A KILLING IN COMICS by Max Allan Collins (with many illustrations by Terry Beatty) is a wise, witty and occasionally tart take on what life was like in the professional world of comic books back in 1948.
While the stories of Wonder Guy and other super heroes enterain the nation with good clean fun, the life of publisher Donny Harrison concludes with his murder on his fiftieth birthday--in a milieu of jealousy, hatred and vengeance.
While Harrison's demise was carefully planned to look accidental, it's definitely murder and stepson Jack Starr is out to to prove it. Collins takes us inside the business as it was rather than the way gauzy soft way it's sometime portrayed in the fan press. We see ripped off creators (Siegel and Schuster here known as Spiegel and Schuster), ambitious upstarts, mistresses who know much more than they care to reveal and an industry recovering from the war years when paper was scarce and patriotism was all. There was gold to be mined in an era when some comic book titles sold three- and four hundred thousand copies a month.
This is as finely wrought a novel as Collins' Nate Heller books. In fact, Jack Starr could be Heller's first cousin or maybe even brother. Or Rex Stout's Archie Goodwin in slightly less expensive suits. There's that same street-wise sense of life, of history and of trying to survive in a tough world where ideals are bought and sold many times a day. Collins keeps it all fast page-turning fun.
And Terry Beatty's pefectly rendered art takes us back to the daily strips of the Forties and early Fifties. Beatty has long been a master of the classical tradition and his work has never been finer than the black and white illustrations he does here.