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Adams Secret Agent Corrigan

The Boy Wonder: Neal Adams and Ben Casey ~Ghost Stories

According to several exhaustive lists, Adams penciled and inked every line of Ben Casey throughout its run.  Two writers, initially Jerry Caplin (the 3rd Caplin brother, Al Capp and Elliot the other two) and later Jerry Brondfield shared writing duties (with Adams also stepping in occasionally to write the scripts) although bylines for individual stories are not known.   

Having the sole responsibility for the art was unusual for a photo-strip. The extreme on one side might be Frank Hampton's English S/F strip Dan Dare, a factory production with Hampton providing artistic direction over an army of assistants who were involved in building life-size models/props and photographing reference for every panel. Most American cartoonists instead shouldered the work alone with a little help from their friends.  Leonard Starr and John Prentice, for example, employed assistants extensively for backgrounds almost the entire run of their respective strips.  

Many of these assistants would go on to do their own strips or assist others.  Al Williamson, a one time assistant for Prentice, used ghosts as a break from the relentless deadlines and would readily admit who was helping him with Corrigan, what the other artist did and when.  (The byline would rarely indicate a temporary or not-so-temporary change--the strip's artist being a brand name associated with the title.) 

Adams was among the select group who could step in and produce a photo-strip.  

The Heart of Juliet Jones by Stan Drake--Adams did two weeks of dailies.  What year has not known for sure in the usual indexes.  Some sources give 1966, the period when Ben Casey had ended but before the Warren period begins and when Adams was pinch-hitting for Lou Fine on Peter Scratch.  In Stan Drake's 1997 obituary published in the Comic Journal, Adams remembers the year as 1963 and called the experience "the privilege beyond privileges"  (Too bad the Journal couldn't manage to find a real Drake panel to accompany the article) and once said he was sure Drake "didn't think much of what I did."

If 1963 is the year, then it seems clear to me that Adams ghosted sometime during a story running May to September 1963 about the troubled marriage between a temperamental movie star and her screenwriter-gofer husband, both under the thumb of an egomaniac bald headed director.  It appears that Drake was coming in and out of the continuity at this time.  There is ample evidence of other hands and unsigned strips as well until about the second week of September where it becomes undeniably Drake again for the duration of the year. 

Examining the story for a two week block where the strips are not Drake, but seem to be from a single artist who could be Adams, I would say the best candidate is Monday June 24 to Saturday July 6  These strips would've been done when Adams was only 4 months or so into his own strip (right after the storyline in shown in The Daily Adams).  

Tuesday 6-25

Tuesday, 2 July

Friday July 5

At the San Diego ComicCon in 2003, I had the opportunity to briefly speak to Adams at his Continuity Studios booth about a piece of mystery artwork.  I was helping Stuart Ng with his booth and we had a page on consignment of Cannon, Wally Wood's secret agent strip from the 70s, that another customer suspected was Adams ghosted art.  Adams, along with several family members looking over his shoulders who seemed far more confident in the process of identifying his style, confirmed it. Yes, it was his. (Bottom 3 row of panels, page 65 of The Compleat Cannon, if you're interested in looking it up.) 

I asked Adams about the two weeks of Juliet Jones but he drew a complete blank.  He denied ever saying it was 1963, of being that specific even as to year, and if the Drake obit had it that way, he was surely misquoted.  He simply can't recall any details of his ghosting and furthermore said he has absolutely no interest in such things.  He leaves the archiving of his past work to his children and his army of collectors.  When I asked him if he could just remember if the ghosting came early in his Ben Casey days (as these strips would have been) or late, before the end of the strip in 1966, he said, "Late . . . . I think."

Secret Agent Corrigan--The week below in 1967 (From Comic Art Showcase #2)






Peter Scratch by Lou Fine.  The Adams Index/Checklist gives 32 days worth of strips in the fall of 1966. Interestingly, the same final period in Ben Casey is Adams at his most layered.  Each panel is drenched with tone and dramatic lighting.  Here the style is much simpler.  Casey ends that month even though it was still carried by 324 papers; Scratch didn't last out the year.

Adams Peter Scratch Tuesday

Adams Peter Scratch Wednesday

Adams Peter Scratch Thursday


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