For Your Consideration: Hermes Press’ Roy Rogers: The Collected Daily and Sunday Newspaper Strips

Roy Rogers: The Collected Newspaper Dailies and Sundays

Roy Rogers: The Collected Newspaper Dailies and Sundays

by Robert Greenberger

The name Roy Rogers conjures up images of a cowboy and roast beef for most people under 50. But, for everyone else, he was the cowboy hero of the 20th Century. Born Leonard Franklin Slye (November 5, 1911 – July 6, 1998), Rogers played guitar and was a handsome fellow, easily adapting to the movies where he starred in 87 musical westerns, usually astride his horse, the golden palomino named Trigger and costarring Dale Evans, who married him. He was named the number one Western box-office star for a dozen consecutive years.

Cowboys harkened back to the previous generation, before the Great Depression, before strife over immigration, and reminded people of a time when the American frontier was still being tamed. The delineations between good and evil were very clear and fed a need among the populace for simpler times. It’s those very same needs that made the Western such a popular television genre a generation later.

The King of the Cowboys’ popularity was such that he had his own radio series on the Mutual Network, heard by an estimated 20 million people each week. The show then migrated to television, appearing as 16 NBC television specials plus a half-hour dramatic series from 1951-1957. If you think there’s a lot of product surrounding your favorite hero today, imagine 400 Roy Rogers-branded items in the Sears catalogue alone plus 2.5 billion boxes of Post Cereal featured his image.

And yes, there were comic books and a comic strip. The comic books are said to have sold in excess of 25 million copies a year while the strip reached some 65 million readers weekly.

So yeah, he’s a big deal. Little wonder then that Hermes Press is dusting off the strips and collecting them for the first time, with volume one due in January. The book offers readers a sample of the strip selecting sequences from its twelve year run, featuring art and stories from Mike Arens, Pete Alvardo, and Tom, Chuck, and Bob McKimson. The highlight for some, though, may be the sequence illustrated by the legendary Alex Toth. According to Toth in Comic Book Artist, he filled in for regular artist Arens when the illustrator fell ill. Toth may have only drawn the strip from December 19, 1960 through January 12, 1961 but his masterful work is not to be missed.

Also, I call your attention to the strips from 1949-1953, which were illustrated by Thomas McKimson, credited as designing Tweety Bird, who worked with his brother Charles and artist Pete Alvarado, signing the strip Al McKimson. Younger brother Bob is bets known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Mister Magoo shorts.

The strip was popular and widely read but today is one of those overlooked gems, not usually featured in surveys about the genre. Now you can decide for yourself if the derring-do is worthy of reconsideration.

Roy Rogers: The Collected Daily and Sunday Newspaper Strips will contain black-and-white daily strips and twelve complete full-color continuities of the Sundays plus an introductory essay by Tim Lasuita, accompanied by artwork, movie posters, advertising, and toys demonstrating the cowboy’s reach and appeal.


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