Created by E.C. Stoner & Creig Flessel (art)
“Oh, well, only three miles to shore and I needed a bath anyway.”
— Speed gets tossed off a boat by smugglers
One of Detective Comics‘ first gumshoes (he made his debut alongside fellow eyes Slam Bradley in the very first issue way back in 1935), SPEED SAUNDERS was an two-fisted “ace investigator” who seems to have some weird, unspecified occupation. Sometimes he seemed to be a G-Man, sometimes a cop, sometimes a private eye, sometimes just a nosy adventurer. Whatever it was, it allowed him to operate independently of the police, as a private eye would, and yet also let him boss them around. Since he was sometimes seen in a white fedora and a yellow trenchcoat, maybe they mistook him for Dick Tracy.
His first adventure had him called in to investigate the appearance of several bodies found floating in the bay, and credit for the story is given to E.C. Stoner (text) and Creig Flessel (art). More disconcerting, though, is that Speed’s first name actually appears to be Cyril.
Saunders made his final appearance in Detective Comics #58 (1941), and while he seems interchangeable with almost all of DC’s other early non-costumed detectives, he did nab the lead story position of Detective Comoics #1, but he also was the first of detective to actually appear on the cover, which he did on the forth issue.
Of course, like most comic book characters, Speed was eventually retconned (there’s no escape!).
Incredibly, it took almost sixy years for someone at DC to exhume Speed’s corpse–in 1999 James Robinson and David S. Goyer dug him up for JSA Secret Files #1, where he was revealed to be Hawkgirl‘s (Shiera Saunders) cousin. Kendra Saunders, the current Hawkgirl, is his granddaughter (although another granddaughter, Cathy, shows up in a Roy Raymond Jr. story in Detective Comics #1027 (November 2020), and mercifully is simply revealed as a co-host of a true crime podcast.
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But who was E.C. Stoner? A pseudonym? Noted comic writer Gardner Fox, a lawyer at the time, has also been credited with creating the character. Certainly, he wrote some of the stories. And he’s also been credited with creating and writing the adventures of Steve Malone, District Attorney, who made his debut in the August 1938 issue of Detective Comics.
One of Saunders’ first artists, Fred Guardineer, later went on to draw for the infamous Crime Does Not Pay. An avid hunter and fisherman, Fred supposedly knew his guns, and was considered one of the top “gun” men in the comics, according to Mike Benton’s The Illustrated History of Crime Comics.
- “Even a lifetime later, no comic book character is too minor and off-genre to get sucked into a superhero universe.”
— Don Markstein’s Toonopedia
- DETECTIVE COMICS
(1937- present, DC Comics)
Written by E.C. Stoner, Gardner Fox, Fred Gaurdineer
Artists: Creig Flessel, Fred Gaurdineer
- “Speed Saunders and the River Patrol” (March 1937, #1)
- “Killers of Kurdistan” (May 1939, #27)
- “The Kidnaped Singer” (April 1940, #38)
- Last appearance (#58).
- JSA SECRET FILES #1 (1999, DC Comics)
- Detectives in Detective Comics
A listing of all the private eyes who have shown up in DC Comics.