Friday, May 18, 2007
News of Yore: Straight Arrow to Debut
New Bell Strip Has Rancher-Indian Hero
By Jane McMaster
"Straight Arrow," son of a Comanche Indian chief was reared by a Westerner named "Packey." When he came of age, he was a tall-and-handsome (naturally) rancher who called himself "Steve Adams."
But in Sundown Valley, not far from Broken Bow Ranch, was a secret cave known only to Steve and Packy. There, Steve kept Comanche garb and weapons and a golden stallion named "Fury." And when trouble brewed among the Indians, Steve would emerge from the cave as "Straight Arrow." Then, with a cry of "'Kaneewah, Fury!", he would be on his way to right wrongs.
Last week, the radio cry of "Kaneewah, Fury!" had caused such excitement among cereal-eating kiddies, it had found another medium. Already out of the cigar store and into the five-and-dime (the 20 odd novelties include Buffalo horns). National Biscuit Company's Indian would be in newspapers by the end of May, via Bell Syndicate. [ed - actually the strip debuted 6/19]
Bell gives a once over lightly to the cowboy hat of Steve Adams, which may be simply reminiscent to editors of other recent Western strips. (Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, et al.) The syndicate stresses this point instead: "Straight Arrow" will apparently be the only Indian hero in present day newspaper comics.
As for the character's tieup with radio and comic books and novelties? "It has a pre-sold audience," says a Bell official. The character's lineage traces back to National Biscuit Company, the owner, out of McCann-Erickson. Nabisco got the ad agency to create the character several years back, didn't use it until the fall of 1948 when a radio show on the West Coast got highly successful results. In February, 1949, Nabisco put "Straight Arrow" on the Mutual network, and it shot high the following October: it was among Nielsen's top 10 for day-time programs. A Mutual official, while admitting that month is unstable due to program change-overs, says this was the first time a children's program ever inched into the soap opera daytime stronghold for a top-ten spot. The rating held only briefly, but the show (Tuesday and Thursday at 5 p.m.) has continued at or among the top for kid programs, according to Nabisco.
Million Dollar Base
After pumping an estimated $1,000,000 into radio time for the show (and shredded wheat) by January, 1950, National Biscuit made a contract with Magazine Enterprises, New York, for comic books. Two have come out so far, a third is in the works and publication will switch from bi-monthly to monthly in June, according to Publisher Vincent Sullivan. He says, "The distributors keep asking for additional copies. Movies and TV are contemplated.
The contract for the newspaper strip is three-way covering Nabisco as owner of the character; Magazine Enterprises as producer of the strip; and Bell Syndicate, as the distributor.
John Belfi and Joe Certa, two experienced comic book artists who have been drawing bimonthly "Durango Kid" comic books, will also draw the new adventure strip for the Enterprises. They will work with Enterprises Editor Ray Krank and Enterprises Writer Gardner Fox. The strip will carry the fictitious name of Ray Gardner as by-line with smaller credits to Belfi and Certa.
And preparation of the action-packed strip will take plenty of action. A week's strips for newspapers will go through this approximate process: The Enterprises editor and writer will first make a plot synopsis. This goes to Nabisco, which will check to see that the character is maintained. Coming back to Enterprises, the plot is then broken down into more specific action. This material goes to the Bronx studio of Certa, who draws in the characters; then to Belfi, who lives two miles away in the Bronx, for pencilling in the background. Then, back to Enterprises for re-check, on to Nabisco for re-check, back to Belfi for inking. On to Bell for sending to newspapers.
Mr. Certa studied at the Art Students League in New York; drew a daily panel, "Private Will B. Wright" while in the Army for the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch and the Philadelphia Inquirer; and worked six and a half years on one of the best known syndicated strips. (He prefers to keep It unmentioned.) [ed - anyone know what it was?] Mr. Belfi picked up a lot of Indian lore when he was stationed with the Army in New Mexico; was assistant to Mike Roy on "The Saint" and has worked on Captain Marvel, Jr. and other comic books.
"Straight Arrow" starts as a daily only strip. But the Sunday newspaper page is an early target.[ed - that target was missed, at least in this incarnation of the strip]
Labels: News of Yore
Anonymous : 7/6/2009