18 Comic Covers Posing a “Whodunit?” Question to Their Readers
You kids today. You have no idea what it was like back in the dark ages before your YouTubes and SnapChats and BleepBloops and whatnot. No idea.
So, back in the day there was this show called Dallas about the Ewings, a family of rich Texans who were always backstabbing each other. In the final scene of the 1979-80 season (aired March 21, 1980), J.R. (played by Larry Hagman) hears a noise in his office, walks out to a hall to investigate, and is shot twice by an unseen assailant. Viewers wouldn’t find out who did it until the show returned eight months later… and during those eight months, the world frankly went insane.
There were the standard “Who Shot J.R.?” T-shirts, of course. Bookies took bets on which of the show’s many characters did the deed, and Hagman was offered £100,000 while on vacation in the U.K. for the name of the shooter (he replied not even the cast knew which of them would turn out to be the killer). The show’s cliffhanger even made it into the 1980 presidential campaign, with Republicans printing cheeky buttons that claimed a Democrat did the deed.
And speaking of elections, the episode revealing the killer was the highest-rated TV show in U.S. history up to that point, with an estimated 83 million viewers tuning in to find out — about the same number of people who voted in that year’s presidential election.
It’s no surprise one of the biggest events in TV history centred about a mystery; who can resist a good whodunit? Not the readers who picked these comics off the shelves: