Scorchy Smith was an American adventure comic strip created by artist John Terry that ran from 1930 to 1961.
Scorchy Smith was a pilot-for-hire whose initial adventures took him across America, fighting criminals and aiding damsels in distress. Later, Scorchy traveled the world fighting spies and foreign aggression.
Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 transatlantic flight increased interest in aviation, and together with several other flight-related adventure strips, Scorchy Smith debuted in 1930, created by John Terry for AP Newsfeatures. When Terry developed fatal tuberculosis in 1933, the strip was assigned to Noel Sickles. Sickles increased the popularity of Scorchy Smith, which became AP’s leading strip, creating a new school of cartooning in the process. Sickles’ impressionistic style and cinematic compositions, plus his frequent use of areas of pure black ink and Zipatone shading, was dramatically different from any other cartoonist at the time. Milton Caniff’s mastery of the medium is frequently attributed[where?] to his collaborations with Sickles.
In fall 1936, Sickles researched Scorchy Smith’s circulation, information that AP Newsfeatures never shared with their artists. Estimating that the strip was running in 250 papers across the country, Sickles determined that the syndicate’s monthly take approximated $2,500 a month, of which he, as both scripter and artist, received only $125. Sickles asked for a raise, and when his request was refused, he quit cartooning to become a magazine illustrator.
Sickles was succeeded by Bert Christman, who began drawing and scripting the strip November 23, 1936. Christman, a cartoonist who also co-created the Sandman for DC Comics, joined the U.S. Navy as an aviation cadet in June 1938, resigning his commission three years later to join the American Volunteer Group being recruited to fly for the Chinese Air Force. He was shot down, bailed out, then strafed and killed in Burma as a pilot with the AVG, by then famous as the Flying Tigers.
After Christman left Scorchy Smith, a succession of artists handled the strip, including Robert Farrell and Frank Robbins, who began signing the strip on May 22, 1939. Robbins, who had never had a feature of his own before, soon developed a solid reputation for creating comic-strip adventure. A wartime sequence set in Russia drew the following comment.”…formidable reality: it creates the sense of deep snows, it is full of bitter, bloody struggle”. In 1944, he was hired by King Features Syndicate, where he created Johnny Hazard, another pilot-adventurer.
After Robbins left the strip, it was taken on by Edmund Good (through 1945), Rodlow Willard (1946–54), George Tuska (1954–59), and Milt Morris (1959–61). At some point in the 1950s, African-American artist Alvin Hollingsworth worked on the strip, which was discontinued in 1961.
Scorchy Smith was reprinted in Famous Funnies and in two collections published by Nostalgia Press in the 1970s.
The daily strip from July 27, 1936, through July 30, 1938 and May 22, 1939 through March 11, 1944 by Noel Sickles, Bert Christman and Frank Robbins, have been reprinted in Big Fun Comics #1–9, (published by American Comic Archive.
In 2008, IDW Publishing published Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, which reprints the complete 1933–36 Scorchy Smith run by Sickles. ISBN 1-60010-206-9
27 strips 1940