See All Topics

Home / Section: Comic strips

First and Last – Secret Agent X-9

 

Eighty-five years (and a couple days) ago the daily strip portion of Alex Raymond‘s January 1934 trilogy of newspaper comic strips debuted. But young Raymond wasn’t the *BIG NAME* used to promote the new feature.

A bit over two years earlier Dick Tracy had appeared and become a comic strip sensation. King Features reacted by hiring the most famous detective author they could find to lend his name to their new comic strip. For artist they assigned an up-and-coming artist who was already working in the KFS bullpen. On January 22, 1934 Secret Agent X-9 began running in newspapers.


above: the first week of Secret Agent X-9

 

Alex Raymond stayed with Secret Agent X-9 almost two years before devoting himself to the Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim Sunday page and some illustrating assignments. Then a young Charles Flanders took over the strip for a bit over two years, admirably following in Raymond’s style.


above: a sample of Charles Flanders’ Secret Agent X-9

 

After Flanders illustrators Austin Briggs and Nicholas Afonsky took short turns on the comic before it was handed to Mel Graff in 1940. Mel would stay with the strip for twenty years, with some help from others to beat off deadlines.


above: Mel Graff strips from 1940

As seen above Mel Graff was from the Noel Sickles/Milton Caniff art style, not the Alex Raymond school as previous artists had been. It was also during the Mel Graff years that it was revealed that the agent’s name was Phil Corrigan.

In 1960 Mel Graff moved on to Captain Easy and “Bob Lewis” took over Secret Agent X-9. Bob Lewis was actually Bob Lubbers, long time comic strip and comic book creator. Bob, in 1960, was writing and drawing the Long Sam comic strip for United Feature Syndicate; so he used an alias on the King Features Syndicate strip to avoid trouble.


above: from 1964 is a Bob Lubbers, as “Bob Lewis,” daily strip

In 1967 the strip received a new creative team and a new name.

On January 30, 1967 Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson began a 13 year run on the newly retitled Secret Agent Corrigan. At the beginning of that month Goodwin and Williamson’s “audition” hit the newsstands in the 4th issue of the Flash Gordon comic book (cover dated March 1967, on-sale-date January 2, 1967). It contained a five page back-up featuring Secret Agent X-9 by the new team.


above: the five page Secret Agent X-9 comic book short from 1967

As seen above Al Williamson, a fan of Alex Raymond, returned the strip to the Raymond look; seeming to alternate between the 1930s Secret Agent X-9 version and the 1940s/50s Rip Kirby art style. Goodwin and Williamson team stayed for 13 years.


above: Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson’s last Secret Agent Corrigan strip

 

In 1980 comics veteran George Evans took over art and writing.

George continued the strip until 1996 when, after 62 years it ended.


above: February 2, 1996 – the last Secret Agent Corrigan strip

Secret Agent X-9/Corrigan ran entirely as a daily strip, never getting a Sunday page.

 

Except…

Four years later, in 2000, Jim Keefe was writing and drawing Flash Gordon and decided to have Corrigan appear with Flash…and asked George Evans to participate. For the August 6, 2000 Sunday Flash Gordon page George Evans drew the top ‘drop’ tier:

And then, five months later, Jim and George teamed up again, this time George Evans drew the entire strip featuring Phil Corrigan and Flash Gordon meeting for the first time.

That story would be Corrigan’s last comic strip appearance.

 

A later proposal by Christopher Mills and Eduardo Barreto would come to naught.

 

image sources and thanks to

King Features Syndicate Archivisttwice

Smurfswacker’s Word and Pictures

The Bristol Board’s Forgotten Masterpieces

Jim Keefe and Jim Keefe again

Christopher Mills

Ray Cuthbert

Art 4 Comics

 

 

 

 

 

Community Comments

#1 Christopher Mills
January/24/2019
@ 1:39 pm

Well, yeah — that proposal “came to naught” because Eduardo passed away while we were putting it together. It never made it to the syndicate.

#2 D. D. Degg
January/24/2019
@ 11:55 pm

Barreto’s passing was a huge blow to family and friends, and a big hit to comics fans. My opinion remains that (so far) he was the greatest “realistic” comic strip artist of this century.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.