Mike Hammer is venturing into a new print medium. Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer will be published as a graphic novel later this year by Titan Books’ Hard Case Crime imprint—in time for the 100th anniversary of the author’s birth. It’s the latest release in the Hard Case graphic novel list.
Spillane died in 2006, but the graphic novel is based on an unproduced screenplay he wrote in the 1950s. Novelist and comics writer Max Allan Collins, who has edited and completed other Mike Hammer novels, is writing the adaptation, with art by Marcelo Salaza and colorist Marcio Freire. The story will be published as a four-issue comic miniseries starting in July and will then be compiled and published as a collection in October.
“Mickey started his writing career as a comic book writer: he wrote for Captain America and the Human Torch and the Sub-mariner” in the 1940s, said Charles Ardai, editor and founder of the Hard Case Crime imprint and its novel and comics lines. “He originally conceived Mike Hammer as a comic book character called Mike Danger before deciding to try his hand at a prose novel instead. So this really is returning Hammer to his roots, and I think Mickey would have been delighted.”
Ardai and fellow novelist Max Phillips launched Hard Case Crime as a prose imprint in 2004 as a way to bring back hard-boiled fiction, which had fallen out of favor in the 1960s. The line started as an imprint of Dorchester Publishing and moved to the U.K.-based Titan Books in 2011.
Collins edited Spillane’s final novel, The Last Stand, which was published by the Hard Case novel imprint in March. He also just completed editing the unfinished manuscript that was intended to be the first Mike Hammer book, Killing Town, which is due out in April from Titan.
“They’re great reads with irresistible plots that rocket from page to page, no literary pretension, and lots of entertainment,” Ardai said of Spillane’s novels. “The real question is why books this satisfying ever fell out of fashion.” Ardai himself is a third-generation fan; when his grandmother died at 92, he said, “we found a hidden stash of Mickey Spillane novels tucked away behind the more respectable books on the front row of her bookcase.”
Titan Comics launched the Hard Case comics imprint in 2016 with Triggerman, a Prohibition-era revenge story by film director Walter Hill (Warriors, 48 Hrs), and Peepland, a story set in Times Square in the 1980s. For the Hard Case graphic novels, Ardai looks for stories that balance the elements of hard-boiled fiction with interesting visuals. So, Peepland was a chance to show the seedy, pre-Disney Times Square.
Hard Case now has 12 graphic novels that have been published or announced. Its catalogue includes a graphic adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the company’s bestselling graphic novel so far) and two upcoming titles: Breakneck by Duane Swierczynski and Tyler Cross by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin. Nury and Robin were also the creative team behind The Death of Stalin, another Titan graphic novel, which served as the basis for the critically acclaimed film by director Armando Iannucci.
Indeed, a number of Hard Case graphic novels have received a boost from media tie-ins, the most recent of which is Babylon Berlin: both the graphic novel and the 16-part Netflix series are based on a novel by bestselling German author Volker Kutscher. Other titles that have received media bumps include The Assignment, an original graphic novel by Hill and the basis for his film of the same name, and Collins’s Quarry’s War, a new story about the title character of the Cinemax show Quarry.
Ardai said of the new graphic novel adaptation of the Spillane screenplay, “It’s the classic Hammer you know and love: beautiful women, hardened gangsters, bullets flying, and maybe a tender moment or two, and Hammer’s beautiful assistant, Velda, clad only in lingerie, has to shoot her way out of a house full of criminals. It’s moments like that that were made to be immortalized in comics.”