Classic Crime Comic Book 'Ms. Tree' Is Returning

The series, co-created by 'Road to Perdition's Max Allan Collins, will be collected by Hard Case Crime.
Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics

Take cover, comic book criminals: One of the most merciless crimebusters of them all is on the way back, with Titan Comics and Hard Case Crime announcing a new collection of Ms. Tree — created by Mystery Writers of America 2017 Grand Master ‘Edgar’ winner Max Allan Collins and Wild Dog co-creator Terry Beatty — for 2019.

The collection will bring the classic cult character — who originally debuted in 1981’s Eclipse Magazine before going on to appear in comics from multiple publishers including Cerebus the Aardvark’s Aardvark-Vanaheim and DC Comics throughout the 1980s and early '90s — back into comic book print for the first time in more than two decades. (The character starred in a prose novel, Deadly Beloved, from Hard Case in 2007.)

The eponymous character — whose name is a pun on the word “mystery” — is a love letter to American crime fiction as well as a part of the genre; she was inspired by Velda, the assistant to Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, and was often hinted to be the daughter of Dragnet’s Joe Friday. The high concept behind the character is that she’s a widow carrying on her dead husband’s private detective business, but is even more capable — and more deadly — than he ever was.

“I am thrilled and proud that Titan is bringing out the complete collected Ms. Tree,” Collins — co-creator of Road to Perdition and former Dick Tracy and Batman writer — said in a statement from the publisher. “Terry Beatty and I created a strong female protagonist and re-established noir-ish crime fiction as a comics genre, pre-dating Frank Miller’s Sin City and everything that followed. Ms. Tree remains the longest running private eye comic book to date, and jump-started the trend toward female private eyes, appearing before both Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone.”

Added Beatty, who worked with Collins in bringing the character to life: “In the 1950s, the Comics Code Authority, acting under pressure from a panicked — and misinformed — public, put an end to crime comics. In the 1980s, with Ms. Tree, Max Allan Collins and I brought crime comics back. For over a decade, and under several imprints, we continued our crusade to revive the crime and detective genres in the comic book format. We seem to have started something.”

The new collection will be published later this year.