Red Ryder was a popular long-running Western comic strip created by Stephen Slesinger and artist Fred Harman. Beginning Sunday, November 6, 1938, Red Ryder was syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association, expanding over the following decade to 750 newspapers, translations into ten languages and a readership in the United States of 14 million. The 26-year run of the strip came to an end in 1964.
In 1938, when Harman met publisher/comic syndicator Slesinger, he headed toward happier trails. Slesinger brought Harman to New York and worked with him for a year before Red Ryder was ready to be syndicated. Slesinger then embarked on a successful campaign of merchandising and licensing with a seemingly endless parade of comic books, Big Little Books, novels, serial chapters, radio programs, events, rodeos, powwows, commercial tie-ins, and licensed products such as the Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun, which remains the longest continuous license in the history of the global licensing industry. The appeal of the Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun to youngsters was depicted in the Christmas classic film A Christmas Story, adapted from the autobiographical fiction of Jean Shepherd, by permission of Red Ryder Enterprises, Inc., which owns the Red Ryder trademarks and copyrights.
Astride his mighty steed Thunder, Red was a tough cowpoke who lived on Painted Valley Ranch in the Blanco Basin of the San Juan Mountain Range with his aunt, the Duchess, and his juvenile sidekick, Little Beaver, who rode his horse, Papoose, when they took off to deal with the bad guys. Little Beaver spoke in the pidgin English now considered an offensive caricature. (Example: “Spinach heap good. Me like’m!”) Other notable characters were ranch hand Buckskin Blodgett, Red’s gal pal Beth, and bad guy Ace Hanlon.
Harman was eventually acclaimed as one of the finest Western pen-and-ink artists, known for his dramatic sense of perspective and authentic action. Contributing artists and writers worked on the strip over the years, including Stephen Slesinger who scripted and approved all of the stories until his death in 1953; Jim Gary, Edmund Good, John Wade (“Johnnie”) Hampton, Robert MacLeod, and Bill Lignanti (of The Palm Restaurant fame). Charlie Dye, Johnnie Hampton, Joe Beeler, and George Phippen were co-founders of the Cowboy Artists of America of which Harman was also a charter member. When Harman left Red Ryder in 1963 to concentrate on his paintings, MacLeod continued writing the story continuity for the strip, with staff artists of Red Ryder Entp., Inc.
Gaylord DuBois, a prolific comic book writer associated with Slesinger, scripted Red Ryder and Little Beaver for a short period in 1938 and again in the early 1940s.
22 strips 1939
18 strips 1940
9 strips 1941
25 strips 1944
13 strips 1945
16 strips 1948
28 strips 1950
43 strips Sundays 1939
23 strips Sundays 1943
11 strips various