Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Ralph Lane

William Ralph Lane was born in Princeton, Missouri in early 1905. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Lane’s father, Fred, in Princeton where he married Grace Miller on November 16, 1902. According to the 1910 census, the trio were resided in Princeton on Ballew Street. Lane’s father was a bookkeeper at a bank.

The 1920 census said Lane, his parents and younger brother, Allen, lived in Trenton City, Missouri, at 510 Pleasant View Avenue. The United Press International article, in the New York Times, February 9, 1965, reported “Lane studied music at Trenton, Mo., and art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 9, 1965, said “Lane in 1923 started drawing cartoons as a freelance cartoonist in Kansas City. Eventually he went to New York City and was a regular contributor to the New Yorker and the old Judge and Life magazines.”

A 1925 New York City directory listed a “Wm R Lane” who worked at The World newspaper and resided at 237 West 148th in Manhattan.

The Missouri marriage records at Ancestry.com said Lane married twenty-one-year-old Florence Naegelin on June, 26, 1926 in Jackson, Missouri.

In the 1930 census, Lane worked at an engraving company and his wife was a fashion artist. Living with them were his mother and brother in Kansas City, Missouri, at 4044 Harrison.

According to the 1940 census, Lane remained in the same city but at a different address, 5803 Virginia. The freelance commercial artist had a seven-year-old son, John. Lane’s highest level of education was the fourth year of high school.

The Times and Plain Dealer said Lane joined the Cleveland-based Newspaper Enterprise Association in 1945. This anecdote about the NEA art department appeared in Cartoonist Profiles, Volumes 41-44, 1979.

[George] Scarbo was in the first floor art department and the desks all faced east with the light from the north to everybody’s left. Ralph Lane moved into the department and, being left-handed, he turned his board around and now faced the artist directly behind him. The artist happened to be a very pretty and nice girl named Emerson (can’t remember her first name). Emerson became very bothered with Lane sitting there looking at her legs all day, so she taped a sheet of drawing paper to the front of her drawing board. During lunch hour, somebody cut two holes in the paper, adding a sign, “Five cents a look.”
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Lane assisted on Roy Crane’s Buz Saywer from 1943 to 1945. Lane went on to draw 19 NEA strips, all but one were closed-end which were Churchill: A Man and an Era; Daniel Boone; Fathers of Flight; The First Christmas—A Story for Children; Freedom of the Press; Gifts of the Magi; Hell Bomb; In Convention Assembled; Iran: Cockpit for Conquest; Japan; Rebirth of a Nation; Lincoln and Gettysburg; On the Beach; Sputnik Plus Five; Squanto’s Thanksgiving; The Story of the Atom; Story of the Pony Express; Valley Forge: Inspiration for Today; and Wild Bill Hickok. Lane drew the long-running NEA series, Vic Flint, from January 6, 1946 to July 30, 1950. The strip was continued by artists Dean Miller, Art Sansom, and Lane’s son, John. Lane’s Vic Flint also appeared in comic books.

Some of Lane’s other NEA work can be seen here, here and here.

A game of bridge between Lane, NEA writer Russ Winterbotham and their wives was written up in W. E. McKenney’s column “Dealing with Bridge” that appeared in the Canton Repository, February 2, 1948.

Lane passed away February 7, 1965, at a hospital in Lakewood, Ohio. His death was reported two days later in the Times and Plain Dealer which said Lane was survived by his wife, son, mother and brother. Lane’s home was at 29700 Wolf Road, Bay Village, Ohio.

—Alex Jay


I have links to the complete Hell Bomb and Sputnik Plus Five at http://totu.wikispaces.com/Science+in+All+the+Wrong+Places for anyone wantinf to see them.
The Library of Congress has an original drawing for Squanto's Thanksgiving published in the Morning Herald, Hagerstown, Maryland, on Thursday, November 26, 1942, p. 5, so Lane joined the staff of NEA earlier than 1945.

Sara W. Duke
Curator, Popular & Applied Graphic Art
Prints & Photographs Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4730
Has it ever been determined why Ralph Lane quit VIC FLINT? He left in mid-storyline, which would suggest something urgent in his departure. (Still writing about Dean Miller, his successor, for an article that will appear before too long, perhaps in THE COMICS JOURNAL...)
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