Sunday, January 10, 2010

Recent Acquisition: Rick O'Shay

Stan Lynde grew up on a sheep farm in Montana and became a cartoonist in the navy. After his military service, he developed a satirical strip, Rick O'Shay, set in a small Montana town called Conniption. It seems to be set in the 19th century but simultaneously in the present (the early 60s). It was a funny strip with long involved stories (relatively unusual for new comic strips at the time, which tended to be "gag a day" strips). Not surprisingly, it was strongly influenced by L'il Abner and especially Pogo. But something rather weird happened over the course of the 60s. These cartoony characters got less and less cartoony. The intrusions of the present-day into the 19th century frontier disappeared, and by the early 70s, Rick O'Shay had been transformed to a more-or-less realistic comics strip in a Western setting. There was still a lot of humor, but there was also a lot of action. It was this somewhat more serious Rick O'Shay strip that I fondly remember reading as a boy. According to Lynde, his last strip was on May 7, 1977.

This strip is dated May 20, 1977. What th--?!

Stan Lynde
Stan Lynde or Alfredo Alcala, Rick O'Shay, ink and halftone film on bristol board, 5/20/1977

Here is what it looks like in color.

Stan Lynde
Stan Lynde or Alfredo Alcala, Rick O'Shay, ink and halftone film on bristol board, 5/20/1977

As you can see, the halftone film has yellowed significantly, which is what happens with old comic strip art.

So how is it that I have a strip dated from after the last strip that in this series that was published? I can think of two possible explanations. Lynde left the strip after a contract dispute with the syndicate. The strip continued with a different writer and Alfredo Alcala on art. So even though the strip I have is signed by Lynde, it could be an Alcala strip. It looks like Lynde's artwork, but Alcala was a monstrously talented artist who could have easily aped Lynde's style, as would have been a requirement of the job in taking over the strip. But maybe Lynde worked so far in advance that when the dispute with the syndicate came to a head, he already had several weeks more already done. (Lynde doesn't mention the dispute at all in his memoir.) One factor supporting the Alcala theory is that much of Lynde's original artwork was lost in a fire at his house in Montana. So not that many Lynde originals are circulating out in the world.

I'll have to do some research on this one, but if it's a strip Lynde drew that was never published, it is certainly a curiosity. If it's an Alcala version of Lynde, well, that's less exciting than owning a Stan Lynde original, but not too bad.

Lynde left Rick O'Shay at the height of his creative powers. He drew several more strips (all of which were good, if not as successful as Rick O'Shay) and wrote some fairly creditable Western novels. He started his own publishing company, Cottonwood Publishing, and through it interested readers can purchase book collections of Rick O'Shay and his other strips, which I highly recommend. The best place to start exploring the work of this comics great would be Rick O'Shay, Hipshot and Me, which is where I got the date May 7, 1977, as the last Lynde Rick O'Shay.


  1. Happy to see someone appriciate these artists...
    and that you have extnesive knoweldge of their work.

    I always like to get a close look and see how they did their artwork; down to the individual brush strokes.

    I got to see a lot of artwork like this up close in past years and it never ceases to amaze me
    how each artist does things differently.

    Keep it up!


  2. Thank you Mr. Boyd, for the good piece on Stan Lynde. I always looked forward to the Rick O'Shay strip when the Tribune carried it in Chicago. The characters are wonderful, and the story lines and jokes are insightful and created with great heart. I loved to see the terrific graphics work, especially on horses, dogs, cats, human characters - Well, what wasn't drawn to the very best? Mr. Lynde knew more about the underside of a horse than most people know about the topside, and he studied it and got it in the drawings so you could feel the pull of every muscle and sinew and knew just how that animal was arching up there to toss Hipshot off into the dust. The strip was a real masterpiece in every way. I bought the "memoir" book as soon as I knew it was available, so my grandkids could know who Stan Lynde is. I hope lots more kids will.
    Thanks again. B.W.Donner

  3. Through newspaper archives I have confirmed that this strip was published on May 20, 1977. The last daily signed by Lynde was published on July 2, 1977 and the first signed by Alcala was on July 4. There is enough of a difference between the ones signed by Alcala and the ones by Lynde that I'm pretty sure the signatures are correct and Lynde for some reason got the dates mixed up in his book. Maybe he drew the last daily in May, but it was actually published in July?

    1. I hope you're right! In any case, I later got one from 1959 which seems unambiguously by Lynde!