Friday, August 06, 2010
Obscurity of the Day: Sgt. Preston of the Yukon
Nothing more was heard of Sgt. Preston, whose TV cancellation seemed to be his permanent retirement, until 1981 when Lone Ranger Television Inc., the owner of the Preston brand, flush with the excitement of a Lone Ranger revival, decided to try their luck with Preston. Unfortunately the somewhat outdated story of a Northwest police officer failed to garner much interest. The best they were able to do was place a comic strip with the beyond-obscure Inter-Continental Press Syndicate. The new strip started in a tiny number of papers on September 20 1982.
Art on the strip was by the ever-superb veteran cartoonist Don Sherwood and the writing was by Stan Stunell, of whom I know nothing [NB: see comments below -- evidently a real person, though perhaps not the actual writer of the strip]. If the name's a pseudonym that's a good thing because the writing is almost unbelievably awful. Stories make little sense, characters pop up and disappear constantly for no reason, and up to four different (incoherent) stories are being juggled at any given time.
For many years I thought the Sgt. Preston strip was just a legend, one of those features that never actually got off the ground but yet was talked about as if it did -- syndicate sales brochures were the only evidence I ever saw for it. It wasn't until recently that I came across a run of the strip in the Seattle Times that finally turns this phantom strip into a reality. However, a few mysteries still remain:
* the strip was advertised as daily and Sunday, but I've never found a Sunday. I think there must have been one, though, because there are always story gaps between the Saturday and Monday dailies.Did the Times, or any other paper for that matter, print them? [NB: I have since found a few Sunday samples of the strip; unfortunately they are just clippings and I can't tell which paper they are from]
* the strip ends in the Seattle Times on March 16, 1983, a Wednesday, with a 'The End' announcement and a story wrap-up using pasted up art from old strips. It would be VERY odd for a paper to end an ongoing feature on a Wednesday, so I assumed this final strip was from the syndicate and did indeed signal the demise of the strip. Yet the feature was advertised in the 1983 E&P Syndicate Directory, not issued until months later. I also found original art advertised on the Comicartfans website that appears to be later since none of the strips is from a storyline in my Times run. The repro is too blurry to tell dates with certainty, but I think they are from July. What is weirder, though, is they seem to be set in bygone days, not the modern setting of the strips I have.
Sherwood exhibits the same bravura work that made "The Partridge Family" comic book such a success.
Bill Kost: 9/28/12
Stunell, Stanley January 24, 1930 - November 24, 2011 Stanley Stunell 81, passed away peacefully on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011. He was born Jan 24, 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Stan was raised in England and Scotland and served in the British Royal Navy. He moved back to Chester, Pennsylvania with his mother in 1949 and then to Los Angeles in 1959 where he met and married Mildred Risk, who survives him. Stanley was vice-president, head of the film division at Wrather Corporation. He resigned in 1983 to design and build a 50 foot sailboat, which he sailed through the Panama Canal to the Mediterranean, on which they cruised for six years. In 1992 they returned to live on Bainbridge Island, Washington before moving back to Southern California. In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sisters-in-law, Mary Shook and Terry Zeoli and husband Gene. Stanley was a devoted uncle to seven nieces and nephews and their spouses, and six grand nieces and nephews. A memorial will be held in January.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on December 16, 2011