Sunday, November 1, 2020

Schlomo Raven, Public Detective

Written by
Byron Preiss
Illustrated by Tom Sutton

Byron Preiss was a book packager. He would put together books and series and sell them to publishers, saving them the effort of finding writers and coming up with themes. Preiss was a little different in that he was also an accomplished author, and one of his strangest projects was Schlomo Raven, Public Detective in the first issue of an intended series Fiction Illustrated.

The book was in graphic form, showing the adventures of Raven, who was based in Hollywood. It  consisted of two stories.In the first, “The Farx Job,”  where the Farx Brothers are kidnapped, possibly by monsters. The second story, “Rosebug,” has a more serious tone, as it shows an Orson Welles character working to save his film, American.

The names throughout are parodies of the real people. “The Farx Job” tries for a slapstick feel, while “Rosebug” is played a bit more straight.

Raven is short and with a prominent nose, part parody of the hard-boiled detective trope, and part pure slapstick. Tom Sutton’s art is reminiscent of 50s Mad Magazine. He shows a strong talent for caricature.

Fiction Illustrated format was strange. The book itself was an odd size (5 x 6 1/2”) and the pages were on newsprint, like a comic book. I wonder if the size hurt the distribution.

The magazine only ran four issues. Number two, Starfawn, had art by Stephen Fabien, but the story didn’t really go anywhere; I think they were hoping for a series.  Two more issues were produced before the series ended.

Schlomo Raven was an interesting experiment, but I think it might have had a better chance of catching on if there had been more issues of Fiction Illustrated featuring him.

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