Kane Keen, Private Eye

Created by Harvey Kurtzman (script) and Jack Davis (art)

A lot of people (and most of the internet) seem to think that KANE KEEN, the eponymous hero of MAD Magazine spoof “Kane Keen, Private Eye,” which appeared in the June-July 1953 issue, was a roasting of  the then-popular Martin Kane, Private Eye television show.

But they’d be wrong.

Because if the seven-page story, written by the legendary Harvey Kurtzman and the illustrated by the just-as-legendary Jack Davis, was really meant to be a satiric jab at the show, it missed the mark completely.

Like, no comment on the show’s slow-burn snooziness? Its ever-revolving casting of the lead (by 1953, they were on their fourth season and their third Martin Kane)? The hero’s incessant mid-show visits to Happy’s Tobacco Shop to plug the sponsor’s products? 

Those were easy targets–the equivalent of shooting fish in a very small barrel.

Nope. The most likely actual target was Mickey Spillane‘s Mike Hammer, by then the most popular fictional private eye on the planet, and the whole slew of Hammer wannabes that were slowly spreading over the paperback racks of America at the time like a rash: tough-talkin’ skirt-chasin’ larger-than-life dicks armed with wisecracks and big guns who were seemingly irresistible to women–or logic.

As it is, “Kane Keen, Private Eye” is a rollicking, ridiculous shaggy dog tale (literally) that is chockfull of hot lead, hot babes, sight gags, slapstick and a wobbling plot that barely stays on its axis. It’s a hoot.

You can read the whole thing for yourself here Inside Jeff Overturf’s Head.


  • “Kane Keen, Private Eye” (June-July, 1953, MAD Magazine #5)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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