How many artists do you know that would draw a daily strip for free just to get the publicity? Well that is exactly what illustrator Jim Aparo did for The Hartford Times back in March of 1963. With the help of fellow creator and writer, Ralph Kanna, they introduced readers to a thrilling new adventure feature about a private investigator named Stern Wheeler. Both men were working for the William Schaller Company at the time, but secretly wanted to break in to the syndicated newspaper strip market. Aparo had been trying for years to work in comics without any luck, growing tired of his uninspired commercial illustration doing diagrams and instruction sheets, with Kanna working in the Radio/TV division of the firm, and hosting a popular local kiddie TV show part-time.
Stern Wheeler with the help of his crafty assistant and pal, Wally worked for a bombastic cigar chomping boss, J.B. Shoreman for only two brief adventures, "Sea of Matrimony", with some great Aparo underwater action, and "Diamonds in the Rough", starring a beautiful mysterious jewel thief. Working long and hard on this try-out strip, The Hartford Times agreed to publish the story, but unfortunately never paid the creative team a dime! The only form of "payment" received would be their exposure to the different syndicates that would hopefully buy the property. Even with some very slick Aparo graphics and enjoyable Kanna storylines, the two voluntarily pulled the daily after a few short months, believing they were just wasting their time, and continued working for the ad agency. But both men did finally leave the Schaller Company. Kenna ended up illustrating a number of children's books and did instructional videos for his own company, and Aparo was picked up by editor Dick Giordano to draw for Charlton before Jim's move to DC and much success on Batman and other National characters.