Scorchy Smith Comic Strip

Scorchy SmithI must admit that while I have heard of Scorchy Smith, I was not around on this planet to enjoy any of his adventures when they first appeared.

Scorchy Smith was and is an aviation adventure comic strip that appeared in newspapers from 1930 through 1961.

Inspired in part by the heroics of aviator Charles Lindbergh who in 1927 performed the first solo aeroplane crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, Scorchy Smith was created by artist John Terry, who debuted the pilot-for-hire character in 1930.


Scorchy Smith – art by John Terry.

As a pilot-for-hire, Scorchy Smith‘s adventures would take him and the reader all over the world.


A panel of the Scorchy Smith strip from 1931, with art by creator John Terry.

John Terry was stricken by tuberculosis in 1933, and rather than have the popular comic strip fall by the wayside, he was replaced on his own strip by artist Noel Stickles.

Stickles is considered to be a better artist (subjective, of course) that John Terry, but at least at the beginning Stickles maintained Terry’s art style while slowing putting in his own artistic elements.

Stickles, however, was too good to kept down, and soon enough his art style took off in the strip, which helped make Scorchy Smith even more popular. Image at top of this blog is by Stickles.

In fall 1936, Sickles researched Scorchy Smith’s circulation, information that AP Newsfeatures never shared with their artists. Estimating that the strip was running in 250 papers across the country, Sickles determined that the syndicate’s monthly take approximated $2,500 a month, of which he, as both scripter and artist, received only $125. Sickles asked for a raise, and when his request was refused, he quit cartooning to become involved in commercial illustration for magazines.


Three Scorchy Smith dailies from March 11-13, 1935. If you were to compare this art against say… Superman a few years later, it’s easy to state that Noel Stickles artwork is far superior.

Allen “Bert” Christman, who co-created DC’s comics’ The Sandman and kid sidekick Sandy took over on November 23, 1936.

While Christman’s art was decent enough – Milt Caniff-like (he did Steve Canyon and the more famous Terry And The Pirates)… and subjectively, I never much cared for his art – especially when compared to contemporary comic strip creator Hal Foster who did Prince Valiant… Christman’s Scorchy Smith was technically sound.

Christman continued to draw Scorchy Smith until June of 1938, when he joined the US Navy as an aviation cadet… hmmm, I wonder where he got that idea?

I’m, unsure who did the strip between June 1938 and May of 1939.

Scorchy Smith 1938

June 3, 1938 daily strip of Scorchy Smith by Bert Christman.

As for Christman, he resigned his Navy commission three years later to join the American Volunteer Group (AVG) who were being recruited to fly for the Chinese Air Force.

China, at this time was besieged by Japan… and as we all know, the US did not enter WWII until December of 1941 after its Pearl Harbor military base was attacked by the Japanese.

Christman only flew for a very short while with the AVG (known as the Flying Tigers), as his airplane was shot at on January 23, 1942. He bailed out, but was strafed by the enemy, killed over Burma.

After Christman and the unknown by me art team, Robert Farrell (writer) and Frank Robbins (artist) took over Scorchy Smith on May 22, 1939.


Frank Robbins art on Scorchy Smith published July 6, 1942.

Robbins left sometime in 1944, and was replaced by Ed Good…

Scorchy Smith 1944-06-11

Ed Good art on Scorchy Smith from June 11, 1944.

… then Rodlow Willard…


A June 4, 1950 Sunday page of Scorchy Smith drawn by Rodlow Willard.

Alvin C Hollingsworth… a Black American… and I only bring up his skin color because for the era, it was still incredibly rare for a Black man to work as a comic book or comic strip creator outside of publishers that catered to Black audiences.

The only other Black creator I can think of working on a “White” audience comic-anything, is Phantom Lady by Matt Baker, whose good-girl art on the book is some of the best the industry has EVER seen.

Hollingsworth was well into aviation-related comic book/comic strip material long before he took on Scorchy Smith.

He did a four-page war comic story called Robot Plane in Aviation PressContact Comics #5 (cover-dated March 1945). Throughout the rest of the 1940s, he also drew Holyoke Pubishing‘s Captain Aero Comics, and Fiction House‘s Wings Comics, where he did the feature “Suicide Smith” at least sporadically from 1946 to 1950.

I can’t find confirmation about when Hollingsworth worked on Scorchy Smith, but the page below is definitely credited to him – it’s from May 30, 1954.

AC Hollingsworth Scorchy Smith

May 30, 1954 Sunday strip of Scorchy Smith by AC Hollingsworth.

… then George Tuska …

Scorchy Smith George Tuska

February 21, 1955 daily by George Tuska.

… and finally Milt Morris from June of 1959 until the strip ended in December of 1961.


A Milt Morris strip of Scorchy Smith – date unknown (by me). Taken from, where there’s a biography of Milt Morris. I’m looking at the art and wondering when that insult will be hurled that will make a man out of Mac.

For those looking for a collection of Scorchy Smith strips, check out Amazon or e-Bay. There was a book issued back in 2007 called: Scorchy Smith And The Art Of Noel Stickles.

About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
This entry was posted in Aviation Art, Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s