Mr. Keen (Comics)

Created by Robert W. Chambers
(1865-1933)
Re-imagined by Justin Gray

Okay, the big, mean-looking black dude over there to the right who calls himself MR. KEEN is definitely not your grandfather’s Mr. Keen

No, this “Tracer of Lost Persons”  made his debut in Moonstone’s limited-run comic book series in 2003, while the original Mr. Keen was, in the words of our own Jack French:

“… one of network radio’s longest running detectives, although listening to it now would hardly explain why. This kind, elderly, staid sleuth, in company with his bumbling assistant, Mike Clancy, was on the airwaves from 1937 to 1955, logging nearly 20 years of fighting crime.”

Early in the series, the writers forgot about the title and Mr. Keen just solved murders. But the familiar title, and its theme song, “Someday I’ll Find You”, were simply too popular to change. The plots were so contrived the audience had usually figured out the solution before Mr. Keen tried to explain it to Clancy. Exactly who this duo worked for was never stated; they simply worked cases without the police. Keen was the cordial, elderly gentleman and Clancy the dull Irishman so no one in the stories ever seemed to challenge their right to jump in on a case.”

But that was then, and this is now.

This more recent Mr. Keen is, according to his writer, Justin Gray:

“… a reworking of the traditional detective story where instead of the lone wolf, hard-drinking private eye; we have an intelligent mastermind who uses his brains over his brawn.

Mr. Keen is a man of secrets, not some weepy ‘I had a tough life so now I’m fighting back’ character. His motivation is none of your business, only his actions are important.”

But all of the classic detectives are smart-talking white dudes who need a shave. As much as I love Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Chandler, I wanted to do something different. Rather than working with street slang and gangster lingo, I wanted a character that was soft spoken and intelligent who could kick your ass if he wanted to. This time around, he is one serious dude. Think Samuel L. Jackson meets Avery Brooks!”

I know, I know. Still, you sort of have to wonder why didn’t they just make up their own character. And let’s face it, this guy sounds more like Shaft–or maybe The Human Target— than Mr. Keen, anyway. Still, this radical re-working of a once-beloved character might be worth checking out. The artwork that I’ve seen– highly stylized but moody and effective–ooks promising.

UNDER OATH

  • “The world of Mr. Keen is a dark, paranoid, edge of your seat mind-@#%*! It’s Pulp Fiction meets David Lynch on speed!”
    David Gallaher, writer of the Johnny Dollar comic

COMICS

  • MR. KEEN: TRACER OF LOST PERSONS | Buy this book
    (2003, Moonstone)
    3-issue limited series
    Story by Justin Gray
    Art by Lee Ferguson
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Mr. Keen illustration by Lee Ferguson.

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