Tom Conroy #5: Warren Tufts
Here's the fifth installment of Tom Conroy's memoirs, illustrated with the 1949 Casey Ruggles
press kit. Casey Ruggles
began May 22, 1949 (seen below), followed by the daily on September 19, 1949. After the last Tufts' daily (April 3, 1954), his last Sunday Casey Ruggles
was published September 5, 1954. I've done some restoration on the color proof and the other press kit pages here.
Talking to Tufts
by Tom Conroy
It was the summer of 1961, and Roger Brand and I had hitchhiked down to see Joel Beck who was staying in Glendale or Pasadena. From there I hitched down to see my mom in Arizona, and when I returned to Los Angeles, Roger told me he had found Warren Tufts listed in the phone book. We called him and he invited us over for a visit. We hitched and took a bus and got there about noon. He was living in Santa Monica. This is the best I can recall of some of the things he talked about.
He started out as a radio actor when he was a teenager, and later that was how he created Casey Ruggles
. When we asked about Alex Toth he told us that he brought Toth in to help him because he was having trouble meeting his weekly deadlines. He said he had gotten into drugs to help him with the workload. I wasn't using drugs then but later realized he was talking about Benzedrine.
He was pissed at United Features because they handed his strip over to another artist when he was late on deadlines. What he didn't like was the fact the guy was a bad artist. A film studio had wanted to do Casey Ruggles
as a movie or television show. The syndicate had turned them down, and Tufts was now really pissed. The money would have been great. Tufts jumped ship with the syndicate the first chance he could get. He had a really great interest in Old California history, but complained how he couldn't travel much because he was stuck in his studio. He told us how he sat at the drawing board looking out at the mountains and trees and feeling trapped: "I spent my life chained to a drawing board".
I had some Casey Ruggles
original Sunday and daily strips that I got one day from the syndicate. About six Sundays and about three weeks of dailies. Also there were a bunch of loose panels from the first four Sundays. The panels were larger than the normal half-page originals. When I asked Tufts about them he said he had never drawn a complete drawing before. What he meant was a drawing with backgrounds and furniture, etc. So my guess is that the first few Sundays were drawn as single panels and later stuck together.
He told us how he and his dad worked together when he started the Lance
full-page Sunday strip. His dad ran the business, and he did the art. But finally that became a pain in the ass. Tufts had no love for newspaper feature editors. After a while they wanted the strip as a half-page. When they started asking for Lance
as a one-third page, he told them to kiss his ass. After five years Lance
ended. Tufts was drawing TV Western comics for Dell and also getting a few bit parts as an actor in some of those Western TV shows that were popular at the time. He told us he was working with Warner Brothers at trying to get Lance
as a TV series, but I guess it didn't work out. What he had said about being "chained to a drawing board" stayed with me a very long time. I was a pretty good cartoonist, and I am still glad I never got into drawing comics.
We spent at least a couple hours with Tufts, and then he drove us over to Dell Publishing and hooked us up with a guy who gave us some Alex Toth originals. It was a great day for Roger and me since we were really big Warren Tufts fans.
September 9, 1951
Labels: tom conroy, warren tufts