King of the Royal Mounted, from a Dell comic book.


Original Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1935
Creator: Stephen Slesinger
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Stephen Slesinger is remembered more for promoting comics (such as Ozark Ike and Og, Son of Fire) than creating them. But he was the one who came up with the thought that a …

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… heroic member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would be a good character to promote; and the creative people he hired to produce the strip don't seem to have put much of a personal stamp on it. So it appears he's more-or-less the creator of this one.

Comics historian Ron Goulart, whose own credits include Star Hawks, has observed that an earlier Mountie strip, Men of the Mounted (done for The Toronto Star, which syndicated it only in Canada), was in position to have inspired Slesinger. A story from it, starring a Corporal King, was adapted into a Big Little Book by Whitman, with whom he regularly did business, and that may have given him the idea. What is known for sure is that Slesinger's hero was also named Corporal King (tho he was promoted to Sergeant early on), and that King of the Royal Mounted debuted from King Features Syndicate on Sunday, February 17, 1935 — the day after Men of the Mounted ended. A daily version was added during March, 1936.

One of the ways Slesinger promoted his new strip was by hiring a popular adventure story author as its writer. (This ploy was not unheard-of — a year earlier, King Features had hired Dashiel Hammett to write Secret Agent X-9.) After approaching several, he wound up with Zane Grey. But it was just for the name recognition. Grey's son, Romer, seems to have done some of the writing, but it's unlikely Grey himself ever did. Slesinger was less picky about the artist, assigning Allen Dean, who already worked for him, to draw it. Grey's byline stayed on the strip as long as it lasted, but Dean moved on after a couple of years. He was replaced first by Charles Flanders (The Lone Ranger) and later by Jim Gary, who stayed with it and became the artist most associated with the feature.

The following year, King (first name Dave, by the way, tho it was seldom used) was a movie star. 20th Century Fox released King of the Royal Mounted on Sept. 11, 1936. The title character was played by Robert Kent (who later had roles in one each of Little Orphan Annie's and Joe Palooka's movies). Again, Zane Grey may not have had much to do with the writing, but his name was plastered all over it. The feature was re-titled Romance of the Royal Mounted when it was released on video.

In 1940, Republic Pictures (Spy Smasher, Dick Tracy) used the same title for a 12-part serial. The first chapter came out Sept. 20 of that year. This one starred Alan "Rocky" Lane, later the voice of the TV talking horse, Mr. Ed. Republic gathered the chapters into a feature, The Yukon Patrol, released April 30, 1942. On Oct. 17 of the same year, Lane starred in a second Republic serial, King of the Mounties, also a 12-parter.

Whitman published King in a Big Little Book in the late 1930s. His comic book career began with Feature Book #1 (May, 1937 — later issues starred Popeye, Little Annie Rooney and other King Features characters). In 1938, he appeared in Dell Comics' Famous Feature Stories alongside Terry & the Pirates, Tailspin Tommy, Mutt & Jeff and other famous features. He had a run in King Comics, which also ran Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician and other King Features strips. Later, he appeared in the back pages of Red Ryder, another Slesinger-managed property. Between 1948 and '58, he appeared in 29 issues of either Four Color Comics (Dell's catch-all title) or his own comic.

In fact, the comic book outlasted the newspaper comic, which ended in March, 1955. Since the '50s, there have been no movies, no comics, and despite the Zane Grey connection, not much remaining name recognition.


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Text ©2005-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Stephen Slesinger.