Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Rick Yager

Richard Sidney “Rick” Yager was in born Alton, Illinois, on October 23, 1909. His birthplace was mentioned in the Wilmette Life (Illinois), July 27, 1995, and the birth date is from the Social Security Death Index.

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Yager was the youngest of four children born to Charles and Kathryn. Yager’s father worked in the milling industry. The family lived in Alton at 920 Langdon Street. Also in the household were Yager’s maternal grandmother and aunt.

The entire household was recorded in the 1920 census in Oak Park, Illinois, at 209 Forest Avenue. Yager’s father was the editor of a grain journal. The address was unchanged in the 1930 census.

In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Sundays: Volume One 1930–1933 (2010), Daniel Herman wrote: 

Rick Yager…attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and later became an instructor there. He also studied with Carey Orr, a political cartoonist for The Chicago Tribune. By 1931 he had found work as an assistant on the Buck Rogers Sundays….

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Yager produced the Buck Rogers Sunday page from October 1, 1933 to June 29, 1958. The daily strip began with Dick Calkins on January 7, 1929. Russell Keaton was the first artist to draw the Sunday page, beginning March 30, 1930. Years later, Yager drew the daily strip from January 22, 1951 to June 21 1958. He followed artists Murphy Anderson and Lee Dworkins. Phil Nowlan wrote the series from January 7, 1929 to 1939.

Time Magazine, June 30, 1958, reported the departure of Yager from Buck Rogers. Yager cited editorial interference. The National Newspaper Syndicate’s President Robert Dille said, “We’re happy he quit. We argued and talked about it and, believe me, there are times when a syndicate president would like to put an artist into orbit.”

Yager’s Buck Rogers material also appeared in comic books.

The Alton Evening Telegraph (Illinois), August 7, 1935, reported Yager’s marriage. 

Mr. and Mrs. Harry Gladstone Horder of Chicago have issued cards announcing the marriage of their daughter, Jane Margaret, to Richard Sidney Yager. The wedding occurred in Glencoe, Ill., Saturday, Aug. 3.

Mr. Yager is the son of Charles M. Yager of Chicago. He was born in Alton, and the announcement of his marriage was received with much interest by relatives and friends.

The 1935 Evanston, Illinois, city directory listed Yager at 600 Sheridan Square. He was a commercial artist in Chicago. In 1937, the address changed slightly to 598 Sheridan Square. The 1939 Evanston directory had Yager at 617 Michigan Avenue.

Cartoonist Yager, his wife and son were residents of New Trier, Illinois at 91 Beach Road, according to the 1940 census.

The Herald (Maywood, Illinois), November 28, 1940, reported the upcoming visit of Yager during National Art Week.

Richard Yager, cartoonist-author of “Buck Rogers” comic strip, and one called “Ships,” is appearing before Maywood Arts club Friday evening, November 29, at 8 p.m. The meeting will be held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. C.J. Wiegman, 221 South Nineteenth avenue. Hostesses in charge of refreshments are Mrs. M.M. Knorr, Mrs. F.A. Stromquist and Mrs. Sidney Hicks.

Mr. Yager, in addition to newspaper work, teaches cartooning at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and has for a hobby the collecting of Indian relics, some of which he will show to his audience Friday. He has been on many expeditions into the Indian country of the southwest.

Ger Apeldoorn said Yager was one of the artists on Albert Edward Wiggam’s Let’s Explore Your Mind in the late 1940s. According to American Newspaper Comics, Yager’s next strip was Little Orvy which ran from January 3, 1960 to January 21, 1962. Yager continued in comics by drawing the Sunday Grin and Bear It from the 1960s to 1991.

Great Lakes and Inland Waterways, March 1960, announced a new column by Yager.

Rick Yager, author of the world famous “Buck Rogers” comic strip and “Little Orvy,” next month joins the editorial family of our magazine. Mr. Yager, who lives in Glencoe, Illinois, has been a feature writer and artist for Great Lakes and Seaway Journal, a publication that became a part of our magazine.

Yager was introduced to readers in Great Lakes and Inland Waterways, July 1961. 

Rick Yager, world famous creator of “Buck Rogers,” combines his extraordinary imagination with an equally extraordinary knowledge of the Great Lakes to give our readers his popular “Tales of the Great Lakes.”

Mr. Yager had been writing and drawing Buck Rogers for nearly a quarter-century when he terminated the association in 1958. He has been in our family since April 1960, and his vivid recollections and alert, inquiring mind have been expressed on these pages and have drawn praise from our readers. Called one of the most talented artists and imaginative intellectuals of our day, Mr. Yager spends his spare time (which is nearly obsolete) with his hobbies of paleontology, archeology and artifacts from the “Old Copper Culture of Wisconsin.”

He also collects guns, knives, fossils, Civil War relics, rare stones, African wood carving and Navajo silver. His own contributions to culture include oil painting, wood carving and ship models.

Yager passed away July 22, 1995, in Evanston, Illinois. His death was reported in Wilmette Life, July 27, 1995, Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1995, and Chicago Sun-Times, August 2, 1995.

—Alex Jay

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