Created by Harry Lucey (1913-80) and ???
“His hand darted for a gun, but mine darted faster.”
— Sam in “The Cutie Killer Caper”
Outta the Archie Comics stable (under the Close-Up, Inc. imprint) came two-fisted SAM HILL, another short-lived private eye comic book from the early, pre-Comics Code fifties.
Sam had the usual faithful gal Friday (Roxy) and the usual cop buddy (in Sam’s case, Lieutenant Dugan, supposedly “Ireland’s gift to the homicide department”) but what really set Sam apart from the rest of the comic book eyes of the time that he looked like a bit of a dweeb. I mean, the guy wore a bow tie! And drank milk!
He coulda been Archie Andrews’ older brother. At least if you didn’t read the stories.
Certainly, Sam wasn’t as violent as his contemporaries, such as Ken Shannon (“The Mad Irishman!) or Johnny Dynamite (“The Chicago Wild Man!”). Wholesome Sam was simply “America’s Hard-Boiled, Wise-Cracking Sleuth”.
But don’t let the well-scrubbed collegiate look fool ya. Sam was one surprisingly tough operator and the actual stories were a far cry from the typical Archie Comics fare of the time (hence the release of them under a different imprint), and featured plenty of good ol’ American sex and violence, including severed limbs, well-stacked showgirls, murderous thugs, half-naked babes and even drug references (not only “Mary J” but heroin!).
In “The Cutie Pie Killer Caper,” for example, he corners the obligatory femme fatale with these comforting words: “You tried to be smart, sister, but you were dumb! They’ll put you in the hot seat and you’ll fry…fry!”
And did I mention the half-naked babes?
But the real pleasure is that the stories were far better written and far more complex than they had to be, and the artwork had a visceral, emotional edge to it. Clean and well-delineated, of course, but artist Harry Lucey’s characters always seemed to be doing something, and his use of multiple viewpoints gave the art an almost expressionist vibe reminiscent of film noir.
In fact, the only one credited in most of the issues is Lucey. Lucey attended the Pratt Institute in New York, and began his career in comics in the late 1930s, drawing for such features as Madam Satan, Magno, The Hangman, Crime Does Not Pay, and even, for a few issues, Captain America, finally settling down at MLJ, which published Archie and later became Archie Comics.
Beginning in 1950, artist Lucey drew (and may have written) Sam Hill for seven issues, before the book was cancelled. But someone must have remembered. In October 2010, Archie Comics announced they were reviving the character, with plans for new stories and well as several reprints. In fact, in 2015, they released a digital “trade paperback, Sam Hill: In the Crosshairs, under their Dark Circle imprint, and it was a serious and credible attempt to update the character, though I do miss the bowtie.
PUT THIS ON MY WISH LIST
- Hey, if Archie Comic‘s rejuvenated Dark Circle imprint wants to bring back Sam for more than a one-shot (as they did in 2015, I certainly wouldn’t object.
- “Yeah! I’m Sam Hill, ex-Ivy League halfback. What’s a college Joe doing as a private dick? Well, I’ll tell you about that sometime… and that white streak running through my hair – well, I’ll tell you about that sometime too. Anyway, the gals love it – say it makes me look distinguished – HA! It’s better than a yellow streak down a guy’s back! I’ve bumped into that kind, too – with my fists! The boxing I did in college taught me to be handy with my dukes – and I don’t mean royalty! All this with a 6’-1” 195 lbs!”
— from Issue #1
- “Folsom had already cooled two people in a week and I knew he wouldn’t hesitate making it three of a kind. When they fry you, you don’t cook any longer for three than you do for two.”
— Sam talks the talk
- SAM HILL “PRIVATE EYE”
(1950-52, Close-Up Inc. Comics)
Art by Harry Lucey
- Issue #1
- “The Double Trouble Caper”
- “The Cutie Killer Caper”
- “The Mad Money Caper”
- “Tangle Wits With A Killer!”
- “Clues From Sam Hill’s Private Notebook”
- Issue #2
- “The Camera Killer Caper”
- “The Lethal Lobster Caper”
- “The Killer Was No Lady!”
- “Tangle Wits with a Killer!”
- “The Triple Killing Caper”
- Issue #3
- “The Crested Owl Caper”
- “Hot Ice for a Cold Corpse”
- “The Photo Finish Caper”
- “Tangle Wits With a Killer”
- “Tips From Sam Hill’s Private Notebook”
- “The Snafu Murder Case”
- Issue #4
- “The Carnival Killer Caper”
- “The Crying Corpse Caper”
- “Twice Murdered!……..Once Dead”
- “Sam Hill Fun Page”
- “.22 Caliber Caper”
- Issue #5
- “The Broken Date Caper”
- “The Country Club Caper”
- “The Flying Money Caper”
- “Counterfeir Killer Caper”
- Issue #6
- “Bad Money Caper!”
- “X Marks The Corpse”
- “Phoney Phantom”
- “Charity Chick Caper!”
- Issue #7
- “The Corpse Came Back”
- “The Jittery Jockey Caper”
- “Dead Reckoning”
- “The Disk of Death Caper”
- SAM HILL: IN THE CROSSHAIRS | Kindle it!
(2015, Dark Circle)
1 issue (digital)
Writers: Tom DeFalso
Art: Greg Scott
- “The Case of the Wilful Widow”
- “The Case of the Purged Politician”
- “The Car, the Chorus Girls and the Killers”
- “In the Crosshair”
ALSO OF INTEREST
- Art in Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures, 1940-1980 (2010) | Buy this book
A beautifully produced book by comic book historian Dan Nadel, offering an interesting survey of forgotten comic book artists and writers, including two complete stories each of Harry Lucey’s Sam Hill and Pete Morisi’s Johnny Dynamite.