“Max will know what to do.”
That’s what Mickey Spillane, creator of Mike Hammer, said to his wife before his death in 2006. “Max” is Max Allan Collins, who befriended Spillane and, as his literary executor, has completed over a dozen posthumous Mike Hammer novels.
Like Spillane, Collins is a prolific writer who knows his way around both comics and novels; Spillane started out as a comics writer and originally created Mike Hammer as a comics character, while Collins is the author of Road to Perdition, Ms. Tree and several shelves-worth of mystery novels (some written with his wife, Barb, under the name Barbara Allen).
The latest story to come out of this unusual collaboration is Mike Hammer: The Night I Died, which Titan Comics is publishing under its Hard Case imprint (their noir imprint also publishes Collins’s prose novels). CBR had the opportunity to talk to Collins about this new work at Comic-Con International in San Diego, and we also have some exclusive artwork from Issue #2.
What's the origin of this story?
There was a radio show in the early '50s, and Mickey did a script for it that was not used. I found it in his files, and then I also found that he had done an hour TV version of it that expanded it. That was all in the early '50s. Then around 1995, with Mickey's permission, I took the TV version and expanded it and modernized it and turned it into a movie script, which for a while was going to be done by a guy named Jay Bernstein, who was the producer of the Stacey Keach TV show. So it was probably going to be done with Stacey. Then it went into a drawer, as certain things do.
What did you bring to this that wasn’t in the original?
I tried to bring in elements of a typical Mickey Spillane story that maybe his earlier scripts didn’t hit all the bases. I wanted it in some level to be very reminiscent of I, the Jury, without just doing I, the Jury, but also to make sure we understand who the Velda character is, who I think is extremely important, and understand who Pat Chambers is.
[Mike Hammer] has a very small world. It’s really just his best friend, Pat Chambers, and his partner, Velda. Since Mickey even to this day gets accused of misogyny, it is very interesting to me that Velda, although she is his "secretary," is really his partner. She has a private detective’s license and she mixes it up. And they are very much in love.
Was that an element in the original Mike Hammer stories?
Yes, but it grew. It was something that built. It actually was a bit of a problem for him, because Mike Hammer was this randy character, one of the first guys who would sleep with women, but as he fell in love with Velda, that starts to feel wrong. The end game in The Goliath Bone, which is the last book chronologically, was that they get married.
So she has a more prominent part, then?
Yes, she has quite a prominent part in this. She gets rescued, but after she is rescued, I think she shoots more people than Hammer does.
That’s saying a lot!
You want to be careful who you kidnap, because people can sometimes get ticked. Particularly if Mickey Spillane created them.