Sat 15 Jan 2011
CRIS HAMMOND – Speed Walker Private Eye. Pinnacle, paperback original; 1st printing, August 1984. A collection of the United Features comic strip, “Speed Walker Private Eye,” from May 2 through November 25, 1983.
On May 2, 1983, a different kind of PI joined the comics page, “Speed Walker Private Eye.” Speed may not have been as smooth as Rip Kirby (King Features, 1946-1999) or as tough as Mike Hammer (Phoenix Features, 1953-1954), but he was funnier.
The comic strip features three main characters: Speed Walker, a bumbling loser who solves mysteries no one else could; Sally Gelata, his secretary, a single woman with an attitude; and Lt. Lou Arches, the overweight idiot homicide detective and Speed’s friend.
The art has a nice cartoony style with enough detail to help establish the theme, but the strip lacked action, rarely giving readers more than a picture of characters talking.
The writing had its moments. But to try to tell a murder mystery with three months of daily gags, each needing to advance the story and have a punchline was more than anyone could expect.
This book collection features “Speed Walker Private Eye” at its best. It contains two murder mysteries:
In “The Simpson Case,” E.R. Lowman finds his partner dead with the victim’s wife holding the gun, just as Lowman had found his first partner thirty years earlier.
Sample gag (June 3,1983): Speed is questioning psychiatrist Rinn as they sit on her office sofa:
RINN: I’m so glad such a great private eye like you has taken on the Simpson Case. Now I know poor Valerie will get justice.
SPEED: Thank you, Dr. Rinn
SPEED: Tell me about Valerie Simpson.
RINN: Well, Mr. Walker. She is a raving nut, of course…
RINN: …and a crack shot.
RINN: But I didn’t think she would actually kill anyone.
In “Chinese Cooking Class Murder,” Speed falls for a cooking classmate who is poisoned by Speed’s won ton.
Sample gag (September 10,1983): Speed is sitting at his office desk as Lt. Lou Arches consoles him.
SPEED: Just last night we were slicing and dicing — Wok partners, Lou — and now, (sob!) she’s gone.
LOU: Tough, her gettin’ bumped off like that.
SPEED: (sob!) I don’t think I can go on, Lou (whimper…)
LOU: How long did you know her?
SPEED: About ten minutes.
SPEED: But they were ten happy minutes, Lou.
LOU: Well, you can’t argue with happiness.
“Speed Walker Private Eye” would end August 26,1984. There is a second book collection of this strip, Speed Walker Private Eye – Totally Fearless!! (…Within Reason),” published again by Pinnacle as a paperback original, December 1984.
This second selection of strips features the search for the missing pearls stolen by Merle Searles and a run for President of the United States by a new character, Butch the sea gull.
Samples of “Speed Walker” are available to view at cartoonist Cris Hammond website: http://www.crishammond.com/Pages/strips.html.
Thanks to fellow member of google group rec.arts.comics.strips Charles Brubaker for providing the start and end dates for “Speed Walker Private Eye.”