Sometimes we look at comic book series or mini-series and we sort of known immediately why it hasn’t been put out in a hardcover or trade paperback collection. At other times, though, we’re left scratching our heads and wondering why it hasn't been done. Of course sometimes there are reasons behind the scenes, things the public never hears about, but sometimes it’s just plain... weird.
You might very well have your own list of comics that would fit this description.
One of ours is Nathaniel Dusk, Private Investigator #1-4 (and for that matter, its sequel, Nathaniel Dusk, Private Investigator II)...
One of the great developments during the creative boom that comics enjoyed in the early 1980s was that the medium embraced the notion that comic books didn’t have to be synonymous with superheroes. Among other things, companies like Eclipse Comics and First Comics had signaled a return – not a huge one, but distinct nonetheless – of crime comics, and in late 1983 DC Comics responded with Nathaniel Dusk, Private Investigator.
Dusk, a Depression era gumshoe whose story starts for the reader in 1934, was the creation of writer Don McGregor. The art, which played a huge role in creating the mood of the series, was by Gene Colan. Although the practice is much more common today, it was for many fans the first time they’d seen art shot directly from the pencils rather than inked. The result was a captivating, almost impressionist ambience that supports McGregor’s story brilliantly.
In the story, Dusk is a World War I veteran who tried his hand at law enforcement with the NYPD but blanched at the corruption that he saw. Clawing out a living as a private investigator, he has a good nature coupled with some punishing life experiences, and he keeps the prerequisite bottle of Scotch in his desk. If that sounds like a P.I. cliché, well, it probably is, but McGregor powers through it with a charming humanity and occasional doses of self-righteousness that keep Dusk interesting and original.
“Lovers Die at Dusk” was a four-issue miniseries set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the New York cabbies’ strike of 1934, and other well-researched events and it made for a highly compelling read. It concluded in May 1984.
A sequel miniseries, Nathaniel Dusk, Private Investigator II (“Apple Peddlers Die at Noon”) was released in 1985.
Since then, though, there’s been no new Nathaniel Dusk stories, and the original two miniseries have not been collected (though we keep hearing that it will happen). An alternate Dusk did pop up in Doomsday Clock. We’d love to see a trade paperback or hardcover of these tales, but until then your best bet is the back issue bins of a well-stocked comic shop.
– J.C. Vaughn