Roy Crane

Roy Crane

Royston Campbell Crane (November 22, 1901 - July 7, 1977), who signed his work Roy Crane, was an American cartoonist and creator of the comic strip characters Wash Tubbs, Captain Easy, and Buz Sawyer. He created one of the earliest adventure comic strips, and influenced many of the subsequent cartoonists in that genre.

Crane was born in Abilene, Texas and grew up in nearby Sweetwater. When he was 14 years old, he took the C.N. Landon correspondence course in cartooning. He initially attended college at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and later the University of Texas, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. At 19, he studied for six months at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago. His early career was a checkered one, including pitching tents for a Chautauqua, a seaman's berth, and a stint riding the rails. In 1922, he began his newspaper cartooning career on the "New York World", where he assisted H.T. Webster.

In 1924, Crane approached C.N. Landon, who was then an editor at the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). Landon agreed to let him try his hand at a humorous strip titled "Washington Tubbs II", soon shortened to "Wash Tubbs", which debuted on April 21, 1924. After about four months, Crane tired of the gag-a-day format and sent his diminutive hero off on a treasure hunt. The strip evolved into a rollicking adventure yarn, all the more so after the introduction in 1929 of the raffish soldier of fortune, Captain Easy.

Buz Sawyer

World War II rendered the comic-opera settings of Tubbs's adventures frivolous. The strip took on a new tone. In 1943, an offer from Hearst's King Features Syndicate persuaded Crane to jump ship and create a more realistic comic strip, "Buz Sawyer". He left "Wash Tubbs" in the hands of his assistant, Leslie Turner, a boyhood friend who had shared the hobo life with him.

Crane, an excellent draftsman despite his deceptively cartoonish style, established himself as a master of shading. He progressed from line drawings with cross-hatching to grease pencil on textured paper, then to Benday Dots, and finally to Craftint doubletone paper. The Craftint paper, when brushed with the right solutions, revealed either one or two layers of diagonal shading. Under Crane's brush, the technique yielded scenes of dramatic atmosphere, such as junglescapes fading into the misty distance. From time to time, Crane went on location to research his plot lines and visuals, as he had done with "Wash Tubbs".

Today, "Buz Sawyer" has been resurrected digitally as one of the vintage strips in King Features' emailed DailyINK subscription service.


Crane was awarded the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year in 1950, and their Story Comic Strip Award in 1965, both for "Buz Sawyer". He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin in 1969. He progressively relinquished his cartooning to assistants, and died in Orlando, Florida in 1977.

Further reading

*Goulart, Ron. "The Adventurous Decade". Arlington House, 1975. (Reprinted by Hermes Press, 2004.)
*Harvey, R.C. "A Flourish of Trumpets: Roy Crane and the Adventure Strip". Online [ article] .
*Marschall, Richard. "America's Great Comic-Strip Artists". New York: Abbeville Press, 1989.
*Nantier Beall Minoustchine (NBM)'s Flying Buttress Classics Library reprinted the complete run of "Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy" in a series of 18 volumes. Bill Blackbeard's introductions to these books contain biographical and critical material.

External links

* [ Papers of R. C. Crane, Sr. (artist's father) in Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University]

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