Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mystery Detective

Thursday Story Strip Day.

Fans of the longrunning Saint strip should pay attention. I have started preparing my exstencive collections of scans of that strip and will be sharing the results over the next xouple of months. From the early fifties until 1959, the strip was drawn and signed by former `Quality artist John Spranger. Then somewhere in late August 1959, at the start of a new story, Spranger's signature disappears from the strip and a new artist takes over. That's where the mystery starts. Not about the identity of the. unsigned artist is. We know this is Bob Lubbers, a prolific artist who had his own strip Long Sam running at the same time. The the manner of the replacement is strange. Normally, when a new atist takes over,it is not at te start of a new story, but more abruptly. You will also see a difference in dates between the Sundays and the dailies, because the Sundays were prduced weeks ahed. Even when the toryline runs from the Sundays into the dailies and back again (as is the case with The Saint), these were often produced weeks apart. When a new artist is introduced at the start of a new story and the Sundays and dailies do this at the same time, it usually indicates a well organized take-over, which often occurs more often with a ghost job. You know, when an artist wants a longer break and has a whole storyline pencilled or done completely by an ouside talent. But in those cases, the signature of the original artist usually remains. Here, Spranger disappears, apparently for good. But when we come to the end of this storyline his signature reappears. For the whole of december 1959, Spranger seems to be back on the strip himself. Bob Lubbers drew the strip in hisown version of Sprangers almost cartoony style , so it is hard to see if he ghosted that last month of 'his' story as well. The only thing that makes him recognizable to me, is the face of the main antagonists in this story. And those remains vaguely in Lubbers style, but that could very well have been a case of Spranger copying Lubber's designs. In January, the strip is taken over by Doug Wildey who quickly imposes his own more realistic style on the strip. But I do see traces of his more realistic style in December as well. In fact, f I had to guess I'd say Wildey might have been ghosting with of for Lubbers before taking over completely. But why does the Spranger signature return? And why assume that Wildey didn't just start when he started signed, which by the way is at the start of a new storyline as well?

Last december I showed the strips for Spetember till November. Today I have all of December and most of January (until Wildey was well set and signing). I am still looking for August 1959 to see what happened there, but if you are interested you can go back and figure out the whole lot for yourself. If not, you can just look at the pretty picures.

Unfortunately, I can't find the strip for January 1, 1960.


JOe said...

Thanks for these scans. The Saint is one of my favorite strips and would love to see them reprinted in proper book form. Truly wonderful

Smurfswacker said...

A fascinating sequence, Ger. May I offer my two cents' worth? I believe the week signed by Spranger was really drawn by Spranger. Maybe he stepped in one last time to help the changeover to the new artist (Wildey) and chose to sign his last strips.

In my opinion all the dailies from 12/7 onward are by Wildey. This is based on the drapery in panel 2 and the hand in panel 3 of 12/7. Thru the rest of the first two weeks the tip-offs are the drapery, the posing, and the way DW draws secondary characters like the Inspector. I think the Lubbers-like face in 12/10 panel 1 was Wildey imitating Lubbers (though in later years DW used that kind of shadow effect himself). By the next week (12/14) it's unmistakeably DW. My guess: Wildey spent a week, whether by choice or by command, drawing in a style similar to Spranger / Lubbers in an effort to smooth the transition.

Sundays are still a question...I'd expect there to be a lag of a couple of weeks between dailies and Sundays. But the drapery in panel 5 and the figure in panel 7 of 12/6 look very DW. Would love to see the head in the last panel clearly...that might answer the question.

Again in 12/13, the posing and the inspector seem to be DW, but the inks don't look right. On 12/20 the art is in full DW mode. He seems to have abandoned any attempt to look like the previous artists.

In conclusion I'm theorizing that DW took over dailies on 12/7 and Sundays on 12/13 (but maybe 12/6), made a brief attempt to follow the earlier style, and quickly decided just to be himself.

As for the Sunday Spranger signature 0n 12/6...since the logos were just pasted-up stats, this could be one left over from the Spranger run. Spranger didn't necessarily have anything to do with the page--though he might have!

An ex-roommate of mine owned the original art to a Saint Sunday from the end of the tropic-isle storyline you begin here. Huge, twice-up...lovely.

The best part of this entire run? I laughed out loud when Simon said, "It seems rather dull to leave him to the local authorities, but some editors are so squeamish about how I dispose of the Ungodly!"

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I came to similar conclusions, although I leave open the option that Spranger in some way worked on the 'first' Wildey week as well. I don't think Sprangr came back, I think Lubbers helped him out unsigned, at some point he took over again but arranged for Wildey to take over. I had a look to see what chaged in Spranger's life but I couldn't find any info on him. He is not listed on his own in the Who's Who and I don't even know if and when he died, What did he do after the Saint? Why did he leave?

Alberto said...

Hi Ger.

I know I'm quite late with my comment on this, but perhaps somebody (including you, I hope) will read it.

Following are my dates and credits on "The Saint", and I'd like you and whoever cares to tell me what they think.


(Ai) = Assistant inks
(Gp) = Ghost pencils
(Gi) = Ghost inks
(S) = Supervision

© New York Herald Tribune, Inc.
Daily strip Sept. 27, 1948-Sept. 15, 1961
NOTE: Daily & Sunday continuity Mar. 27, 1949-Sept. 16, 1961
LESLIE CHARTERIS Sept. 27, 1948-1950; (S) 1951-Sept. 15, 1961
EDITH MEISER (G) 1951-1954
HARRY HARRISON (G) 1955-Jan. 9, 1960
DOUG WILDEY Jan. 11, 1960-Sept. 16, 1961
LEW SCHWARTZ (p/i) 1947 [Unreleased]
MIKE ROY (p) Sept. 27, 1947-Oct. 13, 1951
PETE MORISI (Ai) 1947-1948
JOHN BELFI (Ai) 1949-1950
JACK DAVIS (Gi) >Aug. 8-26, 1950<
JOHN SPRANGER (p/i) Oct. 15, 1951-June 6, 1959; Nov. 23, 1959-Dec. 5, 1959
DICK AYERS (Gi) 1959 [briefly]
BOB LUBBERS (Gp/i) June 8, 1959-Nov. 21, 1959
CREIG FLESSEL? (Gp/i) Nov. 23, 1959-Dec. 5, 1959
DOUG WILDEY (Gp/i) Dec. 7, 1959-Jan. 9, 1960; (p/i) Jan. 11, 1960-Sept. 16, 1961

Sunday page Mar. 27, 1949-Sept. 16, 1961
NOTE: Daily & Sunday continuity
LESLIE CHARTERIS Mar. 27, 1949-1950; (S) 1951-Sept. 16, 1961
EDITH MEISER (G) 1951-1954
HARRY HARRISON (G) 1955-Jan. 3, 1960
DOUG WILDEY Jan. 10, 1960-Sept. 16, 1961
MIKE ROY (p) Mar. 27, 1949 [Sept. 16, 1949?]-Oct. 7, 1951
JOHN BELFI (Ai) 1949-1950
JACK DAVIS (Gi) >Aug.-Sept. 1950<
JOHN SPRANGER (p/i) Oct. 14, 1951-June 28, 1959
DICK AYERS (Gi) 1959 [briefly]
BOB LUBBERS (Gp/i) July 5, 1959-Nov. 29, 1959
CREIG FLESSEL? (Gp/i) Dec. 6-13, 1959
DOUG WILDEY (Gp/i) Dec. 20, 1959-Jan. 3, 1960; (p/i) Jan. 10, 1960-Sept. 16, 1961

Ger Apeldoorn said...

alberto, I find the suggestion that Creig Flessel jumped in for the mysterious two weeks between Lubbers and Wildey fascinating and certainly possble. I don't understand why you still have Spranger as a penciller for the same period, though. If Harry Harrison wrote the strip at that time, maybe someone could ask him. I have tried to ask him about some of his work, but it was not possible to reach him. If anyone sees him, we can add this question to the list. I am curious about the way the Sundays and dailies line up here. I thought normally they did not have the same deadline? But here they seem to have been drawn together with the dailies, with the same artist...

Alberto said...


The Nov. 23, 1959-Dec. 5, 1959 credit alongside Spranger should be deleted... Sorry I didn't. Flessel most likely penciled and inked that sequence.

As for Harrison, I have an interview with him from several years ago (Art Lortie interviewed him) in which he confirms having ghost-written the strip.


Rick Thibodeau said...

Wow! I just discovered your blog. I can't thank you enough for this Saint post! I've long owned the original of one these strips, the daily from Dec. 28, and never knew what year it was from. Now I do!

Rick Thibodeau, San Diego CA