JANE ARDENMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Register and Tribune Syndicate
First Appeared: 1928
Creators: Monte Barrett (writer) and Frank Ellis (artist)
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Jane Arden was a woman newspaper reporter in the early-to-mid 20th century. Back then, newsmen often referred to their female colleagues as "sob sisters", and their assignments were weighted toward "soft" news such as society goings-on and advice columns. But Jane's reporting was as hard-hitting as any man's. And she
wasn't content to write about crooked politicians and organized crime — she was more interested in putting the bad guys out of business. Sort of like Brenda Starr, who became famous for exactly that. But by the time Brenda came along, Jane had been doing it for more than a year and a half.
Jane's daily strip started Monday, November 26, 1928. It was distributed by The Register & Tribune Syndicate, which later experimented with putting a comic book section in Sunday papers, starring The Spirit. It was created by writer Monte Barrett, who has few other comics credits and is a completely separate person from the heavyweight boxer of that name; and artist Frank Ellis, who also drew obscure, short-lived strips called The Reincarnation of Eve and Parking with Peggy. Barrett stayed with Jane a couple of decades, but Ellis moved on relatively quickly. His successors include Jack W. McGuire (The Red Knight), Jim Seed (Christopher Strong) and Bob Schoenke (Jack Armstrong).
Jane's supporting cast included a chubby, less accomplished reporter named Tubby, no relation to Little Lulu's friend; and her cute, star-struck assistant, Honey Chile. She also worked with Police Inspector Murphy, who took care of the tedious arresting job, after Jane had done the important, fun stuff, bringing the illegal activities to light.
Jane's comic was more popular overseas than in America, but it still had enough American following to spawn media spin-offs. In 1937, she became the subject of a weekly radio show, with Broadway actress Ruth Yorke in the title role. A movie about her adventures, starring Rosella Towne, was released March 18, 1939. The radio show lasted a couple of years, but the movie, tho apparently intended as the opening shot of a series, fizzled. Neither Yorke nor Towne had other roles connected with cartoon properties.
And of course, there were comic books. Harry "A" Chesler (Amazing-Man, The Black Dwarf) reprinted her in Feature Funnies starting with its first issue (October, 1937) and continuing even after Quality Comics (Plastic Man, The Ray) took over and renamed it Feature Comics. She remained there until the comic strip reprints started being squeezed out by home-grown features like Doll Man and Swing Sisson. Her last appearance there was in #31 (December, 1941). The feature that replaced her could be Zero (a ghost detective) Bruce Blackburn (a spy), Rusty Ryan (who later did superhero work masquerading as a U.S. flag), Samar (a Tarzan-like jungle man) or The Voice (a detective), all of whom, along with several fillers, started in the 32nd issue. Quality also ran her in Crack Comics #s 1-25 (May 1940 through September 1942), while The Clock and The Black Condor were its alternating cover stars. Then, after five years in the back pages, she was washed up at Quality.
Jane finally achieved comic book stardom in 1948, when St. John Publishing Co., which also licensed Baby Huey from Paramount and Mighty Mouse from Terrytoons, gave her a title of her own and filled it from cover to cover with her reprinted adventures. But the glory was short-lived. Only two issues came out, and that was the end of Jane Arden in comic books.
The newspaper comic went on for another 20 years, but finally bit the dust in 1968.