Monday, February 14, 2011
Lloyd Bridges starred as Mike Nelson, a former Navy frogman now freelance diver who often dives for Marineland. Produced by ZIV Television Sea Hunt was syndicated from 1957-61 to local stations for airing rather than broadcast by a network. Ivan Tors produced the series. Tors returned to TV later in the 60s with Flipper.
Which brings us around to the topic at hand. Dell published three issues of Sea Hunt in the Four Color Series. Sea Hunt continued as a quarterly with it's own numbering beginning with issue 4 and continuing to issue 13 dated April-June 1962. All issues featured photo covers of Bridges in his scuba gear.
The first issue in number 928 in Series II. Undated on the cover and indicia it carries a job number on the first story page that appears to be SEA H. O.S. #928-588. This would have it scheduled for August 1958.
Cover priced at 10 cents and 36 pages. The cover has Bridges in full gear and wetsuit giving us a concerned raised eyebrow. Inside the front cover we get some more photos and a descriptive paragraph introducing us to Mike Nelson.
The first story is "Dynamite Cove", a 22 pager with art by Dan Spiegle. We open with a half page splash of Nelson in a large tank at Marineland feeding the sharks to the wide-eyed astonishment of school kids on a field trip.
Meanwhile out in the Pacific a small cargo ship carrying secret military equipment for the Space Missile Program hits a coral reef and sinks. At a Secret meeting in Washington a Naval Officer recommends Mike as the perfect guy to either salvage the equipment or destroy it before it falls into unfriendly hands.
Contacted by the Navy Mike accepts the assignment and select 3 additional divers from the Navy to assist in the operation. Using the cover story that they are a fishing party they take off for the site of the wreck. Upon reaching the island they find a yacht anchored in a cove.
On the yacht are agents of a foreign power seeking the prizes on the sunken ship. Both sets of divers explore the cove while keeping a wary eye on the others. The yacht's divers find the ship first. The leader decides to send some of his men to capture Mike's boat and the rest to dispose of the crew searching underwater.
Mike and his diving partner escape from the underwater battle only to be captured when they reach the boat. Mike devises a plan to escape and blow the equipment. As you can see the right Mike's crew has overpowered the enemy agents and taken control of both vessels. Mike reached the sunken ship and placed his charges and set the timer.
Pushing against the clock he makes it back to his boat just in time to board and pull away as the charges go off destroying the secret missile equipment.
Our successful warriors set off to home as the story ends.
The second story "Ghost Island" immediately follows. A 10 pager it fills out the inside story pages.
This story is also illustrated by Spiegle. Writer credits on both stories are unknown at this time.
We find Mike and friend Bill James doing some relaxing and sport fishing off the coast. Mike hooks a large yellowtail but losses it during the fight. Deciding to call it a day Bill turns the boat and heads towards shore.
As they pass Santa Luna Island they notice a line of smoke rising from the interior of the island. Supposedly a haunted island it's been uninhabited for over 100 years and is currently owned by the U.S. Navy who has declared it to be off limits.
When Mike attempts to raise the Navy on the radio to notify them he finds that it's not working properly. So they decide to head for the island and see if they can find who's there and warn them off.
Mike finds a couple of teen boys on the island. A friend with a boat has dropped them off to explore the island while he's off fishing. A third teen is diving in a cove.
While Mike is rounding up the boys Bill has gotten the radio operational and has contacted the Navy. He gets just the news that island is scheduled to used as bombardment practice before the radio quits again. Bill uses the boats horn to signal Mike using Morse Code of the impending shelling.
As the shells begin to fall Mike has rounded all the boys and Bill and picked the lot of them up. They safely continue back to shore as the story ends.
The inside back cover is a one pager entitled "Man Beneath The Sea" which illustrates various ancient and early methods devised to breathe underwater. It appears to be drawn by Spiegle as well.
The back cover is a Juicy Fruit Gum ad that gives kids advice on playing safely.
The second issue is number 994
Monday, October 22, 2007
One of the all time classic strips is the focus of this post. Washington Tubbs II first appeared on April 14, 1924 as a small town clerk in a Midwestern grocery store. Diminutive with big round eyeglasses Wash was a spunky adolescent who soon felt the call of adventure and began to roam the world in search of excitement, treasure and girls. Wash soon matured into a young man but retained his small stature.
His first partner was Gozy Gallop, described by Maurice Horn as gawky and cocky. These adventures were part realistic adventure and part big foot humor with humor holding the edge. The focus shifts to the adventure side in May 1929 when Wash meets his longtime partner in a middle European prison.
Captain Easy, a soldier of fortune, with a hazy past, a Southern accent and manners joins up with Wash. They break out of prison and begin a series of adventures together that lasted until Wash finally married and settled down. Easy is then left to pursue adventure pretty much alone. On July 10 1933 the strip was formally renamed Captain Easy.
Royston C. Crane was born in Abeline Texas on Nov 22 1901. By the time he was 14 and living in Sweetwater he signed up for the C.N. Landon mail-order cartooning course. Crane's $25 investment would pay unexpected dividends in a few years. Crane enrolled and dropped out of several colleges before hitting the road. He rode the rails and served as a seaman on a freighter. Eventually he landed in Chicago where he was again studying Art. Crane next moved to New York where he landed a job as an assistant to cartoonist H.T. Webster, creator of Casper Milquetoast, The Timid Soul.
Crane had a short-lived panel called Music to My Ears syndicated by United Feature. After it flopped UF suggested he try out with their Cleveland affiliate NEA. C.F. Landon was now comics editor of NEA. He disliked the panel and suggested Crane submit an idea for a strip. The result was Wash Tubbs.
Crane's art was unique and his influence was wide spread. He became a master of Black and white work before he began to experiment with benday. His use of gray halftones set the standard.
Crane left Captain Easy in 1943 to create Buz Sawyer for King Features. Crane died on July 7 1977. Among his honors he received a Ruben in 1950 and left an endowment to the University of Texas which established an award for achievement for UT Art students.
Captain Easy continued under Crane's assistant Leslie Turner. Turner did the daily while Walter Scott briefly took the Sunday before turning it over to Turner. In 1960 Mel Graff took over the Sunday page. Both continued until late 1969 when Turner's assistant Bill Crooks took over the art and Jim Lawrence the story. Captain Easy came to an end in 1988.
Easy and Wash appeared in a one-shot reprint issue published by Hawley in 1939, 8 reprint issues from Standard beginning in 1947 and a one-shot reprint by Argo in 1956. All were published under Captain Easy. Dell issued one Captain Easy book in Series I and one in Series II. Wash Tubbs was issued 3 times in Series II.
On the cover of Issue 24 from Series I we find Captain Easy at the mast with a nasty brute advancing with an axe while Wash is getting poked in the eye in the background. The issue is 68 pages and reprints strips from 1939 and 40.
We open on the inside of the front cover where we find Wash, Easy and the Milsons (Father and Daughter) held captive on a modern pirate vessel, hence the cover scene. Wash has a rare and unique jungle animal as a pet, called a swink, which has a knack for causing mayhem. It gets loose and is chased by the crew. He hides in the galley stove pipe causing it to back up and send a huge cloud of smoke skyward where it is spotted by the Navy. They board, discover the captives and arrest the crew. Phew, that's just the first page!
Taking a liner home they arrive back in the States. The swink has never been in a big city and is frightened by everything resulting in mayhem and destruction. Wash has to pay for damages from his reward money. Resting in the park the swink generates so much attention that a huge crowd has formed, Wash realizing the audience generating potential sinks his remaining money into buying Dr Ducks Medicine show, which consists of a truck with a cabin on the back, a recipe for patent medicine and a banjo.
Wash and Easy hit the road and in the next town the swink raids a bait shop eating all the trout fly lures, hooks and all. This sends the poor beast into agony. Wash is beside himself...What to do? Out of desperation Easy pours Dr Ducks Indian Remedy into the swink. In five minutes he's rooting through the cabbage in the produce bin outside the grocery store. Wash and Easy realize the stuff really works and set up to begin pitching.
The tonic works wonders curing ills in kids and animals and growing hair on bald men. However a side effect soon manifests - everyone that took the tonic has started to grow warts. The townsfolk rally and run the boys out of town. Easy takes a dose to test it and sure enough..he has a face full of warts. Just like that the boys are out of business.
On the road they run out of gas. Pushing the vehicle along they stop at a farmhouse to ask if they can buy any gas. The farmer's wife whips up her grandmother's home remedy for warts out of potato peels and Easy's warts disappear. The boys are back giving away a free bottle of wart remover with every bottle of tonic.
In the next town the swink gets lost by falling into a mail box. Wash goes looking and word gets around that it's valuable, worth a million bucks! Wash finds him when the postman opens the box and the swink escapes. However local crooks get wind of it and decide to grab the swink and cash in by selling it to a museum. The grab him and hide out in the woods. Wash has put up reward posters all over the area. In order to hide him from prying eyes, they paint him black and put a stripe down his back disguising it as a skunk. They hang him out on the back clothesline to dry but the swink escapes.
The swink spots the truck and is following Wash and Easy. They think it's a skunk and keep trying to run it off. Meanwhile the crooks are searching for it. They mistake a real skunk for the swink and well you know... Anyway, a rainstorm finally washes the swink clean of the paint. Wash spots him and rushes to feed him goodies. The swink after all Wash's efforts to run him off when he was painted is skittish.
In a sudden skip we know find our heroes taking refuge from another storm in a remote farmhouse. There we meet Little Bessie who want to run away and join a medicine show with her pistol shooting and knife throwing. Wash and Easy decide to try and sneak off in the middle of the night to leave her behind. They are well away when they start to have car trouble. It seems Bessie had hitched her trailer to the back of the truck. Easy has her push the trailer while Wash cuts the rope holding it to the truck and they leave her behind.
The escape is short-lived as Bessie catches up with them as they enjoy they company of a bunch of bathing beauties they find at a lake. Easy sets up another escape ploy by having Bessie and the swink battle it out over a pie. The swink drops her in a mud puddle. As Bessie's clothes are hung from the line to dry Wash and Easy take off again.
Wash gets the idea to try to use the swinks advanced sense of smell to find gold. He locates gold fillings and gold watches but no gold mine. So they change the search for oil. An oil magnate looses a gusher to Wash and for revenge send him a hippopotamus. The hippo named Kitty wreaks havoc across town until Wash unloads it on a fisherman that hooked it in the city pond.
We switch gears where we find the find news that Dovey Jo Wicket has inherited money and a mule but has only two weeks to find a husband or lose this fortune. Her brothers decide to hold a raffle to select the lucky bachelor which causes all the single men to head for the hills. Which is when Wash and Easy arrive on the scene and are told they are the lucky finalists. Easy is captured and Wash escapes. As he searches for help he runs into Bessie who is on her way home. Wash tricks her into rescuing Easy. When she hugs him he pretends to be injured and Wash sends her for a doctor. They quickly take off again.
With Bessie hot on their trail they buy airplane tickets on the first plane out, which is destined for Peru. On board the plane they meet Mary Lancaster who is on her way to search for her Archaeologist father who disappeared three years ago. When she arrives the authorities refuse to let her go to the Lost Canyon where her father disappeared. So Mary has Easy fly her into the canyon where she parachutes to the ground. When he returns the authorities inform him that he took her to a wild and untamed region where the natives have resorted to savagery. Wash and Easy fly back in to rescue her. They find a lost city where they are captured and reunited with Mary and her Father. Wash and Easy are sentenced to be sacrificed to the Sun God. Dr. Lancaster concocts a scheme to use the swink to save the boys. He convinces the King that the swink will eliminate their bug problem but only Wash and Easy can control the swink. They are freed.
Leaving the swink behind in exchange for their freedom the four head out of the valley led by scouts from the Lost City. However the scouts desert them at night under the King's orders. Fortunately the swink has followed them and leads them out of the mountains in it's search for food. The group parts company as Wash and Easy try riding the rails to get back to civilization. Wash is captured and tossed into jail where he meets another American, Lonnie Plunkett. Known as The Great Plunkett he is a magician and escape artist. Lonnie breaks them in and out of jail to have dinner and get furnishings for their cells. This drives the guards insane. Easy drops by for a visit and is let in on the scheme. They escape for good and stow away on a freighter for passage back to the States.
On arrival they rely on Lonnie's act to provide for them. A crook tricks Lonnie into opening a safe. He locks himself inside foiling the robbery. Upon release he is offered a job with the safe manufacturer.
Easy spots a suspicious fellow who turns out to be a foreign spy as well as captures a notorious escaped criminal. This leads to his being hired by eccentric spinster Minnie Blunt to find solve the mystery of her missing Chinese cook, Wing Duck. Easy solves the case proving that her short tempered brother killed the cook.
Wash and Easy have been making out pretty well lately collecting reward money for catching crooks. They pick up a hitchhiker who takes their suitcase by mistake and leaves his, which has money and guns in it. The crook, Pretty face Nixon, whose m.o. is to disguise himself as young women comes back after the loot. Easy pops a couple of women by mistake before catching Nixon. With this last bit of reward money they buy a new airplane.
Easy and Wash meet up with an old pal of Easy's, Woodie Woodson, who is developing a top secret weapon called the flying torpedo. Woodie has had spies and crooks after the plans and prototype so the boys sign on as security.
A group of spies has been watching and waiting for a chance to grab the prototype. They finally get the chance when it lands on a freight train. Racing along they board the train as Wash and Easy land their plane on the train. The spies manage to reach the torpedo first and make a getaway. They catch up with them and manage to recover the device. Having proven it's value the Government purchases it and takes over.
As Wash and Easy are flying off a disgruntled spy takes a potshot at their plane and hits a fuel line. They land in a maze of cactus. There they are found by a pair of outlaws and are taken prisoner. The only other prisoner is a half-wit girl or so the crooks think. She's been playing the part biding her chance to escape. With her help they capture they crooks and escape.
We jump once again as Wash finds himself hired to fly a plane of machine parts. He finds he has landed in Mexico and that the parts are rifles. The bandits force him to fly for them. Easy tricks the guards and escapes as the issue comes to a close.
Series II Issue 11 is another 68 pager reprinting strips from 1937 and 1938. On the cover jst below Wash's right foot is a rarely seen Dell logo with a boy and girl riding on Pegasus holding a banner that says Dell Publishing Co.
We open on the inside front cover where we find Wash and Easy on board the S.S. Platonic returning to the States from South America. Also on board is Helga Zmith, a green eyed beauty that all the fellows, and most especially Wash are all panting over. Miss Zmith has frozen all the would be suiters out. Easy has found her dropped handbag and declares that he can make her acquantance.
Easy and Miss Zmith quickly develop a relationship spending the rest of their time shipboard in each other's company. Upon making a port of call in Trinidad Easy encounters Barney Hill and old adventuring buddy. Easy agrees to keep an eye on Hill's daughter Beverly who is boarding the ship to journey on to the States. This sends Zmith into a jealous rage and she and Easy part company. Each siteing of Easy and Beverly sends her into a rage that is only calmed by her bodyguard reminding her that their trip is for business. The business is piracy. Zmith is the leader of a pirate crew that attacks the ship and escapes with $3,000,000 in gold and kidnaps Beverly.
The authorities have had no luck locating the pirates so Easy and Wash take leave of the liner and rent a sailboat and begin a search. After 17 islands they approach Cutlass Island where they are fired upon as they approach. Warned that it's a leper colony they turn around. The Captain tells them the island is haunted as well.
Wash and Easy return after dark and find the Pirate's boat as well as the ruins of an old plantation house. Suddenly a trap door opens and Zmith appears. Zmith tells Easy that Beverly is down below and he goes in after her. Easy knocks out the guards and is about to escape when an alarm is raised. Easy and Beverly escape out of a secret passage and pick up Wash and Zmith on their way to the boat. The Pirates fire upon the boat and scare the Captain who sails off leaving them on the island. Recaptured Zmith puts our heroes down a dry well.
After the pirates desert the island, the captives escape by making a human ladder. They start a signal fire which is seen by the pirates who return to the island. They attempt to steal the boat while the pirtaes are searching the island but run onto a sand bar and are again recaptured. This time the pirates take to the sea with our heroes.
Chumming the water to first attract sharks Wash is tossed overboard. It looks grim until a destroyer arrives. The sailboat captain had found the navy and brought them to the rescue. Wash escapes the sharks, Zmith escapes the Navy, the remaining pirates are captured and the gold is recovered. The Navy drops them off in Puerto Rico, where they book passage to continue on to the States.
On board ship Easy receives a mysterious telegram. Once they arrive in New Orleans Wash and Easy part company, Easy to answer the telegram and Wash continues on home. He looks up his old pal Gozy who takes him home to see the family. Wash and Gozy's tales of life on the road finally get to the Mrs who throws them out of the house into the cold and snow. Gozy having been domesticated is ill suited for the matter and soon finds his clothes taken by a gang of bums. Found by the sheriff they are returned home where Wash resolves to settle down and find a job.
After overhearing the local girls discussing him in a derogatory way, Wash packs his belongings and is on the way out the door when Carol McKee arrives. Wash falls immediately in love with Carol and she seems to return his feelings. Her father, being a wealty businessman decides to check Wash out. He meets Gozy's father who tells him that Wash is "the laziest, good for nothing imbecile I laid eyes on".
Wash recieves a windfall check in the mail, a $3000 reward for recovering the gold. Wash places an ad in the newspaper looking for investment opportunities and immediately all the sharpers in town are out to part him from it. Wash leases a night club, the Topsy Turvy Club. What he didn't now was that he leased it from Frankie Slaughter, the biggest gangster in town. Unfazed Wash set out to redecorate the club when Easy reappears. Wash appoints him Assistant Manager of the club.
The big night arrives for the Grand Reopening of the Club. Wash is on the way when he comes to a detour on the road. The road is being repaved. Wash stands to loose his investment if he can't find a way to get customers to the club. Things get worse when Wash buys a minauture steam locomotive at auction. Inspiration strikes him and he sets up a railroad to get customers past the construction and to the club.
Wash is a success, the club is going over big and Wash is rakingit in. Still his success is bittersweet. He hasn't heard from Carol for weeks. That's because she has been out of town visiting. Upon her return she learns from her father that Wash's club is going over. However he still hasn't changed his opinion. She contacts Wash and the romance is on again.
Trouble rears it's head as Frankie Slaughter is moving back in on the club trying to muscle Wash out. Wash stands up to him so Frankie begins vandalizing the place. Business is off and things are looking grim again. Wash has hired himself bodyguards. Frankie gets the drop on Wash and gives him a beating. Easy sets up a trap and Frankie falls into it. The gang is captured but Frankie escapes. Things are still bad as Wash has no cash and payday is coming. Frankie shows up at the club and is tricked into giving Wash $15,000 to buy back the lease.
Despite his iron-clad alabi Frankie is arrested as Easy has been collecting the evidence against him. Frankie goes out in a blaze as he tries to shoot it out with the police.
Riding the glory of the moment Wash proposes to Carol. She says yes which sends her father into spin. Mr McKee tries to impress upon Wash the importance of her marrying the right man. He trots out his family pedegree and Wash responds that he grew up poor and was orphaned young. Switching to his business acumen Wash reveals that his final profit from the night club was 20 cents. Mr McKee refuses to grant his concent to the marriage. Carol agrees to travel to California with her father. If she is still in love with Wash upon their return he will give his concent.
As the issue comes to a close Wash having resolved to make a success of himself has adopted a stray dog and finds himself a place to stay at Mother Grey's house.
Our next entry is Series II Issue 28 . This issue has been downsized to 60 pages and reprints strips from 1939. We jump from last issue skipping much to find the McKees being held prisoners in the Central American country of Panazuela. Wash arrives with Easy (who is suffering from amnesia) to free them. They have been captured and thrown into prison as well when the revolutions breaks out. Shells destroy the prison and Easy regains his memory. All this withing the synopsis on the inside front cover as the issue opens.
The revolution is being led by Easy's old enemy Bull Dawson. The President loots the treasury and is attempting to flee the country. Dawson who has been playing both sides tricks the money out of the President as he puts him aboard an airplane to make his getaway. Dawson has loaded the loot uaboat a boat that he runs into a sand bar. Meanwhile, the McKees being unsuccessful in trying to find a way of leaving the country spot the boat. When they hail it they find that Dawson is on board. Dawson sets Mr McKee up to take the fall for looting the treasury and he's is soon arressted. Easy rescues Mr McKee and they get the boat away from Dawson and make their escape. Reaching the shipping lanes they are picked up by an ocean liner. Mr McKee has been so impressed by Wash's actions and dealings he offers him a position with his company.
Meanwhile back home at McKee Industries, Rowden Splendix Sr and Jr are conspiring to marry Jr off to Carol and have access to the McKee millions.
Upon their return home Wash and Easy meet with Mr McKee at the plant. Mr McKee introduces them to Splendix Sr and Jr. Junior is to show them around but upon spotting Easy he tries to make excuses to leave but to no avail. Turns out that Jr was the person that conked Easy over the head with a wrench causing him to lose his memory. Easy extracts his revenge beating Jr to a pulp.
Upon his return to "work" Jr puts into motion a plan to make Wash look bad in Mr McKee's eyes. The plan works, McKee sends a memo that Splendix Jr is boss over Wash, so he begins to overwork the poor boy causing Wash to break dates with Carol. Junior is on the spot to pick her up and take her around. Jr arranges to have Wash caught up in a bar brawl and arrested. Despite all his efforts Carol still believes in Wash and stands behind him. Jr attempts to break into Wash's desk but is thwarted by Easy. Sr assigns Easy to be an assistant to the assistant manager of the hairpin department to get him out of the way.
Their next step is to discredit Wash by turning up his long lost missing and presumed dead father. Wash rushes down to the train station to meet the old man. After no one exits the train Wash is confused...until a bum crawls out from under a car and declares himself to be his father.
After some delays and excuses, Wash finally has to bring his "father" to dinner at the McKee's mansion. Of course he is an utter boor embarasing Wash and insulting the McKees.
Piling it on Junior locates Fifi, a girl he had problems with in the past but is willing to do anything for a buck. The Splendix's hire her and her boy friend to frame Wash. Junior sends Wash out to supposedly wine and dine a customer but it's a set up to put him and Fifi together. Meanwhile Easy overhears a phone conversation between Splendix Sr and Wash's "father". Easy now aware of the deal tracks Wash down at the night club and gets Wash away from the table. Easy then returns to the table and lets Fifi know he's wise to the scheme. Fifi then goes to her boyfriend and tips him about the bigger stakes involved which sends him back to Splendix Sr to demand more money to carry out the frame. Wash returns to the McKee's home where he finds "father" has spent the evening insulting them. In walks Fifi and Wash suddenly finds himself behind the eight ball. Carol trows him out.
Back home at Mother Grey's, she and daughter Virginia tell Wash what Junior has been up to and reveal that his "father' is a bum they hired.Wash is outraged and is determined to get his revenge on the Splendix'. He stroms to their home spouting threats. he arrives and finds Senior in a chair. Wash soon realizes that he is not asleep in the chair but has been shot dead. With the police at the door Wash goes out the window but is seen by Junior. Desparately on the run he runs into his "father" who helps him escape on an outbound freight train.
Junior tells the police what he has seen, Wash's fingerprint's are found on the murder weapon and he's fled town. Wash is the only suspect. Carol however refuses to beleive it and convinces her father of Wash's innocence. They go to the police but they refuse to accept anything but Wash as the killer. Easy encounters the McKee's as they are leaving the Police Station and tells them he has information that will clear Wash. Easy then meets with the Police and proves Wash's innocence and puts them onto Fifi and her boy friend, Coker. The police arrest Coker for the murder.
Returning to the Grey's he finds Wash is missing. Later he recieves a letter from Wash telling him he didn't do it but couldn't involve the McKees in a scandal and to tell Carol he will always love her. On the bum with his "father" they get off in a small town where Wash is dressed up as a little girl to fool the police. Unfortunately Pop is arrested as a vagrant and Wash is placed in the care of the Sherriff's wife. Unable to maintain the masquarade Wash gets the Sherriff's keys and sneaks out to the jail to free the old man. They go to the train station and purchase two tickets to Cincinnati but get off the train early. Finding a shanty boat they purchase it and being a live as river rats. Back home Carol convinces Easy to track Wash and bring him home. Back on the boat Wash and Pop put ashore and sneak onto a farm stealing a chicken which they take back to the boat and cook up. The farmer and mother track them down and during the fracas it is discovered that Pop is the father of the farmer and husband to mother. They stay on the farm as Pop vows that he will not runaway again but stay and be a good husband. Wash decides that he is only in the way and goes back to the baot and casts off. As the issue closes a row boat approaches the boat. It's Easy who takes Wash back home to Carol.
Series II Issue 53 is a 52 pager reprinting strips from 1939 and 1940.
Reference: The Funnies: 100 Years of American Comic Strips, Ron Goulart, Adams 1995; 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996; Grand Comics Database; University of Texas, www.utexas.edu ; The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art; Jerry Robinson; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 1974
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Flash makes his first appearance in Series II in issue number 10 and follows up in issue 84. These are the only two issues reprinting the newspaper strips. Flash graduated to a single issue of his own numbered Dell series (numbered as 2) but featured new material as did the later Flash issues in Series II. He also made many appearances in other publishers books. Most of these featured new stories and art although a couple here and there had reprints. There have been many hardbound and softbound book collections of the Newspaper strips.
Alexander Raymond was born on October 2,1909 in New Rochelle, New York. He attended Iona Prep school and upon graduation went to work in a Wall Street Brokerage. Raymond lost his job there after the crash of 1929 and tried his hand in the mortgage business before going to work as an assistant for his neighbor, Russ Westover.
Raymond attended the Grand Central School of Art. He went to work for King Features in their art department and spent time assisting and ghosting on Tim Tyler's Luck. His big break was getting the assignment to draw Secret Agent X-9 with Dashiell Hammett doing the writing.
King looking to counter the success of Buck Rogers was looking for a Space Opera. Raymond and ghostwriter Don Moore borrowed heavily from Philip Wylie's novel "When World's Collide" and produced Flash Gordon. Along with Flash, Raymond delivered a topper, Jungle Jim, intended to compete with Tarzan.
Little can be found on Don Moore. He was involved in pulp magazines as an editor and continued to write the strip after Raymond left.Flash arrived on January 7, 1934 as a Sunday only. A daily strip, drawn by Austin Briggs began on May 27, 1940. Raymond continued to draw the Sundays until April 1944 when he entered the Marine Corps. Upon his discharge in 1946 Raymond created Rip Kirby which he drew until his death.
On Sept 5, 1956 Raymond and his passenger Stan Drake (creator of the strip The Heart of Juliet Jones) were in an auto accident in Westport Connecticut. Alex Raymond died in the accident. Drake was severely injured but survived.
Flash Gordon continues to this day, now written and drawn by Jim Keefe.
Issue number 10 is a 68 pager, reprinting Sunday strips from 1938, 39 and 40. Unlike any other series the inside covers have a photo feature on Raymond. Whether this is reprinted from a magazine, provided by King Features or put together by either Dell or Western Publishing is unknown at this time. Some Flash scholar out there probably knows and will eventually provide us with the answer.
The inside front cover is at left, with Alex in his reference library, posing a model and model looking at the drawing.
At right is the inside back cover, with Alex and his children at the drawing board, Alex and wife in front of their home and Raymond going through a pile of fan mail.
Sunday pages are printed one to a page in a tabloid format. We open with Flash and Dale lost in a cavern believing that Zarkov and the rest of their party drowned in the underground river. They escape and find the others still alive and reach the forest kingdom of Prince Barin and Aura. Barin and Aura are proud parents of a new son. All is wonderful until they receive a message from Aura's father Ming the Merciless. Ming thinks that Flash is dead and so he is coming to visit. Ming intends to take the child with him but is rebuffed and leaves.
Flash and Barin crash their airship in the forest and Captain Solis leads a rescue party out into the forest to retrieve them. Meanwhile Ronal takes Dale and Aura out in a airship to search as well. Solis is captured by spies left behind by Ming.
Ronal crashes the airship but Flash and Barin hear it and soon all are reunited. They soon meet up with Solis' men and learn he is missing. Meanwhile, Ming has Solis being observed by Major Lingan who is to return to Arboria in disguise as Solis, where he is to kidnap the child and bring him to Ming.
Lingan as Solis makes an attempt to kidnap the child but is thwarted by Flash, he then sets up another officer as a fall guy.
On his next attempt he is captured but again blames the officer. Flash and Barin are unsure and attempt to set a trap to make the real kidnapper reveal himself.
The trap fails and Lingan succeeds in grabbing the child and escapes after setting fire to the castle. Lingan takes to the forest where he meets Solis who has escaped from Ming. Flash and Barin spot the two and realize that one of the Solis' is Ming's spy and Flash puts an arrow into him. The child is saved.
Solis tells Flash that Ming knows that he is alive. Flash wanting to protect his friends leaves with Dale, Zarkov and Ronal to explore the vast Northern regions of Mongo. Once again their ship crashes, this time into the frozen wastes.
They are found by Queen Fria of Frigia and a party of her soldiers who take them prisoner. Saving the Queen from an ice monster Flash and friends are treated now as guests in Fria's palace. Fria finds herself falling in love with Flash.
Count Malo has plans of marrying the Queen and taking power over the kingdom. He becomes jealous of Flash and makes an attempt to assassinate him but fails. Another ice monster is destroyed by Flash to save the Queen and Malo confesses. He is forgiven. A gang of ice giants attack the party and make off with Dale, Malo and Ronal. Flash and Fria pursue the party and find the frozen Malo, staked out as a warning to not venture further.
For you Golden Age Comic Fans this next sequence is the mother-lode of swipes. Looking at the art here you can see where so many Hawkman poses came from. It's hard to pick up a GA comic from the early 40's and not see one of these panels used.
The ice giants return with their captives to the caves where they live. Fiery rivers run through the cave providing heat and light. Flash and Fria trail them to the cave and observe the situation. Dale is to be the slave bride of the leader of the giants. Flash upon hearing her screams can stand it no longer and rushes to the rescue. He is finally overcome and is chained up with Ronal as a prisoner.
Fria enlists the slave girls to drug the giants. All but the leader are overcome. Dale frees Flash and Ronal from their chains. They flee as Brukka the giant pursues them. Ronal, who has long secretly loved Dale drops behind in an attempt to slow Brukkas pursuit but is easily beaten by the giant. Flash and Dale find the unconscious Ronal and soon meet up with Fria who uses steam controls to send a live stream of lava at the giants and they escape.
Back at the Castle, Count Korro has noticed the Queen's interest in Flash and decides he must end the Queen's growing infatuation. Flash is to join him, Ronal and Zarkov on an expedition. Fria insists that she and Dale must accompany them or there will be none, so they are invited along. A giant glacier monster causes an avalanche that disables their ice glider and they are forced to make camp in the frozen wastes. As Zarkov labors to repair their vehicle the monster has located their camp and captures two of the party which it promptly disintegrates. The party is forced to flee into an ice tunnel. The monster has them trapped in a cavern, deep within the icy mountain.
They break out onto an underground river. Flash goes exploring the stream looking for an exit. He encounters the monster and is knocked out. The others pull him back to safety when his lifeline goes slack but he is thought to be drowned. Count Korro extracts a pledge from the Queen that she will not make Flash the King of Frigia before he uses his experimental serum and revives Flash. Fria extracts a pledge from Dale in return that she will not marry Flash.
The men turn to building a device by which they may combat the deadly ice creature. Ronal has discovered the traitorous Captain Lupi blasting the airtube of the device in an effort to drown Flash's and the others while they are testing the device. Ronal jumps him and they are swept downstream. Flash rescues him when he spots them floating past. Lupi is seized by the creature before Flash can get to him.
After repairing the airtube, they float Flash inside the device out into the open where he fires a harpoon attached to a wire cable into the creature. Signalling the others, they send a charge into the creature causing it to explode. They repair the glider and return to Frigia.
Flash doesn't understand Dale's new coldness and makes a trip into the frozen wastes to Zarkov's lab. Fria follows him and is saved by Flash when a Avalanche threatens her. Fria declares her love and Flash fearing Dale is lost to him responds positively. They reach Zarkov's lab and reveal their marriage plans. Zarkov is horrified that Flash would betray Dale and demands they return to the palace. Korro reminds Fria of her pledge and she smiles, she only promised not to make Flash King so she will abdicate. Dale is furious and slaps her declaring that she tricked her. Flash asks that he freed from his pledge and Fria orders him imprisoned. Relenting she secretly frees him and urges him to leave. The issue ends as Flash, Dale and Zarkov plan to flee Frigia.
Flash returns in issue 84, a 36 page issue that reprints strips from 1942 and 1943. This issue opens on the inside front cover. Once again we find Flash, Dale, Queen Desira and Zarkov in an underground cavern. This time they are caught in a mysterious suspended gravity and are floating up towards the ceiling. They emerge from the cave into Desira's kingdom. They trek to one of her outposts, where the Queen demands a jungle car to return them to the Capital. Flash, suspicious of the Captain's reaction follows him and discovers him speaking to the Queens traitorous cousin Prince Brazor. It appears the cousin has declared the Queen to be dead and himself King. Flash informs Desira of the situation and she insists on returning and reclaiming her throne.
They imprison the garrison and commandier glyphs to ride for the trip. Brazor in the meantime has arrived at the outpost and frees the soldiers. The Captain informs him that there were 2 men and a woman with the supposed impostor and that they are headed for the capital. Brazor sends out patrols in scout cars to find them.Sending Zarkov ahead with Dale and Desira, Flash creates a landslide that cuts the trail for the scout cars. Flash catches up with them in the volcanic desert. As they press onward they are attacked by a fire dragon which Flash finally dispatches with a fatal shot. Unfortunately the dragon killed two of the glyphs before they were able to stop it. Flash attempts to catch the last remaining glyph that has run away.
Before he returns with the glyph an eruption has split the desert and lava is flowing freely. Flash manages to return to the others and they devise a rope bridge from clothing to escape the lava flood that has encircled them. The heat however has overcome the last glyph forcing the group to proceed on foot.
As they proceed the lack of food and water begins to take it's toll. As the others stop to rest Flash presses forward to scout for food and water. Flash begins to hallucinate and is found by Zarkov. Meanwhile Gundar, son of the desert, has been leading his band through the wastelands looking for a caravan to plunder. They find the party and take them captive. The outlaws feed them and leave for Gundar's mountain fortress.
Gundar attempts to make a deal with Brazor for the Queen and their party, however Brazor attempts to double cross them. Flash spots the trick and Gundar retreats to his fortress to prepare for Brazor's attack. During the captivity Gundar and Desira have developed feelings for each other. As the issue comes to a close Brazor is attacking the fortress.
Reference: Comics and Their Creators, Martin Sheridan, Hale,Cushman and Flint 1942; 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Russell Channing Westover was born in Los Angeles on August 3, 1886. His family were merchants, his father owned a haberdashery (a store that sold men's shirts, ties, hats and accessories) and employed Russ as a boy to work the counter wrapping packages. Russ would decorate the paper with his comic drawings. Eventually his father tired off such antics and fired him. Westover then found work with the Southern Pacific Railroad as a clerk. He continued his cartooning by decorating the employees pay envelopes. This amused the railroad as much as his father and Russ was once again looking for work.
Instead he attended the Hopkins Art Institute of California. By his own account his education ended after four months when his instructor informed him: "Young man, the drawing of Caesar is good, but that caricature you made of me on the border is terrible".
Westover's first newspaper job was on the San Francisco Bulletin. One of his first assignments was to visit the City Morgue and sketch a drowning victim. The place was so dark that Westover was spooked and left, later turning in a drawing of an imaginary person. He moved on to the Chronicle and later to the Post where he drew a baseball strip called Daffy Dan. In 1913 the Post folded when it was taken over by the San Francisco Call. Westover was let go. He was also recently married so he took off for New York looking for a job.
He found a job with the New York Herald drawing a Sunday strip titled Betty. He soon added a second strip, Fat Chance. After five years on the job, the Herald merged with the Tribune and Russ was once more left out of the new paper. This time he began to freelance cartoons for the popular magazines. Life, Colliers and Judge carried his work.
It was the early 1920s and Russ began to put together a strip featuring the popular flapper character. Originally called Rose of the Office the title was changed to Tillie the Toiler and submitted to King Features which bought the strip. Tillie first appeared as a Sunday on January 3, 1921 with the daily beginning on October 10 1922.
The strip followed the social whirl and office activities of Tillie Jones, an attractive brunette and her co-workers and friends. Tillie was variously employed as a secretary, stenographer and part-time model in the fashion salon owned by J.P. Simpkins. Much of the story revolved around the relationship between Tillie and co-worker Clarence 'Mac' MacDougall. Mac was a diminutive, jealous and combative suitor. Drawn with a bulb nose and bad haircut Mac was frequently in Tillie's company and often the object of her affection, nevertheless she was quite fickle and would drop him as soon as a handsome beau appeared on the scene. And they frequently did.
Westover had many assistants over the years. Among them were Alex Raymond, Charles 'Doc' Winner, Martin Sheridan and Westover's youngest son Alden. Westover was chronically late delivering the strip to King and they eventually replaced him with writer Bill Kavanagh and artist Bob Gustafson in the early 1950s. The strip finally ended in March 1959.
Russ Westover died in San Rafael California on March 5, 1966.
Tillie's first issue in Series I is number 15. A 68 pager it contains reprints. Update will follow once my good friend Henry Peters gets his copy scanned.
Pictured on the cover is Tillie and Mac. As usual in this gag Mac's romantic overtures go astray. The fun starts on the inside front cover as a Sunday strip has Mac and Tillie at a ritzy night club. The usual good looking guy, Ted drops by the table and Tillie is off for a dance. Mac gets steamed and leaves with the intention of sticking Ted with the check. Meanwhile, Ted's fiance Ida makes him leave Tillie and return to their table. Tillie is stuck with the check and in the final panel wakes Mac at home and demands he get back there immediately.
There really is no story continuity here, all the gags are contained within the Sundays being reprinted. There are the running gags of the strip, Tillie is fickle, Mac is jealous, Tillie can't cook, Mrs Jones likes Mac and fellow workers Wally plagues Mac with practical jokes and insults which prompt Mac to respond in kind and Glenny is a naive young office boy that Tillie takes under her wing to protect and tutor in matters of the heart.
In the example to the right, Mac and Wally make a bet as to who will take Tillie to the dance. As usual Wally cheats and gets to Tillie first. The gag is when Mac catches up and reveals how Wally cheated.
In this example, Tillie shows her true heart and Mac reaps the benefits.
Tillie returns in issue 22, another 68 pager. This time reprints are from 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1940.
Once again we are presented with Sunday strips and there is still no story continuity. In addition to the usual antics, there are several strips where Mac's dancing is mocked and his dislike for Jitterbugging is the central gag.
The example at left reflects Mac's feelings about Modern Dance Trends.
This final example from issue 22 reflects the relationship of Tillie and Glenny.
The next appearance is issue 55. Now down to 52 pages this issue reprints strips from 1940, 1942, 1943 and 1944.
On this Cover Tillie and mac are in uniform and naturally Tillie is fawned over by two handsome officers as poor enlisted man Mac can only look on.
The cover reflects the majority of the issue contents. Tillie in her effort to do her Patriotic Duty joins the WAACs.
Once again the book features Sunday strips and there is little continuity other than Tillie is in the Service. Most gags again center around men and fashion, this time with a tilt toward Army life.
This is a typical example, Tillie is home on leave and encounters a couple of girlfriends. One is a WAVE and one is trying to decide what branch to enlist in. Naturally, the deciding factor is what uniform she will look best in. However, the punchline revolves around meeting a handsome Marine and being a woman - the good looking guy trumps fashion.
The final half of the issue finds Tillie back home and working as a Recruiter. Finally a bit of continuity. But it's slight, a continuing series of gags over Tillie's efforts. Mac gets back into the picture. Despite his being in uniform on the cover he's spent the war guarding the home fires. At the left we find Mac doing his part to help Tillie with recruiting.
As seen at left the story begins on the inside cover as Mr Simpkins announces that he's selling the shop and getting out of the business. As consolation he takes the staff to dinner at a night club with a South American theme. An accidental conk on the head convinces him that opening a shop in South America is the thing to do. The artist responsible for his inspiration is Senor Romero and he will assist in the opening of the operation. Tillie, Mac and Wally encourage the idea and hoist Mr Simpkins up and are parading him about when he conks his head again on a light fixture. Simpkins now rejects his inspiration and is back to selling out.
As they are all returning from the club in Simpkin's car, the gang attempts to talk him out of selling and pursuing the South America shop when Simpkins clips the rear of a car. The car's driver is the shop buyer who cancels the deal on the spot. Simpkins is still angry the next day and is about to fire everyone, when Tillie points out the newspaper article that showed that the potential buyer was actually a crook. Simpkins changes his mind and agrees to the South American plan.
Romero is engaged to assist in the plan. Meanwhile he begins to get telegrams, phone calls and visitors all telling him he needs to return home, that his Father is ill and requires his return. Romero refuses as he has verified that his father is well and it's all just a plot to get him back in South America. It is later accidentally revealed that the seemingly poor Romero is actually Felipe Ordonez. His father is one of the riches mine owners in South America.
A romance has begun to bud between Tillie and Ordonez. Wally and Mac team up to try to break it up but their efforts only make the lovers more determined and they decide to marry. Mac disguised as a cab driver takes them into the country instead. Every marriage license they pick up is destroyed by Mac and Wally.
After a mishap in a canoe it is discovered that Felipe has measles and is quarantined. Mac sends Tillie a fake letter from Felipe to arrange a meeting which Mac keeps. Tillie realizes the trick, leaves Mac and boards a bus where she sees Felipe in the company of beautiful South American woman. Felipe sees Tillie and tells her it is his sister but he cannot introduce them. Tillie is hurt and breaks off the engagement.
Meanwhile Mac has met the sister and discovers that she came to the States to try to break Felipe's engagement and get him to return home. Tillie overhears this. In another farce scene she is telling Wally off when Felipe overhears and mistakes her comments as being directed at him and leaves. Tillie is unable to follow to explain.
A romance has now begun between Mac and Felipe's sister, Blanca. The tables are reversed, Felipe wishes to return to South America and Blanca doesn't want to go. Following the standard previously established, Mac and Tillie are having an argument when Tillie slips and falls hitting her head. Blanca misinterprets the situation and thinking Mac has hit Tillie leaves. Mac and Tillie hop into the car and head for the airport where they drive out onto the field and block Felipe and Blanca's plane from leaving. They explain the misunderstand but are arrested. Felipe and Blanca arrive in court and back Tillie and Mac. The Judge declaring all the world loves a lover dismisses the charges but forbids them from riding in a motor vehicle in the city.
Forced to walk and ride bicycles Mac and Tillie find themselves in strange circumstances that put them in a bad light. What makes this worse is Father Ordonez has now arrived to find out first hand what is going on and witnesses the events. This naturally makes him even more opposed to the romances. The lovers spite everyone and vow to marry. Felipe is disinherited, Mac's temper gets him fired from the shop, Felipe's fashion drawing accidentally features a wealthy patron's image which offends her. She storms out and Felipe is now fired as well.
All the lovers are commiserating at a casino when the owner spots Felipe and Blanca dancing hot South American numbers and hires them as a dance team for the club. An ankle injury forces Felipe out of the act. He is replaced by a Senor Manuel Alvarez. Mac is soon replaced in Blanca's affections by the new dance partner. As the issue comes to an end, Tillie has also realized that Felipe is also in love with another but he hasn't realized it. Manuel and Blanca and Felipe and Dolores fianlly realize their true feeling for each other due to Mac and Tillie's scheme and fly off to South America, leaving Tillie and Mac back together.
Reference: Comics and Their Creators, Martin Sheridan, Hale,Cushman and Flint 1942; 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996; Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Born in Crawfordsville Indiana, Bill Holman moved to Chicago and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. Holman worked as an office boy in the Art Department of the Chicago Tribune. He moved to New York as a Staff Artist for the Herald Tribune. It was in New York that he began to freelance his cartoons to magazines such as Colliers, Saturday Evening Post, Life, Judge and Everybody's Weekly. His success led to a contract with the Chicago Tribune - New York News Syndicate to produce a comic strip. Smokey Stover was the result beginning on March 10,1935. Following the custom of the times Holman produced a second strip (called a topper because it was printed on top of the main strip) for Sunday featuring Spooky, a cat that he had been drawing into his various newspaper panels, magazine gags and strips. Spooky began on April 7,1935. Both strips were Sunday only. Holman also produced a daily panel, Nuts and Jolts.
Holman expressed a fondness for firemen in many interviews and the result was Smokey Stover and the crew at the Fire House, led by Chief Cash U. Nutt. As a contrast we also visited the Stover Home where Smokestack resides with wife Cookie and son Earl. Spooky resided with his owner Fenwick Flooky, a barefooted chap who was often sitting in the rocker doing embroidery.
Both strips feature Holman's absurdest sense of humor, loaded with puns, some quite twisted metaphors and visually populated with unusual objects as everyday items. A roller coaster of a comic strip, each panel is loaded with gags. Holman also produced many catch phrases and created nonsense words. His most famous was Foo, which in most explanations was printed on an ancient Chinese vase. Notary Sojac, another popular nonsense concoction has at least a couple of versions of what it means. Bill was quoted as declaring it to be Gaelic for Merry Christmas. Another time he said it was Gaelic for Horsecrap.
Holman continued to produce the Sunday Spooky and Smokey Stover until his retirement in 1974. Bill was a founding member of the National Cartoonist Society and served two terms as President. He died in 1987.
Bill's nephew, Victor Alsobrook provided the photo of the young Holman at his drawing board. Vic has a website dedicated to his Uncle with many more photos and additional biographical information as well as magazine articles, comic strips and other goodies. Visit his site -http://www.smokey-stover.com/
Smokey's first issue is number 7. Unfortunately it's still on the missing list. So I can't tell you any more about it at this point. If you can help with this or any other missing issues get in contact with me.
Smokey's second issue is number 35, a 52 page issue that reprints strips from 1938,39,40 and 41.
We jump right in on the inside cover with a Sunday and continue for 13 pages of Smokey strips. We then shift to Spooky for 6 pages, return to Smokey for 8, back to Spooky for one, Smokey for one, Spooky for one and Smokey for 5, Spooky for 8, Smokey for one , Spooky for 5 and wind up with Smokey on the back cover, inside and out.
Here's a typical Smokey page. Check the rocking chair and telephone extension arm. How about the pictures in all the panels, captions and signs? Catch a few puns in there? Did you find all the foos?
A favorite Spooky page. Check out the gadgets and apparel.
Issue 64 is another 52 pager. This time strips from 1941 and 42 are reprinted. All 52 pages are Smokey strips, Spooky only appears in the background here and there.
From this issue a couple of examples of life in the Stover household. At left Earl and Smokey get a deal on ice cream.
On the right Smokey shows Cookie his invention to avoid shoveling the sidewalk.
The final issue is 229, a 36 pager that reprints strips from 1946. Spooky appears on the inside and back covers. The rest of the issue is Smokey strips.
Compared to the earlier strips a maturity in style is noted. While the drawings and gags are just as wild, the strip has a cleaner art look and there is more continuity within the strip. A situation will lead to connect puns throughout the episode, where in the previous issues, the strips were more anything goes.
One final example from this issue closes out the Smokey Stover review. If you like word play, terrible puns, wacky situations and odd ball characters, you'll enjoy these issues of Smokey Stover.
References: Smokey-Stover.com; Grand Comics Database; 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996; Comics and Their Creators, Martin Sheridan, Hale,Cushman and Flint 1942