Crime Does Not Pay remains perhaps the single most notorious title in comic book history, and Crime Does Not Pay #33 gives us an excellent snap-shot as to why. While the cover is what sparks its notoriety among vintage comic book collectors, the eclectic mix of people involved in putting out this comic book serves to make it all the more historically interesting. Publisher Lev Gleason was also helping to publish "Communist Front" magazines at the time and was investigated by the FBI for related associations. Regular series contributor Dick Briefer, perhaps best known for his strange and wonderful work on Frankenstein from Prize Comics, also had a long-running comic strip in The Daily Worker, the propaganda outlet of the Communist Party USA. Regular series writer Dick Wood would go onto contribute significantly to the DC Comics Silver Age along with one of his brothers, Dave Wood. And of course, another of the Wood brothers, Crime Does Not Pay co-editor Bob Wood, would himself commit an infamous murder. Wood and his other co-editor and cover artist Charles Biro put crime comics on the map. Crime Does Not Pay was a comic book title destined to be notorious, and issue #33 is an excellent example of the series. There's a Crime Does Not Pay #33 (Lev Gleason, 1944) CGC FN/VF 7.0 Cream to off-white pages up for auction at the 2021 June 17 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions.
The Crime Does Not Pay title was generally inspired by the MGM film short serial of the same name, which had been running since 1935. The film series offered sober warnings against a life of crime as a direct result of the then recently-instituted Hays Code, which had been instituted in part after Hollywood came under fire for glamorizing gangsters. Ironically enough, the comic book series it inspired would do much to help bring about the Comics Code some 20 years later.
The series sensationalized the crimes of many of the gangsters, killers, robbers, and con artists of the era and before. For example, the lead feature of Crime Does Not Pay #33 chronicles the exploits of Farrington Hill, who committed a number of murders, armed robberies, car thefts, and even a kidnapping throughout 1941-42. Hill killed the cashier of the Frontier Club in Las Vegas in August 1942, and was captured by police. However, Hill later escaped from the Clark County, Nevada jail that October, only to be apprehended again in Texas while attempting to make his way into Mexico.
This issue has a historically noteworthy editorial from publisher Lev Gleason. It reads in part:
Paper is rationed and the amount available for magazines has been sharply cut. Publishers are forced, therefore, to cut down on their comic magazines, and this issue has been reduced from 56 inside pages to 48 pages. That would have meant that you readers would have had eight pages less reading. With us, patriotism comes first — and we have reduced our paper requirements. Our readers come next — and we have dropped the usual seven pages of advertising to use the space for comics. This has cost us a loss of many thousands of dollars a month from advertising — but it gives you almost as much reading matter as before.
Our comics will now follow right on the inside back cover, and the back cover itself. Every available pound of paper will be used for comics. The publishers of Boy Comics, Daredevil and Crime Does Not Pay again take the lead, no matter the cost, to give you the most of the best.
Currently the #4 book on Overstreet's Top Ten Crime Comics list, Crime Does Not Pay #33 is a historically important comic book that is rarely found above mid-grade. There are currently 41 listings for the issue on the CGC Census, with only 10 above CGC 7.0. There's a Crime Does Not Pay #33 (Lev Gleason, 1944) CGC FN/VF 7.0 Cream to off-white pages up for auction at the 2021 June 17 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions.
Crime Does Not Pay #33 (Lev Gleason, 1944) CGC FN/VF 7.0 Cream to off-white pages. Classic hanging, hatchet cover by Charles Biro. Currently the #4 book on Overstreet's Top Ten Crime Comics list. Rudy Palais and Dick Briefer art. Overstreet 2020 FN 6.0 value = $813; VF 8.0 value = $1,734. CGC census 6/21: 2 in 7.0, 10 higher.