Cover of a Steve Roper comic book.


Original Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Publishers Syndicate
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Allen Saunders (writer) and Elmer Woggon (artist)
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Steve Roper is one of those comic strip characters who, like Nancy and Popeye, start out as supporting characters and wind up becoming the star. In his case, tho, he didn't remain in the top spot — eventually, he began sharing the strip he'd taken over with a still newer hero.

Steve turned up in Tepee Town, where Big Chief Wahoo lived, in 1940. Wahoo was the star of the Publishers Syndicate (Brother Juniper) comic …

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… strip where this happened, which was originally devoted to humor but had gradually been moving toward more serious storylines. The advent of Steve Roper accelerated the trend.

At the time of Roper's arrival, Wahoo's strip was being written and drawn by its creators, Allen Saunders (Mary Worth) and Elmer Woggon (Skylark,), respectively. Saunders remained, but Woggon moved on, his cartoony art style seeming less appropriate the more serious the adventures became. By the mid-'40s, tho Woggon's byline was still there, the strip's art was being ghosted by Pete Hoffman (whose best known credit is a strip about reporter Jeff Cobb).

Meanwhile, Steve Roper's adventures as a news photographer (sometimes against bizarre, gruesome, Dick Tracy type villains) were coming to dominate the Big Chief Wahoo strip, with Wahoo himself reduced to a mere sidekick. In 1944, Roper started sharing the title, and at that point, Wahoo stopped appearing in every story. In '47, the title was changed again, to Steve Roper, and after that Wahoo wasn't seen at all. It was about a year later that Steve made his only foray off the newspaper pages, into five issues of a comic book published by the company that put out Famous Funnies (the first modern-style comic book).

In 1954, William Overgard (Rudy) took over the art, while Saunders continued to provide scripts (at least for another year, after which he turned it over to his son John). Overgard had what turned out to be a profound effect on the strip's direction — in 1956, Steve met a character Overgard had tried, unsuccessfully, to sell a strip of his own about, an urban adventurer named Mike Nomad.

Gradually, Steve himself got "kicked upstairs". He aged fairly normally (if a little on the slow side) and rose in the ranks of photojournalists to the point where he held down a desk job while Mike took over more and more of the hands-on adventuring. Eventually, he retired (but it didn't quite "take", as he never did get permanently inactive).

The strip was re-titled once again in 1969. As Steve Roper & Mike Nomad, it's continued for decades, with King Features Syndicate as its distributor. Steve remained part of the cast, but wasn't the main focus of the strip during its final years. It ended on December 26, 2004.


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Text ©2003-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.