Monday, July 12, 2010

Sensational Strips: Lance

After leaving Casey Ruggles in 1954, Warren Tufts created the ultimate Western comic strip, Lance, that debuted with a full page Sunday on June 5, 1955. Styled after Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, Tufts originally did not use dialogue balloons, but bottom captions, to better display his lavish scenes of the American West, but eventually changed back to the standard format at the end of its run. To have complete control over his new feature, this rare self syndicated strip was published from contributions by Tuft's family. Lance St. Lorne was a Second Lieutenant for the U.S. First Dragoons stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in the 1840s, who patrolled the territories west of Missouri. Tufts ultra realistic illustrations and historically based story lines stressed the use of violence and sexual relationships that was uncommon for the late 1950s comic strips.

Warren Tufts crafted exciting stories of good and evil that were equally distributed between the changing points of view of soldiers and Native Americans in these gripping morality tales. Graphic scenes of torture, massacres, and plunder of the white settlers and Indian villages were all done in Tufts' dramatic and grand style. However, the artist could also provide entertaining peaceful moments, such as the formal military dances, and Lance's much celebrated wedding in 1957. Lance's numbers started off very strong, in about one hundred of the larger metropolitan cities newspapers. But after a few years, and newer strips hitting the market, Lance's audience started to lose readers over time, so the size was reduced from a full Sunday to a half-page and eventually a third-page size, until Tufts decided to end his beloved strip on May 29, 1960.

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