Kerry Drake is the title of a comic strip created for Publishers Syndicate (later Publishers-Hall Syndicate) by Alfred Andriola as artist and Allen Saunders as uncredited writer. It debuted on Monday, 4 October 1943, replacing Norman Marsh’s Dan Dunn, and was syndicated continuously through 1983.
According to Saunders, Dan Dunn rivaled Dick Tracy in pioneering themes and techniques of the American detective comic—until 1942 when Marsh had an argument with Publishers Syndicate and “stormed out.” The syndicate then had Saunders (as writer and the syndicate’s comics editor) and artist Andriola take over the abandoned newspaper strip and subsequently replace it in 1943 with a new detective strip, Kerry Drake.
Among Andriola’s many assistants or ghosts over the years, specifically in drawing, were artists Hy Eisman, Jerry Robinson, Fran Matera and most notably Sururi Gümen, the last of whom worked on the strip for 30 years and shared credit with Andriola from 1976 to 1983. Eisman has said he ghosted the strip from 1957 to 1960.
When the strip began, Drake was a criminal investigator for the district attorney. Later, after the murder of his secretary and fiancee, Sandy Burns, by Trinket and Bulldozer, he left the DA’s office and joined his city’s police force. Kerry fought Dr. Prey, the Man with No Face, and many others. The stories had plenty of suspense, action and danger, but unlike Dan Dunn, who had followed early Dick Tracy in often explosive shoot-out resolutions of crime, the emphasis was on how Drake traced clues with up-to-date crime analysis tools to solve complex cases that gradually unfolded and intrigued readers.
White-haired Drake was attractive and intelligent, while his nefarious opponents were initially drawn with facial distortion (an evil-is-ugly convention for villains that was also found in the cartooning of Pete Hoffman and Chester Gould). Under Gumen, however, the artwork became more consistently photorealistic. Meanwhile, Drake advanced in his career and developed in his personal life as Saunders combined action and drama. In 1957, Drake married Mindy, a police widow, and when they had quadruplets, he had to balance the conflicting demands of work and family. His younger brother, private eye David, better known as Lefty, then took over more of the adventuring and case resolution.
In 1970, Andriola received a Reuben Award for “Kerry Drake by Alfred Andriola,” without acknowledging that it was written by Saunders and ghost-drawn by Gumen. Saunders quit shortly after that, at which point Andriola became the official writer, although even then, according to Markstein, he hired ghost authors. When he died in 1983, Drake ended with him. After the strip no longer was produced for American newspapers, a comic book version was produced by the Swedish publisher Semic Press from 1984 through the late 1990s. Many of the earlier episodes were republished in comic book form by Harvey Comics and later by Blackthorne Publishing in its Reuben Award Winner Series.
49 pages/strips Kerry Drake 1973
41 pages/strips Kerry Drake 1974
48 pages/strips Kerry Drake 1975
34 pages/strips Kerry Drake 1976
20 pages/strips Kerry Drake Various