Night scene on the range. Artist: Stan Lynde.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Syndicated by: Chicago Tribune Syndicate
First Appeared: 1958
Creator: Stan Lynde
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In the 1950s, when Rick O'Shay began, westerns were probably the most popular genre of fiction in America, in practically all media. Television and movies teemed with them, as …

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… did paperback novels; and comic book racks sported hundreds of titles like Lash LaRue Western, Rawhide Kid and Tales of the Texas Rangers. But that's not the main reason Stan Lynde (rhymes with the verb "wind", not the noun "wind") decided on a western when he began planning his assault on the world of syndicated comic strips. As he explained it years later, "an Irish friend once told me the cowboy is America's folk hero, the equivalent of Britain's King Arthur and his knights."

That, and the fact that Lynde grew up in Montana, where the western setting is just everyday living. In the same interview, he added, "I really don't want to do anything else."

Lynde caught the cartooning bug early in life — even as a child, he subscribed to The Denver Post just so he could read Prince Valiant. He went through several jobs as a young man in the early 1950s, making numerous attempts along the way to get into comic strips. Rick O'Shay started making the syndicate rounds in 1957. The Chicago Tribune Syndicate (whose track record includes Gasoline Alley, Terry & the Pirates and many other immortal strips) picked it up, and started distributing it on Sunday, April 27, 1958. The daily version followed on May 19.

Rick was the marshall of a town called Conniption. His best pal was a mostly law-abiding gunslinger named Hipshot Percussion. The local saloon/bawdy house (The Crystal Pistol) was run by Gaye Abandon. The town gambler was called Deuces Wilde. Those who gagged on that sort of nomenclature probably didn't read the strip, which was packed solid with it. Those who didn't were better able to enjoy a classic piece of Americana.

Rick O'Shay started out like the modern Tumbleweeds, in the gag-a-day format that has pretty much dominated the comics page since the 1950s. The art style was very open, and not burdened with a lot of detail. Gradually, continuing storylines began forming, and the art took on the detail it needed to handle the greater depth. By the 1960s, Lynde was doing parodies of James Bond (only slightly related) movies, The Untouchables and other aspects of popular culture. Later, the stories took on more serious themes — but despite moments of suspense, he never abandoned the lighthearted approach. The art, beginning to end, was strong on composition and very evocative of the sometimes breathtaking vistas of western North America. As the strip developed, it increasingly came to represent Lynde's point of view and personal philosophy, which was shaped by the traditional values of the community he grew up in.

Lynde left the syndicate in 1977 — and since the syndicate owned the strip (which was the near-universal practice at the time), he left Rick O'Shay behind as well. The syndicate continued it, with new creative personnel. But it was like replacing Harold Gray on Little Orphan Annie — the strip had become far too personal a statement to be handled properly by anyone else. It bit the dust a couple of years later.

Lynde went on to another syndicated strip, Latigo, and an occasional graphic novel, all in the western genre. Later, he acquired the rights to his Rick O'Shay work for Cottonwood Publishing Co., which he runs from his home in Helena, MT. Cottonwood's first use of the character was in his memoir/reprint volume, Rick O'Shay, Hipshot and Me, which came out in 1990. Cottonwood has since issued several Rick O'Shay reprints.

In 1992, Cottonwood Press published The New Adventures of Rick O'Shay and Hipshot, which shows the characters in later years, after the strip ended. Rick has grown a moustache and married Gaye, and they have a son named Seth. Otherwise, Conniption is pretty much the same as it always was.


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Text ©2002-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Stan Lynde.