Thursday, February 16, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Don Powers

The eight-page color comic section produced for the Pittsburgh Courier is the only attempt I'm aware of to do a color comics section in a black paper.* Although the Courier's section, produced by the Smith-Mann Syndicate of New York City, did have an all-black cast of characters, quite a few of the strips were drawn by whites.

One black creator who did get space was Courier regular Sam Milai. Milai's work appeared in the paper for over three decades, starting in 1937.  By 1950, when the color section began, Milai was already practically an institution at the paper. He was an ambidextrous cartoonist, quite at home with both bigfoot humor and straight illustration. Milai sought to show off his ability to do a realistic adventure strip for the color section, and came up with a sports feature titled Don Powers. The strip featured a clean-cut hero who is the Joe DiMaggio of baseball, Muhammad Ali of boxing, and Red Grange of football all rolled into one. He gets into all sorts of scrapes with gamblers, gangsters, rivals and so on, and triumphs mainly by being so pure and faultless.

The strip debuted with the new color section on August 19 1950, and outlived the section by many years. After the color section was dropped in August 1954 the strip switched to black and white, slowly reduced in size to a daily-style strip, and lasted in the Courier until November 1 1958.

Thanks to the University of Michigan Special Collections Library for photos of their collection of Courier color sections. They have the only known run of the early color sections from 1950-51, and were very gracious in sharing photos of the strips in their collection with me. Above are the 1st, 2nd and 4th strips in the Don Powers series.

* There was one other color comic strip, but it was just a single strip, not a section.


These are really great. These Courier color section examples are really fascinating
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