Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Unlikely Romance - Lady Cop

Romance comics were often times fraught with young women looking merely for a husband or temporary companion. Lady Cop, the fourth installment of DC’s 1st Issue Special (story by Robert Kanigher, art by John Rosenberger and Vince Colletta) portrayed a different side of the romance coin. Liza Warner – Lady Cop, was looking not for a husband, but for a killer.

A somewhat naïve Liza witnesses the murder of her roommates. Immobilized, she hides under the bed. Though in shock, she has a photographic memory and can tell t
he police exactly what the murderer’s boots looked like – white cowboy boots with skull and crossbones decorations. A police woman who comes to the site tells her she has the “camera eye” of a police officer and laments, “wish we had more women like you applying for the police academy! The city would be a safer place to live in!”

Thinking and dreaming constantly about the tragic incident, Liza enrolls in the police academy in an effort to find the killer. Liza proves her dedication to the force and her courageous nature by intercepting a live grenade hurled by a disgruntled ex-student of the police academy during the graduation ceremony. All this is just an introduction though to the meat of the story, which is titled “Poisoned Love!” It even has a romance ring to it!

We see Liza start her career by coming to the aid of a young woman on a rooftop being assaulted by a brute and his dopey sidekick.

After putting the Neanderthals in their place with some action-packed martial arts moves, Liza arrests the duo. Unfortunately, the young woman who was being assaulted leaves the scene and Liza is unable to question her. In her quest to find the victim, Liza proves she not only can put bad guys behind bars, but is passionate about watching out for the community as well.

While patrolling the streets, Liza finds the victim and overhears her telephone conversation.

In her desperate attempt to catch the still unnamed girl, Liza gets pulled away by another crime scene. The grocer has been stabbed and she must go after the man holding the knife. As the bad guy attempts to slice her, he simultaneously gives her a lecture that she should have stayed home to practice the “female” arts of washing dishes and mending socks. She quickly puts him in his place, knocks him out cold and heroically saves the grocer with a quick thinking dose of CPR.

Unable to find the missing girl by the end of her shift, Liza takes some well deserved
time off by going to the beach with her boyfriend. He doesn’t seem to be taking her choice of profession as well as she is. It is on this page that you can really see the influence of the romance genre in both the art and the dialogue, even though our protagonist has different things on her mind than just getting married or keeping her man like in many of the traditional romance stories.

Liza eventually finds the runaway girl, who stares despondently into the water at the edge of a pier and councils her on seeking help for the possible VD. In what sounds like a PSA, Liza lets her know that a family doctor and/or Board of Health VD stations can test her and give her antibiotics if needed. The girl is hesitant due to what she thinks her father’s reaction will be. Her father meets her at the dock and Liza sticks around to make sure everything goes smoothly. The father doesn’t take the news well, berates his daughter and punches Liza in the face. Incredibly calm and resilient, Liza reasons with the father and urges him to take his daughter to the doctor.

The story comes to an abrupt end when Liza is confronted by a friend of the perps she sent to jail for attacking the girl with the VD. Liza and the attacker wind up in the river where it is revealed that the “tough guy” can’t even swim. Liza dutifully saves him. We are left with an image of Liza pondering if she will ever find the man who killed her roommates. Unfortunately, that is the end of Lady Cop and no one finds out who the killer is.

As you can see, in many respects Lady Cop can be considered a romance story – though maybe not a traditional one. Since it was late in the game for romance (1975), perhaps it was a way to test the waters and see if the genre was still viable if packaged differently. I personally really like the story, and I wish Liza Warner the Lady Cop had been given another chance, but alas, it was not meant to be. I would have liked to see a continuation of her personal love life with Hal and how she balanced that with the search for the elusive killer in cowboy boots. The internal struggle is alluded to, but never quite capitalized on. I think Lady Cop would have made for a good serial romance/crime title, but obviously it didn’t catch on.

What do you think? Would you have liked to see more adventures of Liza Warner – Lady Cop?


  1. That cover is a swipe from somewhere; Adventure #413 is the first one that comes to mind, although I'd swear there's another one out there even closer to this. Liza does seem like an interesting character, but DC couldn't buy a hit back then; I don't think any of the First Issue Specials launched a book.

  2. So it is very reminiscent of the cover of Adventure #413! If you think of the other one it is a copy of, let me know! Yeah, none of the 1st Issue Specials did that hot... I think #8 (The Warlord) launched its own series, but I think I read somewhere that Warlord had been conceived to be its own series prior to the 1st Issue Special introduction.

    After doing more research today, it looks like Liza Warner made subsequent appearances in "The All-New Atom" as the police chief of Ivy Town. I will have to pick those up sometime!

  3. Yeah, you can see the Adventure #413 cover here:


    Oddball pose of the heroine, the spatial relationship between the two main characters, the fact that we can see the background people between the man's legs; that's a basic layout swipe. I do like this one better than the original, don't get me wrong. It's just something that leaped out at me, because I knew I had never seen that comic but remembered the pose.

  4. Thanks, Jacque. I'll have to track those down sometime. This is such a neat concept. Crime and romance? None better.

  5. Hey Sebastian! Thanks for reading! I'm with ya... crime and romance can't be beat!

  6. Vinnie Colletta's women were the sexiest.

  7. I bought this comic a few months (before I found this blog) and it didn't do it for me. I think Marvel would have done a better job with it, and it would have lasted exactly four issues (like NIGHT NURSE and THE CAT.)


  8. Marshall,

    I can understand Lady Cop not speaking to you. I definitely like it FAR less than Night Nurse as well.

    Welcome to Sequential Crush, by the way! :)

  9. Beyond thrilled to be here.


  10. One thing that struck me from reading the description of this issue: hiding under the bed was exactly what saved the life of the sole survivor of the Richard Speck massacre. That bit can't be a coincidence.

  11. It is an interesting similarity, one that I didn't pick up on before. I wonder if it was purposeful or just a coincidence... I am not sure how prevalent the Speck massacre was in the media at the time and if that was an influence on the Lady Cop storyline...

  12. I've never heard of Speck, time to Google ... mind, I was only 11 at the time. I remember that Lady Cop was in Atom, but I didn't know that's who the chief was. It's great she did so well. I'm sure she caught the killer* before they bought new shoes.

    The VD references are fascinating, fancy the Comics Code having no problem with a single young lady being shown to have had sex at least once - maybe the VD was seen as 'punishment', giving the story - in the CCA's eyes - a moral reason to depict such real life business. Context, and all that.

    * My guess for the killer ... Lois Lane's old roomie Kristin Cutler, she of the sinister sleepwalking and piranha fish love. She moved apartments and finally went loco.

  13. I had to look it up to, Martin.

    The VD references are unexpected -- but seem to serve as almost a public service announcement more than a punishment.