Rex and June. Artists: Marvin Bradley and Frank Edgington.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Publishers Syndicate
First Appeared: 1948
Creator: Nicholas P. Dallis
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As his motive for creating Rex Morgan, M.D., Nicholas P. Dallis cited more than a …

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… simple desire to write an ongoing soap opera comic strip. A psychiatrist by trade, he was hoping to make information about modern medicine available to the public in a form they'd find entertaining to read and easy to digest. And indeed, the fictional town of Glenwood, where Morgan's story is set, seems to have all the medical diversity of New York or Chicago — tuberculosis, organ transplants and drug addiction are only a few of the issues the character tackled in the early years of his practice.

Nonetheless, Dallis seems to have acquired a taste for writing soap opera comic strips. Within a few years, he'd launched two more — Judge Parker and Apartment 3-G, neither of which contains the least bit of information about modern medicine.

The Morgan strip started in 1948, after polls taken by Publishers Syndicate (The Great Gusto, Tales from the Great Book) indicated newspaper readers were likely to go for a down-home adventure series with a staid, serious professional man in the lead. In the opening sequence, Rex moved to Glenwood to take over the practice of a deceased colleague, and met the older man's assistant and office manager, June Gale. She stayed on, and became his constant companion and #1 supporting character.

In style, Morgan, drawn by figure artist Marvin Bradley and background man Frank Edgington (at first using the collaborative name "Bradley Edgington" — Dallis himself used the pen name "Dal Curtis"), was much closer to the slick, modern look of Mary Worth, by Allen Saunders and Ken Ernst, than to the unsophisticated schmaltz of that strip's predecessor, Martha Orr's Apple Mary. It was part of a new wave of postwar soaps that also included Mary Perkins On Stage and The Heart of Juliet Jones. Tho comics' earliest soap operas, The Gumps and Gasoline Alley, were still running (in fact, the latter continues even today), the latter style, characterized by photo-realistic art and less personal involvement on the part of the title characters, quickly came to dominate the comics pages' soap opera scene.

Morgan has enjoyed reasonable success as a comic strip, but hasn't ventured far from the newspaper page. It was never adapted into a movie or TV show, and in its only comic book reprint (published by Harvey Comics in 1952) the title was subordinated to the far more compelling Teen-age Dope Slaves.

Dallis continued as the strip's writer for decades, tho he did employ a succession of assistants (who almost qualified as ghost writers). When he retired, in 1990, his then-current assistant, Woody Wilson, assumed the complete job and started signing his name to it. Dallis died in 1991. Wilson continues to write the strip today. On the art side, Bradley and Edgington were succeeded in 1984 by Tony DiPreta, fresh from a 25-year stint on Joe Palooka. DiPreta retired in 2000, and was succeeded by Graham Nolan, a former Batman and Spider-Man artist.

Except for the fact that Rex and June are married now (they finally tied the knot on August 2, 1995) and that it's now distributed by King Features, Rex Morgan, M.D. continues just as it always has, appearing in 300-plus newspapers — not a runaway hit, but a very respectable level. And it continues to bring the issues of modern medicine to the attention of a reading public that enjoys the down-home adventures of a staid, serious professional man.


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Text ©2001-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.