Monday, July 21, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Vic Jordan

One of the better though less well-known of the war strips was Vic Jordan. American publicist Jordan was caught in Paris when the Nazis took over and he became a member of the French resistance. The strip was several notches more realistic and better-written than the standard fare. Vic doesn't defeat a whole battalion at his whim, like many wartime strips, but he did engage in smaller and more realistic assignments like blowing up bridges, smuggling out downed airmen, and, in our story above, help to blow up a munitions factory that has been taken over by French workers. When France was liberated in 1944 Jordan took his base of operations right into Nazi Germany where he continued his derring-do until victory in Europe ended his career.

The daily and Sunday strip started the week before Pearl Harbor on December 1 1941. It was ostensibly written by 'Tom Paine', who was in actuality the team of Kermit Jaediker and Charles Zerner. The strip went through a succession of artists; the first was Elmer Wexler. Wexler went into the military but managed to finish out six months on the strip; his last daily was May 30 1942, his last Sunday June 14. When Wexler left the Sunday was dropped.

Paul Norris then took over the art duties until he in turn went into the military. His stint lasted until July 10 1943. Our samples above are from his tenure. Norris was replaced by a fellow by the name of D.H. Moneypenny who hung on until February 12 1944. He was in turn replaced by someone who signed himself Robinson (Jerry perhaps?) for a two week stint ending February 26. The final artist was the excellent Bernard Baily, better known for his comic book work. He brought the strip to its conclusion on April 28 1945.

The strip was syndicated by the great liberal paper Newspaper PM. The paper was funded by Marshall Field, whose Chicago paper, the Sun, also ran the strip. Few other papers ran Vic Jordan, which is a shame. The intellectualism of PM shows through in this strip, where Nazis are never shown as bloodthirsty monsters as they are in most strips -- they are the enemy, of course, ruthless and efficient in their machinations, but nevertheless human. This alone sets Vic Jordan apart as a higher quality strip, interested more in providing realistic adventure with fleshed out characters than in mindless propaganda.


Allan, as long as we're on the subject of PM, how about an entry about Dante Quinterno's "Patoruzu"? Paul Milkman's definitive book about PM gives the paper's very first comic strip short shrift, ignoring its Argentinian origins and the likely role America's "Good Neighbor" policy played in PM's decision to run it.
Hi Aaron -
I'm afraid I have no examples of the strip in my collection. I indexed it, of course, but the library where I worked on PM had no photocopying facilities.

Perhaps you'd like to do a guest post about it?

I'd jump at the chance, but I have yet to see PM's translated version. My knowledge of the strip is limited to what I can glean from Argentinian fan sites. Speaking little Spanish myself, it appears to be fun, light strip more than a little inspired by Segar's early Popeye, Patoruzu likewise being a brave, super-strong naif manipulated by a greedy Castor Oyl-ish schemer (while Patoruzu made his first appearance in 1928, his super-strength seems to have become an element only after 1931). The twist is that Patoruzu is also an extremely wealthy landowner, the last living heir of his tribe, which makes him a relentless target for thieves and conmen. As for the strip's political leanings, something besides its South American origins must have attracted PM's attention, but until I can get my hands on those translations, I have no clue what that might be.
Okay, so does anyone out there have a cache of PM's Patoruzu strips they'd consider sharing with us? If someone can send me CLEAR scans, minimum 150 dpi, better 300, I'd be glad to run them on the blog.

I am surprised by the quality of the art on this strip. I've never cared for Paul Norris' work. Everything he drew--Jungle Jim, X-9, Flash Gordon, Brick Bradford, Tarzan--was stiff and clunky. It makes me wonder what went wrong...this stuff actually looks good!
One of the "few others" that ran Vic Jordan was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette? It was announced there on November 27, 1941, but the heading of the announcement is in the Google News Archive copy ( replaced by "Censored!" Does anyone have a clue what has been censored, and by whom (Does Google itself censor its newspaper scans)?
Vic Jordan was still running on August 21 1944 but disappeared by October 6 1944, replaced by Candy (there is a fap in the Post-Gazette scans between those dates, but the Candy comic strip by Harry Sahle apparently debuted on October 2, 1944)
Hi Fram -
I think that's supposed to be a catchy headline for the announcement.

And yup, Candy did start on that date.

That's what I first thought as well, but would they use one single line of blue background on a completely black-and-white page? The yellow blocks on the text "Vic Jordan" are the result of my search string, but I see no reason at all why "censored" would be in blue...
Found it, and sorry to have wasted your time on this. The blue rectangle is actually Google's method of accentuating the title / start of article they returned in their search. So "censored" is the original text in the newspaper...
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