Cliff Crosby’s series languished amid the back pages of Detective Comics for the entirety of its run. The art managed to reach a passable level, but the stories, often only 5 or 6 pages long, never achieve anything memorable.
The series begins without making it clear what Cliff does for a living. He helps a reporter friend, Terry Jensen, find a kidnapped judge in his first tale, and then travels with explorer Dr. Broussard in his second outing, encountering an African tribe hidden in the arctic. In Detective Comics 39 he is on vacation (from what?) in Florida and stops a child kidnapping ring in the Everglades. He is hired to supervise construction of a new airplane in issue 40, and then works with the police in issues 41 and 42, being called in to help by Inspector Becker in the latter story.
In Detective Comics 43 it is clear that Cliff is a reporter. An editor sends him to Africa, on a cruise exploring the Congo River, during which he confronts and defeats the Skull, who runs an illegal radio station from his medieval castle. Don’t ask.
Issues 44 seems to back up his reporter status, as he is on assignment in the Dutch East Indies before crashing onto the Island of Vampires, but in issue 45 he is a polo playing rich guy who solves a murder in his spare time.
Only with Detective Comics 46 does his profession get clearly stated, and stabilized. He is the owner and publisher of the New York Record, and his ace reporter is Kay Nevers. In the following issue we learn he inherited the newspaper from his father, and in issue 48 we discover that his father was killed by gangsters for exposing them in his paper. Cliff and Kay manage to find proof of the killer’s identity, and bring him to justice.
For much of the rest of his run, Cliff solves murder mysteries, often with Kay helping out. He heads to Europe alone in issues 54 and 55, reporting on the German bombing of England, and solving the theft of a valuable painting. We learn that Kay’s last name is Nevers in issue 52, and their relationship must be fairly close as they stay at a hotel in that issue, and going skiiing together at a resort in Canada in issue 58, but it certainly appears chaste. In his final story, in Detective 63, Kay is referred to as his reporter-secretary.
In his last tale, Cliff solves the murder of a circus lion tamer, which was done by coating the lion’s mane with nicotine. Often the crimes were needlessly elaborate that way.
With Cliff’s series ending so soon after the attack on Pearl Harbour, I suspect he joined the army, perhaps as a journalist, but did not survive the war.
Cliff Crosby: Detective Comics 37 – 63 (Mar 40 – May 42)