WHITEBOYMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Chicago Tribune Syndicate
First Appeared: 1933
Creator: Garrett Price
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Some people, hearing just the title of The Chicago Tribune/New York Daily News Syndicate's adventure comic White Boy, have concluded that it must have been old-time racial
propaganda, putting across the idea that having been born into the demographic of which he was originally a member was what made him the hero among his associates. Captain Confederacy also suffers from that sort of prejudice. But those who actually know White Boy all agree, it ranks high among adventure comics of the 1930s — the decade in which Dick Tracy, Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon and more all rose to fame.
In 1933, cartoonist Garrett Price was working in the Tribune's art department while freelancing cartoons to magazines. He was approached with the possibility of doing a Sunday page in the western genre, for the paper's syndicate. He took the job despite, as he put it, being "hampered by authentic knowledge of the West." The first page appeared on October 8 of that year. Set perhaps a bit before the era of the "classic" western, White Boy concerned a young man whose pioneer family was wiped out by Sioux. He was taken in by a rival tribe, who called him Whiteboy just as they'd give a descriptive name to anyone else. (Note: his name was usually given as one word, while the feature's title was two.) As he grew up, his closest associates were the braves Chickadee and Woodchuck, and especially the fair maiden Starlight.
White Boy was drawn in a realistic style, but one unadorned by the superfluous lines and detail that characterize a lot of "realistic" art in today's comics. It lacked the dynamism of a Milton Caniff (Terry & the Pirates) or a Percy Crosby (Skippy); and in fact, sometimes appeared almost static. But rather than render it flat and dull, this imparted sort of a slow motion air to it, which cartoonist and comics historian Coulton Waugh (Dickie Dare) called "dreamy". The storytelling style, too, had a measured pace, often pausing to devote a page to native legends, or to narrate the adventure in the form of related vignettes, each complete in a single page.
Unfortunately, the audience was looking for something more action-packed, so the series had poor circulation. Early in 1935, it was re-set in the present day, and the title was changed to White Boy in Skull Valley. Storylines shifted to more up-tempo fare about outlaws, masked heroes and even dinosaurs, tho Skull Valley wasn't precisely this one. On April 28 of the same year, Whiteboy's name was dropped altogether from the title.
Still, circulation didn't pick up. It was even suggested Price add a daily strip, to keep reader interest high between weekly installments, but even at once a week, the pace was more than he wanted to keep up. He made an effort to find fresh inspiration, but in the end chose to go back to illustration work, and freelancing cartoons to magazines. As comics historian Ron Goulart quoted him, "If there is anything I wish to be remembered for, it is not for being an unsuccessful comic strip artist." Skull Valley, formerly White Boy, ended August 16, 1936.
In his 1947 book, The Comics, Waugh gave it the following epitaph: "One more argument, perhaps, that the public does not like good art work, for reasons apparently best known to its own great, mysterious self."