Monday, June 19, 2017

The Complete Velda, Girl Detective (True Crime Comics) - Volume 1

I initially purchased this graphic novel on the title alone - Velda, Girl Detective. As a fan of Nancy Drew and other female detective series growing up, and as a huge fan of comic books with female leads, I figured there wouldn't be much about this that I wouldn't like.  It even seemed to be a reprint of vintage comics, during a time when detective tales were very noir and pulp in style.

Notice I said the word "seemed."

That is a very important distinction as I discovered when I began reading the first volume of this series and looked up some information about it online. It turns out that "Velda, Girl Detective" is a faux flashback to the noir and pulp detective titles of yester-year. Written and drawn by comic creator Ron Miller, the graphic novel not only features purported re-prints of stories from the 1950s, it also has parodies of comic book ads from the time period, as well as fictional magazine covers and photos to lend authenticity to the idea that this series was a 1950s comic book series based upon the life of a real female detective, Velda Bellinghausen.

This first volume not only collects issues 1 and 2 of the Caliber Comics series, Velda, the Girl Detective, but it also features a supposed look back at the history of Velda, both the "real-life" detective and her fictionalized tales in comics, on the big screen, and on television.  There was clearly a lot of effort put into this hoax, as the informational pages include alleged pictures of Velda on magazine covers of the time, as well as images of newspaper articles about her and her father, images of her working with the comic creators of those days, and other assorted items from "back in the day."

The end result is a graphic novel that is funny, entertaining, and nostalgic.  The stories are simple, short, and sweet - usually told in 11 pages or less. Velma is the daughter of a police officer who discovered the crooked nature of the D.A. - for which, he was killed and set-up to appear as a dirty cop.  Velda was never able to live down that ruined reputation, so she obtained her detective license (through the mail!) and turned to solving crimes herself.  Her first big mystery involved the revelation of D.A. Noorvik's connection to the crime syndicates, which suddenly thrust her into the limelight as a "real" detective.  The stories, while short and done-in-one style, are somewhat reminiscent of Max Collins' Ms. Tree, who stopped at nothing to help the innocent and find justice for them (even if that meant putting the criminals 6-feet under!).  

The stories are told in pre-Code style, with lots of unnecessary sexy poses for the ladies, and plenty of scantily-clad women (with only a few actual shots of full nudity - usually they are tasteful with something covering the actual naughty bits).  The stories in the first issue include "Homicide Hotel," "Butter Safe Than Sorry," "The Phantom of the Follies," and "Velda Does a Favor," while the stories in the second issue are "My First Case!," "Velda vs. The Red Menace," and "The Early Bird," along with the prose tale, "Velda Meets the Strangler."  The actual criminals are obvious from the get-go, and it's not so much about Velda solving the crime as it is about her hunting down the crook and exacting justice (plus, watching her get tied up time and again, yet escape with the ease of a contortionist is a marvel to see).

Just as much fun as the Velda stories are the little one- and two-page stories of Hawskhaw the Hawk, the World's Greatest Bird Detective and Neolithica, Girl of the Pleistocene. These are cute little parodies with puns galore and will most certainly make the reader smile, if not chuckle.

Definitely worth the price and the read, I already have Volume 2 and have seen that Volume 3 is on its way!  It's almost a shame that these tales were not published back in the day, as I am sure they would have been a hit with all the fans of pulp detective fiction back then.

RATING:  10 three a.m. telephone calls out of 10 for remaining faithful to the comics of the '50s while keeping it entertaining for readers of today.

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