The Library of American Comics is the home of the most complete reprinting to-date of Alex Raymond’s comics output. Our hardcovers have captured his assisting/ghost work on Blondie and Tim Tyler Luck, plus four oversized volumes containing his complete Jungle Jim and Flash Gordon, as well as a standalone collection of the Raymond Secret Agent X-9 and another four books featuring all his Rip Kirby strips. It’s a catalogue of one of the most important careers in newspaper cartooning.
By 1941, King Features spotlighted their star artist in a photo-feature subscriber newspapers could edit down to a single page or choose to run as a full two-page spread, often in a Saturday edition or Sunday magazine section . The thrust of the feature was that Alex was a down-to-earth parallel to his space-faring hero. Flash, the article’s text explained, was young, handsome, athletic, and engaged in Jules Verne-like adventures. “Alex Raymond is young, handsome,” the piece continues. “He got his higher education on an athletic scholarship … Alex had a [boyhood] dream existence encircling the world in eighty days, voyaging 20,000 leagues under the sea, hurtling space. That is, he grew up on Jules Verne books. Nothing has given him more satisfaction than to be called ‘the modern Jules Verne.'”
While readers may have found this of interest, odds are they were more drawn to the three photographs featuring Raymond and Patricia Quinn, a then-seventeen-year-old model from Arlington, New Jersey whose career began after her “bathing beauty” picture attracted the attention of ad executives at the J. Walter Thompson. Click each image below for a larger view.
The article identifies Quinn as “Current model for Dale, Flash’s sweetheart,” but as these pictures and their early-1941 pedigree indicate, here she is also modeling for Olga, the Axis spy who appears in a fistful of August and September ’41 Flash installments (see pages 140, 142-145 of our Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim Volume 3).
The article also features a shot of Raymond doing his homework, because “Raymond has to have a large library for research, no matter how fantastic the adventure:”
Perhaps recognizing that a comics artist hitting the books and collaborating with teenaged models was not the most easily relatable of subjects for the average newspaper reader, the feature took pains to showcase Alex, the family man. Here, on the grounds of their “impressive Connecticut home,” are the artist with his wife, Helen, and with the eldest of their then-three children (two more would follow in subsequent years). Were his kids traitors for admitting to the King Features reporter that they liked Mandrake the Magician and Blondie better than Flash Gordon? Again, click to enlarge.
Raymond was the subject of occasional articles both before and after 1941. In 1950, for example, syndicated columnist Mel Heimer praised Alex and New York’s Institute of Psychotherapy for establishing “a chain of free clinics for the psychiatric treatment of disturbed children. To this end, they have set up a separate group of their own, called Somebody Cares … and they got the ball rolling the other night by staging the world premiere of a movie called Johnny Holiday at a local movie house and earmarking the profits of the premiere for the work of Somebody Cares.” By September of 1956, of course, Raymond was in the news again for reasons that instantly became a major, if tragic, milestone in comics history.
We are fortunate that articles such as “Modern Jules Verne” exist, to recall this influential artist in happier days and offer at least a glimpse, however choreographed, into his personal and working lives.