Royston Campbell Crane (November 22, 1901 – July 7, 1977), who
signed his work Roy Crane, was an American cartoonist who created the
comic strip characters Wash Tubbs,
Captain Easy and Buz Sawyer. He
pioneered the adventure comic strip, establishing the conventions and
artistic approach of that genre. Comics historian
R. C. Harvey wrote,
"Many of those who drew the earliest adventure strips were inspired
and influenced by his work."
Born in Abilene, Texas, Crane grew up in nearby Sweetwater. When he
was 14, he took the
Charles N. Landon
Charles N. Landon correspondence course in
cartooning. He initially attended college at Hardin-Simmons University
in Abilene and later the University of Texas, where he was a member of
Phi Kappa Psi
Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. At 19, he studied for six months at the
Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago. His early work history was a
checkered one, including pitching tents for a Chautauqua, a seaman's
berth and a stint riding the rails. In 1922, he began his newspaper
cartooning career on the New York World, where he assisted H. T.
Webster. Crane was also influenced by the work of cartoonist Ethel
Hays, especially in the drawing of women.
Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy
2 Buz Sawyer
5 Further reading
6 External links
Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy
In 1924, Crane approached Charles N. Landon, an editor at the
Newspaper Enterprise Association. Landon and Crane discussed a strip
titled Washington Tubbs II about a diminutive goof employed at a
grocery store. With the title shortened to Wash Tubbs, the strip
debuted April 21, 1924. After four months, Crane tired of the
gag-a-day format and sent his pint-size hero hunting for a treasure
buried somewhere on a South Pacific island. The strip then evolved
into a rollicking adventure yarn, with Crane introducing innovations
in storytelling, sound effects and layouts, as noted by pop culture
historian Tim DeForest:
Though played mostly for laughs, the storyline contained a notable
element of danger as well... Crane was developing strength as an
artist that added to his already strong figure work. He had an eye for
detail, paying close attention to background and to the overall layout
of each panel. He was an innovator in the use of lettering, using bold
type and exclamation points to enhance the emotions already expressed
by his character design... It was Crane who pioneered the use of
onomatopoeic sound effects in comics, adding "bam," "pow" and "wham"
to what had previously been an almost entirely visual vocabulary.
Crane had fun with this, tossing in an occasional "ker-splash" or
"lickety-wop" along with what would become the more standard effects.
Words as well as images became vehicles for carrying along his
increasingly fast-paced storylines. Following Wash's initial
adventure, the strip reverted to a dependence on gags for a time. But
Wash had acquired a taste for travel and adventure.
With the introduction in 1929 of the raffish soldier of fortune,
Captain Easy, Crane heightened the spirit of adventure and later
Sunday strip focusing on Captain Easy. NBM's Flying Buttress
Classics Library reprinted the complete run of
Wash Tubbs and Captain
Easy in a series of 18 volumes. Bill Blackbeard's introductions to
these books contain biographical and critical material.
World War II
World War II rendered the comic-opera settings of Tubbs' adventures
frivolous, and the strip took on a new tone. In 1943, an offer from
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate persuaded Crane to jump ship and
create a more realistic comic strip, Buz Sawyer. He left
Wash Tubbs in
the hands of his assistant, Leslie Turner, a boyhood friend who had
shared the hobo life with him.
Crane, an excellent draftsman despite his deceptively cartoonish
style, introduced more illustrative shading techniques to the daily
comics page. He progressed from line drawings with crosshatching to
grease pencil on textured paper, then to
Benday Dots and finally to
Craftint doutone paper. The Craftint paper, when brushed with chemical
solutions, revealed either one or two layers of diagonal shading.
Under Crane's brush, the technique yielded scenes of dramatic
atmosphere, such as junglescapes fading into the misty distance. As he
had done with Wash Tubbs, Crane traveled to various locations to
research his plot lines and visuals. According to Crane: "In using
benday, at first I thought in terms of blacks, grays, and white. Years
of indifferent results and frustration followed. Gradually, black
became less important. Today white is not just something to bring out
the color of black... on the contrary, black is something to bring out
the color of white".
Crane progressively relinquished his cartooning to assistants, and he
Orlando, Florida in 1977.
Buz Sawyer has been resurrected digitally as one of the vintage
strips in King Features' emailed DailyINK subscription service.
According to comics historian Jeet Heer, Crane had a relationship with
the State Department and the Navy Department and used the Buz Sawyer
strip for propaganda purposes in order to support American foreign
policy aims during World War II, the
Cold War as well as the Vietnam
Crane was awarded the National Cartoonists Society's Billy DeBeck
Memorial Award, later renamed the Reuben Award, for Cartoonist of the
Year in 1950, and their Story Comic Strip Award in 1965, both for Buz
Sawyer. In 1961 he was awarded the Silver Lady by the New York Banshee
Society. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of
Texas at Austin in 1969.
In 1965, he established the
Roy Crane Award in the Arts at the
University of Texas to encourage excellence and creativity in the arts
among undergraduate and graduate students. In 1980, this award was
given to Berkeley Breathed.
^ a b c d Harvey, Robert C. The Art of the Funnies, "A Flourish of
Roy Crane and the Adventure Strip". University Press of
^ Holtz, Allan. "Ethel Hays, Great Female Cartoonist," Hogan's Alley
issue #13. Atlanta, Georgia: Bull Moose Publishing.
^ DeForest, Tim.Storytelling in the Pulps, Comics, and Radio: How
Technology Changed Popular Fiction in America. McFarland, 2004.
^ Crane, Roy. "
Roy Crane and Buz Sawyer", Cartoonist Profiles
#3(Summer 1969), 10.
^ Heer, Jeet (October 2, 2015). "Pulp Propaganda: Roy Crane's Buz
Sawyer comics were famous for adventurous battles against America's
cold war foes. But no one knew that the U.S. government was behind it
all." New Republic. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
^ The Alcalde, November, 1980.
Goulart, Ron. The Adventurous Decade. Arlington House, 1975.
(Reprinted by Hermes Press, 2004.)
Marschall, Richard. America's Great Comic-Strip Artists. New York:
Abbeville Press, 1989.
Captain Easy: Soldier of Fortune, Rick Norwood, ed. Fantagraphics
Books, 2010. (Sunday
Captain Easy strips in color.)
Roy Crane Papers 1908-1977 at Syracuse University (primary source
Papers of R. C. Crane, Sr. (artist's father) in Southwest
Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University
ISNI: 0000 0000 2963 7348
BNF: cb11898094n (data)