Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Jack Ryan

John J. “Jack” Ryan was born around 1912. His name was in the Chicago Tribune, March 12, 1975, obituary which said he was 63 at the time. The 1940 U.S. Federal Census recorded his birth in Illinois. Ryan has not yet been found in the 1920 and 1930 censuses.

In Garyn G. Roberts’s book, Dick Tracy and American Culture (2003), Chester Gould’s first assistant, Dick Moore, was profiled and said he attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1930s. Before he was kicked out, he met Ryan at the academy. The Tribune said Ryan graduated. Years later Moore recalled seeing Ryan: “…I met him on the street one day and he had just seen the ‘X-Nine’ drawn by Alex Raymond. He felt I would be out of a job in a month or so because ‘X-Nine’ was so much better than ‘Tracy.’ ”

Robert said about Ryan: “…In the early 1930s, Jack Ryan, along with Ed Moore, assisted Norman Marsh on Dan Dunn, a comic strip which debuted on September 25, 1933, and which was highly derivative of Dick Tracy….”

In the 1940 census, Ryan, his wife Johanna had two sons, James and John Jr., lived in Chicago at 408 East 74th Street. He had four years of high school and his occupation was cartoonist for a publishing syndicate. On September 8, 1940, his strip, Streamer Kelly, debuted in the Chicago Tribune Comic Book. His strip ended, temporarily, on October 3, 1943.

A World War II draft card for Ryan has not been found, so it’s unclear if he served during the war.

Life magazine, August 14, 1944, devoted several pages and photographs on Chester Gould, whose assistant was Ryan. A typical work week was described:

On Monday morning he [Gould] bounces into his studio, a cluttered room on the 14th floor of the Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago, at 8:15. His assistant, a capable young artist named Jack Ryan, has arrived before him. After lighting a cigar, removing his coat, loosening his tie, unbuttoning his shirt, unbuckling his belt, dropping his garters and untying his shoelaces, Gould shuffles over to his drawing board on which Ryan has placed a piece of clean white Bristol board into ruled rectangles. This will become the Sunday page that readers will see 10 weeks hence….His first step is to write, in longhand, all of the dialog for the Sunday page. By lunchtime he has finished an hands the page to Ryan, who letters the dialog in ink. Gould next writes dialog for the six daily strips…

With the creative chore out of the way, Gould spends the rest of his work week at the rather tedious and mechanical job of drawing….Working in his downtown studio, Gould devotes Tuesday to sketching in pencil and then finishing in ink, the characters in the Sunday page….After drawing the other characters, Gould hands the page back to Ryan who completes it by filling in background objects such as lampposts and buildings, and inking in solid black spaces…

The article revealed that Ryan had named the villain, The Brow. Volume 7 of the Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy (2009) has a photograph with this caption: “Jack Ryan (left) and ‘Andy’ Anderson (right) flank Chester Gould in his Tribune office, as the cartoonist works on the ‘Vollman’ story included in this volume. Both assistants also worked in the Trib’s art department.” How long he assisted Gould is not known. Streamer Kelly resumed in the Tribune on April 7, 1946 and ended December 31, 1950.

The Tribune said Ryan also drew Harold Teen for a time. He worked for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1952 to 1961. For a period in 1961, he returned to Dick Tracy then went back to the Sun-Times. In 1971 he received the Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick-O-Type award for best work by an artist. Ryan passed away March 10, 1975, at his home in Evergreen Park, Illinois.


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