For more information and previews of each book (or to order them individually), click the titles below.
Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 1 (1933-1935)
2011 Eisner Award Nominee: Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips
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.
Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 2 (1936-1937)
This second of four volumes reprints in full color the rare Captain Easy Sunday pages from the 1930s. Roy Crane’s Soldier of Fortune, Captain Easy, fights for gold in the frozen north, is mistaken for a bandit, protects a formula for artificial diamonds, is stranded on a desert island, visits the tiny Balkan country of Kleptomania, and faces a firing squad. Captain Easy hobnobs with millionaires and bums and beautiful girls (of course), and winds up in the middle of a full scale war. In short, it’s another rousing series of adventure and humor encapsulating the gallantry, derring-do, and rough-and-tumble innocence of a bygone era and a bygone genre, written and drawn with panache, and practically painted in a vibrant spectrum of colors that you have to see to believe.
Special features of this volume include a foreword by series editor Rick Norwood, an illustrated introduction by fellow cartoonist and Crane aficionado Paul Pope, an essay by the late Bill Blackbeard, and a gallery of rare Captain Easy comic book covers.
Long before the first superhero, Roy Crane’s courageous, indomitable, and cliff-ganging rough guy served as the template for characters that later defined comic books, and set the aesthetic standards for the newspaper strip. Crane’s mastery is why Peanuts creator Charles Schulz said of him (circa 1989): "A treasure. There is still no one around who draws any better."
Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 3 (1938-1940)
The third volume in Fantagraphics’ ongoing reprint of Roy Crane’s legendary comedy-action series features what many consider the absolute peak of the
series: “Temple of the Swinks,” in which Wash and Easy discover an ancient
temple with statues of an unknown animal called a swink... a real-life specimen
of which shows up!
In other stories, Wash and Easy sail for Singapore aboard a dhow with a cargo
of wild animals, crash land a plane on an island inhabited by (inevitably) pirates
and (just as inevitably) beautiful women, and sail the South Seas in a schooner whose villainous captain plans to rob
them. When they return to America, Wash Tubbs’ pet swink draws huge crowds and a reputation for being worth a
million dollars. Then Wash and Easy travel to Peru to rescue an American lost in the jungle and, in the cover-featured
story, Easy goes deep sea diving in search of a beautiful girl’s lost diamond.
Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 4 (1941-1942)
In the fourth volume of Fantagraphics' Captain Easy series, our eponymous hero and his loyal sidekick Wash Tubbs answer a newspaper ad that they don’t know is years out of date, and wind up stranded in Guatemala with a busted landing gear and only five dollars to their name. Whoops! They need all their wits and ingenuity to get them out of this fix. Which they manage to do by the skin of their teeth, only to stumble onto a lost city in the jungle. Lost cities in the jungle are never good news, and so it is with our two boisterous heroes. Against all odds, they extricate themselves from this dastardly peril and head for home on a ship carrying tigers (Roy Crane loved to draw tigers). They’re out of danger, right? Wrong! What kind of a Captain Easy adventure would this be without our boys getting stranded on a desert island and encountering the beautiful but savage Wolf Girl (Crane loved to draw Wolf Girls!)?
Don’t miss the last volume of Fantagraphics' glorious reprint of Roy Crane's full color Captain Easy Sunday pages.
Praise for the series:
"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
“Crane’s art is stunning, combining simple cartoony figures with richly
detailed backgrounds in clever, colorful layouts. It isn’t even necessary
to read the dialogue or captions to follow the action; just scan Crane’s
dynamic lines, which make every panel look like a unique work of
pop art. [Grade:] A-.” – The A.V. Club
"Though he was one of the genre’s pioneers, Roy Crane’s Captain Easy is arguably the most idiosyncratic of all the adventure strips. But it’s this blend of loud slapstick, young-boys-styled adventure and blatant sex appeal that make Captain Easy such a winning, fun strip to read." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"...[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