Initially titled Washington Tubbs II, it originally was a gag-a-day strip which focused on the mundane misadventures of the title character, a bespectacled bumbler who ran a store. However, Crane soon switched from gag-a-day to continuity storylines. He reinvented the strip after its 12th week to make it the first true action/adventure comic strip, initially by having Tubbs leave the store and join a circus. To research this, Crane spent many days with a circus, even incorporating characters in the strip based directly on the circus performers he knew personally.
Wash was a girl-crazy zany, and his character never truly changed even as the strip changed around him. After a Polynesian treasure hunt in which Wash made and lost a fortune, adventures followed in which he fell afoul of his arch-enemy, Bull Dawson, who reappeared throughout the series. Since the short Wash was not a fighter, Crane tried out several scrappier sidekicks until May 6, 1929, when he introduced Captain Easy, a tough, taciturn Southerner with a mysterious past. Easy gradually took over the strip and became its lead character, getting his own Sunday page, Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune, in 1933. Wash continued to appear as a supporting character, but he became steadily less important during the 1940s.
The Tubbs and Easy characters were owned by the Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicate. Crane left that syndicate and abandoned the strips in 1943 to begin Buz Sawyer, a strip he would own outright. After Crane’s departure, control of the strips passed to Crane’s assistant, Leslie Turner, who had worked on Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune since 1937. With Tubbs an increasingly unimportant character, Turner officially renamed the daily and Sunday strips Captain Easy in 1949.
Turner collaborated with a number of artists on the strip, including Walt Scott and Mel Graff. With Turner's retirement in 1969, control of the strips passed to his assistant, Bill Crooks. After more than 60 years in publication, the series was discontinued in 1988.
Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy were featured in Big Little Books during the 1930s. They also appeared in Dell comic books from 1936 (Captain Easy, as early as The Funnies #1, October 1936 cover date) and 1937 (Wash Tubbs, as early as The Comics #1, March 1937 cover date) into the 1940s.
The entire 1924-43 run of Crane’s strip was reprinted in Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy, an 18-volume series with biographical and historical commentary by Bill Blackbeard and design by Bhob Stewart. This series was published by NBM Publishing (Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine) on a quarterly schedule from 1987 to 1992.
In 2009, Fantagraphics Books began a series of hardback books reprinting Captain Easy Sunday strips in color, to be followed by a separate series reprinting dailies.
- Blackbeard, Bill. Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy, NBM Publishing, 1987-92.
- The Funnies #1, October 1936, Grand Comics Database
- The Comics #1, March 1937, Grand Comics Database