JOHNNY HAZARDMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1944
Creator: Frank Robbins
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the 1930s, but its appeal seems to have waned some during the '40s. Still, some very fine aviation comics started during that decade, notably Roy Crane's Buz Sawyer and Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon. Tho nowhere near as famous as those two, Johnny Hazard, by cartoonist Frank Robbins, won more than its fair share of critical acclaim.
Johnny was similar in concept (tho not in physical description) to an earlier comic strip aviator, Scorchy Smith. This wasn't an accident. When he created Johnny, Robbins had been handling Scorchy's strip (which was distributed by Associated Press, a very minor player in the newspaper comics game) for years. Robbins was approached by King Features Syndicate, a very major player, about the possibility of his taking over Secret Agent X-9, but declined because he was more interested in starting a feature of his own. Shortly afterward, he submitted Johnny Hazard, which King launched on Monday, June 5, 1944.
As the story opened, Johnny, like most American men of his generation, was fighting World War II. But his gig with the Army Air Corps didn't last long, as D-Day came when the strip was only a day old. But the only effect civilian life had on him was to enlarge the scope of his adventures — as a freelance pilot, Johnny ranged throughout the entire world. (An early focus, tho, was China, putting him head-to-head with the rival Chicago Tribune Syndicate's Terry & the Pirates.) Johnny dealt with spies, beautiful women, smugglers, gorgeous dames, sci-fi style menaces, fabulous chicks, and all the other kinds of folks a two-fisted adventurer of his calibre would be expected to deal with. Especially good-looking females.
As he did, unlike many fictional two-fisted adventurers, he matured — not as quickly as real people, but after a third of a century or so, he was quite gray at the temples. And a third of a century was as long as the strip ran. It was popular enough at first, and ran far longer than most post-war adventure strips, but the times were against it. Newspaper editors were more interested in daily gags than continuous stories, and Johnny Hazard succumbed to the trend in 1977. Robbins went to work for DC Comics, where he drew Batman, and Marvel, where he drew The Invaders, and never again created his own feature.
Since then, Johnny Hazard has been the subject of sporadic reprints, from comics specialty publishers such as Pacific Comics Club, Pioneer Comics, and Dragon Lady Press. As well liked as it is by knowledgeable comics fans, the reprints will probably keep coming out every few years for a long time to come.