A 1948 Brick Bradford comic book cover.


Original Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1933
Creators: William Ritt (writer) and Clarence Gray (artist)
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Brick Bradford is remembered mostly as a sci-fi/space adventure strip, along the lines of Dick Calkins's Buck Rogers or Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon. But when it …

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… began, it more closely resembled another Calkins creation, Skyroads, which, like Tailspin Tommy and Smilin' Jack, was about adventurous aviators.

The daily strip began August 21, 1933, distributed by Central Press Association, which also did the strip Room & Board was named after. This small and little-remembered syndicate was a subsidiary of King Features, a leader in comics since the very beginning. Central specialized in small town papers, so it was some time before Brick was seen in the larger population centers, with their more sophisticated audiences. Nonetheless, readers responded well to storylines involving robots, dinosaurs, sub-atomic worlds and suchlike, and a weekend version was added 15 months later. Many client papers didn't publish Sunday editions, so the weekend strip debuted on Saturday, November 24, 1934.

Brick was created by writer William Ritt, a journalist based in Cleveland, Ohio (where, just about when Brick debuted, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were starting to develop Superman), and artist Clarence Gray (no relation to Little Orphan Annie creator Harold Gray). Ritt was apparently not shy about displaying his extensive education for the entertainment of readers, as story points often hung on details of classical mythology or the esoterica of modern science. But he was also a devotee of the more popular arts, and plots moved along at the breakneck pace of the best pulp magazine adventures.

Within a few months, the strip was appearing in larger papers, and the weekend version had taken the form of a regular Sunday page. A topper was added on April 20, 1935, called The Time Top. As the title suggests, it involved a top-shaped vehicle that could travel in time — beating out Doc Wonmug's device in Alley Oop by more than four years, as the first regularly-appearing time machine in comics. This series lasted only a couple of months, but it wasn't forgotten — on Oct. 17, 1937, the Time Top became a regular part of Brick's Sunday adventures. Whereas Oop's time traveling was limited to the past, Brick mostly visited the future. Thus, the entire cosmos became open to him. In the dailies, tho, Brick stuck to the present era.

When King Features got into comic books, so did Brick Bradford. Reprints of the strip appeared in the back pages of King Comics starting with the very first issue (April, 1936), along with Barney Google, Henry, Bringing Up Father and other syndicate properties. (Popeye was the central figure on the cover.) King's Ace Comics reprinted Brick from 1947-49. He had his own title, also consisting of strip reprints, for a few months in 1948, published by Standard Comics (Fighting Yank, Supermouse). The only original Brick Bradford stories to appear in comic book form were published in the late 1960s by King Comics, in the back pages of titles devoted to The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician.

Brick also appeared in a Big Little Book from Whitman Publishing, and, in 1947, a 12-chapter Columbia Pictures serial.

In the mid-1940s, Ritt apparently grew less interested in Brick Bradford, and the scripts showed it. He finally moved on in 1948, relinquishing first the daily and then the Sunday to Gray. The artist handled the entire job by himself until 1952, when health problems forced him to give up the dailies. Paul Norris, who for four years had been handling Jungle Jim for King, took over. Gray died five years later, whereupon Norris took over the Sunday as well. Norris had already made a mark on comics by co-creating Aquaman for DC, and is also known for his work on Secret Agent X-9, Vic Jordan and other features, but Brick Bradford eventually eclipsed everything else he did in the field.

Brick kept on having adventures for decades, continuing to do so on contemporary Earth in the dailies and in outer space of the future on Sundays; and Norris kept on writing and drawing them. But like most story strips, its circulation gradually decreased. When Norris retired, the Brick Bradford series was retired with him. The final daily appeared on April 25, 1987, and the final Sunday two weeks later.


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Text ©2001-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features Syndicate.