Keri Krane

Created by Dick Briefer

“Don’t let me scare you–I get results.”
— Keri reassures a client who’s surprised
to discover she’s a woman

A hyperkinetic, chain-smoking female private eye, KERI KRANE was drawn (and written?) by Dick Briefer, and appeared as a backup feature at least a couple of times (and possibly as many as five or six times) in the Charlie Chan comic book of the late forties.

Kerri became a private eye after her sister, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty. Her response was to gather together “some of the best private detectives in the country” and found the Los Angeles-based Phoenix Detective Agency.

But Kerri wasn’t some golly-gee grown-up Nancy Drew, a curvaceous bimbo or some hands-off boss sending in the boys to handle the rough stuff. Nope, Keri was a shrewd, middle-aged business owner who took a hands-on approach to the job.

A few sharp-eyed jaspers have noted the similarities between Keri and Katherine Hepburn, both in appearance and in the rat-a-tat-tat style of the dialogue, and they have a point.

And she could be every bit as hard-boiled as any of her male contemporaries. So much so, in fact, that some of her underlings, particularly Andy Ross, her chief leg-man, would occasionally question her femininity.

But when a killer in one of her adventures threatens one of her ops, and warns her about making any “disturbance,” Keri’s reply is, “Disturbance is the thing we want most right now.”

And then she shoots him.

So there.

If Joe Friday can be Ms. Tree‘s father, could we pencil in Kerri as her grandma?

There’a a lot to love in the two stories I’ve been able to track down (supposedly there are others, but nobody’s coughed up their location yet). Sure, there was plenty of humour in the stories, both in the style of the art, reminiscent of Chester Gould ‘s Dick Tracy and the semi-flirtatious banter between Keri and Andy, but these were hard, tough tales. They weren’t fooling around. An added bonus was that these were well written–instead of the usual bland, generic scripts, Keri and company go to specific LA locations–Union Station, Santa Monica, the Tar Pits!–and the plots are a little more complex than most of her rival eyes of the era.


Assuming Dick Briefer didn’t just draw the Keri Krane stories, but also wrote them, that is…

He’s famous among comic nerds as one of the best and most innovative cartoonists of the Golden Age, the bulk of his fame resting squarely on his three very different interpretations of Frankenstein’s Monster. But Briefer also deserves kudos for creating Keri Krane, arguably the first hard-boiled female private eye in comics, and Mike Monster, who made a memorable appearance in ZANY Magazine, an early rival of MAD Magazine.


    (1948-49, Prize Publications)
    Art by Dick Briefer
    Keri appeared as back-up feature in 5 issues

    • “Keri Krane” (October-November 1948, #3)
    • “Keri Krane” (December 1948-January 1949, #4)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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