Cartoonist Burne Hogarth did several comic strips, such as Miracle Jones and Pieces of Eight, but is famous for only one — Tarzan, the newspaper comics adaptation of the famous jungle hero of Edgar Rice Burroughs, distributed by United Feature Syndicate (Peanuts, Twin Earths). But between two stints on Tarzan, he was responsible for another notable (tho short-lived) adventure Sunday page, Drago.
Drago debuted November 4, 1945, i.e., just after the close of World War II. It was set in contemporary Argentina, where a lot of ex-Nazis were said to have gone to hide when Germany became inhospitable to their ilk. Naturally, they formed a base of villainy for an adventure series with that setting to draw on, but there was more to it than that. Since Hogarth was a master of human anatomy (his books on the subject are still used by illustrators of all types), Drago ran into his share of beautiful women — and considering the proclivities of comics heroes such as Johnny Hazard, Casey Ruggles, The Spirit etc., “his share” meant he was constantly tripping over them.
Drago has been described as both an Argentine nobleman and a gaucho, or cowboy, which seems an unusual occupation for one of noble birth but has no relation. But it’s not completely unheard-of, especially considering Argentina doesn’t officially have dukes, princes and the like, and it does make for colorful characterization in an adventure hero. The contrast does seem to have contributed to reader interest.
Unfortunately, not enough readers seem to have been interested. This may be at least partly because the distributor, The New York Post Syndicate, doesn’t seem to have had much of a track record for promoting comics into great popularity. Typical among its offerings were The Goldbergs, by Irwin Hasen (Dondi), Silly Milly, by Stan MacGovern (who also did some editorial cartoons for the Post), and a few other minor ’40s offerings. Its most notable success was Mark Trail, which was taken over by other syndicates, finally winding up at King Features.
Whatever the cause, Drago lasted only slightly more than a year, ending November 10, 1946. Hogarth went back to Tarzan, where he stayed a few more years before moving on to other projects. He returned to the Ape Man in the 1970s, and painted a couple of books about the character. Drago has had only a minor afterlife, in the form of a reprint volume from The Pacific Comics Club (Prince Valiant, Dick Tracy). That 1985 book is now a collector’s item among knowledgeable comics fans, but not many others remember Drago.
10 strips 1945
63 strips 1946