Friday, November 1, 2019

Forgotten Comic Strips: NERO WOLFE (1956-58)

There ain't a whole lot about this strip on the Internet. Some fine pioneering work was done by William E. Kost back in 2007, and you can read his article HERE.  In 2009 the blog Stripper's Guide provided a little more info on the writers and artists. And starting in 2011, blogger Ger Apeldoorn posted a goodly number of the early strips by Mike Roy. 

All of this, of course, just whet my appetite, prodding me to go the whole hog and attempt to post the entire strip. Will I accomplish it? I'm not sure. I've managed to gather a complete run of the daily strips, from November 26, 1956 to March 1, 1958, but for the final six weeks I've found no Sundays. At that point several papers dropped the strip, and of the three I found still carrying it, two had no Sunday edition and the other either had no Sunday funnies or chose not to archive them. Whether Wolfe Sundays were still being produced at that point remains a mystery.

Wolfe debuts, Nov. 26,1956

Mr. Kost's piece listed several newspapers in which the strip appeared, and two others where it may have run. 
I've been unable to verify any of those, but I did find the strip at various times in the following papers:
The Fort Lauderdale News
The Delaware County Times (Pennsylvania)
The Boston Globe
The Indianapolis News
The Cedar Rapids Gazette
The Wisconsin State Journal
The Press-Tribune (Roseville, CA)

At least in the beginning, the daily and Sunday strips had different continuities. The dailies begin with a case involving a corpse named Parterow, and Sundays with an actress named Peggy Royce. How readers whose papers carried both strips made sense of this, I don't know. 

For that reason, I'll be running the dailies and Sunday separately. Since the daily strip began first, we'll start there, viewing two weeks at a time until the first case is solved. Then I'll likely do some Sundays. Then another daily story. (If you're wondering if I'm flying this blog by the seat of my pants, you may wonder no further.)

Though every strip carries the by-line Rex Stout, both Mr. Kost and the Stripper's Guide identify the writer of the early months as John Broome. Thanks to a February 1957 letter from Stout (included in Kost's article) we know Stout was fully engaged, receiving advance strips and providing input. In August 1957 the scripting chores appear to have passed to Ed Herron.

In the beginning, the art on both dailies and Sundays was signed "Mike Roy." Beginning July 15, 1957 (dailies), and July 28 (Sundays) that signature changes to "Fran Matera." Then on August 26, 1957 (dailies), and September 8 (Sundays) and through the rest of the run, the strips are signed by artist Jim Christiansen.

The final strip, appearing March 1, 1958, appropriately shows Wolfe and Archie driving off into (more or less) the sunset. That this is the last strip is verified by a notice in the March 3 issue of the Wisconsin State Journal, announcing the Wolfe strip has been discontinued, and his spot would henceforth be occupied by Smokey the Bear. Can you say Pfui?

Wolfe's last bow, March 1, 1958

For Davy Crockett's Almanack, though, the end is still a long ways off. Come on back tomorrow as the adventures of Wolfe and his "jaunty legman" begin.


Norman Walz said...

Looking forward!

Cap'n Bob said...

I await with bated breath.

TracyK said...

Me too. I must have known that there was a Nero Wolfe comic strip but I had forgotten. I will be reading along.

Rick Robinson said...

and I see they're driving off in a Dodge. I though they had a fancier car.

June Lorraine Roberts said...

I wasn't aware of the comic strip - thanks!