as EQ; Les Tremayne as RQ until the show moved to New York in '59 -- then Lee Philips as EQ and no RQ), comics publishers avoided making the mistakes of their predecessors.

Ellery's last starring appearance in comics (to date) was brought about by the same company that introduced him. Dell Publishing gave us "Ellery Queen (Detective)" for three issues of their Four Color series (1165, 1243, and 1289), dating 3-5/61, 11/61-1/62 and 4/62. This rendition of Ellery was somewhat modernized for the 60's but still carried the same basic plot concepts as earlier comics versions. As mysteries, the stories lacked considerably, and Ellery rapidly disappeared from the comics scene.

Ellery Queen did appear in a more recent book, "The Maze Agency" #9, in a story written by Mike W. Barr and pencilled by Adam Hughes. The title was published by Comico/Innovation.

Ellery Queen