Markley’s Fevered Brain: Did You Know?

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

Comics Revue

Comics Revue


Did you know that one of the longest running comics or comic collections has just published their 394th issue and have been publishing consistently for over 30 years? Did you know that I have raved about this magazine many times over the years in this blog? Did you know that next to no one buys this magazine and it makes me so sad that so many people are missing out on this massive collection of art and storytelling every other month? Did you know this magazine is called Comics Revue and it reprints a wide variety of some of the greatest newspaper strips ever? Well, they do and every other month it is such a joy to read. Each month there are stories featuring such diverse characters as Buz Sawyer by Roy Crane, Alley Oop by V.T. Hamlin, The Phantom by Lee Falk and Sy Berry, Mandrake the Magician by Lee Falk and Phil Davis, Casey Ruggles by Warren Tufts, Flash Gordon, Krazy Kat, Tarzan, Rick O’Shay by Stan Lynde, and more. There are 128 pages of entertainment packed into each issue and almost every one of the stories reprinted each month are as good or better than any monthly comic you might buy. I know no matter how much I rave about this magazine most, it not all, of you will continue to ignore it, so I thought I would take a different approach with this blog and recommend collections of the strips that appear in this magazine from other publishers so if the serialized format of Comics Revue puts you off, perhaps a large chunk of these strips in one sitting might appeal to you. By the way, in Comics Revue they run a mix of complete stories (that rotate from issue to issue) as well as serialize stories over multiple issues.

Casey Ruggles

Casey Ruggles


Casey Ruggles was a newspaper strip about a US Marshall in the Wild West. It ran from 1949 to 1955 and was by the one of the most underrated artists of all time, Warren Tufts. Classic Comics Press has one hardcover collection collecting all of the strips starting with 1949, with a second volume coming later this year. While I love Tufts’ storytelling, which is some of the best, his artwork just makes the world of the late 1800s come alive, be it in the streets of San Francisco or the wilderness of Wyoming. You feel as if you are actually there. Marshall Ruggles runs into all sorts of troubles, yet he always, well, most of the time, manages to prevail. Part of the reason I love this collection is the Sunday pages are reprinted in full color and they are spectacular showing the true depths of Tufts’ talent. A great read for fans of adventure or westerns. Plus, Classic Comics Press has also published The Complete Lance, which Tufts did after Casey Ruggles in a full color hardcover. Lance is considered to be the pinnacle of newspaper strips and this is the first complete collection of it anywhere, and it is well worth the money. It is a piece of art.

The Phantom

The Phantom


Hermes Press has been reprinting The Phantom newspaper strip for a number of years now and are currently up to volume sixteen reprinting the strips from 1958-1959. Now this means they have reprinted all of the strips and stories from when the Phantom first appeared in newspapers in 1936 up to 1959. They are doing two separate series, one with the dailies which is up to volume 16 and there is also a second series which reprints the Sundays and this series is up to volume five. Throughout these volumes you get art by Ray Moore, the original artist on the strip, and his successor Wilson McCoy. I find the Phantom to be a deceiving strip in that it is a simple premise that its writer and creator, Lee Falk, was able to keep original and entertaining for over the 50 years he wrote the strip. The first tale is set in the 1600s as a man is abandoned by pirates on the coast of Africa, and he vows revenge against all pirates and evil of any kind. For 14 generations the mantle of the Phantom is passed on to the next son, creating a legend of the Ghost Who Walks as the masses believe he is the same man from the 1600s. Along the way there is adventures that surround the globe and a touch of romance. Plus with a 400 year history, Falk was able to tell stories set in all sorts of times and place. While the strip is great, Hermes design and production are the weakest of all of the books I am discussing here. I would recommend them because they are not available in sequence anywhere else, but this does not have the lush production that Classic Comics Press does.

Mandrake the Magician

Mandrake the Magician


Titan Books has two series of newspaper strip reprints that I think are worth your time and money. The first is a series of hardcover reprinting Lee Falk’s other classic creation, Mandrake the Magician. Yes, Falk created two of the most historical newspaper strips and he wrote them both for over 50 years, a feat no comic book creator can claim. Mandrake travels the world helping people. While the Phantom is for the most part reality based, Mandrake is far from it, and aside from mentioning hypnotism, much of his “powers” are never explained. Mandrake and his assistant Lothar go all over the place, from alternate dimensions, to fighting mystical beasts, to street crime. (I would bet money Stan Lee read Mandrake at some point as a lot of Dr. Strange stories seem to be inspired by Mandrake tales). Here they have done three series. The first series is all the early daily strips by Falk and artist Phil Davis (whose work is amazing.) They also did a volume of the Sundays where they reprinted the revised Mandrake (which Falk did in the 1960s to make him less stuffy than the 1930s version) with artist Fred Fredericks. There is a third volume reprinting the dailies of 1960s reboot. Personally, I like the 1930s Phil Davis stories better and I just love Davis’ art. Sadly, the only place you can read this classic stories now is in Comics Revue as Titan has decided to focus on the revised version going forward instead of the classic material. No matter what time period, Mandrake is a wonder to read as you land up going to places you would never have imagined. Plus, like with the Phantom, Falk is a master storyteller, whose pacing and creativity is almost unmatched.

Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon


Titan also has a series of hardcovers reprinting Flash Gordon. They start at the very beginning with the groundbreaking work of Alex Raymond, and then they continue through the fifties with some amazing work by Dan Barry. I first discovered Dan Barry with his comic book work in the 1980s and I cannot say I was impressed. But seeing what he did in the 1950s on the Flash Gordon newspaper strips, I was blown away. As a plus, the Barry strips were written by famed science fiction author, Harry Harrison. There are seven volumes so far, covering the first 25 years of the strip, including the Alex Raymond period, his successors, Don Moore and Austin Briggs, and then the Harrison and Barry material. There are both daily and Sunday collections here with the Sundays in full color. The production on these books are nice, and much better than Hermes, but short of the work from Classic Comics Press.

Buz Sawyer

Buz Sawyer


Finally we have Buz Sawyer which Fantagraphics did four hardcover volumes of and a best of collection. Each of these volumes is over 300 pages of action and adventure. To me, Roy Crane might have been the greatest storyteller of the classic adventure strips. His art style bordered on the cartoony (when compared to Warren Tufts or Phil Davis or Alex Raymond) but it is perfect for this strip. Buz is a fighter pilot in World War 2 fighting in the pacific when the strip starts. Over the years, Buz would travel the world, get out of the military, get back into the military, fight wars, spies, gangsters, an angry wife, and much more. Crane’s storytelling is like flowing water as it just flows from panel to panel, from page to page, and never gets old. It is so beautiful, again in a different way than Raymond’s Flash Gordon or Tufts’ Casey Ruggles. These four volumes from Fantagraphics cover a lot of ground of the Buz Sawyer strip, but there is so much more. In the pages of Comics Revue they are up to the 1960s with Buz in Viet Nam and tons of Cold War intrigue. Crane was known for his storytelling, his accurate depictions of military aircraft, and for drawing beautiful women, whom Buz always seemed to meet. Crane’s women are beautifully drawn, but in a way that is so different than Raymond’s women (See Alex Raymond’s Rip Kirby collections for some amazing women) even though both artists are known for their portrayals of women. Buz Sawyer is one of my favorite strips to read, as it is so smooth. Well worth your time. (Plus these collections are edited by Comics Revue publisher Rick Norwood).

Alley Oop

Alley Oop


I do hope that this blog inspired you to go out and try one of these books or perhaps Comics Revue itself. You will not find better storytelling than in Buz Sawyer or more beautiful art than Warren Tufts. Comic strip history is so rich and is filled with material that few people remember or are even aware of, and so much of it is spectacular. If you are really want a treat, Dark Horse published two volumes of V.T. Hamlin’s Alley Oop Sundays in oversized full color hardcovers a number of years ago that were just amazing. They are worth the money just to see the coloring. Alley Oop was a strip that is a trip to read with high adventure, politics, time travel, and charming art. For years I dismissed it as a silly caveman till I started reading in the pages of Comics Revue and I realized what a masterpiece this really is and why its fans are so devoted to it. Of all of these books I do not think I could pick out one as my favorite as all of them as so different from one another yet all are works of art. Any of these will brighten your day after reading them. It goes without saying all of these books are highly recommended.

So that is it for this time. I welcome any and all comments and I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. Do you read newspaper strips? Does anyone still read them in the newspaper? I would like to hear from you, even if it is Garfield you like. All of the thoughts and words here are mine and do not reflect the thoughts or words of Westfield Comics or their employees. As always…

Thank you.

USER COMMENTSOne Response

We'd love to hear from you, feel free to add to the discussion!

  1. Wayne blue Says:

    Ron Goulart’s Sky Hawks.