DAN FLAGGOriginal Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: McNaught Syndicate
First Appeared: 1963
Creator: Don Sherwood
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Newspaper comic strips that tell adventure stories, such as Secret Agent X-9 and Tarzan, were in decline during and following the 1950s, and gag vehicles like Miss Peach and Hi & Lois were the
prevailing trend. Nonetheless, stories about the war America was involved in during the '40s had been so popular, in all media, that editors naturally assumed Vietnam stories would be similarly popular in the '60s.
Dan Flagg started Monday, April 22, 1963, as a seven-day comic, from McNaught Syndicate (Dixie Dugan, Cranberry Boggs). The cartoonist behind it was Don Sherwood, who later drew the comic-book adaptation of The Phantom and the newspaper comics version of Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, but whose experience before hitting it big (or as big as he ever got, anyway) with Flagg was mostly limited to a couple of very minor strips called Captain Flame and Will Chance, and assisting on George Wunder's Terry & the Pirates (not, as reported in at least one prominent biographical sketch, Caniff's Terry, which ended long before Sherwood became a professional cartoonist).
Dan wasn't exclusively a Vietnam hero, but much of his activity as a Marine Corps troubleshooter took place in that locale. He investigated and righted military situations for the Pentagon and did many chores for his higher-ups, rather than simply performing as a Marine grunt in the war, but still made the Vietnam War a major part of his activity, and was associated with it in the minds of the reading public.
But that public didn't take to this war like the gung-ho previous generation had to World War II. In fact, as the '60s wore on, the American people became increasingly hostile to a war that sucked up young lives by the thousand but didn't seem to serve any popular purpose for the country paying for it. The strip, which started as only a modest success, lost papers during its first couple of years, to the point where Sherwood switched to the recently-combined Bell-McClure Syndicate (Don Winslow for Bell, There Oughta Be a Law! for McClure) in 1965 or early '66.
It continued to lose papers steadily. By that time, it was getting very hard to find. The new syndicate pulled its plug on June 15, 1967. That would have been the end of Dan, but in 1969, when Sherwood was doing Charlton's licensed adaptations of King Features properties, Sherwood did a couple of stories about Dan in the back pages of their Jungle Jim comic book title. And that was Dan's last gasp, except for a hard-to-find reprint album published in 2002.
By the way, Sherwood employed assistants/ghost creators from very early in his strip's existence, including writer Archie Goodwin (Manhunter) and artist Al Williamson (Flash Gordon). Their later collaboration, "The Success Story", positing an EC-style grisly end to such an assisting and ghosting gig, was allegedly inspired by hard feelings growing out of their relationship with Sherwood.
When Sherwood died in 2009, his obituary claimed Dan Flagg had run in "virtually every" newspaper in the country. If that hadn't been a grotesquely ludicrous exaggeration, Flagg would have been as well-known and long-lasting as Hagar the Horrible or Peanuts. As it is, he was nothing but a brief and scarcely-noticed blip on the radar screen of comic strip history.