Dateline: Danger! is an American syndicated newspaper comic strip published from 1968 to 1974, created and produced by writer John Saunders and artist Al McWilliams. The series, about two intelligence agents working undercover as reporters, co-starred the character Danny Raven, the first African-American lead character of a mainstream comic strip.
Inspired by the television series I Spy, the first TV dramatic show to co-star an African-American in a lead role, writer John Saunders and artist Al McWilliams created the adventure strip Dateline: Danger! for the Publishers-Hall syndicate. Introduced as both a daily and a color Sunday strip in November 1968, it similarly was the first in this medium with an African-American lead character, Danny Raven. As in the TV show, the two protagonists were American secret agents who globetrotted to trouble spots under the cover of another profession.
Comics historian Maurice Horn wrote:
'The 1960s were the decade during which the comics syndicates were most blatantly aping successful television shows in a desperate (and vain) attempt at regaining their fast-disappearing readership. One of the most noteworthy entries in the crowded field was Dateline: Danger! a strip based on the popular I Spy program starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. There was much banter and wisecracking going between the partners as they raced cars, engaged in fisticuffs, and dodged bullets in the course of their everyday activities.
The comic strip ran through 1974. It was called Topreporterne in Denmark.
A consultant on the strip was Saunders' father, Allan Saunders, writer of the comic strips Steve Roper and Mike Nomad, Mary Worth and Kerry Drake.
African-American Danny Raven and his Caucasian partner Troy — an acronym nickname for Theodore Randolph Oscar Young — worked for the agency US Intelligence, planted undercover as reporters for a news organization. When the two were not working to stop revolutionary plots in South America, the destabilization of democratic African nations or Cold War tyranny in Eastern Europe, Raven might find himself in helping his sister Wendy and younger brother Lee Roy confront hatemonger Robin Jackson, who aimed to instigate race riots through his militant newspaper, The Revolt.
Alden Spurr McWilliams, generally credited as Al McWilliams and A. McWilliams (February 2, 1916 - March 19, 1993), was born in New York City, the son of chauffeur John and piano teacher Florence L. McWilliams. His sister Faith was born in 1921. By 1929, the family, of Irish ancestry, had moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, where John McWilliams became a radio-company chemist's laboratory assistant. Al McWilliams graduated from Greenwich High School in 1934, and that September began attending the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, which later became Parsons new School for Design
Circa 1935, he worked as an art assistant on Lyman Young's newspaper comic strip Tim Tyler's Luck. In 1938, he began illustrating for such pulp magazines as Clues Detective Stories and Flying Aces, where for three years he wrote and drew biographies of famed flyers in a single-page comic strip, They Had What It Takes.
He entered comic books as the fledgling medium began, with his earliest confirmed credit the four-page feature Capt. Frank Hawks — Air Ace in 'Dell Comics' Crackajack Funnies #7 (cover-dated Dec. 1938). Other early credits, all for 'Dell', include the feature Crime Busters a.k.a. The Crime Busters with Al Brady, in The Funnies; Speed Bolton: Air Ace and Stratosphere Jim a.k.a. Stratosphere Jim and his Flying Fortress in Crackajack Funnies; and the radio-show spinoff Gang Busters in Popular Comics and Four Color.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army on October 1, 1942, fighting in such World War II battles as D-Day, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star and France's Croix de Guerre. Either having stockpiled stories prior or finding time during his service, he both wrote and drew the Quality Comics war-comics features Spitfire in Crack Comics and Atlantic Patrol, Pacific Patrol, and Secret War News in Military Comics, as well as simply drawing other features. He was discharged in 1945, and upon returning to the US in 1946 began drawing the detective feature Steve Wood in 'Quality's National Comics. Through the remainder of the decade he also drew comics for companies including 'D.S. Publishing', 'Novelty Press', 'Hillman Periodicals', and 'Star Publications' with at least one romance comic story for 'Archie Comics' and did interior art and covers, variously, for such pulps as the Westerns All Western Magazine, Exciting Western, Rodeo Romances, Texas Rangers and Zane Grey's Western Magazine, the science-fiction Planet Stories, the sports-oriented Fight Stories, and the aviation-adventure Wings.
From 1950 to 1952, McWilliams primarily drew romance comics and crime comics for 'Lev Gleason Publications'.Then in 1952, he and writer Oskar Lebeck created the science-fiction comic strip Twin Earths which ran through 1963. From 1966 to 1968, he drew the sea-adventure strip Davy Jones, a spinoff of Sam Leff's Curley Kayoe.
Other comic-strip work includes the Star Trek and Buck Rogers strips. He worked as an assistant on John Prentice's Rip Kirby in 1964 and 1965; on Don Sherwood's U.S. Marine strip Dan Flagg from 1965 to 1967; and on Leonard Starr's On Stage in 1969 and 1970. McWilliams also illustrated for advertising.
He drew no confirmed comic-book stories from 1952 through 1965, when he illustrated two tales in 'Warren Publishing's black-and-white horror comics magazine Creepy. He went on to draw stories in supernatural/mystery anthology comics Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery and Twilight Zone, two TV-series spinoffs published by 'Western Publishing's Gold Key Comics, along with a smattering of other stories for that imprint — including some issues of the superhero series Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom — as well as for 'Warren' and 'Tower Comics'. Concentrating on Dateline: Danger! he drew no comic books from 1968 to 1974. That year he did three supernatural stories for 'Red Circle Sorcery' and 'Mad House', from 'Archie Comics' Red Circle Comics imprint, along with a handful of stories for 'Atlas/Seaboard Comics'. As well, he inked roughly a half-dozen 'Marvel Comics' stories in 1975 before returning to 'Gold Key', where he drew and lettered stories through 1982. His work there included issues of Flash Gordon and the TV-spinoff comic Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
His last known comics work is penciling and inking two short stories published in the May 1984 issues of two comics in 'Archie's Archie Adventure Series imprint, Blue Ribbon Comics #8 and Steel Sterling #6.
McWilliams married Ruth Jensen in 1946, and the couple moved to Darien, Connecticut, where they raised sons Chris Jensen McWilliams and Alden Richards McWilliams. The couple, who also had a home in Eastham, Massachusetts, was married 46 years at the time of McWilliams' death from respiratory failure at a hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, buried at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich.