Saturday, February 24, 2024


One-Shot Wonders: The Hickman Murder Trial by Willard Mullin, 1928


In the 1920s it wasn't too unusual in the more sensational papers to add graphic interest to news stories by covering them partially in comic strip form, like this example by a very young Willard Mullin. Mullin at this time would have been working for the Los Angeles Herald, a Hearst newspaper, but we see it here in syndicated form via the Denver Post. Mullin later became famous as a sports cartoonist, but this is before that became his specialty. 

The story being illustrated here is the William Edward Hickman kidnapping and murder trial. The 20-year old defendant kidnapped a 12-year old girl and murdered her in grisly fashion while attempting to extort money from her parents. Thankfully he was caught before he could make a habit of this activity. Based on his testimony he felt he was perfectly within his rights to perform such acts in his own self-interest, and seemingly would have continued his behavior in the future to finance himself.

Very Odd Postscript: As the rest of the world listened in horror to the details of this psycho's repugnant crime, he became a hero to a young nut named Ayn Rand. She greatly admired him for his unpitying selfishness, and wrote about her admiration extensively in her diary, terming him a "superman." Hickman would become an inspiration and basis for her inhumane philosophy.


I just got in a bound volume of internal, house magazines for Scripps-Howard covering this period. It was a period when the SH owned Rocky Mountain News was in a fierce battle with the Denver Post, so it's no wonder the Post went all Hearstian in this, with sex and violence.
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