Before there was Wonder Woman or Lois Lane or Catwoman there was a Sally the Sleuth, a private eye with a knack for losing her clothes whose adventures appeared in the Spicy Detective pulp books. Written and drawn by Adolphe Barreaux, her original black and white adventures began in the early 1930s and ran for over a decade before she came back in a more sanitized, full colour format in the early 1950s. Bedside Press is crowdfunding a new printing of all of these tales, the most thorough collection of Sally the Sleuth stories ever assembled.
I got to write the introduction for this collection, and it was absolutely fascinating to dig into the history of the character. My introduction begins with the grandiose claim that there would be no Superman without Sally the Sleuth, but it’s true. Long before Harry Donenfeld launched DC Comics, he was a publisher of pulp magazines that featured lurid crime stories. Sex was a major focus, and the dirty stories were a popular product. In 1934, Adolphe Barreaux convinced Donenfeld to expand outside of prose and add some comics to his books, and the “Sally the Sleuth” strip in Spicy Detective was their first attempt. It proved popular and more followed. Eventually, Donenfeld got into the comics game full time in the late 1930s, first with Detective Comics and later with Action Comics. Once Superman and Batman took off with young readers, more series followed and the comic book business became Donenfeld’s priority. But it all started with Sally.
“Sally the Sleuth” was very much in the vein of the lascivious prose stories that surrounded it. Sally was a private detective, but most of her adventures went awry and resulted in her ending up half dressed (if that) and often captured. Still, the two-page feature was more than just dirty thrills. Sally was tough and fierce, and with the help of her associates she nabbed the bad guys more often than not. She was also especially dedicated to helping the women who were used and abused by the criminal underworld. It was a sensationalistic nudie strip, to be sure, but one with some surprisingly progressive aspects.
After her black and white run ended, Sally came back in the early 1950s with a longer, full colour feature that appeared in Trojan Comics’ Crime Smashers comic book series. The nudity was gone, but the crime busting element remained, and the tales were sometimes gruesome. So gruesome, in fact, that the book was cited in Fredric Wertham’s infamous Seduction of the Innocent for having dangerous content that polluted young minds.
Both eras are well represented in this new collection. Hope Nicholson of Bedside Press has been hard at work painstakingly tracking down old pulp magazines, and she’s compiled the vast majority of Sally’s early outings plus all of the later, full colour stories. It’s an impressive assortment of tales, and the most complete collection of Sally the Sleuth stories ever assembled. This book will print the early adventures in their original black and white and the later Crime Smashers tales in full colour. It all looks super sharp. Plus, as I’ve already mentioned, you get an introduction from me! It was a blast to write. She’s such an interesting character, and she played a surprisingly important role at several key stages in the history of the comic book industry.
Hope has partnered with iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women-led startups and small businesses. It’s a lot like Kickstarter, but with a special focus on empowering women that is very cool to see. There are several different reward levels, including ebooks, a simpler black and white collection, and the big, full colour collection. The prices are very reasonable, too. Hope’s got a fondness for high quality, archival reprints and she wants folks who are interested in the same to have affordable access to some nice books. She’s also got a great track record with her collections, from Nelvana of the Northern Lights to Brok Windsor, so you know you’re getting on board with a proven publisher.
You should definitely check out the page, and get on board if you’re interested. Sally the Sleuth is a fascinating, forgotten figure whose place in comic book history deserves to be remembered and appreciated. I hope you’ll pick up the collection! It’s going to be gorgeous and will look great on your shelf!