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First and Last – The Lone Ranger

 

Westerns had always been a part of American popular culture, so when radio began turning over news and lecture time to dramatic storytelling around 1929 Westerns were among the programs offered. Most, like Death Valley Days and Bobby Benson, were original to radio, some, like Rin Tin Tin, were adapted from other media.

When The Lone Ranger debuted in January 1933 only a baker’s dozen or so Western radio programs had preceded it. Created by WXYZ (Detroit) station owner George Trendle and prolific radio scripter Fran Striker the series soon spread across the nation.

In the early days of the western United States, a masked man and an Indian rode the plains, searching for truth and justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!

By 1935 The Lone Ranger appeared in print for the first time in something akin to a comic book. Whitman published The Lone Ranger and His Horse Silver as a Big Little Book illustrated by Hal Arbo.

More Big Little Books followed, as did pulp magazines and other licensed items.

In what Ron Goulart has dubbed The Adventurous Decade a comic strip was inevitable. The Thirties had already seen a number of serious western action comic strips like Young Buffalo Bill/Broncho Bill, Way Out West, Ted Strong, Zane Grey adaptations, and other more or less serious series when The Lone Ranger made its comic strip debut on September 11, 1938 with the first daily on September 12, 1938.

Credited to Ed Kressy it was somewhat a family affair. Ed’s wife Maryland Kressy wrote the strip adapting Fran Striker radio scripts. There have been numerous theories as to who and how the art was produced. Ed was part of an art studio with Dick Sprang and Norm Fallon. In a 1975 interview Sprang claimed that Kressy did the layouts while Sprang pencilled the strip. another theory is Sprang did the layouts, Kressy the pencils, and Fallon inked. Then again there is an idea that Kressy laid out the strip for Jon Blummer to finish up. Back to Mary Kressy who has said that Ed had no assistants helping him drawing the strip.

How/whoever – Ed signed the daily strip until December 28, 1938 (a Wednesday), the strip then went unsigned until March 6, 1939. The ghost artists are always identified as Jon Blummer and Charles Flanders, though few seem to agree on the exact dates those unsigned artists worked on the strip.

On March 6, 1939 artist Charles Flanders began signing the strip and would continue to do so until the comic ended in 1939. Co-creator and writer Fran Striker would be getting print credit for a couple weeks by that time.

Charles Flanders, who had been drawing the strip anonymously for at least a month had been doing the King of the Royal Mounted comic strip for King Features (one of those Zane Grey strips mentioned earlier). He stopped signing those dailies on March 3, 1939 (a Friday). That pattern would follow to the Sunday page. Flanders would sign the Sunday Royal Mounted strip until March 26, 1939; the following Sunday would see Flanders signature appear on The Sunday Lone Ranger (April 2, 1939), though, like the daily, he had been drawing the Sunday for some weeks prior.

Ed Kressy was credited in the Sunday title panel until March 5, 1939,
with co-creator Fran Striker getting credit the following Sunday.

   

Charles Flanders would sign the strip, daily and Sunday for the next 32 years. After writing The Lone Ranger comic books for ten years Paul Newman took over doing plots and scripts for the comic strip in the early 1960s.

The high point in Flanders run on The Lone Ranger was the 1940s.



In the 1950s Flanders would hire Tom Gill, The Lone Ranger comic book artist, to ghost the strip. By the late 60s Flanders was frequently drawing the characters from the rear. The strip would end in 1971 – the Sunday on September 5, the daily on September 11 – thirty-three years to the day after it began.



From beginning to end the daily and Sunday strips ran different story lines.

And that was it for The Lone Ranger comic strip.

Davy Crockett’s Almanack presents a few Sunday stories by Kressy, Blummer, and Flanders.

below: a very out of character Lone Ranger by Charles Flanders

 

But wait…

 

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger! … With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States! Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver!

Ten years after it ended The Lone Ranger once again rode into comics pages. An adventure strip resurgence and a 1981 Hollywood movie was the motivation for The New York Times Special Features to offer a new syndicated version to newspapers.

Unlike the Republic chapter serials released in the 1930s, the new comic strip began with a cliffhanger.

Comic book writer Cary Bates and acclaimed comic book and comic strip artist Russ Heath, who had ghosted Stan Lynde’s Latigo the year before, were the creators of the new comic which began on September 13, 1981. This time the Sundays and dailies ran the same story.

 

> By the way, a few years before this syndicated effort
> Russ Heath had done a unofficial Lone Ranger story.

 

Unfortunately the revival didn’t last long, less than three years.
But Cary Bates crafted a last story that put another of Russ Heath’s artistic talents to good use.





The dailies ended on March 31, 1984, the last Sunday on April 1, 1984,
with Cary and Russ saying goodbye to the masked man.


© NBCUniversal

 

 

 

 

 

 


September 17, 1933 © King Features Syndicate

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