Roy admits he's not perfect, Karen looks on. Artist: Ruben Moreira.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1949
Creators: unknown writer and Ruben Moreira (artist)
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Television was the glitzy new entertainment medium from the late 1940s through the '50s, and naturally enough, comic books made their share of attempts to ride its coattails to higher sales. Avon Comics …

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… (Space Detective) published one called Television Puppet Show (1950), Charlton (Timmy the Timid Ghost) did TV Teens (1954) and Marvel (The Yellow Claw) did Della Vision (1955). Even established comics such as Real Screen Comics (starring The Fox & the Crow) and New Funnies (Woody Woodpecker) changed their titles to TV Screen Cartoons and TV Funnies.

One of the earliest and longest lasting TV-themed comic book series was also one of the least prominently displayed. Roy Raymond, TV Detective, spent his entire decade-long career in the back pages of DC Comics' Detective Comics, which, dominated by the presence of Batman, never showed and seldom mentioned him on the cover.

Roy first appeared in Detective Comics #153, dated November, 1949, but the series wasn't originally named after him. It was called "Impossible — But True", which was also the name of Roy's TV show. The hero Roy replaced was Slam Bradley, who went all the way back to the first issue. Roy's eight-page opening story was drawn by Ruben Moreira (who later co-created DC's Rip Hunter, Time Master), but it isn't known who wrote it. The same "team" — unknown writer, with Moreira both penciling and inking — remained with the feature throughout its lengthy run.

Roy's show was a lot like Ripley's Believe It or Not (which, perhaps not coincidentally, had started on TV a few months earlier), with people showing off amazing abilities, fantastic devices and other things that were difficult to believe. Roy wasn't just its host, but also the man who booked the acts — and that meant he had to eliminate the many pretenders who tried to get on TV by palming off fake impossibilities. In each monthly episode, he and his assistant, Karen Duncan, would protect the viewing public from deception by exposing a clever (but not clever enough) hoax. That's how Roy earned the second half of his series title, "TV Detective", which replaced the "Impossible — But True" logo in the November, 1953 issue.

Except for being cut from eight pages to six somewhere along the way, the switch from "Impossible — But True" to "Roy Raymond, TV Detective" was the only change the series underwent from beginning to end. In Detective Comics #293 (July, 1961), Roy was replaced by Aquaman, who had just been squeezed out of Adventure Comics, and wasn't heard from again for years.

By the '70s, the major comic book publishers were strip-mining their past in search of characters even remotely likely to be exploitable. Roy Raymond was pulled out of retirement to host a similar show at Galaxy Broadcasting, where Clark Kent was a newscaster at the time. It was just like old times, except, the new-media glitz having worn off television, there wasn't a comic book series for him to star in. He did turn up in the 500th issue of Detective Comics (March, 1981), as part of a crowd of minor stars from that title's past (including Pow Wow Smith, Captain Compass, The Human Target, and others equally unlikely to appear all in the same story).

There's a Roy Raymond active in the DC Universe even today. This one is the son of the original, and runs a TV show of his own, one of those that try to sensationalize things on the fringe of the news. He's a pale imitation of his father — not just in terms of reader interest, but also according to the other characters around him.


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Text ©2004-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.