Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ghost Story

Thursday Story Strip Day.

For most of his life, Al Plastino worked as a ghost. He joined DC in 1948 en for twenty years drew mainly Superman. In the sixties and seventies he drew the Batman strip, ghosted Nancy and Ferdinand and even ghosted a year of Peanuts strips that were never used (and were either prepared in case Schultz would become incapable to continue the strip or to show him he was not unreplacable - which of course, he was. But what his wikipedia page doesn't mention, is that for a short time after the war, he did try hs hand at a newspaper strip of his own, signed and all. You can see he was a formidable artist even then and the newspaper's loss was DC's gain.

But that is not the full story. Barry Noble did not start out his life as Barry Noble. As you can see from this stiry he started as Barry Kent. And Barry Kent was a new character introduced to the Hap Hopper strip, when writer Drew Pearson stopped writing that strip. Hap Hopper had started as a 'factual' strip about a political reporter, written by popular political columnists Pearson and Robert S. Allen. If they actually wrote it, I don't know. According to Don Markstein the actual writer was William Laas, United Feature's comics editor. But Pearson and Allen's were good for enough sales to get the strip started. The first artist and co-creator was Jack Sparling, who went on to do loads of war and romance strips in the fifties (some of which have been shown here). Again, according to Markstein the strip debuted on Monday, January 29, 1940. In 1942, Laas was replaced by pulp writer Charles Verral, who, among others, wrote the Mandrake the Magician radio show. Pearson and Allen split up, leavinf Pearson as editor of the series. In 1942, Sparling left the strip to create Claire Voyant. Several artists followed, finally settling on Al Plastino around 1944. I think the strips I am showing here showcase the switch - which seems to have occurred somewhere in the nine strip I am missing. Apparently it took them more then two years to realize they didn't need Pearson anymore.

1 comment:

rnigma said...

Sort of reminds me how "Big Chief Wahoo" morphed into "Steve Roper," changing from humor to adventure in the process of changing lead characters... and Steve would step aside for the tougher Mike Nomad.

It's very likely that Pearson and Allen had little to no input with "Hap Hopper"; their names were used to sell the strip, as you said. Likewise, "Ace Drummond" was credited to WW1 aviator Eddie Rickenbacker (who continued to claim authorship of that strip in his autobiography), and Frank Frazetta's "Johnny Comet" was co-credited to Peter DePaolo, a popular racing driver of that era.