Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Toppers: Bos'n Hal

The Don Winslow comic strip began in March 1934, sailing into newspapers under the command of writer Frank Martinek and artist Leon A. Beroth. Martinek created the strip in order to publicize the U.S. Navy, hoping that the glorification it received in the strip would lead to more recruits signing up for the service.To that end, Winslow engaged in dramatic adventures against spies and saboteurs all over the world, just exactly like the typical Navy recruit would.

The strip, distributed by Bell Syndicate, enjoyed a very good launch and it wasn't long before Winslow's adventures were the the subject of Big Little Books, radio shows, movie serials and comic books. Naturally a Sunday page needed to be added to the mix, and it debuted on April 21 1935*. As was the case with a few other Bell strips, the Sunday page was divided in half, with the topper equal in size to the main strip. Martinek came up with a separate Sunday adventure hero named Bos'n Hal, Sea Scout. I haven't seen the earliest Don Winslow Sunday pages, but I presume that Bos'n Hal started at the same time as the main Sunday strip (can anyone lend a hand on that important point?).

A Sea Scout is apparently a special sort of Boy Scout who specializes in boating activities. Although Hal looks considerably older than Boy Scout age, I gather that's how he started out. It wasn't long before Hal made it out to sea as an observer on a Navy ship, and from that start his adventures began. Unlike Winslow, who mostly kept evil-doers at bay, Hal's adventures tended to be lighter fare centered on treasure hunting and exotic locales.

Although Martinek was credited for writing the strip, most of the material was apparently written by Carl Hammond through 1942. Hammond was semi-officially credited as the "layout and research" man, although he never got a byline on the strip itself. As for the art, Beroth was apparently assisted by Ed Moore, and the pencilling on Bos'n Hal was turned over to him entirely, according to Ron Goulart. This most likely would have been from 1938 (when Moore stopped assisting on Dan Dunn) until 1940 (when Moore got his own sea-faring strip, Captain Storm).

The Bos'n Hal topper was cancelled with the Sunday of December 15 1940**, probably because Ed Moore was leaving. The decision seems to have been made pretty quickly, because the final Bos'n Hal strip offers up the ultimate groaner of a conclusion. Hal is drowning as a volcanic island sinks under the sea, and then he wakes up and is told that all of his adventures have been a dream.

Stayed tuned for Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profiles of the Don Winslow creators, coming up this week and next.

* Source: Jeffrey Lindenblatt based on Brooklyn Times-Union.
** Source: Arizona Republic.


That final Bos'n Hal strip reminded me of the last Ace Drummond strip that came out earlier of the year!!! That one also ended up in a dream!!!
Good point. I'd forgotten about that, but here it is:

The final strip mentions that the dream started when Hal fell overboard from Captain Gawk's ship. That was shown in the final panel of the March 10, 1949 strip. So everything from March 17, 1949 to December 8, 1949 was a dream but everything prior is unaffected and "real".
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