Thursday, February 19, 2015

Assisting The Assistant

Alfred Andriola worked as an assistant to Milt Caniff in the thirties. He drew the Charlie Chan strip with Charles Raab in the Caniff style. It has been rumored that the first week was in fact drawn by Caniff and Noel Sickles to help Andriola along. He continued the strip for a couple of years, before finishing it up to create his own strip, Kerry Drake. Before he could do that, he made a deal to continue the action adventure strip Dan Dunn. While he was setting up Kerry Drake in 1943, he drew several months worth of Dan Dunn. It can be seen as a stylistic halfway point between Chan and Drake, containing elements of both. Stylistically, Kerry Drake grew further and further away from Caniff and and in the end even rivalled the popularity of Terry and the Pirates (after his former boss had left Terry to create Steve Canyon). It's the story of a great talent, breaking free of his earlier influences.

Only proble with this story is that some comic historians believe Andriola never drew anything himself and always relied on the talents of his assistants to get the job done. The stylistic variations we see are simply the result of changing assistants. Now, this certainly holds true for Andriola's later years, when his assistant Sururi Gümen did most, if not all of the work. Gümen started with Andriola in the fifties and his style soon takes over the strip. For a short while in the late fifties Andriola created a 'funny' strip called It's Me, Dilly, written by his friend (and co-president of the National Newspaper Council) Mel Casson. Apparently, all of this was drawn by Gümen as well and it certainly is a first clear look at the style that would later be used for Kerry.

But if he never drew anything, I can't say. Maybe Charkes Raab (who later took over Patsy in Hollywood from Mel Graff) did more on Charlie Chan than one would suspect from an unnamed assistant. But where did the Dan Dunn style come from? And who helped Andriola along in the first few years of Kerry Drake?

Anyway, Andriola was a major force in newspaper comics for a long period. His Charlie Chan is very readable and has been collected many times (and can be found completely online at, which is where I clipped my samples. The black and white dailies I took some time ago from an online newspaper and the 1939 is a scan of my own from before I knew they had all been done already. After all that a classic Kerry Drake story involving a cartoonist from the height of it's success in 1949 and some fresh Dilly scans I showed recently.

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