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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 was the last Sunday with March 23 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 SyFy.com). 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. Crane’s replacement was Henry G. Schlensker who worked on the strip from 1977-1983. Schlensker was followed by John Celardo who worked on it 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? Enter your suggestions in the comments section below.

Closing Thoughts…

Adventure strips reigned when newspapers comic strips were printed large and there was room to tell a story. Just compare the two Sunday pages below from 1934 and 2002.

On the left, Flash Gordon 2/25/1934 by AlexRaymond.
On the right, Flash Gordon 11/10/2002 by Joe Kubert.

Since 2002 (the image on the above right) comic strip Sunday pages have regrettably shrunken even smaller. Here’s an example of my hometown paper the Star Tribune (my hand shown on the bottom left for scale). Unless you have a jewelers eye loupe you’re at a loss…


Here’s a comic page artist Terry Beatty (Ms. Tree, Rex Morgan M.D.) wrote and drew for Big Funny back in 2009 that really drives the point home.

Big Funny – Terry Beatty

Granted all is not doom and gloom – whereas adventure strips in the newspaper may be withering on the vine, we’re in a golden age as far as comic strip collections being published. Check out the Library of American Comics, and Fantagraphics to name just a few.

I also feel like comic strips, and in particular continuity strips, are being given a renewed life and readership online as fans of the medium now have the ability to binge weeks worth at a time. The big two comic strip sites being King Feature’s Comics Kingdom and AMU’s GoComics.

And even though comic book sales have shrunk over the years, graphic novels have increased in popularity. From a recent article in Publishers Weekly; “Over the past five years, the North American graphic novel market has welcomed a wave of new readers and grown from about $805 million in sales in 2012 to more than $1 billion in 2017.”


In the early 1900s onwards comic strips reigned supreme. By the 1940s comic books had taken off. In the 1960s indie comics/undergrounds entered the fray. In the 1980s self-published/alternative comics joined in at the same time graphic novels were just getting their sea legs. In the 1990s online content joined the mix. And now in the 21st century graphic novels have taken flight. And that’s not to say comic strips and comic books have been replaced and have gone away, it’s just that they aren’t the only game in town anymore.

Cartoons, comics, graphic novels – whatever you want to call it – the packaging keeps changing, but sequential art is just as popular now as it’s ever been. And as long as the stories are strong and the artwork delivers, the art form will continue to have an audience.

And that’s my two cents. See you in the funny papers…

-Jim Keefe

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Alex Raymod

Alex Raymond – Flash Gordon Christmas Card (1934)

Categories
Alex Raymod Artists - Cartoonists Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon – Queen Aura

Today’s Flash Gordon strip (2/8/2015) originally ran on October 20, 2002.
(Click on artwork to see larger.)

2002.10.20


The aspect I really had fun with in this storyline was bringing back Aura’s devilish side.

To give some context, here’s how Aura was portrayed by Alex Raymond in 1941 in a storyline after Ming had been deposed as Mongo’s ruler.

1941.06.22


Compare that to this excerpt from 1935…

1935.12.15

And make sure to click on the black and white of Raymond’s artwork so you can zoom in and really see the lush line work he employed. In most reproductions of Raymond’s work the printing usually misses out on this.

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A quick mention also that my version of Aura is greatly influenced by Stan Drake and his work on “The Heart of juliet Jones”. He could draw beautiful women like nobody’s business. For comparison, here’s a pic of Aura I drew followed by some Stan Drake strips featuring Juliet’s younger sister, Eve.

Aura

(Click on Stan Drake strips to see larger.)

1954_02.13

1954.03.10

1954.03.29


For more of Stan Drake’s work I highly recommend the Juliet Jones collections put out by Classic Comic Press.

JulietJones


All for now – deadlines are looming…

Categories
Alex Raymod Dave Sim Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon – Astounding 80th Anniversary

January 7, 1934 – The first Flash Gordon strip (with Jungle Jim topper).
By Alex Raymond.

Flash Gordon Jungle Jim first page

For more, check out IDW’s Flash Gordon books reprinting the early classic strips.
HIGHLY recommended.

FlashGordon_DBD

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To celebrate Flash Gordon’s 80th, a plethora of info follows…


The following is a Sunday page I put together back 1n 1999 to spotlight some of the artists who’ve worked on the Flash Gordon comic strip over the years.

Click on image to see larger.

Gallery


Writers and Artists of the Flash Gordon Comic Strip

1934: Flash Gordon debuts as a Sunday page on January 7, 1934.
Alex Raymond is the initial writer and artist. Within the years that follow Don Moore will assist in the writing chores.

1940: Due to Flash Gordon’s success, a daily Flash Gordon strip debuts, drawn by Austin Briggs.

1944: Alex Raymond joins the Marine Corps. Austin Briggs drops the dailies to take over doing the Sunday page. The dailies are discontinued. When Alex Raymond returns after the war he is locked out of returning to the strip due to King’s contract with Briggs. Not wanting to lose Raymond to a rival Syndicate, King lets Raymond create a new strip with the condition that if it isn’t successful he can return to Flash Gordon. Raymond goes on to create the Reuben award winning Rip Kirby.

1948: Mac Raboy takes over the art chores on the Sunday page. He is assisted in the 50’s by Robert Rogers.

1951: The daily strip is resumed by Dan Barry with Harvey Kurtzman initially handling the writing chores. Dan Barry’s assistants will include among others: Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Fred Kida, Bob Fujitani and Harry Harrison.

1967: Mac Raboy dies. Dan Barry assumes art chores on the Sunday page.

1990: Dan Barry quits after argument regarding contract negotiations. The dailies and Sunday page are taken over by Bruce Jones as writer and Ralph Reese as artist. As deadlines start to be missed, artist Gray Morrow is called in to assist.

1991: A Buenos Aires studio of artists are hired with writing alternating between Kevin Van Hook and Thomas Warkentin.

1993: The dailies are discontinued.

1996: Jim Keefe takes over as writer and artist of the Sunday page starting on January 21, 1996. During his tenure, Keefe will employ numerous guest artists. They will include: Brian Bilter, Mark McMurray, Loston Wallace, Michael T. Gilbert, Al Williamson, George Evans, John Romita and Joe Kubert.

2003: Jim Keefe ends his run due to failed contract negotiations. His last original strip runs on March 16, 2003. On March 23, the strip originally intended to run as the last strip, with art assist by Patrick McDonnell, runs as a Mutts Sunday page.

King begins reprinting Flash Gordon material from Keefe’s tenure to supply ongoing demand for the strip for a new online market.

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Bio: Alex Raymond

Alex Raymond 1949

Pic from Mike Lynch Cartoons.

• Born October 2, 1909.

• Attends Iona Prep on an athletic scholarship. Gets a job on Wall Street after graduation as an order clerk. Finding himself out of work with the crash of the stock market, enrolls in the Grand Central School of Art.

• Begins comic strip work as an an assistant to Russ Westover on Tillie the Toiler. Later, assists Chic Young on Blondie.

• Becomes Lyman Young’s (Chic’s brother) assistant on Tim Tyler’s Luck.

• 1934: Begins drawing Flash Gordon, along with top tier Jungle Jim. Also takes on Secret Agent X-9 – with Dashiell Hammett handling the writing chores.

• 1935: Drops Secret Agent X-9.

• 1944: Enlists in the Marine Corps leaving Flash Gordon to writer Don Moore and artist Austin Briggs – Briggs has already been drawing the dailies and assisting occasionally on the Sundays.

• When Raymond returns after the war, locked out of continuing Flash because of King Feature’s contract with Briggs. Not wanting to lose Raymond to a rival syndicate, King gives him the oppurtunity to create a new strip and gives him the stipulation that if it fails he can return to Flash.

• 1946: Raymond creates Rip Kirby.

• 1949: Raymond wins Reuben Award for “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.”

• September 1956: Killed in an automobile accident near Westport,
Connecticut at age 46.

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For those interested, King Features has a Flash Gordon website up. Currently they’re rereleasing strips from my tenure.
bio
For a listing of the stories they have archived, check out this link:
Flash Gordon Story Index.

And here’s a link to my retelling of Raymond’s origin story from my run.
Flashback: 8/19/2001 – 10/28/2001

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Speaking of my run on Flash, I was fortunate enough to have a lot of great guest artists over the years. Ever wonder what Flash would look like by Joe Kubert or John Romita?

kub


rom


For more artists, check out the Flash Gordon Guest Artists web page – featuring Flash Gordon art by Al Williamson, George Evans, Michael Gilbert, Mark McMurray, Brian Bilter, Loston Wallace and Patrick McDonnell.

Also check out:
Behind the scenes on Joe Kubert’s Flash Gordon page.
Behind the scenes on Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon page.

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For more on Flash’s 80th, check out Exonauts, by Jay Mac.

Exonauts Banner 14

Other links include:

Comics Kingdom – Flash Gordon Anniversary

Comic Book Index – Listing of writers and artists by Jeffrey Lindenblatt.

Flash Gordon Story Index in Book on Film and in Radio – by Arthur Lortie.

Michael Evans’ Outer Space Cinema – Featuring classic 1930’s serials.

The One Act Players – Flash Gordon Audio Theatre
Winner of the Silver Mark Time Award.

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And last but not least, Dave Sim is currently working on a book dealing with Alex Raymond’s last days – more on that at A Moment of Cerebus.

Strange_Death_01_cover_B_W

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All for now – ending with a birthday nod from another famous outer space series…

Categories
Al Williamson Alex Raymod Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon 8/20/2000 – Inspired by T-Boz

Originally posted 12/9/2012. Updated 1/2/2013.

The Flash Gordon strip rereleased by King Features today (12/9/2012) originally ran on August 20, 2000.

I had met with legendary cartoonist Al Williamson just a couple years prior and showed him how I had updated Prince Thun from Alex Raymond’s original version – suffice it to say he gave me a look (with an eyebrow raised) that said “Really..?”

I decided to stay true to the Raymond version from then on out.

My initial updating of Prince Thun – whereas the Lion-Man looked more like a lion.

Modeling Thun after Raymond's version.
Modeling Thun after Raymond’s version.


One way to flesh out a character you’re creating is to use a model or picture reference for inspiration. Here’s an example of Alex Raymond doing as much – modeling Captain Sudin after matinee idol Errol Flynn.


For King Vultan’s headstrong daughter Princess Tyree I needed a character who just radiated strength and self-confidence.

I went with Tionne Watkins – or T-Boz from TLC.


It’s amazing how much easier a character is to write and draw once you have a clear image of them in your head – it ends up changing your story in ways you hadn’t even imagined. What came out of using T-Boz for inspiration was that when Princess Tyree first meets Flash Gordon – she’s not all that impressed…

Tyree.2

In Writing 101 you learn to avoid cliches. One of the cliches for Flash Gordon stories is that the female characters all swoon over him. In this respect I thought Tyree would be a welcome change.

Flash2000_08_20

It’s said that strong characters write themselves, it’s not entirely the case, but it sure gives you more tools in your toolbox to work with.

Close-up of original art.
Artwork from the August 20, 2000 Flash Gordon Sunday page.

The toolbox analogy is from Stephen King. For more on the craft of writing I recommend reading King’s On Writing. One of the best books out there on the subject as far as I’m concerned.

All for now. And as always, to follow Flash Gordon online check out:


Update: For more strips from this story, check out: Flash Gordon – Princess T-Boz