Monday, November 23, 2009

Captain Easy Returns

It seemed inevitable someone would get around to republishing Roy Crane’s Captain Easy strips from the 1930s, and Fantagraphics will begin doing so, over six volumes, come January.

In its winter catalog, Fantagraphics calls Captain Easy “arguably the comics page’s first and all-time greatest adventure strip.” We can debate the “greatest” part, but as for the “first,” Easy himself debuted in 1929 as a sidekick in the already popular Wash Tubbs. G. Washington Tubbs II, who started out in 1924, has a much better claim to being the “first.”

The five-foot-something Tubbs, drawn in a whimsical cartoon-like style, traveled the world, getting caught up with everything from European revolutions and Mexican bandits to medicine shows (“Yo ho! Yo ho! Gather ’round and see the marvelous feats of magic …!”) and murderous villains (“Whack! Bam!”). It was while he was in the kingdom of Kandelabra that Tubbs rescued Easy from imprisonment in its dungeons by handing him a crowbar.

“American, aren’t you?” Tubbs asks.

“Well, yes and no,” Easy replies, with a Southern-gentleman’s drawl. “Started out that way. Hang my hat on any old flagpole now. Like a flea, I reckon ….”

Easy, with his mysterious past, most likely was the “first” solider-of-fortune in what was to become a long line of foot-loose adventurers. But, as Ron Goulart points out in his The Adventurous Decade, Easy’s name at first was something else. As Crane told Goulart, the cartoonist had another moniker in mind, but then he forgot it when it came time to name his character. It wasn’t until later he recalled he wanted to call him Early. Maybe.

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