Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Secret Origins

Flip Falcon in the Fourth Dimension!
Part 3

Science fiction arrived on the newspaper comics page in January 1929 with the debut of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D., written by Philip Nowlan and drawn by Dick Calkins. Five years to the day after Buck Rogers awoke from his centuries-long nap, Flash Gordon, written and drawn by Alex Raymond, premiered on the Sunday comics page, halfway through what comic-strip historian Ron Goulart called "The Adventurous Decade." On the road between those two comic strip milestones, in August 1933, Brick Bradford made its debut. Guided by writer William Ritt and artist Clarence Gray (later by Paul Norris), Brick Bradford would last for more than half a century, thrilling and intriguing its readers with storylines that ran on for months or even years.

In 1935, Ritt and Gray introduced an ingenious plot device to their comic strip. Originally a the eponymous device in a Sunday strip topper, the marvelous machine known as The Time Top descended into the Brick Bradford comic strip, and the redheaded Kentuckian went whirling away into multiple dimensions of time and space. Flip Falcon's Fourth Dimension Machine sounds suspiciously like a swipe of the Time Top. That's only one bit of evidence that Flip was based on Brick. Here's the clincher: in his first three adventures, Flip Falcon was called Flick Falcon--Flick to rhyme with Brick, and suitably alliterative for the comics. Don Rico drew the first few Flick/Flip Falcon stories (the writer is unknown), but by issue number four of Fantastic Comics, Flick became Flip, and the character's origin was obscured. And why was the name changed? If you have ever hand lettered a comic book story, you'll know why.

Flip Falcon starred in twenty-one issues of Fantastic Comics, his adventures finally coming to an end in 1941. Brick Bradford, the character that inspired Flip's creation, carried on for nearly half a century, with the last Brick Bradford strip appearing in newspapers in May 1987. The Time Top survives, and you can see it for yourself by making the trip to downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. There you will find a bronze sculpture of the whirling wonder, created by Jerry Pethick. As for new adventures of Flip Falcon, do what your friends are doing and read Five Star Comics!

Brick Bradford by Ritt and Gray in a British comic book. That's The Time Top in the upper left corner and at the bottom center. Brick is on the center left with one of his girlfriends. The alien creature on the opposite side of the page looks a lot like Rapuzzi Johannis' "Little Green Man" from the late 1940s. "Adventures in time and space"--so says the subtitle. You could easily replace Brick Bradford's name with that of Flip Falcon, hero of the fourth dimension!
Text copyright 2012 Five Star Comics

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