Mike Lancer

Created by Mickey Spillane

Was this Mickey Spillane’s first private eye? Before there was Hammer; before there was Danger, there was… Lancer. A tale of three Mikes.

By now the story’s pretty well known, at least among P.I. geeks like myself, about how a rejected comic book project from 1946 was dusted off and became the basis for Spillane’s I, the Jury, the first Mike Hammer novel, which he pounded out in a few days.

That comic book eye, Mike Danger, wasn’t just a early rendition of Hammer — he pretty much was Hammer: rough, tough and relentless.

Alas, in 1946 comic book publishers weren’t buying it, and so the two Mike Danger stories Spillane did write went unpublished until 1954, well after both Spillane and Hammer had become world-wide sensations.

But what’s less generally known is that Danger himself was spun off from an even earlier comic book private eye, MIKE LANCER, who appeared in one back-up story, “Mike Lancer and the Syndicate of Death,” in Harvey’s Green Hornet comic in 1942.

Some sources suggest that Mike Danger was a harder, tougher version of Lancer.


It’s hard to imagine Lancer as anything but the real deal. He’s certainly not a watered-down version of anyone. He’s referred to on the very first page of the story as “the grim-faced, gun-slinging private eye” and shortly later as “the Killer Shamus.” In the story’s mere six pages he kills three men, plugging two with his trusty automatic and one by smashing his head against a brick wall.

So, for those of you following along at home, the Mike geneology is as follows: Lancer begat Danger who begat Hammer.

Memorize it. There might be a test!


A sneak peek at the 2019 version of Mike Lancer.

Turns out there’s life in the old dick yet. In 2019, Mike Lancer returned to lend costumed crimefighter Black Owl a hand in Sleuth Comics, published by Atomic Action Comics, scripted by Christopher Mills and featuring art by Don Secrease and Rick Burchett. Long time fans of this site might recognize Chris as the creator of Maine P.I. Matthew Dain, Femme Noir, “Rusty Nales and a slew of other great P.I. (and P.I. adjacent) characters.


    (1942-47, Harvey Comics)
    33 issues

    • “Mike Lancer and the Syndicate of Death” (#10, December 1942)
      Written by Mickey Spillane
      Art by Harry Sahle
    (2019, Atomic Action Comics)
    Writers: Christopher Mills
    Artists: Don Secrease and Rick Burchett
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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