Al Williamson Alex Raymod Artists - Cartoonists Flash Gordon Ramblings & Reviews

Adventure Strip Finales

With the Amazing Spider-man comic strip going to reprints for the time being, Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s run on the strip has come to an end. March 17, 2019 was the last Sunday with March 23, 2019 being the last daily.

Amazing Spider-Man – Roy Thomas, Alex Saviuk and Joe Sinnott
March 17, 2019
Amazing Spider-Man – Roy Thomas, Alex Saviuk and Joe Sinnott
March 23, 2019

The Spider-Man strip started out January 3, 1977 written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita. Following Stan Lee’s run on the strip Roy Thomas had written the strip uncredited for a number of years (more on that at Artists that followed Romita included Fred Kida, Larry Lieber, and most recently Alex Saviuk with Joe Sinnott inks.

After the announcement of the strip’s finale, Joe Sinnott’s son Mark posted the following to his Dad’s Facebook page.

Truly the end of an era!

With adventure strips being far and few between on today’s comics page, I thought it would be of interest to look at a few notable comic strip finales.

Note: Thanks to Allen Lane who posted a number of these to the Yahoo Classic Adventure Comic Strip Group.

Buz Sawyer was created by Roy Crane and first appeared November 1, 1943. Crane worked on the strip until his death in 1977.

For more in-depth info on Buz Sawyer I defer to Ray Contreras for the following info.

Henry (Hank) Schlensker joined Crane right after the war (Schlensker had been a flyer in the war) and started working on the BUZ Sundays as soon as he joined Crane in 1946.  In 1950, looking to ease his workload on the daily strip, Crane moved Schlensker from the Sundays to the daily strip.  Around 1969, due to chronic ulcers, Roy Crane stepped back from the strip completely.  Ed Granberry, who had been assisting on the writing, took it over completely; and Schlensker worked on the art for the daily, as he had basically for many, many years; only now without Crane’s involvement.  Clark Haas and later Al Wenzel drew the Sunday after Crane switched Schlensker to the daily.  Crane would look at the finished product, but after working years on the strip (both daily and Sunday), Schlensker and Granberry knew their stuff.

Henry (Hank) Schlensker continued on Buz Sawyer after Crane’s death in 1977. After Schlensker’s retirement John Celardo took the reigns, working on Buz from 1983–1989. Upon Celardo’s sign-off, King Features discontinued the strip.

Buz Sawyer – John Celardo
October 7, 1989

Buck Rogers by writer Philip Francis Nowlan and artist Dick Calkins debuted on January 7, 1929. Writers following Nolan included Rick Yager (who also drew it), Jack Lehti, Ray Russell, Fritz Leiber and Howard Liss. Artists following Calkins included Russell Keaton, Rick Yager and George Tuska.

Howard Liss and George Tuska’s finale strip appeared June 13, 1965.

Buck Rogers – Howard Liss and George Tuska
June 13, 1965

The strip was given a second life in 1979 by writer Jim Lawrence and artist Gray Morrow, followed by writer Cary Bates and artist Jack Sparling. The finale strip appearing December 25, 1983.

Buck Rogers – Cary Bates and Jack Sparling
December 25, 1983

One of the most memorable finales for a comic strip happened before the strip in question actually even ended. I’m talking of course of Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates.

Looking to have the financial stability of ownership of his strip (something Caniff was denied at Tribune-News Syndicate with Terry), he accepted an offer from the Field Newspaper Syndicate to create a new strip that he would have ownership of. That strip would be Steve Canyon.

In Caniff’s iconic final Sunday page Terry says goodbye to Jane Allen as Caniff says goodbye to his Terry and the Pirates readers.

The story so far – Romance is in the air for Terry and Jane Allen until it’s discovered that her old flame, Snake Tumblin, is still alive and in a base hospital somewhere in Australia. Sacrificing his own happiness, Terry secures Jane a flight and escorts her to the airfield…

Terry and the Pirates – Milton Caniff
December 29, 1946

That last panel is the killer as Caniff adds a double meaning to the writing on the wall.

As pointed out by R.C. Harvey in the foreward to the Complete Terry and the Pirates Volume 6, the Sunday page was not the last strip Caniff drew. Because the Sunday pages were due well in advance of the dailies, the following daily strip – printed the day before the momentous final Sunday page – was actually the last strip drawn.

Terry and the Pirates – Milton Caniff
December 28, 1946

Caniff’s replacement on Terry and the Pirates would be George Wunder, who would go on to draw the strip for another 26 years. Here’s Wunder’s last Sunday page.

Terry and the Pirates – George Wunder
February 25, 1973

Terry and the Pirates would be revived in 1995 by Michael Uslan with art by the Brothers Hildebrandt. The following year they left the strip and were replaced by writer Jim Clark and artist Dan Spiegle. A year after that the strip was discontinued.

Terry and the Pirates – Jim Clark and Dan Spiegle
July 27, 1997

Secret Agent X-9 began on January 22, 1934. It was created by writer Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) and drawn by artist Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon). Writers that followed Hammett in those early years included Don Moore and Leslie Charteris. The artists that followed after Raymond left the strip were Nicholas Afonsky and Austin Briggs. In the 1940s Mel Graff took over the writing and drawing chores, followed by Bob Lubbers (pseudonym “Bob Lewis”) in the 1960s.

From 1967 to 1980 the strip was written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson and relaunched as Secret Agent Corrigan. Here’s Goodwin and Williamson’s last strip from February 2, 1980.

Secret Agent Corrigan – Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson
February 2, 1980

Following Goodwin and Williamson was veteran cartoonist George Evans. Evans would write and draw the strip until 1980. Upon Evans’s decision to retire from producing the strip, King opted to discontinue it.

Secret Agent Corrigan – George Evans
February 10, 1996

Another comic strip Alex Raymond started back in 1934 was the topper to his famous Flash Gordon strip, and that was Jungle Jim. Artists that followed Raymond on the strip were John Mayo and Paul Norris. After a 20 year run Jungle Jim wrapped up in 1954.

Jungle Jim – Paul Norris
August 8, 1954

Rip Kirby premiered March 4, 1946 and was also created by Alex Raymond. Raymond’s work on Rip Kirby would win him the Reuben Award in 1949 for “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.”

Alex Raymond’s career was cut short in 1956, when at age 46, he was killed in a car crash. King Features sought out a replacement and found it in John Prentice. After John Prentice died in 1999 (after an amazing 43 year run on Rip Kirby) the decision was made by King Features to discontinue the strip. Frank Bolle would ghost the final week (to “ghost is when an artist fills in for another artist by mimicking his style).

Rib Kirby – Ghosted by Frank Bolle
June 26, 1999

Alex Raymond’s most renowned comic strip, Flash Gordon, first appeared January 7, 1934. It has had a number of artists and writers over the years (myself included), some of whom I highlighted on this Sunday page.

Flash Gordon – December 26, 1999.

Quick side note: Bob Fujatani (who worked with Dan Barry on Flash Gordon) gave a great interview recently to the the Connecticut Post talking about his career in comics. Here’s the link: At 97, Flash Gordon Artist Bob Fujitani Remembers Cartooning’s Golden Age

The Flash Gordon Dailies were discontinued on two occasions. The first in 1944 shows Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov in a ticker tape parade having returned from Mongo after successfully saving the Earth.

Flash Gordon – Austin Briggs
June 3, 1944

The dailies were revived in the 1950s with artist Dan Barry at the helm. In 1990 the dailies were taken over by Bruce Jones as writer and Ralph Reese as artist, followed by artist Gray Morrow upon Reese’s departure. A Buenos Aires studio of artists were hired in 1991 with writing alternating between Kevin Van Hook and Thomas Warkentin. The last daily would be in 1993

Flash Gordon – Thomas Warkentin and a Buenos Aires studio
July 3, 1993

Meanwhile the Flash Gordon Sunday page had been running continuously since 1934. I started my tenure writing/drawing Flash on January 21, 1996. It was a fun run, but after a failed contract renegotiation, I deciding to bow out. My last strip, and Flash Gordon’s finale, appeared March 16, 2003.

Flash Gordon – Jim Keefe
March 16, 2003

The inspiration for my sign-off was the ending of the first Flash Gordon serial starring Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Jean Rogers (Dale Arden) and Frank Shannon (Dr. Zarkov).

Flash Gordon serial – 1936

Originally I had a slightly more surreal ending planned in a Sunday page I did in collaboration with Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell. It was never meant to be though as the page was rejected by the editor up at King Features – his thoughts being “It really didn’t work as a Flash Gordon page.”

Patrick did an end run though and asked the editor, that if it wasn’t going to see print as a Flash Gordon page, could it be used as a Mutts page. The go ahead was given and it eventual saw print on March 23, 2003 as a Mutts Sunday page (with the Flash Gordon title kept intact).

Mutts – Jim Keefe and Patrick McDonnell
March 23, 2003

Note: As mentioned, these are just a FEW notable adventure strip finales.

Any more you think are missing? Please enter your suggestions in the comments section below.

Al Williamson

The Homecoming

The Homecoming
Author: Archie Goodwin
Art: Al Williamson
Creepy #112 (August 1979)
Reprinted in Creepy #137 (May 1982)

This is a story I was incredibly fortunate enough to see the original art to when I visited Al Williamson in October of 1998.

Al mentioned that Bruce Jones scripted the original concept (if I am remembering correctly), but after Al drew it he felt something was missing and shelved it. Al then talked to his good friend Archie Goodwin about it and Goodwin offered to rewrite it (changing the focus and making it much darker than the original).

It is one of my favorite Goodwin/Williamson collaborations.

Al Williamson Neal Adams

Neal Adams on Al Williamson


“He (Al Williamson) was the inheritor of the Alex Raymond school, and he was the logical inheritor of the Flash Gordon comic strips, and he did not get them because people making decisions for those things were stupid. And remain stupid. But it doesn’t matter anymore because nobody cares about comic strips.”

Neal Adams from an interview by Comic Book Resources.

Al Williamson Artists - Cartoonists Flash Gordon Sally Forth

Sally Forth – Photo Reference

Sometimes to get the right pose for a character you’re drawing you need to take some photo reference – and 10 times out of 10 the model who’s usually available and works the cheapest is yourself.

Along these lines, one of the artists I’ve always looked up to is Al Williamson.

Williamson took reference shots of himself constantly to nail down a drawing. The following pic is from the book The Art of Al Williamson with the corresponding drawing from his adaption of the 1980 Flash Gordon Movie.


For the EC comic books from the 1950s,
Al’s friends would lend a hand as well…



Suffice it to say, Williamson had the build to pull off
the heroic shots he wanted to capture.


And following in this grand tradition, the following is the photo reference I used to capture the shot I needed for Ted for the January 24th Sally Forth strip.


And the finished strip…


Maybe someday I’ll post the photo reference I took when I was doing Flash Gordon – suffice it to say I wore pants on my head a lot less…

Al Williamson Artist Spotlight Artists - Cartoonists Flash Gordon

Al Williamson – Flash Gordon Sunday pages

One of the highlights of doing Flash Gordon was the opportunity to work with Al Williamson (1931-2010).

Al worked on two Sunday pages during my tenure. This first page ran on November 7, 1999. The layout and partial pencils are by Al, the finished inks are by me.

Click on image to see larger.

This next page is dated July 8, 2001 and is all Al. It’s also the last Flash Gordon piece he did that saw print.


Backstory on the November 7th strip:

During the summer of 1998 I was working on staff as a colorist at King Features Syndicate. King was gearing up to move from the building it had occupied for decades and I got a tip that a number of old files were being thrown out. I was told by my editor that if I was up for it I could go through the dumpsters and keep whatever I wanted. The files that were being trashed mostly consisted of decades old paperwork and proof sheets from a myriad of projects/collections that spanned back for years and years.

Rooting through the dumpster I eventually came upon a a lost treasure – proof sheets of Al Williamson’s work on Flash Gordon from the old 1960’s King Comics. I could not believe my luck. Now this was around the time that Marvel was withholding artwork from Jack Kirby. That being the case I got Williamson’s contact info from our Comics Editor Tom Daning (who had worked with Al two years prior) and after making copies for myself I sent off the proof sheets.

About a week later, much to my surprise, I got a call from Al. He thanked me, then told me how all the artwork from that first issue of Flash Gordon he had drawn had been stolen years ago. He had sent it in to the publisher and after it saw print all the artwork went “missing” and was never returned to him. He greatly appreciated receiving the package of proof sheets from out of the blue – so much so in fact that he invited me out to his studio.

Al Williamson in his studio inking a Star Wars movie adaptation – October 1998.

I am still in awe of the original artwork I saw that day. His own and also of great pen and ink masters he admired from his personal collection; Alex Raymond, Hal Foster and much, much more…

Since I was the hired hand on Flash Gordon at the time, I inquired whether or not he would be interested in doing artwork for a Flash Sunday page. Granted, I knew he hadn’t had the best working conditions/relations with King in the past, so I was unsure if he’d be up for it. As he was under deadline inking a Star Wars movie adaptation at the time he politely declined and I left it at that.

Skip ahead a year…
Al would call me from time to time just to check in on how work was going and how the family was doing. By the fall of 1999 I decided to inquire again if he would be interested in doing a Flash page. At this time he said he’d be up for it, but he had two conditions.

1:  That he’d have plenty of lead time.
2:  Under no circumstance would he accept payment.

He wasn’t able to finish the page due to other deadline commitments, but he did provide a beautiful layout. What follows is the inking study he worked up on tracing paper.

Click on to see larger.

Williamson’s method of working up a page starts with an inked rough (to size). First laid out in pencil, Williamson then goes over it with ink to start tightening it up. He explained that comic pages he does the whole job on (pencils and inks) he literally ends up inking the page twice.

Click on to see larger.

I believe he later changed the figure of Dale because it was derivative of a drawing he had done shortly before this for another project.

Al blocked in partial pencils onto Bristol, then sent me the tracing paper so I could see what he intended. Due to time constraints he wasn’t able to pencil the inset characters.

And here’s my inks.

Click on to see larger.

I can’t say enough about how great a guy Al Williamson was, not just as an artist but as a mentor and friend.

For more on Al Williamson’s work on Flash (including these pages) I highly recommend Flesk publications’ Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon. The book includes an essay by Mark Schultz, and the art is beautifully shot from the originals whenever possible.


If Flash Gordon isn’t in your local paper, you can check it out online at…


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