Alex Raymond, American (1909 - 1956)

Alex Raymond

Alexander Gillespie "Alex" Raymond (October 2, 1909 – September 6, 1956) was an American cartoonist, best known for creating Flash Gordon for King Features in 1934. The strip was subsequently adapted into many other media, from a series of movie serials (1936–1940) to a 1970s television series and a 1980 film.

Raymond's father encouraged his love of drawing from an early age, leading him to become an assistant illustrator in the early 1930s on strips such as Tillie the Toiler and Tim Tyler's Luck. Towards the end of 1933, Raymond created the epic Flash Gordon science-fiction comic strip to compete with the popular Buck Rogers comic strip and, before long, Flash was the more popular strip of the two. Raymond also worked on the jungle adventure saga Jungle Jim and spy adventure Secret Agent X-9 concurrently with Flash, though his increasing workload caused him to leave Secret Agent X-9 to another artist by 1935. He left the strips in 1944 to join the Marines, saw combat in the Pacific Ocean theater in 1945 and was demobilized in 1946. Upon his return from serving during World War II, Raymond created and illustrated the much-heralded Rip Kirby, a private detective comic strip. In 1956, Raymond was killed in a car crash at the age of 46; he was survived by his wife and five children.

He became known as "the artist's artist" and his much-imitated style can be seen on the many strips he illustrated. Raymond worked from live models furnished by Manhattan's Walter Thornton Agency, as indicated in "Modern Jules Verne," a profile of Raymond published in the Dell Four-Color Flash Gordon #10 (1942), showing how Thornton model Patricia Quinn posed as a character in the strip.
Numerous artists have cited Raymond as an inspiration for their work, including Jack Kirby and Bob Kane. George Lucas cited Raymond as a major influence for Star Wars. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1996. Maurice Horn stated that Raymond unquestionably possessed "the most versatile talent" of all the comic strip creators. He has also described his style as "precise, clear, and incisive." Carl Barks described Raymond as a man "who could combine craftsmanship with emotions and all the gimmicks that went into a good adventure strip." Raymond's influence on other cartoonists was considerable during his lifetime and did not diminish after his death.

Alexander Gillespie (Alex) Raymond was born in New Rochelle, New York, as the son of an engineer. Although he showed an early interest in drawing, he had his first job as an order clerk in Wall Street. When the economic crisis hit the USA in 1929, he enrolled in the Grand Central School of Art in New York City. A year later he started working with Russ Westover, the creator of 'Tilly the Toiler' and was introduced to King Features Syndicate.

Shortly afterwards, he transfered to Lyman Young ('Tim Tyler's Luck'), from 1930 to 1933. In 1932 and 1933, he ghosted both Young's daily strips and Sunday pages of 'Tim Tyler'. In this same period, he additionally assisted Chic Young on 'Blondie'. At the end of 1933, Raymond was asked by King Features Syndicate to create a Sunday page that could compete with 'Buck Rogers'. Together with writer Don Moore, Raymond came up with the science-fiction comic 'Flash Gordon' and its complentary strip, 'Jungle Jim', an adventurous saga set in South-East Asia. In addition, Alex Raymond signed on to draw 'Secret Agent X9', a daily strip scripted by Dashiell Hammett for the Evening Journal. All three creations started in January, 1934.

While working on his comic series, Raymond additionally produced illustrations for Blue Book, Look, Collier's and Cosmopolitan. By the end of 1935, Alex Raymond stopped with 'Secret Agent X9', leaving it to Charles Flanders, to spend more time on his Sunday features. In particular, 'Flash Gordon' became world famous. In 1944, Raymond joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served in the Pacific, while his comics were continued by his assistant Austin Briggs.

Demobilized as a major in 1946, Raymond created 'Rip Kirby', a daily police strip, which also enjoyed enormous success. Alex Raymond died at the height of his fame, on 6 September 1956, after a car accident that also injured Stan Drake. Alex Raymond's influence on other cartoonists was considerable during his lifetime, and has not diminished after his death. The 'Flash Gordon' newspaper strip was continued by artist Jim Keefe.

Alex Raymond about his comic art:
"I decided honestly that comic art is an art form in itself. It reflects the life and times more accurately and actually is more artistic than magazine illustration - since it is entirely creative. An illustrator works with camera and models; a comic artist begins with a white sheet of paper and dreams up his own business - he is playwright, director, editor and artist at once."

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