Artist-Adventurer Teams With Scenarist
By Ogden J. Rochelle (E&P, 3/5/49)
During all the years that Tom Fanning adventured up and down the continent, taking a fling at each thing that came his way—boxing, ranching in the Southwest, running an advertising agency in Argentina and in New York—he recorded what he saw in authentic detail. The adventures were captured with pen and brush in sketch books that he saved.
That authentic detail is an integral part of the illustrations for the “Tex Austin” daily comic strip, being released by New York Post Syndicate to newspapers March 21. A Sunday page will begin March 27.
Dream Comes True
It is the fruition of a long dream for Fanning. Now past 40, he worked up his first strip at 18. It flopped.
“The gags weren’t good enough,” he explains.
He didn’t take a chance like that again. This time the gags and continuity are being written by a long-time friend, Sam Robins, who spent six years in Hollywood turning out original screenplays.
Robins scripted “Dead End Kid” stories, “Hopalong Cassidy,” “Billy the Kid” yarns, and musicals. He fathered one of the first anti-Nazi pictures, “Enemy Agent.”
Robins, formerly a reporter on the New York Times, has in many ways a career that parallels Fanning’s. He too wanted to be an artist, but it turned out that his talent for expression made him a writer. Robins was one of the top writers of film documentaries, so popular at the war’s end. He was far into a novel with a background in Texas when Fanning showed him the “Tex Austin” strip. Robins was drafted.
Texas in New York
The strip combines the Texas and New York locales of boxers and ranchers. The western continuity is done in a realistic vein, dealing as often with mining, oil, and dude ranching as with old-fashioned buckaroos.
After Fanning had hit the road through Western America until boxing was becoming a past, he turned to New York, where he worked as advertising illustrator and art director. In his home town, Minneapolis, he had gone to the School of Fine Arts. He went from New York to Montreal in advertising, then to the Argentine, where he helped organize an advertising agency and, more important to him, had time to draw Argentine boxers and gauchos.
In 1940 he joined the Argentine branch of J. Walter Thompson Co., three years later became vice president of Grant Advertising, Inc., later moving to New York. Ultimately he took on the presidency of Trans World Advertising, specializing in export. When exchange and export difficulties became too much to cope with, he tossed the executive hat out the window and gambled on the strip.
Together, Fanning, Robins and Bob Hall of the syndicate worked the idea out until they came up with what they call “the perfect story.”
But Fanning wasn’t satisfied until he got the approval of his 20-year-old daughter, who he says is his best critic. So, the strip goes ahead, and down in South America, beautiful Argentine Mrs. Fanning is preparing to join the family.