Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cheap Detectives Week: Atlas/Seaboard's Police Action

Martin Goodman's short-lived Atlas/Seaboard Comics was a factory for fad-based comics, to put it mildly. While editors Larry Lieber and Jeff Rovin used Goodman's ample wallet to hire much of the the best talent of the Groovy Age, the publisher stuck to his tried and true policy of "give the public what they want until they cry 'uncle'!" (Hey, he'd kept the original Timely/Atlas/Marvel afloat that way from the 40s through the 60s.) Goodman was cagey enough to know that there was a world outside of comics, so instead of just ripping off other comics, he wanted his editors to rip off other popular media, as well. Detectives and Cops were hot in the movies and on TV in the mid-70s, so it was only natural that he'd want to try to capture some of the heat in his comics. Thus was born Police Action (sounds more like the title for a Korean War mag, doesn't it?). P.A. gave us two cops: Sam Lomax of the NYPD and Luke Malone, Manhunter a San Francisco-based P.I. as its stars.

There's been speculation that Lomax's name was designed to cash in on the then-enormously popular Kojak TV show. Lomax was probably given the headline position in the mag for the very same reason. However, Lomax was much more like Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry in attitude and love of using firearms. The first story was very violent, written by the elusive Russ Jones under the pen-name of "Jack Younger", the other two stories, by Gary Friedrich toned the violence down--a little. What really made the strip kinda groovy was the art team of Mike Sekowsky and Al McWilliams. They're styles meshed really well and gave the strip a slick, realistic look that would have fit right in to a Sunday comic strip page. Here's a Lomax story Ol' Groove just can't resist sharing with ya, "...One Hot Dog with Murder, Please..." (Police Action #3, March, 1975). I mean, c'mon, ya have'ta admit that title's a (wait for it) gasser, man! (Okay, I deserve any hate mail I get after that one...)

Luke Malone, Manhunter, is a far-out, noir-ish strip created by the always amazing Mike Ploog. The best of the Malone stories was the first one, written by Ploog, himself (the other two stories were written by Gary Friedrich--of course!). The only downside to the strip was the overpowering inks of Frank Springer, who nearly obliterated Ploog's Will Eisner influenced pencils. Here's Ploog's premiere Malone story, "Requiem for a Champ", from Police Action #1 (November, 1974)!

Like most of the Atlas/Seaboard line, the mag only lasted three issues, but they were well done and quite unlike anything else on the spinner rack.


  1. wow, it's been a long time since I've seen that Luke Malone strip. not sure I agree with you about Frank Springer's inks over-powering Mike in any way. you could throw a bucket of paint over a page of Mike Ploog pencils, and the man's genious would still shine through.

    I really enjoyed that. thanks for posting.

  2. i just discovered your blog yesterday. what a great thing! at one time or another i owned almost all the comics you've written about. i have a soft spot in my heart for the entire ATLAS/SEABOARD line of comics. police action is one i had forgotten about until this post. thanks again for all the entertainment! :)

  3. Those scans bring back memories. Ahhh ... the days when comics only cost a quarter and it was easy to give a fledgling comics company a shot. I bought and enjoyed most of the Atlas line ...

  4. Thanks for the kudos, fellas!

    And welcome aboard, Andy! Not only do you have great taste in old comics, but you are one heck of a great artist, to boot! (Check out Firebreather if you haven't already, Groove-ophiles!)

  5. I really liked these Atlas Seaboard comics too, and still have nearly all of them... my fave was The Weird Suspense Tarantula! Planet of the Vampires was pretty fun too.

  6. Karswell! I read your blog every day, man! Thanks for stopping by. I covered Planet of Vampires back during the Halloween Countdown, and I'll cover Weird Suspense/Tarantula--as well as any other Atlas/Seaboard title I haven't gotten to yet--as time goes by. I love to share cheese!

  7. Wow, I'm amazed at how great Sekowsky's art looks with McWilliams' inks. Thanks for posting this!

  8. You're welcome, Steve! You keep on being the best artist of your generation, and I'll keep posting stuff you like!

  9. Groove:

    Just reviewed this one myself and have to concur about the Ploog/Springer combo. I'm just not much of a Springer fan. I made sure to link to this post so my readers could come check it out for themselves!




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