SF in All the Wrong Places - Little Orvyby(c) 2017, Arthur L. Lortie
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Blog : Amazing Stories
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Rick_Yager_in_his_studio_1958.jpgI've started to fill the scanning gap on the Sunday saga of BUCK ROGERS, a project started by others, and I -- and probably you -- noticed the first batch of missing stories were by Rick Yager.

Almost everything you need to know about Rick is documented at Wikipedia, Find-A-Grave and, especially, crack genealogist Alex Jay's profile of him at Stripper's Guide.

I knew much of Yager's career even before I started, and was aware of his creative and contract difficulties with John F. Dille, the head of the company that owned BUCK. Dille had a long history of alienating his artists, right from the first, Dick Calkins, who co-created the strip with Phil Nowlan back on January 7, 1920. Calkins was quoted as saying "I have a headache every time of think of Dille, The only Buck he ever thought of was the dollar bill".

The difficulties of Yager's successor, Murphy Anderson, is also well documented. In what should have been his dream job by drawing on his childhood hero, he had earlier left the strip in 1949 after only two years on the job and was somehow was lured back in 1957 by Dille's son. Again the situation proved untenable and this time he only lasted a year, citing the same reasons as Calkins, that Dille "only wanted the cheapest artist he could find” and took an overbearing hands on control of the strip.
1934 - Buck Rogers Patrol Ship.jpg

Yager had joined the strip as an assistant back in 1932 and his art and spaceship designs had a major impact, especially on the successful marketing products. But by mid-1958, he had enough and said he was defeated by the Dille's constant blue pencil corrections-- "Too much editing; too much criticism."

On the way out the door, a resentful Yager vowed to do a science fiction strip that would blow BUCK out of the water. He may have been thinking of resurrecting one of his earlier creations, ACE KELLY, a test pilot who found himself transported to the futuristic Moon City of Ur. ACE's adventure appeared in Consolidated Book Publishers' TOPS COMICS #2000 in 1944, but resembled those of FLASH GORDON more than BUCK, though, of course, all share a common pedigree.

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Given the likely litigious tendencies of his former employer. Yager wisely looked elsewhere and found immediate employment with fellow Chicagoan George "Bob" Cleveland, a move that luckily ensured his artistic and financial future. Cleveland had created a successful syndicated feature in 1939 called CAPPY DICK, a cartoon sea captain who was the host of a children's activity page that presented trivia, jokes and magic tricks to his readers 7 days a week. Its weekly contests and giveaways were a popular feature. By 1958, when Yager was assigned the Sunday page, it had been acquired by the Field Enterprises syndicate and, though Cleveland himself retired in 1977, the feature itself would run for another decade.
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Jerry Bails' Who's Who says that Yager handled the Sunday until 1979, but in 1961, the syndicate decided to give Yager a chance at his own strip. For inspiration, Rick back at another feature he had created back in 1937 for Chesler's STAR COMICS #1 called LAND O' "NOD", or IN THE LAND OF MAGIC. It was obviously inspired by Windsor McKay's LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND, a strip that brought to life the fantastic dreams of a young boy.

He called it LITTLE ORVY (AND HIS DREAMS) from January 3, 1960 through March 20, 1960; and THE IMAGINARY ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ORVY thereafter until its finale on September 30, 1962. It was a fantasy rather than science fiction, though he did manage to send his new hero to Mars and the moon (twice!), cavort with dinosaurs and travel through time often. He even managed to work in a SHERLOCK HOLMES pastiche for good measure.

orvy.jpg
The stories were neatly designed to run 4 weeks each. I didn't break the strip up into individual stories in the archive, but these were his adventures (the titles for S01 to S15 are mine) --

S01 - Showdown at High Noon (January 3, 1960 to January 24, 1960)
S02 - Moon Monsters (January 31, 1960 to February 21, 1960)
S03 - The Tournament (February 28, 1960 to March 20, 1960)
S04 - Mister Moby Richard (March 27, 1960 to April 17, 1960)
S05 - Belle of the Bluegrass (April 24, 1960 to May 15, 1960)
S06 - Biceppious Maximus - Gladiator (May 22, 1960 to June 12, 1960)
S07 - Sunken Treasure (June 19, 1960 to July 10, 1960)
S08 - The Foreign Legion (July 17, 1960 to August 7, 1960)
S09 - The Olympic Games (August 14, 1960 to September 4, 1960)
S10 - The Pony Express (September 11, 1960 to October 2, 1960)
S11 - Football (October 9, 1960 to October 30, 1960)
S12 - The Pilgrims (November 6, 1960 to November 27, 1960)
S13 - Dinosaurs (December 4, 1960 to December 25, 1960)
S14 - The Silent Service (January 1, 1961 to January 22, 1961)
S15 - The Alamo (January 29, 1961 to February 19, 1961)
S16 - Matterhorn (February 26. 1961 to March 19, 1961)
S17 - Scotland Yard (March 26, 1961 to April 16, 1961)
S18 - The Matador (April 23, 1961 to May 14, 1961)
S19 - The Martians (May 21, 1961 to June 11, 1961)
S20 - Tiger Hunt (June 18, 1961 to July 9, 1961)
S21 - Mutiny on the Bounty (July 16, 1961 to August 6, 1961)
S22 - Custers Last Battle (August 13, 1961 to September 3, 1961)
S23 - Hurricane (September 19, 1961 to October 1, 1961)
S24 - The Race (October 8, 1961 to October 29, 1961)
S25 - The Ancient Phoenicians (November 5, 196 to November 26, 1961)
S26 - A Christmas Carol (19611203 to December 24, 1961)
S27 - The Feud (December 31, 1961 to January 21, 1962)
S28 - The Last Daze of Pompeii (January 28, 1962 to February 18, 1962)
S29 - With the Eskimos (February 25, 1962 to March 18, 1962)
S30 - The Flying Circus (March 25, 1962 to April 15, 1962)
S31 - The Moon Race (April 22, 1962 to May 13, 1962) [Note: President Kennedy didn't give his "We choose to go to the Moon" speech until September 12, 1962]
S32 - The Pyramid Builders (May 20, 1962 to June 10, 1962)
S33 - The Roaring 20's (June 17, 1962 to July 8, 1962)
S34 - Vacation Time (July 15, 1962 to August 5, 1962)
S35 - The America's Cup Race (August 12, 1962 to September 2, 1962) [Note: 1962 America's Cup was held in September 1962]
S36 - The World Series (September 9, 1962 to September 30, 1962)

An obvious indication of the strip's popularity is that most newspapers I checked carried all 144 'chapters' in their complete half page format, an unusual practice for strips of that era, as any collector will tell you. It also found a home in the British weeklies, VALIANT and KNOCKOUT, though they were badly reedited Its demise might have been caused by its success!

Grin and Bear It 19920301 (St Louis Post Dispatch).jpgGrin and Bear It 19870927 (St Louis Post Dispatch).jpgThe syndicate recognized Yager's talent and rather than overworking him on three strips, it offered him a chance to continue on both CAPPY DICK and as a ghost artist on its most successful feature, George Licty's Sunday GRIN AND BEAR IT, which he continued through 1992, with his signature finally appearing on September 27, 1987 (see on the left) and continuing through March 1, 1992 (on the right).

At the time he joined Lichty on GRIN AND BEAR IT was appearing in over 300 newspapers and had won the National Cartoonists' Society's very first award for best syndicated panel in 1956; and then again in 1959, 1961, 1962 and 1964,

Richard Sydney Yager retired in 1992 when his eyesight began to fail. He died on July 22, 1995 in Illinois, leaving a legacy of 25 years on BUCK ROGERS, and then landing on his feet with 24 years at Field Enterprises.

All the LITTLE ORVY strips are on MediaFire. All the color strips were 'borrowed' from articles by Allan Holtz and Ger Apeldoorn . I only found piece of original art from January 14, 1962 (at Worthpoint) but the scans were too small to be useful.

I included all the British reprints I could find, Yager's applicable comic book work, a couple of GRIN AND BEAR IT, plus a couple of promos.