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LITTLE AL OF THE SECRET SERVICE

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Full Name: Al Conway
Series Name: Little Al of the F.B.I.
Nationality: American
Organization: Secret Service
Occupation Agent

Creator: Norman Saunders
Time Span: 1950 - 1951

ABOUT THE SERIES

       Al Conway is an agent with the F.B.I.
       He is also an agent with the Secret Service.
       Dubbed 'Little Al' because of his short stature, no one who has had a run-in with Conway would ever make his height-challenge known out of embarrassment about being taken down so easily by a 'shrimp'. Conway definitely is of shorter elevation than most men and a lot shorter than his fellow agent and friend, Ox Collins, but with this impressive strength and his skills with hand-to-hand combat, he is a powerful opponent. As it is mentioned early on, he was not made captain of the jujitsu club at college for no reason.
       Prior to becoming an agent with these two organizations, Conway attended Blakely College where he not only was an all-around athlete, becoming the record holder for the hurdles, he was also routinely bringing home top honors in Math, Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. He knew he could easily write his own ticket just about anywhere but his hopes were with the Bureau.
       Helping Little Al, as he calls himself as does his bosses, is Ox Collins, a fellow agent who stands more than head above the diminutive agent but who learned the hard way in a training exercise just how deadly Conway can be. Ox looks like a bit of a lummox but he is pretty sharp and capable of doing the job well, proving to be a valuable colleague.
       Conway is engaged to the pretty but fiery Marcia Crane, a blonde with a mind of her own. We meet her in Conway's second adventure and she will be either involved in or at least mentioned in most of the other missions. She, too, makes no bones about his height, calling him at least once "little man". Marcia is frequently annoyed she is left out of his investigations, feeling she has a lot to contribute despite not being a trained agent.
       The first six recorded adventures we have of Little Al Conway has him proudly working for the F.B.I., working on a mixture of criminal and espionage cases. Then both he and Ox Collins are suddenly working for the Secret Service, though several of the missions he performs for the latter are not typical for that organization and more in keeping with an Intelligence organization.
       Conway is a big-time wise cracker, always having a clever line or three to annoy his adversaries. They do not appreciate his humor and seem to respond quickly with a sap to the back of his head. He gets knocked out a good number of times.
       Ox Collins, at one point, says, "Gee, Little Al! You may be short but your brain sure is powerful big!"

COMIC BOOKS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Number of Stories:15
First Appearance:1950
Last Appearance:1951

       Ziff-Davis has a very successful publishing house for many, many decades. In the early 50s it tried its hand with comicbooks but though it had good titles and certainly would have had terrfic distribution, it must not have been successful because it dropped out completely after just a couple of years.
       In 1950, it tried a title about a short but spunky fellow called Little Al of the F.B.I., gracing two issues of his own magazine with 3 stories each. These were oddly names #10 and #11, likely a previous title's numbering scheme. #10 came out in November 1950 and #11 came out six months later in May 1951.
       Jump ahead two months and Little Al of the Secret Service was on the street with the first issue numbered #10. Then two months after that, #2 came out in September and #3 in December. [Little Al could fight but apparently not count with a darn.]
       Why the little fellow switched so quickly from the F.B.I. to the Secret Service is not known.

Note: The terrific Norman Saunders drew the great covers for the magazines and possibly did the inner artwork as well. For that reason and because I have no other name to list as Creator, I have given him that honor until someone shows otherwise.


1 The Beaver Strikes! The Beaver Strikes!
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 11/1950

1st of 3 stories in Little Al of the F.B.I. #10 - 10 pages - After a 4-page introduction to Little Al Conway, Conway is sent to New Orleans where two attempts have been made on the life of a professor developing a new jet fighter. Communist spies want him eliminated.

2 The Dragon's Claw! The Dragon's Claw!
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 11/1950

2nd of 3 stories in Little Al of the F.B.I. #10 - 7 pages - The deaths of three policemen in Chinatown is being blamed on the Tong or possibly Red Chinese agents but Little Al Conway comes to suspect former Nazis working for the Soviets.

3 The White Hawk! The White Hawk!
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 11/1950

3rd of 3 stories in Little Al of the F.B.I. #10 - 7 pages - The plans for the new super-tank have been stolen by the dangerous foreign agent known as the White Hawk and it is Little Al Conway's task to get it back.

4 The Fiddler The Fiddler
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 05/1951

1st of 3 stories in Little Al of the F.B.I. #11 - 8 pages - "When warehouses loaded with vital materials for overseas shipment go up in flames, it's time for Little Al of the F.B.I. ... to take a hand!" This puts him up against the Fiddler.

5 Roses Are Red As Blood Roses Are Red As Blood
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 05/1951

2nd of 3 stories in Little Al of the F.B.I. #11 - 7 pages - Trying to track down a morphine smuggling gang, Little Al Conway is attacked in an alley and beaten hard enough to land him in the very hospital the drugs are being stolen from.

6 The Drone The Drone
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 05/1951

3rd of 3 stories in Little Al of the F.B.I. #11 - 7 pages - Interstate trucking is being disrupted by a man called 'The Drone' who plants a beehive in a truck cab with the time-bomb to burst the hive and rile the bees inside. Little Al Conway and Ox are on the case.

7 The Case of the Arrogant Heiress The Case of the Arrogant Heiress
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 07/1951

1st of 3 stories in Little Al of the Secret Service #10 - 6 pages - A very spoiled young heiress to a fortune is kidnapped despite Little Al's warnings. When he tracks her down, she will not leave without her mink coat, resulting in a whole lot of trouble.

8 Meet Me At The Zoo Meet Me At The Zoo
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 07/1951

2nd of 3 stories in Little Al of the Secret Service #10 - 9 pages - Two communist agents are working at the local zoo while trying to kidnap scientists at a nearby facility. Little Al Conway's task is to "salt them away" so he heads there and Marcia tags along. A deadly snake is charmed by Conway's poor harmonica playing.

9 The Doodler The Doodler
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 07/1951

3rd of 3 stories in Little Al of the Secret Service #10 - 5 pages - Killer, Bank Robber, hunted by the nation -- but none knew his name! Who was this man they named after the scribblings he left at the scenes of his crimes? It took the nimble mind and flying fists of Little Al of the Secret Service to write an end to the bloody career of 'The Doodler'.

10 The Cult Of Death The Cult Of Death
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 09/1951

1st of 3 stories in Little Al of the Secret Service #2 - 8 pages - "When a murderous cult from an Indian province turns up in America to carry on its bloody worship, then it's time for the Secret Service to step into the picture." The first intended victim is a 'distinguished visitor from abroad' and "Little Al Conway and Ox Collins are assigned to deal with [them]".

11 The Sewers Of Paris The Sewers Of Paris
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 09/1951

2nd of 3 stories in Little Al of the Secret Service #2 - 9 pages - "When a member of a U.S. Commission is found dead in the streets of Paris, an emergency call is sent for Little Al of the Secret Service." The death is the result of an international organization out to embarrass the French government.

12 Baiting The Bull Baiting The Bull
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 09/1951

3rd of 3 stories in Little Al of the Secret Service #2 - 4 pages - Baldy the Bull is "a thief, robber and murderer" who "kills every possible witness" against him. Little Al of the Secret Service begs for a chance to bring him in.

13 Timko's Wolfhounds! Timko's Wolfhounds!
Published by Ziff-Davis
Contributors: Al Carreno (writer and artist)
Copyright: 12/1951

1st of 3 stories in Little Al of the Secret Service #3 - 8 pages - Little Al Conway and Ox Collins are ordered to head to a communist country to meet up with the underground resistance but no one knows who they are.

14 Clear As Crystal Clear As Crystal
Published by Ziff-Davis
Contributors: Al Carreno (writer and artist)
Copyright: 12/1951

2nd of 3 stories in Little Al of the Secret Service #3 - 7 pages - A "monstrous spy ring" is out to steal the U.S.'s "most secret weapon". Little Al Conway and Ox Collins is sent to an East Coast city to track them down.

15 Operation Empire State! Operation Empire State!
Published by Ziff-Davis

Copyright: 12/1951

3rd of 3 stories in Little Al of the Secret Service #3 - 7 pages - A gang of American traitors are stealing vital resources and smuggling them to enemy nations. Little Al Conway is sent to find and stop them but they are a bloodthirsty group.

MY COMMENTS

       The short (I had to say it, didn't I?) series about Little Al is interesting in several ways.
       First, it made the attempt to give the character a life outside the work with not only introducing a fiancee for the man but also having her a part of many of the adventures. Even when she is not actually in the story, she is usually mentioned at least once.
       Second, while the missions that Conway goes on are serious and the bad guys definitely bad and dangerous, the author would occasionally drop a moment or two of levity into things. This lightened the tales a touch without pushing them into the slapstick or farce category.
       Third, with the introduction of a sidekick in Ox Collins, the writer(s) could have made him a buffoon, thus showing just how perfect Little Al was, especially when they dubbed him 'Ox' but they chose not to. Collins actually saves Little Al's life a time or two and not through a pratfall but through solid action.
       I was actually impressed overall with this series and sorry that it did not last longer.
       Little Al's sudden and unexplained switch from the F.B.I. to the Secret Service was an oddity, though.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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