If you’re a longtime comic strip collector — or if you followed either our Alex Toth: Genius or Steve Canyon series — the name Bill Chadbourne is familiar to you. Chad was an Airman First Class stationed in Japan during 1960, when Milton and Bunny Caniff made their first trip to the Far East. As described in our Steve Canyon Volume Seven, he and a colleague served as the Caniffs’ unofficial tour guide to Tokyo. During their meeting, Caniff collaborated on a “jam” piece in which Colonel Canyon met the star of Chad’s cartoon feature for the 6000th Support Wing, Captain Comet. The two servicemen agreed to Milton’s request to supply the cartoonist with more Tokyo reference material after he returned Stateside, but as he also told them, “No walls will fall if you can’t [do it].”
After mustering out of the armed forces, Chad continued to support his country as a civilian, producing a number of publications for servicemen including Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine (SSAM) and Commander’s Digest. One of the artists with whom he frequently worked was Alex Toth, as extensively discussed in Genius, Illustrated, the second book in our Toth trilogy, which has just been released in its first-ever softcover edition, as we recently discussed here.
But wait, as the classic commercial and its many parodies all like to say, there’s more! The esteemed Mr. Chadbourne also collaborated with Woody Gelman, publisher at Nostalgia Press. That line included comic strip reprint collections of Flash Gordon, Little Nemo, Terry and the Pirates, Popeye, Prince Valiant, and more. Their two Scorchy Smith volumes introduced a previous generation to that groundbreaking strip, decades before our own Scorchy release. In many ways Nostalgia Press was a forerunner of and an inspiration to The Library of American Comics and most other modern-day strip imprints. Chad was heavily involved in the imprint’s venture into periodical publishing, Nostalgia Comics, which reprinted a smorgasbord of action and humor strips in each issue.
So clearly, Chad has terrific bona fides. He’s also been a welcome supporter of our work at LOAC and a generous source of first-hand information available nowhere else. It’s been our great pleasure to have made his acquaintance, and to be in touch with him intermittently over the past (can this be true?) fourteen years.
In recent e-mail exchanges with Chad, he was effusive in his praise for the exclusive sixteen-page comics insert provided as an extra for subscribers to our Terry and the Pirates Master Collection series. “Michael Cho’s full pager was brilliant, and so close to the original,” he said. “The Europeans always amaze, and I especially liked Dominique Bertail’s balloon-less entry. Plus, I loved Francois Bouco’s contribution, done totally in his own style (such an oily Pat Ryan!). Blutch’s Burma is more Miss Lace than Terry, but it was so well done.”
He also told us of a project he had written and drawn for his own amusement, what he described as, “a little comic time-travel epic, done directly in ink with no pencils, on plain old copy paper. I colored them using pastels so that the paper wouldn’t buckle.” He promised to send along some pages to give us a sense of what he had concocted.
As always, Chad was good as his word: pages arrived, with a note of setup accompanying them. He gave us a sense of the larger story, as well as the background for the “sidebar” he sent us. About that vignette he said, “The AI, which my scientist-protagonists used as a gopher — you know, ‘go-fer this,’ ‘go-fer that’ — had grown a brain and had somehow altered the time machine’s pod equipment to leap into the past. The AI lands in 1935 Nevada, and it realizes the ranch where it arrives is not electrified. The AI, which the ranchers think is named ‘Elvis,’ knows he must power up occasionally, and so he drains the car and truck batteries at the neighboring mine. In between, the guard arrives from the future to stop the AI, but his heart isn’t in it. And… “
And that’s where you can see what happens next. Here’s Chad’s short-short, provided here with his kind permission, exactly as he produced it.
It’s always a pleasure to trade e-mails with Bill Chadbourne, and we thank him for letting us share his work with you in this space. We hope you enjoy this clever original tale as much as we did!