The winner of the $1,000 prize for a forgotten comic book mystery

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Today find out if they ever gave the final prize in 1980s indie comics Whodunnit? series.

This is a feature called “Earn What Has Never Been Earned”. It’s about looking back at the history of comic book contests and showing who the winners of the various contests were (if we can tell who the winners are – I don’t think anyone will ever know who won this contest Clark Bar Superhero Sweepstakes of the late 1970s).

Reader Chris M. wrote in to ask about the incredibly misunderstood 1980s Eclipse series, Whodunnitt?to ask if anyone has already received the $1000 promised in the fourth ever issue of the series (well, technically Chris wanted to know if anyone had already received the prize for the FIRST issue, but I tend to think that the other question is slightly more intriguing since the series actually ended before it could reveal its eventual winner).


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WHO WAS CROSSFIRE?

It’s hard to grasp how much of a game-changer the direct market has been for the comics industry. You see, in the early days of comics, comics were sold at newsstands, as were magazines (in case you were wondering why the dates on comics are always further back in time than their date of actual publication is because, just like magazines, the idea is that newsstand owners would be able to tell when to pull comics from the display and return them by seeing the cover date, so if a book says March on it, it will come out in December or January and you would pick it up and return your remaining copies in March).


This setup caused three major hurdles for anyone who wanted to produce an independent comic book series. First, you need to have the capital to print enough copies to get to the stores, and then collect the leftovers. Second, you need to be able to get newsstand owners to give you some of their valuable rack space to display your comic. Third, and probably most important, since you had to accept returns of unsold copies, your margins were razor sharp. It was very difficult to make money selling PERIOD comics, let alone for an independent comic book creator.


The direct market solved all three of these problems in one fell swoop. Now you only had to print as many copies as ordered and the comics were non-refundable (you had to give resellers a bigger discount, but that was easily paid for by not having to accept returns ) and since there were now all of these comic shops, rack space was less of a concern (still an issue, but much LESS). So now, a small run of an indie comic might still make money. There was a big boom in independent comics, which made it possible for those compelling comics that might have been too specialized to work for a mainstream publisher.


Eventually, the glut of indie comics overwhelmed the public, but for a time many great comics were produced by companies like Pacific, Eclipse, and Comico. One of these comics was DNA Agentsa superhero series by Mark Evanier and Will Meugniot that was of interest to Marvel and DC (who were also going through a direct market boom during this time), but Evanier and Meugniot wanted to retain the media rights to the characters, so they released DNA Agents through Eclipse Comics…

In the fourth issue of the series, they introduced an interesting new villain known as Crossfire. The villain returned in the ninth issue of the series and, well, it didn’t go well for him…


He had been bailed out by serf Jay Endicott…

And after his murder, Endicott investigated things and found Crossfire’s costume and gadgets and decided to become the new Crossfire, using the villain’s reputation to make connections with the underworld, but then fighting crime as what a superhero…

Evanier then launched a spin-off series featuring Crossfire with the brilliant Dan Spiegle…

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WHAT IS THE WHODUNNIT?

In 1987, Evanier and Spiegle launched a fascinating new series called Whodunnit? The series would feature Crossfire as Jay Endicott and the concept would be that each problem would involve the murder of a character, with enough clues in the problem that you could reasonably solve the murder, and since it was solvable, Eclipse had a gadget. with the book where the first reader to solve the mystery would receive a $1,000 prize (and the store where they purchased the comic would receive $200)! It featured prominently on the cover of the first issue…


Don and Maggie Thompson of the iconic Comic Book Buying Guide would judge the competition (and it was more than a “Who did it?”, because Evanier and Spiegle made you work for your money!)…

In the second issue, there was a new mystery, where you had to find out who killed Kangaroo, a member of the rock band, Noah Zark…

Again, the questions were more than just “Who did this?”…

In the third issue, there was a new mystery…

And he revealed the winners of the series’ first two mysteries…

I would normally share a few sample pages, but the way Evanier and Spiegle made them “fair play” mysteries was to include a ton of detail in the pages, so a sampling really wouldn’t make much sense.

In any case, Whodunnit? ended after three issues, so there was NO Whodunnit? #4 to solve the mystery.

Fortunately, in one of the last issues of Crossfire (again, the indie comics scene was getting tough in the late 1980s), Crossfire #24, Evanier and Spiegle revealed the winner of the final Whodunnit?

There was also an additional story explaining the killer, but, well, that’s a lot of comic book stories you really should go out and buy a copy. Crossfire #24 to get, ya know? And heck, buy those comics anyway, they were really well done!

Thanks to Chris for the suggestion! Alright folks, I’m sure you have some suggestions for notable comic book contests! Heck, maybe you WON a remarkable comic contest! That would be great. I’d love to know who won that damn Clark Bar contest that no one can figure out (this might be the hardest mystery in comic book history)! Either way, whether you just want to suggest a contest or you won one, feel free to email me at [email protected] and I’ll see if I can use your idea!


Cheer! You will die on a mountain in a Lobo/Etrigan the demon fight!

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