2011 Eisner Award Nominee: Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips
Listed as a favorite comic of 2010 by Jason, Evan Dorkin, and Dan Nadel in a survey of comics creators at Robot 6
Roy Crane is one of America’s greatest cartoonists and Fantagraphics is embarking upon an ambitious reprinting of his best work, beginning with his gorgeous adventure strip — Captain Easy.
Crane created the first American adventure strip — before Hal Foster’s Tarzan and Prince Valiant, before Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, before Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon — and quickly established himself as a master of the comic strip. Begun in 1924 under the eponymous title Wash Tubbs, within four months it moved from a gag-a-day strip about a girl-crazy young grocery store clerk to an adventure strip when Wash Tubbs embarks on a treasure hunt. Captain Easy was introduced in 1929 and began starring in his own Sunday page in 1933, which begins our first volume of Captain Easy.
The first of six volumes contains the earliest Sunday pages from 1933 to 1935. In his first adventure, Captain Easy visits a lost city, battles pirates, dons a deep-sea diving suit to explore a sunken ruin in search of treasure, and everywhere he goes, he finds beautiful women — a lost princess, a pirate queen, a savage woman in need of` “taming.” A romantic adventurer from a less politically correct age, Captain Easy is a Soldier of Fortune whose bravery and daring are exceeded only by his Southern gallantry.
Crane created the template for the adventure strip, combining adventure and humor in a Bigfoot cartooning style that perfectly conveyed the tongue-in-cheek tone and light-hearted thrills that kept readers on the edge of their seats. As comics historian Brian Walker put it, “the artist’s patented visual storytelling technique blended humor, drama, heroics, and pretty girls.” Crane’s Captain Easy influenced virtually every cartoonist who followed him — from Chester Gould (Dick Tracy) to Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates) — and even Hollywood’s adventure movies starring the likes of Cary Grant or Errol Flynn adopted Crane’s tone of two-fisted, good-natured derring-do. Citing Crane’s influence on comics, the artist Gil Kane once said, “Superman was Captain Easy; Batman was Captain Easy.” According to comic strip historian Richard Marschall, Crane was “a master not only of storytelling but of the art form, developing expressive techniques and a whole dictionary of conventions and signs for future comic strip artists.”
The first volume of Captain Easy also features a selection of Crane's original color guides, a biographical and critical introduction to Crane and his work by comics scholar Jeet Heer illustrated with rare Crane art, a preface by series editor Rick Norwood, and a foreword written by Charles M. Schulz for the 1974 Luna Press Wash Tubbs collection.
"Freed from the tiny
confines of the black-and-white daily strip, Crane brilliantly exploited the vastly larger canvas of the full
newspaper page, wildly varying the sizes, shapes, and arrangement of the panels. His distinctive drawing
style, an appealing blend of simplified realism and broad cartooniness, also set Easy apart. While not quite
as large as the original newspaper broadsheets, this volume’s oversize pages fully convey the strip’s
formidable visual impact."
– Gordon Flagg, Booklist
"...[O]ne of comics' purest entertainments... Combining cartoony figure drawing and considerable humor with rousing adventure, Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips, Vol. 1 exceeds even Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones films in exuberant action and breathless pace." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
"Fantagraphics has done an incredible job of reproducing the earliest Sundays for the first time in a full-color tabloid format. [...] The stories read as well today as when they were first published. Give yourself a treat and join Wash and Easy on the road to adventure! ★★★★" – George Hagenauer, Comics Buyers Guide