In the early 1960s, Sputnik was recently in the news and Project Mercury was busily putting men into space. As the so-called “Space Age” got seriously under way, American entertainment media were gripped by a fad of stories set in the near future, using spacecraft that strongly resembled what audiences were familiar with from the news. In comic books, Dell Comics
launched Space Man in 1962, and in newspaper comics by that time, Sky Masters had already come and gone. Also in newspaper comics, General Features Corporation, a small newspaper syndicate that handled more columns than comics (but also had at least one other comic of note, Jeff Cobb), and had none that made a significant mark on the world, launched the space adventure comic Drift Marlo on May 29, 1961.
Drift wasn’t a swashbuckling alien fighter, like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. In fact, he did most of his adventuring right on the ground, as an up-to-date version of Sam Hill or Johnny Dynamite — a hard-boiled detective in outer space, like Star Hawkins, but more earthbound. His girlfriend, Claire, referred to him as a “galaxy gumshoe”.
Drift, whose surname was apparently chosen to remind readers of prose detective Philip Marlowe, ran the security department at a major U.S. space center, probably the one at Cape Canaveral, Florida, tho its exact location wasn’t specified. The crimes he solved usually involved interference with America’s space program, often by a rival foreign power, but didn’t always lead to a need for him personally to ride a rocket into orbit.
The strip’s creators, like the syndicate itself, didn’t have a lot of other credits in comics. Writer Phil Evans did a couple of other strips in the ’70s, Channel Jockeys and Diplomatic Pooch, but if anything, those had even less of an impact on the field. Artist Tom Cooke had minor credits as an assistant on Mary Worth and on the Gene Autry strip General Features distributed for several years, but did most of his work in other fields.
Drift Marlo was never adapted into movies or TV. But it did have a Dell comic book, as did Ponytail, Freddy and several other minor strips around that time. The publisher had just ended its long-time partnership with Western Printing, which was starting its own imprint, Gold Key Comics, right about then. Western had been supplying most of the properties Dell published, and Dell was working to develop properties of its own (such as Millie the Lovable Monster and Nurse Linda Lark) and to make licensing deals of its own. But since Western already had the Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. etc. licenses, Dell was limited to lesser-known properties like this one. Evans and Cooke handled the comic book as well as the strip.
Despite the fact that space held the public’s interest for only a few years, the newspaper version of Drift Marlo lasted until 1971. The comic book, however, ran only two issues, both of which came out in 1962.
172 strips 1961