Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse in The World of Tomorrow – Gladstone Comic Album #17


By Floyd Gottfredson, Bill Walsh & Dick Moores (Gladstone)
ISBN: 978-0944599174

Arthur Floyd Gottfredson was born in 1905 in Kaysville, Utah, one of eight siblings born to a Mormon family of Danish extraction. Injured in a youthful hunting accident he whiled away a long recuperation drawing and studying cartoon correspondence courses, and by the 1920s had turned professional, selling cartoons and commercial art to local trade magazines and Big City newspaper the Salt Lake City Telegram.

In 1928 he and his wife moved to California, and in April 1929 after a shaky start wherein he had to resume his boyhood job as a movie projectionist, found work as an animation  in-betweener at the burgeoning Walt Disney Studios. As the Great Depression began, he was personally asked by Disney to take over the fledgling and ailing Mickey Mouse newspaper strip. Gottfredson would plot, draw and occasionally script the strip for the next forty-five-and-a-half years.

Veteran animator Ub Iwerks had initiated the daily gag sequences but was swiftly replaced by Win Smith. The strip was plagued with problems and young Gottfredson was only stepping in until a regular creator could be found. His first effort saw print on his 25th birthday: May 5th 1930, and he worked on the strip for the next five decades. On January 17th 1932, Gottfredson created the first colour Sunday page, which he contiguously handled until 1938.

At first he did everything, but in 1934 relinquished the scripting role, preferring plotting and illustrating the adventures to playing with dialogue. Collaborating scripters included Ted Osborne, Merrill De Maris, Dick Shaw, Bill Walsh, Roy Williams and Del Connell. He often used inkers such as Dick Moores and the great Al Taliaferro, but occasionally assumed full art chores.

His influence on graphic narrative is inestimable: he was one of the very first to move from daily gags to continuity and extend adventures, created Mickey’s nephews, pioneered team-ups and invented some of the first “super-villains” in the business. In 1955 Disney killed the continuities; dictating that henceforth strips would only contain one-off gag strips. Gottfredson adapted easily, working on until retirement in 1975. His last daily appeared on November 15th and the final Sunday on September 19th 1976.

After D-Day and the Allied push into Occupied Europe the home-front morale machine soon started pumping out conceptions of what the glorious happy future would be like. A strip as popular as Mickey Mouse couldn’t help but join the melee and new scripter Bill Walsh produced a delightfully surreal, tongue-in-cheek parable in ‘The World of Tomorrow’ full of brilliant, incisive sight gags and startling whimsy whilst pitting the Mouse against arch-enemy Peg Leg Pete, who was in extreme danger of conquering the entire planet, using the double-edged advances in modern science! This superbly funny thriller originally ran from July 31st to November 11th 1944.

Walsh, Gottfredson and inker Dick Moores also produced the remainder of this delightful book for kids of all ages, which comprise a dozen one-off gag dailies from 1944 and 1945, and a cracking sea yarn ‘The Pirate Ghost Ship’ (April 17th to July 15th 1944) that found Mickey and Pluto searching for treasure, defying black magic and battling sinister buccaneers in a rollicking rollercoaster of fun and frights.

Walsh (September 30th 1913 – January 27th 1975) loved working on the strip and scripted it until 1964 when his increasingly successful film career forced him to give it up. Like all Disney comics creators they worked in utter anonymity, but thanks to the efforts of devout fans efforts were eventually revealed and due acclaim accorded. Gottfredson died in July 1986 and Walsh did achieve a modicum of fame in his lifetime as producer of Disney’s Davy Crockett movies, and writer/producer of The (original) Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, That Darn Cat!, The Love Bug, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and many others. He was Oscar™ nominated for his Mary Poppins Screenplay.

Nowadays anthropomorphic comics are often derided as kids stuff – and indeed there’s nothing here a child wouldn’t adore – but these magical works were produced for consumers of ALL AGES and the sheer quality of Gottfredson and Walsh’s work is astounding to behold. That so much of it has remained unseen and unsung is a genuine scandal. Mercifully most of the Gladstone Mickey Mouse albums are still readily available, but surely such stories should be preserved in deluxe collections, and remain permanently in print?
© 1989, 1945, 1944 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.

Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse in The Lair of Wolf Barker – Gladstone Comic Album #3


By Floyd Gottfredson (Gladstone)
ISBN: 978-0-94459-903-7

Carl Barks was one of the greatest exponents of comic art the world has ever seen, and he did almost all his work with Disney characters. His work reached and affected untold millions of readers and he all too belatedly won far-reaching recognition. But he wasn’t the first unsung pencil-pushing maestro to turn silver-screen gems into polished gold.

One of his most talented associates, even more influential though certainly far less lauded, was Floyd Gottfredson, a cartooning pathfinder who started out as just another warm body in the company animation factory but became a narrative groundbreaker as influential as Herriman, McCay or Segar.

He took a wild and anarchic animated rodent from slap-stick beginnings, via some of the earliest adventure continuities in comics history as detective, explorer, aviator and cowboy, through to the gently suburbanised sitcom gags of a newly middle-class America that syndicate policy eventually forced upon him. Along the way he produced some of the most engrossing continuities the industry has ever seen.

Arthur Floyd Gottfredson was born in 1905 in Kaysville, Utah, one of eight siblings born to a Mormon family of Danish extraction. Injured in a youthful hunting accident he whiled away a long recuperation drawing and studying cartoon correspondence courses, and by the 1920s had turned professional, selling cartoons and commercial art to local trade magazines and Big City newspaper the Salt Lake City Telegram.

In 1928 he and his wife moved to California, and after a shaky start found work in April 1929 as an in-betweener at the burgeoning Walt Disney Studios. As the Great Depression hit, he was personally asked by Disney to take over the newborn and ailing Mickey Mouse newspaper strip. Gottfredson would plot, draw and often script the strip for the next forty-five-and-a-half years.

Veteran animator Ub Iwerks had initiated the feature but was swiftly replaced by Win Smith. The strip was plagued with problems and young Gottfredson was only supposed to pitch in until a regular creator could be found. His first effort saw print on May 5th 1930 (his 25th birthday) and just kept going; an uninterrupted run over the next five decades. On January 17th 1932, Gottfredson created the first colour Sunday page, which he contiguously handled until 1938, and then almost continually until his death.

At first he did everything, but in 1934 relinquished the scripting role, preferring plotting and illustrating the adventures to playing with dialogue. Collaborating scripters included Ted Osborne, Merrill De Maris, Dick Shaw, Bill Walsh, Roy Williams and Del Connell. He briefly used inkers such as Al Taliaferro, but re-assumed full art chores in 1943.

This delightful compendium collects the very first extended Sunday colour epic which originally ran from January 29th to June 18th 1933. Partially scripted by an unknown writer ‘The Lair of Wolf Barker’ is a rip-roaring comedy western featuring the full repertory cast of Mickey, Minnie, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, and the prototype Goofy, who used to answer to the moniker Dippy Dog.

The gang head west to look after Uncle Mortimer’s sprawling ranch and tumble into a baffling crisis since the cattle are progressively vanishing, with the unsavoury eponymous villain riding roughshod over the assorted characters and stock figures, before his ultimate and well-deserved come-uppance. This is comics on the fly, with plenty of rough and tumble action and fast-packed gags.

Rounding out the book is a selection of early Mickey gags and another landmark Sunday tale. ‘Mickey’s Nephews’ introduced the rascally Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse in a short romp (September 18th to November 6th 1932) full of waggish behaviour and wicked japery. The sequence was inked by Al Taliaferro, who recalled the story five years later when he and scripter Ted Osborne needed a quick plot for their latest assignment. The job was the new Donald Duck strip and the answer was the infamous ‘Donald’s Nephews’ which introduced Huey, Louie and Dewey to the world…

Gottfredson’s influence on not just the Disney Canon but graphic narrative itself is inestimable: he was one of the first to produce long continuities and “straight” adventures; he pioneered team-ups and invented some of the first “super-villains” in the business. When Disney killed the continuities in 1955 dictating that henceforth strips would only contain one-off gag strips, he adapted easily, working on until retirement in 1975. His last daily appeared on November 15th and the final Sunday strip on September 19th 1976.

Like all Disney creators Gottfredson worked in utter anonymity, but in the 1960s his identity was revealed and the voluble appreciation of his previously unsuspected horde of devotees led to interviews, overviews and public appearances, with effect that subsequent reprinting in books, comics and albums carried a credit for the quiet, reserved master. Floyd Gottfredson died in July 1986.

This huge untapped well of work is only available in tiny snippets like these old Gladstone albums, but hopefully now that Disney own a major comics company some bright spark will realise the potential of the artistic treasures they’ve been sitting on and we’ll soon seen a Gottfredson Mickey Mouse Archives collection.

And since we’re wishing I’d still like that Jonny Seven toy gun I didn’t get in 1969…
© 1987, 1933, 1932 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.

Walt Disney’s Mickey and Donald – Gladstone Comic Album #26


By Floyd Gottfredson and various (Gladstone)
ISBN: 978-0-94459-929-7

Carl Barks was one of the greatest exponents of comic art the world has ever seen, and he did almost all his work with Disney characters. His work reached and affected untold millions of readers and he all too belatedly won far-reaching recognition.

One of his most talented associates, potentially even more influential and certainly much less lauded, was Floyd Gottfredson, another strip genius who started out in the company animation factory. During the Depression of the 1930s, he was personally asked by Disney to take over the fledgling and ailing Mickey Mouse newspaper strip. Gottfredson would plot, occasionally script, but mostly draw the strip for the next forty-five-and-a-half years.

He took a wild and anarchic rodent from slap-stick beginnings, via some of the earliest adventure continuities in comics history as detective, explorer, aviator and even cowboy, through to the gently suburbanised sitcom gags of a newly middle-class America that syndicate policy eventually forced upon him. Along the way he produced some of the most amazing thrilling comic continuities the industry has ever seen.

Arthur Floyd Gottfredson was born in 1905 in Kaysville, Utah, one of eight siblings born to a Mormon family of Danish extraction. As a child he gravely injured his arm hunting and whiled away a long recuperation drawing and studying cartoon correspondence courses. By the 1920s he had turned pro, selling cartoons and commercial art to local trade magazines and the Salt Lake City Telegram newspaper.

In 1928 he and his wife moved to California, and after a shaky start wherein he had to resort to his old job as a movie projectionist, he found work as an in-betweener at the burgeoning Walt Disney Studios in April 1929.

Veteran animator Ub Iwerks had initiated the Mickey Mouse daily newspaper strip at the end of that year, but was swiftly replaced by Win Smith. The strip was plagued with problems and was an uncomfortable fit, and Disney asked Gottfredson to step in until a regular creator could be found. He worked on it for the next five decades, beginning on his 25th birthday: May 5th 1930. On January 17th 1932, Gottfredson created the first colour Sunday page, which he contiguously handled until 1938.

At first he did everything, but in 1934 he relinquished the final scripting role, preferring plotting and drawing the adventures of one of the planet’s most popular characters. Subsequent collaborating scripters included Ted Osborne, Merrill De Maris, Dick Shaw, Bill Walsh, Roy Williams and Del Connell. He briefly used inkers such as the great Al Taliaferro, but re-assumed full art chores in 1943.

His influence on not just the Mouse but graphic narrative is inestimable: he was one of the very first to move from daily gags to continuity and extend adventures, created Mickey’s nephews (prototypes for Donald Duck’s own brood of pint-sized troublemakers), pioneered team-ups and invented some of the first and most memorable “super-villains” in the business. In 1955 Disney killed the continuities by official decree; dictating that strips would only contain one-off gag strips once more. Gottfredson worked on until retirement in October 1975. His last daily appeared on 15th November and the final Sunday strip on September 19th 1976.

Like all Disney creators Gottfredson worked in utter anonymity, but thanks primarily to the efforts of fan Malcolm Willets in the 1960s his identity was revealed and devotees’ voluble appreciation led to interviews, overviews and public appearances, with effect that subsequent reprinting in books, comics and albums carried a credit for the quiet, reserved master. Floyd Gottfredson died in July 1986.

This collection from the wonderful folks at Gladstone presents a classic whodunit (scripted by Ted Osborne, inked by Ted Thwaites and coloured by the wonderfully all-purpose Marie Severin and Mike McCormick) wherein the bold trouble-shooter sets up a detective agency to solve the mystery of ‘The Seven Ghosts’ who have set up home in the vast mansion of Southern Gentleman Colonel Bassett. A canny blend of slapstick and drama, the story first appeared from 7th August to September 12th 1936, a true highpoint of light adventure fiction, made even more delicious because it guest-stars Goofy and Donald Duck.

Supplementing the main feature is a shorter, earlier detective thriller starring Disney’s Big Three entitled ‘The Mystery of the Vanishing Coats’ (17th February – 24th March 1935; words by Osborne, inks by Thwaites, colours by Sue Daigle) and a 1953 Goofy one-pager by Dick Moores from the Mickey Mouse comic-book (issue #32).

Artistic consistency is as rare as longevity in today’s comic market-place, and the sheer volume of quality work produced by Gottfredson that has remained unseen and unsung is a genuine scandal. Mercifully most of the Gladstone Mickey Mouse albums are still readily available, but surely such landmark material should be rewarded with a comprehensive deluxe collection and kept permanently in print?
© 1990 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.

Casey Ruggles: the Hard Times of Pancho and Pecos – Selected Daily Strips 1950


By Warren Tufts (Western Winds Productions)
No ISBN

Warren Tufts was an incredibly gifted artist and storyteller born too late. He is best remembered now – if at all – for creating two of the most beautiful western comics strips of all time, but at a time when the heyday of newspaper syndicated entertainment was gradually giving way to the television age. Had he been working in adventure’s Golden Age he would undoubtedly be a household name – at least in comics fans’ houses

Born in Fresno, California on 12th December 1925 Tufts was a superb, meticulous craftsman with a canny grasp of character and a great ear for dialogue whose art was stately in a representational manner and favourably compared to both Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant and the best of Alex Raymond. On May 22nd 1949 he began the seminal Casey Ruggles – A Saga of the West as a colour Sunday page, following with a daily black and white strip beginning on September 19th of that year, working for the United Features Syndicate, who owned such landmark strips as Fritzi Ritz and L’il Abner.

Ruggles was a dynamic ex-cavalry sergeant making his way to California in 1849 to find his fortune (the storyline of both features until 1950 where daily and Sunday strips divided into separate tales), meeting such historical personages as Millard Fillmore, William Fargo, Jean Lafitte and Kit Carson in gripping two-fisted action-adventures. The lush, expansive tales were crisply told and highly engaging, but Tufts was a driven perfectionist regularly working 80-hour weeks at the drawing board and consequently often missed deadlines.

This led him to use many assistants such as Al Plastino, Rueben Moreira and Edmund Good. Established veterans Nick Cardy and Alex Toth also spent time working as “ghosts” (uncredited assistants and fill-in artists) on the series.

Due to a falling-out Tufts left the strip in 1954 and Al Carreño continued the feature until its demise in October 1955. The departure came when TV producers wanted to turn the strip into a weekly television show but apparently United Features baulked, suggesting the show would harm the popularity of the strip.

Tufts created his own syndicate for his next and greatest project, Lance (probably the last great full page Sunday strip and another series crying out for a high-quality collection) before moving peripherally into comic-books, working extensively for West Coast outfit Dell/Gold Key, where he drew various westerns and cowboy TV show tie-ins like Wagon Train, Korak son of Tarzan, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan and a long run on the Pink Panther comic. Eventually he quit drawing completely, working as an actor, voice-actor and eventually in animation on such shows as Challenge of the Super Friends.

Tufts had a lifelong passion for flying, even building his own ‘planes. In 1982 whilst piloting one he crashed and was killed.

The Pacific Comics Club collected many “lost strip classics” at the start of the 1980s, including a number of Casey Ruggles adventures. This colossal black and white volume (approximately 15 inches x 10 inches) contains stories that fit between the first and last tale of the previous volume (see Casey Ruggles: The Whisperer), and leads with a cracking mystery tale as Ruggles tracks down a murderous masked outlaw named ‘Black Barney’ in a dynamic tale that undoubtedly influenced a huge number of comicbook Costumed Cowboys.

This is followed by the eponymous ‘Hard Times of Pancho and Pecos wherein the light relief baddies are so down on their luck that they end up as slaves for an unscrupulous rancher until rescued by Ruggles.

Next up is one of the most impressive western strips of all time: an eerie mood-piece more horror story than sagebrush saga as Ruggles faces the seemingly supernatural threat of the fling beast Aquila. As if the tension-soaked drama were not sufficient to chill the blood, the art is a startling monochrome collaboration between supreme realist Tufts and the chiaroscuric stylisation of Alex Toth. No fan of the medium should ever be denied this experience!

This volume concludes with a gripping tale of greed and disaster in ‘Spanish Mine’ as an old treasure map leads to murder, mayhem and a truly spectacular climax…

Human intrigue and fallibility, bombastic action and a taste for the bizarre reminiscent of the best John Ford or Raoul Walsh movie make Casey Ruggles the ideal western strip for the discerning modern audience. Westerns are continually falling into and out of fashion but the beautiful clean-cut artistic mastery of Warren Tufts can never be out of vogue These great tales are desperately deserving of a wider following, and I’m still praying some canny publisher knows a good thing when he sees it…
© 1949, 1950, 1953 United Features Syndicate, Inc. Collection © Western Winds Productions. All Rights Reserved.

Rip Kirby: The Missing Nightingale Daily Strips 25 September – 23 December -1950


By Alex Raymond (Pacific Comics Club)
No ISBN

Alex Raymond made Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim and Secret Agent X-9 global icons (and himself terribly wealthy) but when America joined the War so did he. On returning to civilian life, rather than return to safe pastures he yearned for new conquests.

With King Features Editor Ward Greene he created a different kind of private detective: a demobbed marine; intellectual, easy-going, artistically inclined but physically capable who preferred to exercise his mind rather than fists and guns.

His girlfriend “Honey” Dorian and manservant Desmond (a reformed burglar) completed his supporting cast and Remington “Rip” Kirby debuted on March 4th 1946, to huge approval and success. Greene wrote the scripts until his departure in 1952 when journalist Fred Dickenson assumed the scripting role. Raymond drew it until September 6th 1956, when, aged 46, he died in a car crash. John Prentice assumed the art duties until 1986 when with Dickenson left due to ill-health, from which time Prentice wrote the strip too. Rip Kirby finally retired on June 26th 1999 when Prentice did.

Beautiful art and brilliant strips are simply irresistible. After recently reviewing a couple of giant-sized Rip Kirby collections (re-read in advance of an upcoming compilation project promising to reproduce the entire saga) I simply couldn’t stop before reviewing the best of the bunch…

This complete softcover adventure follows immediately upon ‘Gunpowder Dreams’ and ‘Buried Treasure’: all of which were originally released in 1980 and still occasionally turn up in shops and on the internet. They are all huge 340x245mm softcover tabloids (that’s nearly 15 inches by 10) with shiny white pages presenting thrilling and enchanting sagas of one of America’s most famous fictional detectives, drawn by one of the most influential artists of all time.

This masterful blend of 1950s style and fashion highlights a society in the midst of affluent change as Rip is hired to find a missing singer who has captivated the new record buying public but disappeared before she could cut her first record album. However what starts as a simple trace job turns into a particularly nasty murder plot that simply can’t end well…

Here is another fabulously chic caper, stuffed full of tension and lots of tricky plot twists, with plenty of action, beautifully realised by an absolute master of brush and pen.

Your chances of tracking down this gem are admittedly rather meagre, but well worth the effort if you’re an art-lover, as Raymond’s drawing at this size is an unparalleled delight.  Whatever size you find Rip Kirby inhabiting these are strips every fan must see.
© 1950, 1980 King Features. All Rights Reserved. Book © 1980 Pacific C.C.

George McManus’s Bringing Up Father: Forever Nuts – Classic Screwball Strips


By George McManus, edited by Jeffrey Lindenblatt (NBM)
ISBN 13: 978-1-56163-556-6

¡Perfect Christmas Present Alert! – all ages

One of the best and most influential comic strips of all time gets a wonderfully lavish deluxe outing thanks to the perspicacious folk at NBM as part of their series collecting the earliest triumphs of sequential cartooning. Look out for Happy Hooligan and check out Forever Nuts: Mutt and Jeff to see the other strips that formed the basis and foundation of our entire industry and art-form.

George McManus was born on January 23rd of either 1882 or 1883 and drew from a very young age. His father, realising his talent, secured him work in the art department of the St. Louis Republic newspaper. He was thirteen, and swept floors, ran errands, drawing when ordered to. In an era before cheap and reliable photography, artists illustrated news stories; usually disasters, civic events and executions: McManus claimed that he had attended 120 hangings – a national record! The young man spent his off-hours producing cartoons and honing his mordant wit. His first sale was Elmer and Oliver. He hated it.

The jobbing cartoonist had a legendary stroke of luck in 1903. Acting on a Bootblack’s tip he placed a $100 bet on a 30-1 outsider and used his winnings to fund a trip to New York City. He splurged his winnings and on his last day got two job offers: one from the McClure Syndicate and a lesser bid from Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World.

He took the smaller offer, went to work for Pulitzer and created a host of features for the paper including Snoozer, The Merry Marceline, Ready Money Ladies, Cheerful Charlie, Panhandle Pete, Let George Do It, Nibsy the Newsboy in Funny Fairyland (one of the earliest Little Nemo knock-offs) and his first big hit (1904) The Newlyweds.

This last brought him to the attention of Pulitzer’s arch rival William Randolph Hearst, who, acting in tried and true manner, lured him away with big money in 1912. In Hearst’s papers the Newlyweds became the Sunday page feature Their Only Child, and was soon supplemented by Outside the Asylum, The Whole Blooming Family, Spare Ribs and Gravy and Bringing Up Father.

At first it alternated with other McManus domestic comedies in the same slot, but eventually the artist dropped Oh, It’s Great to be Married!, Oh, It’s Great to Have a Home and Ah Yes! Our Happy Home! as well as his second Sunday strip Love Affairs of a Muttonhead to concentrate on the story of Irish hod-carrier Jiggs whose vast newfound wealth brought him no joy, whilst his parvenu wife Maggie and inexplicably beautiful, cultured daughter Nora sought acceptance in “Polite” society.

The strip turned on the simplest of premises: whilst Maggie and daughter feted wealth and aristocracy, Jiggs, who only wanted to booze and schmooze and eat his beloved corned beef and cabbage, would somehow shoot down their plans – usually with severe personal consequences. Maggie might have risen in society but she never lost her devastating accuracy with crockery and household appliances.

Bringing Up Father debuted on January 12th 1913, originally appearing three times a week, then four and eventually every day. It made McManus two fortunes (the first he lost in the 1929 Stock Market crash), spawned a radio show, a movie in 1928, five more between 1946-1950 (as well as an original Finnish film in 1939) and 9 silent animated short features, plus all the assorted marketing paraphernalia that fetches such high prices in today’s antique markets. The artist died in 1954, and other creators continued the strip until May 28th 2000, its unbroken 87 years making it the second longest running newspaper strip of all time.

McManus said that he got the basic idea from The Rising Generation: a musical comedy he’d seen as a boy: but the premise of wealth not bringing happiness was only the foundation of the strip’s success. Jigg’s discomfort at his elevated position, his yearnings for the nostalgic days and simple joys of youth are something everyone is prey to, but the real magic at work here is the canny blend of slapstick, satire, sexual politics and fashion delivered by a man who can draw like an angel. The incredibly clean simple lines and the superb use – and implicit understanding – of art nouveau and art deco imagery and design make this series a stunning treat for the eye.

This magical black and white hardback collecting the first two years of Bringing Up Father covers the earliest inklings towards a perfect formula, and includes a fascinating insight into the American head-set as the family go on an extended (eight months) grand tour of the Continent in the months leading up to the Great War, and as 1914 closed, how ambivalent the New World still was to the “European War.”

An added surprise for a strip of this vintage is the great egalitarianism of it. Although there is the occasional visual stereotype to swallow and excuse, what we regard as racism is practically absent. The only thing to watch out for is the genteel sexism and class (un)consciousness, although McManus clearly pitched his tent on the side of the dirty, disenfranchised and downtrodden – as long as he could get a laugh out of it…

This is a wonderful, evocative celebration of the world’s greatest domestic comedy strip, skillfully annotated for those too young to remember those days and still uproariously funny. Buy it for grandma and swipe it while she’s sleeping off the sherry and nostalgia…

No © invoked.

Rip Kirby: Buried Treasure Daily Strips 12 June -23 September 1950


By Alex Raymond (Pacific Comics Club)
No ISBN

Some strips are simply more addictive than narcotics or chocolate. After recently reviewing a giant-sized Rip Kirby collection (re-read after too many years in advance of an upcoming IDW compilation project promising to reproduce the entire saga) I simply couldn’t stop at just the one…

This complete softcover adventure follows immediately upon ‘Gunpowder Dreams’: released in 1980 and still occasionally available in shops and on the internet. You can’t miss it since the thing is a huge 340x245mm (that’s nearly 15 inches by 10) and its glossy white pages present another captivating tale of one of America’s most famous fictional detectives, drawn by one of the world’s most talented artists.

An intoxicating blend of 1950s style and fashion, this is another yarn that will suck you into a captivating world of adventure and resurgent post-war glamour, but this time with the added drama of a ruthless arch-enemy thrown into the mix, and all played against the backdrop of America’s post war fascination with the Italian glamour of La Dolce Vita

During the 1930s Raymond made Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim and Secret Agent X-9 household names all over the world, but when the USA joined the War so did he. On returning to civilian life, like Milt Caniff and his iconic post-war adventurer Steve Canyon rather than rekindle old glories Raymond wanted something new.

From King Features Editor Ward Greene’s concept and scripts he designed a different kind of private detective: a rather unique individual: retired marine; intellectual, easy-going, musically and artistically inclined but physically powerful and who preferred to use his mind rather than fists and guns.

His steady girlfriend Judith “Honey” Dorian and mousy but competent manservant Desmond (a reformed burglar) completed a regular cast with plenty of depth and scope. Remington “Rip” Kirby debuted on March 4th 1946, to instant approbation and commercial success.

Greene wrote the scripts until 1952 when he was replaced by journalist Fred Dickenson and Raymond drew it until September 6th 1956, when, aged only 46, he died in a car crash. John Prentice assumed the art duties with Dickenson writing until 1986 when he left due to ill-health, from which time Prentice did that too. The feature closed shop on June 26th 1999 when Prentice retired.

Slick, polished and so very chic, old friend and flighty heiress Margie Pelham has found the man of her dreams in an Italian Count. Her lawyers are less ecstatic and want Rip to thoroughly investigate the uppity foreigner, so Honey Dorian is dispatched to accompany her old friend on the ocean cruise to Sorrento, but no one is aware of a lurking menace.

The Mangler was a brutal gangster brought low by Kirby, and he’d been craving revenge ever since. Now hooked up with a Nazi deserter he’s on his way to Sorrento too, in search of stolen treasure buried by the German in the very teeth of the allied invasion. The cash could set up the Mangler in a new life and the thought of settling with Kirby and his friends makes the brutal thug’s fingers itch and his mouth water…

This is another brilliantly stylish caper, packed full of tension, romance and lots of tricky plot twists, with oodles of action, beautifully executed by an absolute master of brush and pen. Just imagine Alfred Hitchcock in panels not movie screens…

Your chances of tracking down this gem are admittedly quite slim, but well worth the effort if you’re an art-lover, as Raymond’s drawing at this size is an unparalleled delight, but in fairness I should mention than the lettering here is appalling. I can only assume the art was shot from foreign printed copies (the rest of the world has always appreciated graphic arts more than us or the Americans) and lettered back into English by well-meaning but unprofessional hands.

Nevertheless these are still strips every fan should experience; even in the meagre dimensions modern strips are reprinted. Any Rip Kirby collections are a treat you simply cannot afford to miss. Let’s hope we’re not waiting too long…

© 1950, 1980 King Features. All Rights Reserved. Book © 1980 Pacific C.C.

Casey Ruggles: the Whisperer – Selected Daily Strips 1949-1950


By Warren Tufts (Western Winds Productions)
No ISBN

Warren Tufts was an incredibly gifted artist and storyteller cursed by simply being born too late. He is best remembered now – if at all – for creating two of the most beautiful western comics strips of all time, but at a time when the heyday of newspaper syndicated entertainment was gradually giving way to the television age. Had he been working in Adventure’s Golden Age he would undoubtedly be a household name – at least in comics fans’ houses

Born in Fresno, California on 12th December 1925 Tufts was a superb and meticulous craftsman with a canny grasp of character and a great ear for dialogue whose art was stately in a representational manner and favourably compared to both Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant and the best of Alex Raymond. On May 22nd 1949 he began the seminal Casey Ruggles – A Saga of the West as a colour Sunday page, following with a daily black and white strip beginning on September 19th of that year, working for the United Features Syndicate, purveyors of such landmark strips as Fritzi Ritz and L’il Abner.

Ruggles was a dynamic ex-cavalry sergeant in 1849 making his way to California to find his fortune (the storyline of both features until 1950 where daily and Sunday strips divided into separate tales), blending history into the dramas with such personages as Millard Fillmore, William Fargo, Jean Lafitte and Kit Carson making their presences felt in various gripping two-fisted action-adventures. The lush, expansive tales were crisply told and highly engaging, but Tufts was a driven perfectionist regularly working 80-hour weeks at the drawing board and consequently often missed deadlines.

This led him to use many assistants and old comic-book fans will be gratified to discover that then rising artists Al Plastino, Rueben Moreira and Edmund Good, as well as established veterans Nick Cardy and Alex Toth, all spent time working as “ghosts” (uncredited assistants and fill-in artists) on the series.

Due to a falling-out Tufts left the strip in 1954 and Al Carreño continued the feature until its demise in October 1955. The departure came when TV producers wanted to turn the strip into a weekly television show but apparently United Features baulked, suggesting the show would harm the popularity of the strip.

Tufts created his own syndicate for his next and greatest project, Lance (probably the last great full page Sunday strip and another series crying out for a high-quality collection) before moving peripherally into comic-books, working extensively for West Coast outfit Dell/Gold Key, where he drew various westerns and cowboy TV show tie-ins like Wagon Train, Korak son of Tarzan, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan and a long run on the Pink Panther comic. Eventually he quit drawing completely, working as an actor, voice-actor and eventually in animation on such shows as Challenge of the Super Friends.

Tufts had a lifelong passion for flying, even building his own aircraft. In 1982 whilst piloting one he crashed and was killed.

The Pacific Comics Club collected many “lost strip classics” at the start of the 1980s, including a number of Casey Ruggles adventures. This colossal black and white volume (approximately 15 inches x 10 inches) contains some fascinating biographical history. In the opening adventure of the daily strip from September 1949, Casey and the orphan Indian boy Kit Fox set off on the wagon trail to California accompanied by old Swiss gentleman Hans Hassesnfeffer and his adopted daughter Chris, with army deserter Bolt and Femme Fatale Lilli Lafitte racing them to the goldfields and providing sundry evil delaying tactics.

This is a highly authentic if dramatised synthesis of those real treks with Indians (hostile and not), cold, privation, disease, stampedes, greedy owlhoots and even scurvy banditos making the journey a masterpiece of endurance and determination. That first storyline ended with the January 14th 1950 instalment, and this collection picks up with theAugust 21st episode and the introduction of the lumber town of Big Bear Flat.

This rough and ready outpost of civilisation is living under a pall of terror. A mysterious serial killer called the Whisperer is killing lumberjacks and townspeople at will, always warning in advance before striking. Terrified survivors attest to hearing a harsh whisper at the scenes of the crimes. This is not the best time for Kit Fox and Ruggles, struggling to throw off a dose of laryngitis, to hit town…

This cracking yarn sees the misunderstood hero come to the town’s rescue and unravel a baffling whodunit in spectacular action packed style, reminiscent of the best John Ford or Raoul Walsh matinee feature.

Westerns are continually falling into and out of vogue but the beautiful clean cut mastery of Warren Tufts should never be chained to fashion. These are great tales perfectly told and desperately deserving of your time and attention. I pray some canny publisher knows a good thing when he sees it…
© 1949, 1950, 1953 United Features Syndicate, Inc. Collection © Western Winds Productions. All Rights Reserved.

Tarzan Digest #1


By Russ Manning (DC Comics)
No ISBN

The early 1970s were the last real glory days of National (now DC) Comics. As they slowly lost market-share to Marvel they responded by producing controversial and landmark superhero material, but their greatest strength lay, as it always has, in the variety and quality of its genre divisions. Mystery and supernatural, Romance, War and Kids’ titles remained strong and the company’s eye for a strong licensed brand was as keen as ever.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan had long been a mainstay of Dell and Gold Key, as well as a global multi-media phenomenon, and when DC acquired the title they rightly trumpeted it out, putting one of their top Artist/Editors, Joe Kubert, in charge of the legendary Ape-man’s monthly exploits, and putting a whole niche of ERB titles onto the stands in a variety of formats.

The latter days of the Gold Key run had suffered since the brilliant Russ Manning took over the syndicated newspaper strip, and even the likes of Doug Wildey hadn’t been able to revive the comicbook series in the face of increasing prices and a general downturn in sales across the market. The DC incarnation premiered in a blaze of publicity at the height of a nostalgia boom and was generally well received by fans and the company pushed the title in many places and manners.

One of my very favourites is this handy-dandy digest, reprinting a number of Manning’s most fantastic forays with ERB’s fabulous creations, taken, I believe from the Manning Sunday strips, and filled out with Jesse Marsh’s ‘Tarzan’s illustrated Ape-English Dictionary’ and a couple of ‘Tarzan’s Jungle Lore’ features.

Russ Manning was an absolute master of his art, most popularly remembered now for the Star Wars newspaper strip, Magnus, Robot Fighter as well as the comic-book and newspaper strip (dailies from 1969-1972 and the Sundays from 1969-1979) incarnations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s immortal Lord of the Jungle.

Manning’s Tarzan never strayed far from the canonical texts and here he puts the indomitable Greystoke through his paces in ‘Tarzan and the Rite of the Great Apes’ a delightful short fantasy of the Great White God’s relaxing times among his hairy subjects, ‘Tarzan and the Ant-Men’, which sees him return to the diminutive Velopismakusian warrior race stranded behind their impenetrable Thorn barrier, and the epic sequel ‘Tarzan and the Attack of the Beast Men’, which pits and him and son Korak against an invasion of Hyena and Crocodile men from a lost outpost of ancient Egypt.

Spectacular, tantalising, captivating and gloriously beautiful (I cannot think of any artist who drew lovelier women – or men, for that matter) this pocket-sized gem is an unending source of delights.

Eho vando! Tarmangani gree-ah! Kagoda? Now if you had this book you’d probably agree, no?
© 1972 Edgar Rice Burroughs Incorporated. All Rights Reserved.

Rip Kirby: Gunpowder Dreams Daily Strips 27 March-10 June 1950


By Alex Raymond (Pacific Comics Club)
No ISBN

Does size really matter? That loaded question makes more sense in the context of this rare but wonderful package I dug out in response to hearing that IDW intend to collect the entire saga of Rip Kirby in collector’s editions.

This complete softcover adventure (alternatively entitled ‘Correspondence Crisis’) was selectively released in 1980 and occasionally turns up in shops and on the internet. You can’t miss it, as the book is 340x245mm (that’s nearly 15 inches by 10) and on its glossy white pages presents a superbly compelling exploit of one of America’s most famous fictional detectives, drawn by one of the world’s most brilliant and influential artists. A perfect taste of the heady 1950s style, this yarn will suck you into a captivating world of adventure and resurgent post-war glamour.

In the golden age of newspaper adventure strips (that’s the 1930s, right?) Alex Raymond made Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim and Secret Agent X-9 household names all over the world, but when his country called he dropped everything and went to war.

On his return, rather than rekindle old glories he created (from King Features Editor Ward Greene’s concept and scripts) a new kind of private detective. The result was a rather unique individual, a demobbed marine who was intellectual and sedentary by preference, and although physically powerful chose to use his mind rather than fists and guns.

He had a steady girlfriend called Judith “Honey” Dorian and a mousy but competent manservant named Desmond with hidden depths (he was a reformed burglar decades before Lady Penelope hired that guy Parker). Remington “Rip” Kirby debuted on March 4th 1946, to instant approbation and commercial success.

Greene wrote the strip until 1952 when he was replaced by journalist Fred Dickenson and Raymond illustrated it until Sept. 6, 1956, when, aged only 46, he died in a car crash. The hugely talented John Prentice assumed the art duties whilst Dickenson continued writing until 1986 when he left due to ill-health, from which time Prentice did that too. The feature finally ended on June 26th 1999 when Prentice retired.

The story?

Slick, polished and so very modern, this seductive pot-boiler sees the usually worldly-wise Desmond gulled by a con-artist who uses the hearts and flowers racket to fleece lonely men, but when his butler goes missing Rip is more than sharp enough to track him down…

Your chances of tracking down this gem are admittedly quite slim, but well worth the effort if you’re an art-lover, as Raymond’s drawing at this size is an unparalleled delight. Still and all, even in the relatively meagre dimensions modern strips are reprinted the Rip Kirby collections will be a treat you simply cannot afford to miss. Let’s hope we’re not waiting too long…
© 1950, 1980 King Features. All Rights Reserved. Book © 1980 Pacific C.C.