Thursday, June 03, 2010

Scappy Trails

Thursday Story Strip Day.

So here I was, looking for more material for a post or a series of posts about Bruce Gentry, Ray Bailey's imitation Steve Canyon strip, which started running a year before Steve Canyon did. As I have written here before, Bailey was Caniff's assistant in the mid-fifties and is reported to have worked on Miss Lace, amongst other things. Not happy with having signed away his rights on Terry and the Pirates, after the war Caniff signed a deal to start a new strip with another syndicate. He took an unprecedented whole year to prepare that new strip, while finishing off his run on Terry. I don't know if Bailey was an assistant on Terry at that time, but if he was, he must surely have seen this new strip, soon to be called Steve Canyon, in development. Which makes it the more strange that he created his own strip, Bruce Gentry about a similar character in a similar situation having similar adventures. Was Bruce Gentry a Caniff-assisted try-out for Steve Canyon or was it a blatant rip-off by an assistant. I can hardly think it was the latter, seeing how Bailey returned to assist Caniff in the fifties on his Steve Canyon comic books.

In the end it didn't matter, because Steve Canyon was a run-away succes and Bruce Gentry wasn't. A major reason for that, in my opinion, is the fact that Bruce Gentry seens to have been marketed as a also-ran from the start. Nu big campaign, no big impressive Sunday page, no big detailed dailies, just a solidly drawn and slightly dull strip in the Caniff style. Bruce Gentry ran until the early fifties, when Bailey switched strips and took on Tom Corbett, which we have seen here. This time thing were promoted a bit better and the art was given a bit more attention... and still it didn't work. Don't ask me why, I think it is a gorgeous and unjustly forgotten strip. Maybe it just fell out of favor when the early fifties kid astronaut fad faded.

Anyway, since most of my samples for Bruce Gentry are unimpressive copies from NewspaperArchive, I wanted to find a run of the strip that could surround the one color Sunday I have and had scanned. But, going through my collection I found I had another Bruce Gentry Sunday all along. The reason I had not remembered it, is because it was not by Ray Bailey and not from the period he drew the strip!

My sample came from a 1953 newspaper called The Arrow, which contained mostly obscure or unknow strips. All quite poor as well, which explais why I hadn't remembered it. But what did it mean? how did a 1953 revival of Bruce Gentry, drawn in a similar style to Bailey, but not nearly as accomplished come to be?

Help came from Alan Holtz, whose complete Strippers Guide is eagerly awaited with all collectors. It is going to have all starting and ending dates of all strips and more. Anyway, I asked Alan and he told me he was in the proces of writing an aricle for Hogan's Alley #18 about The Arrow, a pre-prepared Sunday comic paper, which ran for a short time in 1953 in a selected number of papers. It is considered a rarity and he had only ever seen a few. It turned out that my copy was from a paper and a town not known to have carried this insert before, so I hope I gave him a lead to find more copies and maybe secure some more dates for it.

I am reproducing all eight pages of my copy here for Alan and everyone to see. I will leave it to Alan to write about it in length, but here is what I found out.

A couple of the strips in this paper were written by pulp writer Walter Gibson. Captain Galaxy is the only one aknowledging that, as it has the byline that it is copyrighted by Gibson-Jaquet. Lloyd Jacquet ran the Funnies Inc. comic strip studio in the forties. In most biographies I have seen, he stopped his 'shop' in the late forties, but apparently he was still at it in ome way in the early fifties. Jerry Bails' Who's Who credits Gibson with Debbie Dean as well, although it is mentioned as Dicky Dean there. Debbie Dean, like Bruce Gentry, Bronc Saddler and Straight Arrow, was a strip that was discontinued earlier, but somehow the rights were recovered by someone (Jacquet) to be restarted in this Sunday insert with a new artist and writer.

I hope Alan's upcoming article will shed some light on this mysterious project. I also hope he will identify the artist for Bruce Gentry, signing Scap. I for myself ran across a cheapo horror story in Mr. Mystery #15 inked by a man signing with the same name and signature, which I am adding here as well.

My last loose bit of information is the fact that Bruce Gentry also was a succesfull action serial around this tie, which makes it a mit more logical for him to be revived. I still have to check if the original Bruce was a redhead or if the hero of this version looks like the movie hero.









9 comments:

nyrdyv said...

I always felt Captain Galaxy was ahead of its time in adding just a tad more realism to a space opera.

Cheers!

Steven G. Willis
XOWComics.com

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Steven, I get the impression from your comment you know Captain Galaxy. I couldn't find any mention of him on the interwebs but if you know anything, please elaborate.

Smurfswacker said...

What a fascinating collection of comics I've never seen before! How many of these obscure readyprint sections were there?

And are any of these artists' names real? Never heard of any of them. Obviously "Scap" is real. The art on the pirate strip is miles above the others. The lousy balloon placement combined with the "European style" signature make me wonder if this is a translated European strip. So many questions...

Smurfswacker said...

About Bruce Gentry...I wonder if it isn't a bit harsh to call the strip a Steve Canyon copy. Certainly both strips had common thematic elements: airplanes, sultry women and romantic locales. But all exotic adventure strips back then offered those cliches.

Bailey seems to have worked consciously to distance his strip from Caniff's work. Setting the strip in South America, where few adventure heroes had ventured, is one obvious example. I believe that the significant difference between the two strips was described in the Bruce Gentry promo piece I posted. (http://smurfswacker.blogspot.com/2009/05/ray-baileys-bruce-gentry.html)
Steve Canyon was all about the war just ended. Its premise was rooted in themes like vets readjusting to civilian life, the comradeship of old war buddies, and the changing global power relationships in the wake of Japan's defeat. Given its wartime roots, even had there never been a Korean War Canyon would inevitably have evolved into a military strip.

On the contrary, Bruce Gentry pointedly "had no war angle." It was a tough-guy detective strip with planes. It strove to "put all that behind us" and be a true postwar strip. Unfortunately Bailey's stories just weren't strong enough to lift Bruce Gentry to fame and fortune. Agreed, Bailey's art style makes it easy to assume Bruce Gentry was warmed-over Canyon, but when you look past that I think you'll find Gentry was Bailey's honest attempt to carve out his own identity while laboring in the shadow of The Master.

BTW, I'm pretty sure Bailey was assisting on Terry around 1945. Some of the backgrounds, especially on Sunday pages, have a strong Bailey vibe. You're probably right: unless Caniff was incredibly secretive Bailey must have seen preliminary Canyon work.

nyrdyv said...

Dailies are starting to be added to our site for all of us to have indexed. So, you we will all have access to Captain Galaxy and so much more in the near future.

Cheers!

Steven G. Willis
XOWComics.com

Allan Holtz said...

Hi Ger --
Thanks very much for posting this issue of Arrow Family Comic Weekly, it's one of many I haven't seen before. I do have some good information on the genesis of the section but most creators are still a mystery since few bothered to sign their generally awful work. Properly documenting this section will require more knowledge of comic books than I have -- as you point out, Lloyd Jacquet was involved, so I hope you'll get some good comments on this post. Especially interesting is Steven Willis' assertion that there is a daily Captain Galaxy strip hiding out there somewhere. I know nothing of this.

Good thing I have plenty of lead time for the next issue of Hogan's Alley because I see a trip north in my future to seek out microfilm. Arrow was a feature of New York area weeklies, and I know of none (yet) for which film is available. However, Jeffrey Lindenblatt did find an incomplete archive of the material that will serve as a great jumping off point.

If anyone has other Arrow sections, please Please, PLEASE contact me!

--Allan Holtz

Steven said...

William Merle Allison - he worked for Jacquet throughout the 40s. Specialized in westerns.
Fred Bell. worked for Jacquet throughout the 40s - early 50s.

"Funnies Inc" apparently ran till 1961. supossibly they did the non-Whitman Dell comics at that time. I can't find anything they did - post 1955 myself.

tom said...

I went to the Walden, NY library this week - I checked the newspaper from Aug-Oct 1953. The Arrow wasn't imaged - just the regular paper.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I have just found another Arrow in an online New york area weekly called The Hastings news. I will look to see if there is more, maybe even a 'complete' run.