gentlemen detectives and literary legends
Created in 1887 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes is a British icon known the world over for his great intellect and skills in detection. Although our minds conjure the image of a stuffy, erudite man with a large magnifying glass, Holmes and 007 have more than a few things in common aside from nationality. Much like Bond, Holmes is a skilled brawler and marksman, and both men demonstrate a reliance on narcotics (cocaine for Holmes and Benzedrine for Bond).
Both icons have even met before in the unofficial short story "Holmes Meets 007" by Donald Stanley, and Holmes alone has been played by Bond series alums John Cleese, Christopher Lee, Patrick Macnee, Jonathan Pryce, Orson Welles, and even Sir Roger Moore! Little known fact... Watson was once played by Ian Fleming (the Australian actor, not the author).
In this gallery, you'll find Holmes stories published by Charlton Comics, Dell Comics, and Fleetway in the digest-sized Super Detective Library. All issues in this gallery have lapsed into the public domain.
Created by Earl Derr Biggers in 1925, Charlie Chan is a Chinese-American detective who achieved great success around the world in a variety of media, including print and film. Chan has been a figure of controversy with some seeing him as a stereotype whereas others have seen him as a progressive character and a positive alternative to characters like Fu Manchu and other remnants of the Yellow Peril such as Fleming’s own Dr. Julius No.
Much like Fleming, Biggers worked as a journalist before becoming a novelist and based his most popular creation on a real person, Hawaiian police detective Chang Apana. Also like Fleming, Biggers died young at the height of Chan's popularity and his legacy was continued in a long running series of films around the world.
In this gallery, you'll find Chan stories published by Prize Comics and Charlton comics featuring the work of greats like Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, Carmine Infantino, Dick Briefer, and many more! All stories in this gallery have lapsed into the public domain.
“The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.” — Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler may have been referring to his own literary hero Philip Marlowe, but he just as easily could have been talking about James Bond. Much has been said of the admiration Chandler and Fleming held for one another’s work, and Bond even read Chandler’s Playback in Goldfinger. While many actors have played Marlowe over the years, only one stood tall as Chandler's own personal favorite... song and dance man turned tough guy Dick Powell. Powell played Marlowe in the 1944 noir masterpiece Murder, My Sweet (adapted from Chandler's novel Farewell, My Lovely) and continued on in the role for a series of radio dramas and in a live TV adaptation of The Long Goodbye (regrettably, a lost film).
Although a handful of Marlowe comic books have been created over the years, in this gallery you'll find a Dick Powell story where Powell is portrayed as a hardboiled version of himself. In addition, you’ll find a collection of comic stories by hardboiled legend Mickey Spillane, including prototypes for his most famous creation, Mike Hammer. As an added bonus, you'll also find a rare 1946 adaptation of The Maltese Falcon, based upon the novel by another of Fleming's favorite authors, Dashiell Hammett. Finally, we have a collection of mini-comics/advertisements centered around Hammett’s creation Sam Spade, some featuring artwork by the great Lou Fine!
The 39 Steps
Based on the classic 1915 espionage chase novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by Scottish author (and Ian Fleming favorite) John Buchan, The 39 Steps (as the comic adaptation is titled) is adapted for the comic book Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated. Buchan's hero, Scotsman Richard Hannay, finds himself on the run to uncover a sinister conspiracy when a secret agent is murdered under his own roof. Hannay must rise to the occasion and draw upon his skill and intellect to clear his own name and put an end to this sinister conspiracy. Buchan wrote several spy novels with Hannay over the years and continued to place his hero in the perils of a world torn apart by World War I.
Buchan's novel was popularly adapted into a 1935 film by the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, and would stand as one of the masterpieces of his early British career before his move to Hollywood. What the character of Richard Hannay represents—the wrong man on the run to clear his own name—would become a key figure in many of Hitchcock's later films, most popularly in North By Northwest starring Cary Grant, good friend of Cubby and Dana Broccoli and a man once approached to play James Bond.
The book in this gallery has lapsed into the public domain.
The Bulldog Drummond series by H.C. MacNeile (under his pen name Sapper) were childhood favorites of Ian Fleming and Drummond was a major influence on the character of James Bond. A wealthy war veteran and playboy, Bulldog Drummond grew bored with peace and quiet and advertised his services in order to lead a more adventurous life as a man of action. MacNeile’s creation has endured in a long running series of novels, plays, films, and much more, and the character’s influence endures to this very day.
In this gallery you’ll find an adaptation of the first Drummond novel as published in the digest-sized UK series Super Detective Library. This issue has lapsed into the public domain.
Dr. Fu Manchu
Created by Sax Rohmer and first appearing in the 1913 publication The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu, author Sax Rohmer’s most famous — and infamous — creation is the prototypical Bond villain in so many ways. With his supreme intellect and Western education, army of henchmen, and imaginative array of arcane death traps, it’s easy to see why Fu Manchu would become so iconic and pave the way for a series of imitators and pop culture descendants. Ian Fleming was raised on the stories of Rohmer, and it’s not difficult to see their influence on his own work from Dr. Julius No to Dr. Guntram Shatterhand’s delirious garden of death in You Only Live Twice. For an excellent examination on the influence of Rohmer on Fleming, check out this article by James Abbot on one of our favorite sites, Artistic Licence Renewed.
In this gallery, you’ll find a comic adaptation of The Mask of Dr. Fu Manchu based on the novel by Rohmer and illustrated by Wallace Wood and Joe Orlando. This comic has lapsed into the public domain.