Several movies and radio and television series have been based on the books in the Hammer series. The actor most closely identified with the character in recent years has been Stacy Keach, who portrayed Hammer in a CBS television series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, which ran from 1984–1987 and had a syndicated revival in 1997–1998. (An earlier syndicated version, originally aired in 1957–1958, starred Darren McGavin as Hammer.) Spillane himself played Hammer in a 1963 motion picture adaptation of The Girl Hunters. Spillane himself favoured ex-Marine and former Newburgh, New York police officer Jack Stang, on whom he based the character, to play him. Stang appeared with Spillane in the 1954 film Ring of Fear and in the film adaptation of I, the Jury.
Prior to World War II, Mickey Spillane was a writer of many well known comic books. After World War II he used what would be the plot of I, the Jury for a comic book character called Mike Danger. When converting the comic book to a novel originally in hardcover, Spillane wrote the work in nine days in some accounts, nineteen in other accounts.
While pulp detectives such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe are hard-boiled and cynical, Hammer is in many ways the archetypal "hard man": brutally violent, and fueled by a genuine rage against violent crime that never afflicts Raymond Chandler's or Dashiell Hammett's heroes. In The Big Kill Hammer describes himself to a bargirl as a misanthrope. Hammer is also loosely based on the real-life hard-boiled Texas Ranger and gunfighter Frank Hamer, who was most famous for tracking down and killing Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in 1934.
While other hardboiled heroes bend and manipulate the law, Hammer often views it as an impediment to justice, the one virtue he holds in absolute esteem. Hammer nevertheless has a strong respect for the majority of police, realizing they have a difficult job and their hands are frequently tied by the law when trying to stop criminals.
Mike Hammer is a no-holds-barred private investigator who carries a .45 Colt M1911A1 in a shoulder harness under his left arm. His love for his secretary Velda is outweighed only by his willingness to kill a killer. Hammer's best friend is Pat Chambers, Captain of Homicide NYPD. Hammer was a WWII army veteran who spent two years fighting jungle warfare in the Pacific theatre against Japan. Hammer is also patriotic and anti-communist. The novels are peppered with remarks by Hammer supporting American troops in Korea, and in Survival...Zero Vietnam. In One Lonely Night, where Hammer attends a communist meeting in a park, his reaction to the speaker's propaganda is a sarcastic "Yeah."
So far as violence is concerned, the Hammer novels leave little to the imagination. Written in the first person, Hammer describes his violent encounters with relish. In all but a few novels, Hammer's victims are often left vomiting after a blow to the stomach or groin.
The Washington Times obituary of Spillane said of Hammer, "In a manner similar to Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, Hammer was a cynical loner contemptuous of the 'tedious process' of the legal system, choosing instead to enforce the law on his own terms."
- I, the Jury (1947)
- My Gun is Quick (1950)
- Vengeance Is Mine! (1950)
- One Lonely Night (1951)
- The Big Kill (1951)
- Kiss Me, Deadly (1952)
- The Girl Hunters (1962)
- The Snake (1964)
- The Twisted Thing (1966)
- The Body Lovers (1967)
- Survival... Zero! (1970)
- The Killing Man (1989)
- Black Alley (1996)
- The Goliath Bone (2008, Mickey Spillane with Max Allan Collins)
- The Big Bang (2010, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins)
- Kiss Her Goodbye (2011, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins)
- Lady, Go Die! (2012, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins)
- Complex 90 (2013, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins)
- King of the Weeds (2014, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins)
- Kill Me, Darling (2015, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins)
- Murder Never Knocks (Coming in March 2016 Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins)
- The Night I Died (short story published in the anthology Private Eyes first published in 1998, although short story was written in 1953, Mickey Spillane)
- The Duke Alexander (short story published in the book Byline: Mickey Spillane first published in 2004, although it was originally written circa 1956, Mickey Spillane)
- The Killing Man (short story later turned into a full length Mike Hammer novel published in Playboy magazine December 1989, later republished in the book Byline: Mickey Spillane in 2004, Mickey Spillane)
- Black Alley (short story later turned into a full length Mike Hammer novel published in Playboy magazine December 1996, later republished in the book Byline: Mickey Spillane in 2004, Mickey Spillane)
- The Big Switch (short story published in The Strand Magazine, 2008, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, reprinted in paperback in The Mammoth Book of the World's Best Crime Stories, 2009)
- Skin (e-book short story 2012, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins)
- It's In The Book (e-book short story 2014, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins)
Radio Series - A December 1952 to October 1954 Mutual Broadcasting System radio series titled That Hammer Guy starred Larry Haines then George Petrie and Ted DeCorsia as Mike Hammer and Jan Miner as Hammer's secretary Velda and the voice of other female characters on the show. It was written by Ed Adamson and was directed by Richard Lewis.
Audiobooks - An array of Spillane's novels have been produced as audiobooks. Several of these are performed by Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer veteran Stacy Keach. Examples include Black Alley (Penguin Audio, 1996), The Big Kill (Simon & Schuster, 2010) and The Killing Man (Simon & Schuster, 2010).
Blackstone Audio Productions - In 2008, Stacy Keach reprised the role of Mike Hammer in the first of a series of radio-style dramas entitled The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Keach refers to the production style, that is somewhere between an audiobook and radio drama, as a "radio novel." The Audie-nominated inaugural production features the episodes, Dangerous Days and Oil and Water. Both were written exclusively for audio by M.J. Elliott and produced with a full cast, music and sound effects in radio drama style by Carl Amari of Falcon Picture Group, who personally selected Elliott to script the Audie Award-nominated dramas. Volume 2 of the series was released in 2009, featuring a 2.5 hour story entitled The Little Death. The story was written exclusively for audio by Max Allan Collins from a story by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Volume 3, Encore for Murder, was released in March 2011. All three volumes have been released by Blackstone Audio and star Keach in the title role. Keach also arranges and performs the music featured in the productions and his wife, Malgosia Tomassi, portrays yoga instructor Maya Ricci.
There have been several television shows based on the exploits of Mike Hammer.
- A 1954 television pilot was developed starring Brian Keith that was written and directed by Blake Edwards, it was not picked up.
- Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (1958–1960; starring Darren McGavin)
- Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (January 1984–January 1985; starring Stacy Keach)
- The New Mike Hammer (September 1986–May 1987; starring Stacy Keach)
- Mike Hammer, Private Eye (September 1997–June 1998; starring Stacy Keach)
- Filmed in 3-D starring Biff Elliot as Mike Hammer.
- Kiss Me Deadly (United Artists, 1955)
- Robert Aldrich was the director, Ralph Meeker was cast as Hammer, while Maxine Cooper portrayed Hammer's sexy secretary/companion Velda.
- My Gun Is Quick (United Artists, 1957)
- Robert Bray was cast as Hammer, with more of the violence originating from the villain than the detective.
- The film grossed $308,000 with a total of $602 overseas.
- The Girl Hunters (Colorama Features, 1963)
- Mickey Spillane was given the rare opportunity to portray his own creation in this film. This is one of the few occasions in film history in which the creator of a literary character was later hired to portray that character in a film. Producer Robert Fellows and Spillane planned to follow the film with The Snake but it never materialised.
- Margin For Murder (TV movie, 1981)
- Kevin Dobson plays Hammer in this made for TV movie.
- Armand Assante plays Hammer in this version.
- Murder Me, Murder You (1983 TV movie)
- Stacy Keach played Hammer in this TV pilot for the TV Series that ran in the 1980s. This update featured a traitor to the U.S. and a daughter Hammer does not know he has.
- Mike Hammer: Murder Takes All (1989 TV movie)
- Keach reprises his role of Hammer co-starring Lynda Carter, Michelle Phillips and the pre-stardom Jim Carrey . He is asked by a Las Vegas entertainer named Johnny Roman (Edward Winter) to come to Vegas. Mike refuses, he is then knocked out and dropped literally into Las Vegas.
- Come Die With Me (Fox, 1994)
- Mike Hammer: Song Bird (2003) (V) – a direct-to-video compilation of Mike Hammer, Private Eye's 1998 episodes of "Songbird: Part 1" and "Songbird: Part 2", where Stacy Keach played Mike Hammer and Shannon Whirry played his secretary Velda.
A short-lived comic strip starring Mike Hammer was distributed by Phoenix Features Syndicate from 1953 to 1954. It was entitled From the Files of... Mike Hammer and written by Spillane, Ed Robbins and Joe Gill, with art by Ed Robbins. Collections of the strip were published in the 1980s.
In other media
- Novels featuring Hammer were referenced several times in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Both Odo and Miles O'Brien were fans.
- The film The Hebrew Hammer makes a reference to Mike Hammer as well.
- Four direct to video films known as the "Maiku Hama" films were released in Japan:
- The Japanese TV series Detective Mike stars a young detective called 'Hama Mike' (Japanese pronunciation of 'Mike Hammer').
- The 1986 video game Killed Until Dead by Artech Digital Entertainment features spoofs of famous characters including a "Mike Stammer".
- John Zorn's Spillane is a tribute to Mickey Spillane, which uses quotes of Mike Hammer voiced by John Lurie.
- The popular Canadian band Moist wrote a song titled "Mike Hammer" on their 4th studio album Mercedes 5 and Dime.
- A police detective sarcastically identifies himself as 'Mike Hammer' in El secreto de sus ojos, the Academy Award-winning 2009 Argentine film.
See, heroes never die. John Wayne isn't dead, Elvis isn't dead. Otherwise you don't have a hero. You can't kill a hero. That's why I never let him get older. - Mickey Spillane
- p.142 Gale, Robert L. A Mickey Spillane Companion Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003
- Washington Times - Mystery novelist Spillane dies
- Walker, Peter; et al. (n.d.). "Mike Hammer". ThrillingDetective.com. Retrieved July 7, 2013.
- Walker, ThrillingDetective.com, "Comic Strip"
- "Hermes Press opens THE FILES OF MIKE HAMMER". Comiclist.com. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
- Biography of Jack Stang - The Real Mike Hammer
- Unofficial Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer Site
- Entry on Darren McGavin's website
- Stacy Keach's Official Website
- Max Allan Collins' Official Website
- Feature Article - How Mike Hammer Saved a Nerd