Monday, May 16, 2011

Scouting for Luck

Tuesday Comic Strip Day.

Dik Browne drew the Tracy Twins for Boy's Life for more than twenty years. It started in late 1953 as a full page feature. Somewhere in the early sixties it changed into a half page. Browne was a versatile artist, who had been using a number of styles for his advertising work, although most of them are recognizable to us now. As regular visitors of my blog know, he sometimes worked with Gill Fox on the same advertising series, in a style that they seemed to have developed together. Bill Williams (who had his own strip for Boy's Life from the start of the comic insert in late 1952) even joined in for the Smith Brothers Cough Drops ad series. There may have been more, but at least that one was signed by Browne, Fox and Williams on different occasions. The Tracy Twins was done in a similar style, which was also the style Browne used for another ad series The Trouble Twins, for Vaseline. Newspaper strip lore wants that both King Features editor Sylvan Beck and Mort Walker saw Browne's work on the two twin strips (I forget who saw what) and both suggested Browne as the artist of Mort Walkers new family strip about Beetle Bailey's sister, Lois. The special Sunday retlelling that story from the late fifties is somewhere on this blog as well. What the story doesn't mention, is what Gill Fox' influence in all of this was and how much he missed out on. My guess is, that Dik Browne truly was the genius he seems to have been and was rightly chosen for Hi and Lois. Gill Fox as an adaptable artist, who followed Browne on his cmmercial work, just as he had followed Jack Cole and Bill Ward on some of their strips at Quality. A remarkable talent, but not responsible for the style Browne uses here. Which is not to say, that Fox might not have helped Browne out on the Tracy Twins once in a while. I have read something along that way somewhere, but couldn't come up with a direct quote right now.

I am showing the first two years here. Which means it covers the period that Browne started Hi and Lois. You should really have a look at those early strips, to see the resemblance. It is funny to see, that The Tracy Twins sticks to it's style much more as the fifties progress. It's only in the later sixties that the Tracy Twins change style, jumping headlong into the style Browne later used for Hagar the Horrible.

Before the Tracy Twins started, Browne did some other work for the Boy's LIfe Comic Section. I have one feature that seems to have been drawn by him and two illustrations for a contest page. All strips mentioned in this little piece can be found on this blog, if you go through the Dik Browne tag or try to add some of the other names mentioned.


Ger Apeldoorn said...

I confess: most days I have a look how many people visited my blog and where they came from. Every once in a while, I get a surprise visitor. Someone drops by regulary from Kevin Nowlan's website and having John Kricfalusi or Shane Gline as one of my regulars brightens up my day. Today's post brought a visit by Stephen DeStephano. I loved his work on Instant Piano and he recently did a graphic novel called Lucky in Love, which I can highly recommend. In a tweet following his visit here, he asked for a selection of the Tracy Twins material. I don't know if that will ever happen when a Hi and Lois collections is still deemed not commercially viable. But if anyone want me to do a book on the whole of Boy's Life (following the hopeful succes of Rick Marshall's book on comic strip advertising), I will be there! In the meantime, keep coming back for more on Boy's Life and remember: the more comments you leave here commenting on this stuff, the better my chances of getting the book sold.

Brett Koth said...

In the first image (the contest entry with the red border), that looks a lot like a twelve year-old Dennis the Menace on the left, up in the tree with a camera!

Great stuff - Browne was amazing.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Which would make it possible that the drawing is by Gill Fox after all, who always showed a lot more Ketcham influence than Browne.

Sherm said...

These Tracy Twins comics are an amazing revelation; how could this great series exist and I've never even heard of it? A wondefully-carfted comic strip -- thanks so much for your incredible posts :)