If you’re a fan of the golden age comic books, Lou Fine is no doubt one of the artists who are in your mental hall of fame. After Fine left comic books for greener pastures, mostly advertising work, but also newspaper comics, he shed the dynamic style that his comic book fans loved in preference for a modern illustrative style. He was still great, but it was more of a quiet genius than artistic fireworks.
In 1959-62, Fine produced a soap opera strip titled Adam Ames. If it weren’t for Fine’s art, I don’t know that you could really claim there was anything terribly memorable about it. But it was by Fine, so it is definitely of interest. So I was pretty stoked when I came across an eBay auction for a stack of Minneapolis Tribune Sunday comic sections from the early 1960s. In the description listing some of the strips the Tribune was carrying at the time, I saw something completely unexpected. The seller mentioned that Adam Ames was one of those features.
The reason that was so unexpected is that Adam Ames was a daily-only strip. It was advertised as such in Editor & Publisher, and I’ve never found any reason to believe different. Could the Minneapolis Tribune have been running an ultra-rare Sunday version of the strip, so short-lived or experimental that it was unadvertised by the syndicate, that had somehow managed to get marketed to this one taker? Well, I thought, crazier things have happened. Thankfully the eBay auction wasn’t eliciting any big bids, so I managed to snag it.
When the package arrived, I tore into it like a kid on Christmas morning. Nothing I enjoy more than a mystery! As I went through the comic sections, half-expecting to find nothing at all, lo and behold but here I was seeing Adam Ames strips!
There was just one problem. While the rest of the section was in color (except for Feiffer — another bizarre find that I never expected to find running in a Sunday comics section!), the Adam Ames strips had just a single spot color. Here’s a sample:
I smelled a rat, and I bet you do, too. The title panel seems far too generic, and the panels are positioned and spaced awkwardly. This, I believe, is not a Sunday page that Lou Fine would produce. Not to mention that there would be no reason to print a single Sunday strip in mono-color in a Sunday section full of four-color strips.
Some sleuthing revealed an answer. This Sunday above, which ran in the Tribune‘s October 16th 1960 edition, is actually an edited version of the daily strips that would appear in daily papers on the 17th through 22nd. Here are the daily strips as they were meant to appear (sorry about the bad microfilm copies):
As you can see, someone (at the Tribune? in the syndicate bullpen?) has edited down a week’s worth of dailies into a Sunday format. In the process seven panels have been eliminated, and one word balloon moved. I have to say that the effect, story-wise, is not bad. The repetition of events from day to day is deftly eliminated, and almost none of the actual story is sacrificed.
That leads me to wonder … did writer Elliott Caplin and artist Lou Fine structure their strips so that this could be done? Did they get an edict from the syndicate that a certain number of panels each week had to be the equivalent of Sunday ‘drop’ panels? Or was this production of a Sunday strip out of a week of dailies something that was cooked up and handled by the staff of the Tribune with no input or assistance from the syndicate?
The more basic question, though, is WHY? Why was the Tribune so hot to trot over an Adam Ames ‘Sunday’ strip that they were willing to do a lot of extra work? Why were they willing to print a mono-color strip in amongst the rainbow of the rest of the section? I mean, if you’re going to go to all that trouble, heck, you may as well do a proper coloring job on the darn thing, right? And once they saw what it looked like (and it really did look like crap in amongst the four-color stuff) why did they keep on running it month after month (I have samples of it appearing well into 1961)?
I don’t have any answers, but I sure wish we could talk to Lou, or to an old Tribune staffer who was in on this deal, to get some!
By the way, if you’d like to see quite a long run of the Adam Ames daily strips, head on over to Ger Appeldoorn’s The Fabulous Fifties.