Teaching That Crime Does Not Pay With Virginia Hubbell

This is a feature called "She's Nobody's Child," about the overlooked female comic creators of the pre-modern era. Mostly Golden Age, but I might go back even further. Comic book artists in general sometimes have a hard time getting notice from that period, but female artists especially get very much overlooked in comic book history, so let's try to do something about that. No one has done more, of course, for the promotion of female comic book creators than Trina Robbins. She's the best. Go read her many historical works about female comic creators.

Today, we look at the work of Virginia Hubbell, who was allegedly the writer of one of the biggest hit comic book series of the late 1940s/early 1950s, Crime Does Not Pay!

Virginia Parker was born in 1914. She grew up in Brooklyn, NY. She was a teenager when she first began writing poetry. She attended New York University with the goal of becoming a gym teacher but instead she found herself working as a copywriter for Westinghouse after graduation. She met a budding cartoonist named Carl Hubbell sometime in the early 1940s and the two married in 1942. Hubbell was working as a comic book artist for MLJ Comics (now known as Archie Comics) and his editor apparently told his wife that if she was going to be a writer, she might as well write comic books. So she began working for MLJ, as well. Since credits are so terrible for this era, we don't know for SURE what comic books she wrote during this period, but it seems like a pretty good bet that she wrote some of the stories that were drawn by her husband, such as Sergeant Boyle in Pep Comics #25...

(I'll admit that there are other Sergeant Boyle stories that came out later on that are probably more definitely her scripts, but they are all super racist towards the Japanese due to the comics of the time all being super racist to the Japanese, so I figured I'd go with one of the few non-racist Sergeant Boyle tales)

Sergeant Boyle had actually been created by writer/artist Charles "Charlie" Biro, who also created Steel Sterling for MLJ around the same time. Biro had become the Art Director for MLJ Comics, so he worked with Carl Hubbell a lot. However, his most fruitful connection with the Hubbells took place after Biro left MLJ to take a promotion from Lev Gleason Publications, where Biro was essentially in charge of Gleason's comic book line. It is POSSIBLE that Biro was actually the editor at MLJ who told Hubbell to start writing. It is hard to decipher the precise dates as to when Biro left MLJ for Gleason or when Hubbell began writing.

In any event, Biro brought over Virginia Hubbell to write for him on Boy Comics and Daredevil, the popular superhero whose first issue saw the hero battle Hitler.

Biro ostensibly wrote all of the featured for Lev Gleason, but clearly he farmed the work out. In a 1951 article on her work as a playwright, it noted, "They might not all have been aware that plots are really her business. She produces on an average of six complete stories a month for Dare Devil Boy Comic magazines, good practice she says, for learning to tie up a plot with no loose ends."

"Dare Devil Boy Comic magazines" is likely just a reference to Lev Gleason in general.

This is because it is likely that she worked on the MOST famous book that Lev Gleason produced, which was a Biro creation called Crime Does Not Pay (there was no #1, since it took over the numbering from another Lev Gleason comic book)...

The first crime comic book, it became one of the most popular series in the entire comic book industry by the end of the 1940s. It was the first non-humor comic book that actually became as popular as superhero comics.

In his classic book, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, David Hajdu quotes a number of contemporaries of Biro who said that it was Hubbell who ghost-wrote most (if not all) of Crime Does Not Pay during the late 1940s/early 1950s.

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