Saturday, June 25, 2016

"Boy, that atom bomb sure was our pal." Buz Sawyer review

I've blogged before about Captain Easy, a great comic strip adventure hero who was created by Roy Crane. I have a lot of time for Easy, especially during the Crane years. Those comics have great action, humour and page design. Now, when Crane eventually left Captain Easy in 1943, it was to create a new strip: Buz Sawyer. I've been aware of the Fantagraphics reprints of Buz Sawyer but, based on what I'd read of that strip, it didn't interest me the way Easy still does. However, finding the first two Fantagraphics volumes (The War in the Pacific and Sultry's Tiger) on sale for 50% off, the price was right.

The titular hero, Buz Sawyer, is a pilot in the midst of World War II's Pacific Theater. Many of the adventure strips of the time involved their characters in the conflict (ie, Joe Palooka, Terry and the Pirates), but Buz Sawyer was designed from the outset to be a war strip - which meant it had to shift gears rather quickly when the war came to an end only two years into the strip's run.

Crane had prepared some real estate for the war's end, making occasional trips back to Buz's home town Willow Springs and introducing Buz's family and fiancee, even sending Buz home for Christmas 1944. The post-war strips (which begin in Sultry's Tiger) find Buz dealing with the post-war reality, finding himself unable to reassimilate with life at home and eventually becoming a commercial pilot - albeit, a commercial pilot who's always being sent to exotic locales and getting into two-fisted adventures. Essentially, Buz transformed into Captain Easy after the war.

Perhaps the most interesting character in the strip is Sultry, an exotic woman of some eastern origin who tries to romance Buz (that is, she's much like the Dragon Lady). Sultry is the main player of the best storyarc in Sultry's Tiger, that being one which involves her pet tiger scaring Buz's fiancee Tot, who falls off the ledge of a building in fright. For that reason, if you are interested in trying Buz Sawyer, I recommend you begin with Sultry's Tiger and skip the wartime version of the strip.

Although Crane's art on Buz Sawyer was as good as his Captain Easy work and he laboured much longer on Buz Sawyer, Captain Easy remains his definitive work - much as with other adventure strip creators who left their original creations (Milt Caniff's Terry and the Pirates, Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon) to create less-celebrated successor strips (Milt Caniff's Steve Canyon, Alex Raymond's Rip Kirby).

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