Lance (comic strip)
Lance, one of the last of the full-page comic strips, was self-syndicated by the artist, Warren Tufts. Comic strip historians regard Lance as one of the great adventure strips. It had an impressive five-year run through the late 1950s.
Although Terry and the Pirates continues to reach readers in reprints, Lance remains mostly forgotten except for critical acclaim. Comics critic Bill Blackbeard rated Lance "the best of the page-high adventure strips undertaken after the 1930s".
Characters and story
Comics historian Don Markstein described the setting:
- "Lance" was the hero's first name, not his last—his full name was Lance St. Lorne. He was an officer in the U.S. cavalry at Ft. Leavenworth, Ks., in the 1840s, when his unit's task was to tame the Western territories, making them safe for American settlers. The setting and the task provided plenty of scope for adventure—fighting the Sioux, interacting with real historical personages like Kit Carson, and whatnot. Like Casey Ruggles, Lance was characterized by high-quality stories and art, but also by historical accuracy. Unlike, say, Lucky Luke, when Lance met someone who had really lived, that person was as old as he'd actually have been at the time, and in circumstances congruent with the known course of the person's life. Lance started out in about a hundred or so papers. It was so successful, Tufts even did a daily version, as a companion. But his drawing was so meticulous, he was spending as much as 100 hours a week just producing the comic, leaving little time for such niceties as taking care of business. With United Feature, this had led to missed deadlines. With him responsible for the whole enterprise—something had to give. The daily didn't last long, and the Sunday, which had originally been drawn in the full-page format popular before World War II and not easily reformattable, shrank to a half page, and then smaller yet. Circulation began to fall.
Originally, it was formatted like Prince Valiant, with text in captions but minus balloons. Eventually, it switched to the more familiar conventional comics format. The Sunday strip began June 5, 1955. The last full page was #85. After that, the strip appeared in half page and tab formats. The daily strip began January 14, 1957 and lasted at least until February 15, 1958. Tufts' Casey Ruggles was referenced when Ruggles made a brief appearance in the daily strip.
The final Lance strip was #261, published 29 May 1960.
- Loud Thunder (#1-15) Fall 1834
- Trappers and Scouts (#16-55) Winter/Spring 1835
- The Beginning (flashback) (#56-58) 1776 - 1834
- Kit Carson (#59-78) Summer/Fall 1835
- Many Robes (#79-85) Winter 1835/36
- Valle (#86-114) Spring 1836 - Summer 1837
- The Rangers (#115-127) Summer/Fall 1837
- The Pass (#128-139) Winter 1837
- Washington (#140-145) Spring 1838
- Billy Benedict (#146-161) Summer 1838
- California Independence (#162-188) 1838 - 1845
- The War with Mexico (#189-201) 1845
- Wheatcroft (#202-219)
- El Carnicero (#220-231)
- Papita (#232-243)
- Nelly Gray (#244-261) 1847
In the United States, reprints of Lance are rare. The most extensive is The American Comics Archive reprint Lance in their Big Fun comics magazine. In Big Fun #5, devoted solely to Lance, they reprinted Sundays and dailies from the beginning through August 20, 1957. Comics Revue had Lance as a cover feature on several issues.
The series was recently completely reprinted in Portugal (4 volumes) and Germany (5 volumes) in their respective languages.