Raymond, Alex

Tagged: Comics | Art

(1909-1956) US Comic-strip artist. As Jane Frank aptly notes, he is "one of the most famous science fiction artists of all time, although he never contributed an illustration to any science fiction magazine or book", earning that status for his decade of drawing the comic strip Flash Gordon.

Raymond received his artistic training at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City and began his career by working as an assistant on the strip Tillie the Toiler; soon he was also contributing to Chic Young's Blondie and Lyman Young's Tim Tyler's Luck. In 1934, he began drawing three strips of his own: Secret Agent X-9, scripted by Dashiell Hammett; Jungle Jim, the adventures of a hunter in Asia, which inspired sixteen Columbia Pictures films (1948-1956) starring Jonny Weissmuller as the jungle hero, one with sf elements being Killer Ape (1953); and most notably, Flash Gordon. Though he soon dropped Secret Agent X-9, Raymond continued drawing the other two strips until he joined the United States Marines in 1944. His work during that decade established him as the first demonstrably modern comics illustrator, as he progressed from convoluted masses and strong, sweeping lines to a more precise and controlled style. He also refined the technique of "feathering" (a series of fine brush- or pen-strokes used in cartooning to create contours) to a degree as yet unexcelled in comic strips. His style was romantic, the protagonists' features impossibly heroic, and the settings exotic and fantastic. Largely due to the popularity of his artwork, the characters Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim were soon appearing in film serials, later followed by films and television programs. Raymond is also the credited author of some Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim books, though these are likely the work of ghostwriters.

After Raymond left the Marines in 1946, he created a new strip featuring private detective Rip Kirby, which proved very popular. In 1956, he tragically died in an automobile accident at the peak of his career; some have speculated that he deliberately sought to kill himself due to marital problems, though others scoff at the notion. Since his death, Raymond has been cited as a key influence by dozens of comics artists, and his work has been featured in countless compilations; the list below is necessarily incomplete. [JG/GW]

Alexander Gillespie Raymond

born New Rochelle, New York: 2 October 1909

died 6 September 1956

works (all probably ghostwritten)

graphic works (excluding non-sf compilations, foreign compilations, and ephemera)

about the artist

  • Tom Roberts. Alex Raymond: His Life and Art (Silver Spring, Maryland: Adventure House, 2008) [nonfiction: illustrated biography: foreword by George Lucas: introduction by James Bama: hb/Alex Raymond and photograph]

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