We’ve all heard the old saying “crime does not pay” but I’ll argue that in fact it did pay… well at least for the comic book industry. From 1942 until the advent of the CCA, the crime genre was a popular and profitable milieu that publishers exploited to the max. This series will be a platform for me to present you some of my favorite tales from the idiom.
This trend goes back to July of 1942 with the issuance of CRIME DOES NOT PAY issue 22. This comic magazine was published by Lev Gleason Publications and was the brainchild of writer Bob Wood and cartoonist Charles Biro. Perhaps it’s apocryphal but according to one version that I’ve heard the pair were at a New York City bar trying to come up for a new title for Gleason. While there they were approached by a man who offered them the "services" of a woman, that he had in a room above the bar. The pair declined the offer but later on they saw the man's picture in the newspaper and read that the police found a female kidnap victim at the building. Allegedly the crime inspired them to create the CDNP. A more sedate account maintains the bar setting but that the concept grew out of a general discussion of gangsters and law-breaking. Whatever the true account was, Gleason gave his okay to launch the new book.
If we accept CDNP 22 as the first crime comic, then the honor of drawing the very first crime story published goes to Harry Lucey. It was simply the luck of the draw that made his story the lead one in that historic issue. But I find the idea of a cartoonist so closely associated with the wholesome Archie series being the lead man in a such shocking and sensational milieu to be a deliciously perverse one. Here is “The Real Story Behind Lepke, Mad Dog Of The Underworld”.