Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Ms. Tree - One Mean Mother (The First Ms. Tree Graphic Novel)

I first "met" Ms. Tree in 1982 while browsing comics at The Great Escape, the only comic store in Louisville, Kentucky of which I was aware as a 13-year old budding comic fan. Already a fan of female detectives (having grown up on Nancy Drew), and having an insatiable appetite for new comics, particularly the direct-market comics that I had only recently discovered, I could not pass up this amazing new title that showed a dark-haired women in a blue trenchcoat getting shot at.  From the very first page, I was hooked.  Absolutely LOVED Terry Beatty's art style, and for odd reasons I can't explain, I loved the lettering in the book - done exactly like a typewriter rather than the standard lettering by hand that all other comics used.  It gave the book a very hard case, gritty feel to it, and it definitely worked.  (Sadly, that lettering changed after the first few issues, and it joined the rest of the comic world with regular hand lettering.)  I was unaware that there had been a previous story serialized in the magazine, Eclipse Comics, and I later tracked those issues down.

Anyway, Ms. Tree always stuck with me, and I with her, from her transition from Eclipse Comics (her original publisher) to Aardvark-Vanaheim, and later to Renegade Press.  When Renegade cancelled the series with issue 50, I was disheartened, but later thrilled when I learned that DC Comics was picking up the series as a quarterly title with more pages!  Unfortunately, that only lasted 10 issues, and in 1993, Ms. Tree appeared to have left the world forever...

In 2007, her creator Max Allan Collins brought Ms. Tree back with a novelized version of Ms. Tree's first story (although it is not an exactly copy of the comic story) under the Hard Case Crime label of books. I'm not sure how well that did, but no further novels were published, so I'm guessing it did not do so well.

Flash-forward to 2019, and Titan Comics, which publishes a number of creator-owned works, as well as licensed products such as Doctor Who, Tank Girl, and others, finally picked up the mantel and published the first collection of Ms. Tree stories in comic form in over 25 years!  Interestingly enough, rather than start at the beginning with the Eclipse Comics' stories, Collins decided to start off with the DC Comics' stories (as Collins puts it, he wanted to lead off with his best stories).  One Mean Mother gives readers a look into the gritty world of Ms. Tree after she has been at this for years - her husband gone, his son now her own after his mother was killed, her vendetta against Dominic Muerta seemingly over since he was dead, and her private investigation business flourishing. But, of course, nothing ever stays calm for long in the world of Ms. Tree...

This first collection features the stories from Ms. Tree Quarterly #1, #4, #7, #8, and #9.  The introduction by Collins indicates that the remaining five stories from the DC Comics' run will be included in the second collection, along with a key story from the Renegade Press run that helps with the flow of continuity for those tales.  I find this to be a bit odd, since the Ms. Tree stories have always been sequential - while each multi-part story (in the pre-DC years) and each issue (in the DC years) held a complete story in and of itself, there were always subplots that continued within the book from issue to issue, and elements of one story definitely had repercussions in future stories.  However, Collins has proven his strength as a writer with this series over the years, so I trust his judgment.

The first story, "Gift of Death," features the return of Dominique Muerta, the sister of mafia crime lord Dominic Muerta, the man who orchestrated the death of Ms. Tree's husband all those years ago.  The story is rooted in Ms. Tree's history, and in a twist of fate, when Dominique is murdered, it is up to Ms. Tree to find out who killed her.  It's the second story, thought, "Drop Dead Handsome," that really sets the overall theme for this collection - in this story, Ms. Tree comes face-to-face with a man from her past - an old high school sweetheart that she thought was long-gone history.  He shows an interest in her once again, and it is clear that his wife has some emotional issues.  William Powers tells Ms. Tree his marriage is all but over, and she sleeps with him - only to be confronted by his wife, who pulls a gun on them both.  Protecting herself, Ms. Tree shoots and kills the woman.  Of course, every story has its twists and turns, and Ms. Tree soon finds that William Powers is not everything he pretends to be. 

The next story, "The Family Way," drops the most unexpected bombshell that Ms. Tree readers would ever see.  She faces a case that is very personal, as her son Mike's girlfriend has been kidnapped.  It happens that his girlfriend is the daughter of the late Dominique Muerta!  But that doesn't stop Ms. Tree from doing what must be done, and after facing down the madman behind the kidnapping, she discovers something in the very last panel that I have no doubt stunned readers when it was first published. "Why, Ms. Tree," said the doctor, "surely you knew...you're at least three months' pregnant..."

Wow, talk about a major, life-changing cliffhanger!  That was issue 7 from the DC run, and this collection features the remaining two issues, 8 and 9 - "Maternity Leave," in which a very pregnant Ms. Tree must try and determine who is out to kill her, and "One Mean Mother," in which Ms. Tree has to track down the man that shot her sister and kidnapped her child. Even pregnant and then a mother, Ms. Tree never changes in her true character - she still protects the innocent, she still has no problem making criminals pay, and she will always do whatever is necessary for the sake of her family (both literal and figurative).

It was such a joy to re-read these stories, and while I remember so much of the earlier runs of Ms. Tree being topical (pornography, rape, child abuse, etc.), the more personal stories of this collection still have the Ms. Tree feel to them - and they certainly have the violence and vengeance in full spades!  I'm honestly surprised that over the years we have never seen a movie or television series based on this character, as these stories definitely feel cinematic in nature.  Who knows, maybe with these collections coming out, someone will pick up on it!

Now if we can just figure out a way to get Collins and Beatty to work on some new Ms. Tree stories...

RATING:  10 class reunion themed parties out of 10 for bringing Ms. Tree back into the comic world and giving new readers an opportunity to enjoy this amazing work of writing and art!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Tomb of the Honey Bee - A Posie Parker Mystery, Book 2

Posie Parker is back for another mystery in the second book of her series by author L.B. Hathaway. For those who don't recall from the first book, Posie recovered a priceless family jewel, and as a result, she received a very, VERY handsome reward - large enough to set her up for life. With that money, she fully funded her private detective agency. But at the same time as all of this good news, she had to face some bad news - her blooming romance with business partner Len Irving had to be put on hold as he left town to go be with his father, who had fallen seriously ill. And with that in mind, Hathaway begins Posie's second adventure...

The Tomb of the Honey Bee takes Posie on some rather unexpected adventures in France, Italy, and finally, Egypt.  Posie has the money now, so Hathaway doesn't hold back in letting her spend it. Posie is hired by the very famous Lady Violet Boynton-Dale to locate her brother, the equally, if not more, famous Alaric Boynton-Dale. Alaric is a known adventurer and explorer, and it is not uncommon for him to take off and be gone for months at a time, so Posie questions Lady Violet's concerns. But then Lady Violet shares her reasons - Alaric had recently announced that he was changing his will to leave all of his fortune to Lady Violet - thus cutting out his brother, Roderick (who has a gambling addition); his sister-in-law, Lady Eve, who will do anything to maintain her lifestyle as rich and famous; the family's valet, Codlington, who seems willing to do anything for Roderick and has been acting suspicious; and then there is Ianthe Flowers, a prolific author who has come to Boynton Hall to write a story based on the family, but has ultimately fallen madly in love with Alaric.  Of course, there is also Alaric's secret love affair with the very married Lady Cosima Catchpole and her husband, Hugo Marchpane, who found out about the affair!

With so many suspects, all of whom have motives to have not only burned down all of Alaric's beehives on the property, but to have done away with him altogether, how will Posie sort it all out and discover the truth behind Alaric's disappearance?

While the story starts off fairly slow, it begins to build momentum when the first real body shows up - the author, Ianthe Flowers! Murdered on her last day at Boynton Hall, and the last page of her just finished manuscript missing, it is clear Ianthe knew what happened to Alaric and was going to reveal it in her novel.  But someone stopped her before she could, and now Posie has both a missing person AND a murder to solve!  The clues lead her to France, where she has a chance meeting with her almost-boyfriend, Len Irving (and discovers the real reason why he stopped writing her for so many months!), and then to a small island off the coast of Italy. The island of Ortigia is home to the most mysterious group of monks and their just-as-mysterious honey that they claim has healing properties - but is also hosts a masked villain who seems to be following Posie and who ultimately murders someone who tracked Posie down to the island in order to obtain the valuable coin she has in her possession (which coin belonged to Alaric and is the only clue she has to find him).

With two murders now under his or her belt, the murderer will clearly stop at nothing to get to Alaric.  So, it's off to Egypt and an archeological dig, where a case of mistaken identity leads to a third murder - which, while unfortunately for the victim, is fortunate for Posie, as it gives her the perfect way to lay out bait for the killer to reveal him- or herself!  So, it's back to Boynton Hall for the final revelation, and while not totally unexpected (on my part), it was definitely a fantastic twist.

Hathaway has a way with her characters that makes them believable, despite some of their stereotypical personalities.  The dialogue reads naturally, and there is nothing cardboard about any of them.  In fact, as I read the book, I could "hear" each of the voices and literally feel the desperation, fear, concern, anger, and other emotions coming from each character as they spoke.  That is certainly not an easy thing for a writer to do, but Hathaway manages it with apparent ease, which makes her books true page-turners.  Plus, this book comes with a couple of surprises at the end, one of which pretty much indicates that Posie is going to have her own major nemesis throughout the series.

And, oh, in case you are wondering the title of the book does not come from the bee hives that were all burned down on the grounds of Boynton Hall; rather, it is actually the title of Ianthe Flowers' book that held the final clue to the identity of the killer.

Looking forward to book three!

RATING:  9 cold glasses of frozen granita out of 10 for penning a mystery that is chock full of surprises and twists!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Vanishing Girl - the first Daphne & Velma Mystery

I loved watching the original Scooby Doo cartoons on TV back when I was a kid - their mystery solving antics were like watching Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys with some humor thrown in.  I also loved the two live action movies starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, as well as the most recent animated film, Scoob.  While I would not call myself a huge fan, per se, I do enjoy the show and characters. So, when I saw in Previews that a new mystery was solicited with Daphne and Velma as the title characters, I took a chance with it, hoping it would stay true to the original concept.  I'm happy to say, the author did!

The Vanishing Girl is the first in a series of mysteries that has not only Daphne and Velma (although they are the title characters), but also features the rest of the gang - Fred, Shaggy, and Scooby. Yes, there is a bit of drama throughout the story - Daphne and Velma had a falling out some years back and haven't spoken since - and yes, this is portrayed in the real world, so Scooby doesn't talk, and Shaggy and Scooby don't swallow down huge sub sandwiches in a single gulp. However, the characterization stays true to the cartoon - Velma is the brain, Daphne is the pretty one, Fred is the "jock" of sorts, Shaggy is the laid-back, easy-going one, and Scooby is - well, he's Scooby.  And when one of Daphne's friends disappears - well, there's a mystery afoot, and if there's one thing this gang is good at, it's solving mysteries!

Marcy Heller has been acting differently lately. Daphne has noticed her best friend has changed. And when Marcy suddenly claims to have been attacked by a ghost in the local theme park, the Crystal Cove Haunted Village, well - Daphne knows something is off. There are no such things as ghosts. So, why, then is Marcy so insistent that she saw one? And why is Marcy constantly blowing her off, trying to end their friendship? And why, without warning, does Marcy suddenly want to make amends to Velma, Daphne's ex-best friend? Just when Daphne things she is going to get the answers, Marcy disappears without a trace! The police think she simply took off down to Mexico - but Daphne knows better. And if she wants to get to the bottom of things, she's going to have to ask for help from the last person in the world she wants to - Velma!

Velma, meanwhile, knows something is going on at the Crystal Cove Haunted Village. Her family used to live on that property and run the park. But someone bought them out and threw them out. Now Velma's father no longer works, but lives in a state of depression, insisting the property really belongs to them. Velma's mother works for the Village, but she has just been fired for leaving the gate open to allow Marcy to get in (even though she insists she locked it). Velma is determine to get to the bottom of it, even if it means having to face her ex-best friend, Daphne, to find out more information on Marcy and why she would lie about her mother.

Author Josephine Ruby tells a fantastic story of friendship, teen angst, misunderstandings, mystery, intrigue, and a bit of Scooby Doo fun-filled antics that will please any true Scooby and the gang fan. Ruby brings the characters of Daphne, Velma, Fred, Shaggy, and Scooby to life in a fantastic way that makes you feel for each of them, and while you know Daphne and Velma will mend fences before the end of the book, you still find yourself rooting for them along the way.  There are plenty of nods to the original cartoon series, and the final revelation of who kidnapped Marcy and why is done in true Scooby fashion.

And, just in case you are wondering, a second book is already on its way out - and it better pick up right where this one left off, considering the bombshell dropped at the end of this book!

RATING:  10 screaming rides on the Ghost Coaster out of 10 for updating the Scooby gang in a natural way while remaining true to the characters

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Surfside Girls, Graphic Novel No. 1 - The Secret of Danger Point

Let's face it - I'm a sucker for a new mystery series - and when that mystery series happens to also be in a graphic novel (comic) format, it only whets my appetite all the more! I had noticed the first Surfside Girls graphic novel numerous times at the bookstore, and I had even picked it up and flipped through it.  It appeared interesting enough, but it was not numbered, and there was nothing in this book to indicate it was a part of any series, so inevitably, I would put it back on the shelf each time. Until a second graphic novel hit the shelf, and I then knew that this was a series! So, obviously, I bought both books and brought them home, and I recently sat down and read the first book....

The Secret of Danger Point gives readers the plot for this story quite plainly. There is something going on at Danger Point, and Samantha and her friend, Jade, are determined to find out what it is. When Sam spies something shining under the water just below Danger Point, she swims under to check it out - only to find a hidden cave under the water! When she climbs up through a hole in the ceiling, she finds herself right at the heart of Danger Point - only, she's not alone! The young girl is surrounded by ghosts from the past, all of whom appear to have been waiting for her.

This, of course, sets off the mystery - are the ghosts real? Why is Sam the only one who can see them? Why do they need her, and what do they need her to do? Sam brings her friend back to Danger Point, but Jade can see only Sam - so is Sam going crazy, or are the ghosts really there?  Time to do some digging!  After some lengthy research on the internet, Jade discovers some of the history surrounding the ghosts that Sam claims to have met. And that's when the real investigating begins!  A strange bird found on the shores below Danger Point. A construction company preparing to clear all of the land at Danger Point.  Two strangers that Jade identifies only as "Bird Man" and "Yacht Lady." And a cryptic message from the ghosts that Sam has a duty that has fallen on her shoulders, and she alone knows what must be done.

Writer and artist Kim Dwinell tells a fun story of mystery and adventure, filled with surf and sand, spirits and strangers, and a dastardly villain who only Sam and Jade can stop from destroying Danger Point!  Despite the supernatural aspect of the ghosts, the characters are very down-to-earth (Sam even gets punished for sneaking out at night to go visit her ghosts), and there is a tense moment when Sam nearly drowns while trying to figure out what treasure may lie beneath the ocean waters!  It is exciting to follow along with Sam and Jade as they ferret out clues and try to figure out what they all mean, and the reader, right along with Sam and Jade, find themselves surprised when everyone in the story is not necessarily who they appear to be!

Now, I will admit - the art is not the most realistic, as the characters are drawn very simplistically, and often times, the backgrounds in the panels are pretty non-existent. However, the story is so engaging that these drawbacks in the art do not at all take away from the story - in fact, in some ways, they allow the reader to focus MORE on the story itself and not get caught up with the "oooooo, pretty art" that seems to be the focal point of most mainstream comics today.  And this is fine by me, as I am much more interested in a good story than pretty art.

I would definitely say that Dwinell has a success with the Surfside Girls, and this first mystery definitely sets the tone for the characters, the stories, and the series as a whole, and I can pretty much guarantee anyone who picks this up is going to love it!

RATING:  10 St. Christopher charms out of 10 for providing a superb start to a brand new series, combining mystery and comics - two of my favorite things!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Hold Back the Dark - a Bishop / Special Crimes Unit Novel

With this book, author Kay Hooper brings her characters back to their roots - tracking down and fighting the darkness that is pure, unrelenting evil! For twenty years now, Hooper has provided readers with quite a few intriguing, page-turning murder mysteries that involve power psychics and dark, almost supernatural evil that Noah Bishop and his ever-growing team of psychic government agents must stop. The books have pretty nearly all been exceptional (we won't mention that whole alien story in the third Bishop Files novel....), and it seems that they were all leading to this...

Hold Back the Dark sets up the ultimate battle between Bishop and his team and an all-powerful, rage-filled energy that is about to be let loose on the world. A select number of psychics across the globe get a "call." Go to Prosperity. These psychics - some we know, some are new to us - each receive the message in their own unique way. Some don't hesitate to answer the call. Some are reluctant, but still know they need to go. And one, in particular, has absolutely no desire to go; he would rather forget he has any psychic abilities and just have a normal life. But normal for a psychic in the world of Noah Bishop is non-existent!

A darkness is growing in Prosperity, North Carolina. It is affecting the people that live there. A family man goes down in his basement and blows his brains out with a shotgun. A loving mother brutally kills her mother and children and then sits down and goes to sleep. A real estate salesman shoots and kills two prospective buyers, then calmly sits on the front porch, oblivious to what he just did. A police officer puts his hands around his wife's through, ready to kill her at the very thought that she cheated on him. The sheriff is at a loss as to how to explain what is going on in his tiny little town - but one of his officers knows something is wrong. Something is coming, and it will take more than either of them have to offer to stop this unseen force.

Enter the Special Crimes Unit.

As usual, Hooper brings together a unique group of psychics, and not even they know why each of them is there. With individual powers, unique to each of them, they must learn to trust each other, to depend on one another, in order to survive the coming battle. Even Dalton Davenport, who is bitter and has absolutely no desire to be there, must not only come to terms with the power he possesses, but he must face the fact that he is there for a purpose. This is what I really love about Hooper's books - they are all about the characters. Yes, there are horrific crimes that happen. Yes, there is always a big battle at the end, where the good guys face down the bad guys. And, yes, sometimes an innocent life is lost before all is said and done. But when it all comes down to it, these stories are about the people, about their lifes, their loves, and their learning how to cope with the unexplainable.

I enjoyed meeting Olivia, Logan, Reno, Dalton, Victoria, and Sully - I do hope that we see more of them in coming books. It was also cool to see Dr. Jill Eason, who appeared in Wait for Dark, as the medical examiner. Having some of the "non-essential" characters pop up now and again keep the continuity flowing and keep the world of the SCU grounded in some level of reality (even though we all know it's fiction).  How Hooper is able to keep all of these ever-growing number of psychics straight is a testament to her writing ability - plus, the sheer magnitude of the stories themselves!

Now, I won't spoil it by revealing the identity of the culprit, but I will admit I was kind of disappointed by the final confrontation. After all of the build up and the suspense leading up to it, plus the coming storm that was developing just over the town - I was really expecting a huge, all-out war. Instead, the final battle pretty much completes itself in just a couple of pages, with a not-so-spectacular climax that felt - well, very anti-climactic.  From everything that was building up within the story, I really was expecting this to be a culmination of ALL of the dark battles the teams have been fighting over the past 20 years - and maybe I just let me imagination run away with me.  It's my hope that Hooper is just laying the groundwork for something even bigger - and based upon her writing up until now, I will keep my trust in her to continue building the teams and building the suspense.

Overall, this was another fantastic read.  I see that another book, Hidden Salem, is set to come out later this year, so I know the SCU is not over yet, thank God!  Can't wait to see what Hooper has in store next!

RATING:  8 squeaky clean whiteboards out of 10 for holding back the dark in yet another tale of psychic suspense that keeps the fans' appetite whetted for more!

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Hardly Boys and The Mystery of the Golden Goblet - a Hardy Boys parody

While I'm not exactly the biggest Hardy Boys fan, I am always a fan of a good parody. Ever since the Airplane! films and the later Scary Movie films, I have loved the art of parody. So far, Mabel Maney probably has the best parodies when it comes to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys - but there have been a few others than have made me chuckle here and there. So, when I saw this particular book on Amazon and read the premise - the Hardly brothers are "cryogeriatrically" placed in a state of suspended animation for 50 years, and these boys of the '50s wake up in the bodies of old men in the 2000s - well, it sounded like a great fish-out-of-water kind of fun.

Instead of fun, though, the story turned out to be pretty painful...

The Mystery of the Golden Goblet pretty much reads like a normal Hardy Boys adventure story.The mystery involves a valuable golden goblet that is encrusted with valuable jewels that is stolen from a local museum, and it is up to the boys to find it. The only problem is, it is an international smuggling organization that may have stolen it, so the FBI are involved - lucky for the boys, their father is on good terms with the FBI, so the boys and their friends are asked to help find and capture the crooks.  There are lots of moments of adventure along the way - an undersea cavern, a submarine chase, secret rooms in an abandoned mansion, shoot-outs in the sky, deadly boat chases, disguises, car chases, and the like.  I suppose for Hardy Boys fans, this book might be downright enjoyable.  But for me, my question the entire time was - where is the parody?

Sure, the boys are now in the bodies of 70-something year old men; yet, they act and move just like teenagers, so apparently those aged bodies don't affect them at all. Their parents and aunt are all still alive and in their nineties. Their girlfriends are still alive and in their 70s, having waited all those years as single women, waiting for the Hardly Boys to return. They don't know what cell phones are, they don't understand all of the modern cultural references, they still use slang terms from the 1950s, and they are both timid and unsure of themselves when it comes to being around girls (women). Sure, the author tries to play the "fish-out-of-water" aspect by having the boys refer to themselves as teenagers while the world around them sees them as 70-year-old men, but those scenes often fall flat. In fact, there is very little humor at all in the book. I mean, based on the premise, I had figured on reading scenes where the boys are unable to do a lot because of their aging bodies; I had though there would be jokes about their need to wear Depends undergarments, or the creaking they hear is the bones and not a door opening, etc. Yet, not once are there any jabs about the boys' age.

Then I read a bit about the author, Tom Cherones. Seems Mr. Cherones was an "Emmy Award Winning director of the Seinfield TV series," and that pretty much said it all for me. I was never a fan of Seinfield. I saw an episode here and there, but never once found them to be funny. So, I guess it should come as no surprise then that I don't find his writing of the Hardy Boys to be funny. Which is  shame, because I really tried to find some enjoyment in it.

The one surprise I did rather like, though, was the single internal illustration at the beginning of the book. The art was done by none other than husband and wife team, Terry & Rachel Dodson, who are very well-known and established comic book artists, having done some magnificent work on Wonder Woman, and who are currently providing art on Image Comics' Adventureman. I certainly never expected to see comic book artists of this caliber providing internal (and cover) art for a little independent book such as this. I guess that was the one saving grace for this book and made it (somewhat) worth buying.

Would I recommend this book? Most likely not. If you are a huge Hardy Boys fan and want anything and everything that is related to the brothers, then perhaps you might get this just to have a complete collection. Otherwise, for me, the story is not worth reading.

RATING:  3 swipes of a credit card out of 10 for at least attempting to give Hardy Boys fans a parody of the crime-solving brothers.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Short Lived Comic Series #14 - Private Secretary (Dell Comics)

At a comic convention several years ago, while pouring through the back issue boxes of a comic dealer, I came across issue two of a Dell Comic from the early 1960s titled Private Secretary. Having been a secretary for a number of years (prior to getting my paralegal degree), the title intrigued me - as did the tagline on the cover: "Kim is forced to make a desperate choice!" The price was right, so I picked it up. Now, since this was issue two, obviously I was not going to read it until I found the previous issue, as well as any other issues that may have been published in the series. A quick search on the internet revealed that Dell only published two issues of the series - so that meant I was already halfway to completing the series!  I combed through tons of back issue bins at every convention I went to, and I constantly watched eBay (where I found a number of first issues, but all at prices I was unwilling to pay!). Finally, not so long ago, I was able to get the first issue in the series at a more than reasonable price. That meant, it was time to sit down and read this short lived series...

Private Secretary tells the story of Kim Garland, a small-town girl from Wichita, Kansas who has moved to New York City with dreams of making it big as a private secretary to a big-named, rich executive.  Kim in not some naive midwesterner who comes to the big city with eyes wide open in shock. Oh, no! As readers quickly discover in the first issue, Kim Garland is a woman who knows what she wants, and she will do just about anything to get it. As early as the second page, readers see Kim's drive and determination - she refuses to settle for a simple stenographer job.  "I intend to become a private secretary," she tells the personnel director for Brown & Little," and soon!"

The first issue follows Kim as she advances through the ranks to get that dream job. I admit that while I loved seeing an independent woman represented in comics like this, I was a bit disappointed at how easily she tossed aside her new-found friends, Joann and Rosemary - and not only them, but she dated men in high-ranking positions, leading them on simply to get that coveted position of a private secretary! As she easily moves up the latter, moving from boss to boss, Kim proves that she has what it takes to be a private secretary - but along the way, she loses the few friends she has, and she alienates the men who truly care about her. Interestingly enough, though, Kim learns her lesson by the end of this first issue, and the one man who had been after her for her skills, who she repeatedly turned down, ends up being the one man she can turn to when everything else crumbles down around her!

Something I found rather unique about this first issue (and the second as well!) is that there are no ads whatsoever in the book.  The front inside cover, the back inside cover, and even the back cover all have short little vignettes of working women in the first issue and information about bull fighting and water skiing in the second issue (although the second issue does feature an ad on the back cover).

Now, the second issue does not pick up immediately after the first issue - apparently time has passed
(as has time between issues, since there was a three month gap between the issues). Kim now works for an advertising firm, but she is yearning for the glamor and adventure of a European tour. On impulse, she quits her job, with no guarantee it will be waiting for her when she returns, pulls all of her money out of the bank, and sets off an a European trip of a lifetime!  The travel agency warns her to make sure she sets back enough money to get a return ticket home, to which Kim replies with a laugh, "Not me. I know what I'm doing. I won't lose my head."  Yeah, right, famous last words...

This issue follows Kim's adventures on board the cruise to Europe and her travels from one country to another. On board the ship, she has romance with the second officer, but must fight for his attention against a well-to-do snob who has her own eyes set on the young officer. Of course, she leaves him behind once she arrives in England and begins her adventure, visiting London, then off to Scotland and Ireland, before heading on to Paris, where she meets not one, but two men!  Then, it's off to Madrid to watch the bull fights, where she meets yet another young man with whom she has a whirlwind romance. But all of the festivities come to an end, and Kim discovers that she did not save enough money to get home - she is trapped in Europe! As fate would have it, though, she meets a producer who could use an assistant, so he pays her way back to America where she will work for him. Of course, the story does not end there, as she finds herself embroiled with yet one more man, this one wanting to use her to get ahead in his career (a bit of role reversal for poor Kim, eh?). Only, this time, Kim decides to take the high ground, and rather than use her position to gain favors for the actor, she quits her job - which turns out to be her best decision ever, as it results in her finding the job of her dreams at last! An international company is looking to hire a private secretary for its executive vice president - a position that will have her traveling the world with her boss!

Both issues are jam-packed with story, and the pacing is pretty swift in order to fit in as much romance, story, and action as possible. What is interesting about this series is that the author of the stories is completely uncredited. It is known that Hy Eisman did the pencils and Vince Colletta did the inks, with Jon D'Agostino providing the letters on the stories; but the name of the person who did the actual writing remains a mystery. Which is a shame, since these two issues are actually well-written, particularly for the time in which they were published (1962-63).

When I was younger, I never really paid much attention to Dell Comics, as I never saw their books as being very interesting (I was pretty much all DC and Marvel as a kid). As an adult, however, I'm finding that Dell, as well as some of the other "independent" companies of that era, put out some really great stories, even if they did not have ongoing series that lasted very long.  Private Secretary is one I definitely enjoyed, and it's a shame it only had the two-issue run.

RATING:  9  award-winning Captain Ladies out of 10 for promoting a strong, independent female title character who was far from perfect but capable of learning from her mistakes!