Gasoline Alley, by Dick Moores
Gasoline Alley (1976)

Dick Moores was an American artist for newspaper comics and comic books. He worked on various Disney comics between 1942 and 1946, most notably as an inker on Floyd Gottfredson's 'Mickey Mouse' dailies, and as a penciller on the 'Uncle Remus and his tales of Brer Rabbit' Sunday page (1946-1950) and several Disney related comic books by Dell Comics (1946-1956). Moores was the first artist to draw the long-running newspaper comic 'Scamp' (1955-1988), based on the little puppy from 'Lady and the Tramp' (1955). He has also ventured into animation through his company Telecomics Inc. (1950-1951), and was the sole creator of the newspaper comics 'Jim Hardy' (1936-1942) and 'Merton Musty' (1948-1953). Between 1959 and 1986 he was the second artist to continue Frank King's 'Gasoline Alley', the comic he remains mostly associated with.

Early life and career
Richard Arnold Moores was born in 1909 in  Lincoln, Nebraska. The family later moved to Omaha in the same state. His father was a record player salesman and his mother a piano teacher, but he didn't follow into his parents' musical footsteps. Instead, he studied art at the Fort Wayne Art School, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles. His comics career took off when he assisted Chester Gould on the backgrounds and lettering of 'Dick Tracy' between 1932 and 1936. During this period, he did several attempts at creating his own newspaper comic. In 1936, he managed to sell his crime comic 'Jim Conley' to the United Feature Syndicate. Moores wanted to break with typical clean-cut heroes in comics and made the protagonist an outlaw. Since no paper would touch it Moores allowed a few changes to make his title character more relatable and "good". After sanitizing and rebaptizing the character into a newspaper reporter called 'Jim Hardy', the daily strip finally appeared in print in May 1936. Apart from newspapers, reprints could also be read in Tip Top Comics. Later Moores introduced a cowboy, Windy, and his horse Paddles in the series, after whom the comic would eventually be retitled to 'Windy and Paddles' in 1941. Nevertheless, 'Jim Hardy' was never a huge success and ended its run in October 1942. 

Jim Hardy, by Dick Moores
'Jim Hardy'

Duck & Mouse
After moving to California, Moores got a job with the comics department of the Walt Disney Studios in October 1942. For a period of 14 years, he worked on several Disney newspaper comics which were distributed by King Features Syndicate. His first job was inking Bob Karp and Al Taliaferro's daily and Sunday 'Donald Duck' strip from mid November 1942 until late February 1943. Moores would return to the 'Donald Duck' strip once again in July-August 1952 as a penciller replacing Taliaferro during illness. By January 1943 Moores replaced Bill Wright as the regular inker of Floyd Gottfredson's 'Mickey Mouse' daily strip. He remained associated with this comic until January 1946. During Moores' tenure, the comic regularly switched from continuity to gag-a-day format. One notable story, 'Mickey Mouse and Billy, the Mouse' (1945), had Moores switch from pen to brushwork for his inking. It was the only occasion on which Walt Disney personally intervened. He called Gottfredson and requested that the team would return to inking with a pen. In 1945 Moores provided the artwork for 'Chesty and Coptie', a comic book produced by the Disney Studio's in cooperation with the Los Angeles Community Chest, an organization which helped soldier's families in need during World War II.

Uncle Remus by Dick Moores
'Uncle Remus' Sunday page (5 October 1947) - © Disney

Brer Rabbit
Between 1943 and 1945, Moores furthermore inked and lettered Paul Murry's Sunday pages starring 'Joe Carioca' (1943-1944) and 'Panchito' (1944-1945), two South-American characters originating from the animated features 'Saludos Amigos' (1943) and 'The Three Caballeros' (1945). He subsequently worked as Murry's inker on the Sunday page series 'Uncle Remus and his tales of Brer Rabbit', which debuted on 14 October 1945. By the spring of 1946 Murry left the studios and Dick Moores became the sole artist. Originally written by Bill Walsh, the initial 'Uncle Remus' stories were rather faithful adaptations of the animated segments from Disney's upcoming film 'Song of the South' (1946). Later on, the strip turned to original stories in a gag-a-week format, written by George Stallings. Brer Rabbit continued to outwit his main foes, Brer Fox and Brer Bear, for years to come in American newspapers. The cast was expanded by several other anthropomorphic swamp animals, all more than willing to swindle each other. Although the characters continued to speak in "southern slang", the strip lost most of its association with the movie and Joel Chandler Harris' original 19th century book collections of southern African American folklore. The freedman Uncle Remus, who appeared in the film as a live action character, only appeared as a silhouette in the comic's title panel. Moores worked with Stallings on the weekly adventures of the swamp folk until February 1950. George Stallings continued the feature with the artists Riley Thomson (1950-1959) and Bill Wright (1959-1962) until 1962. Writer Jack Boyd and artist John Ushler then took over from 1962 until the end of the newspaper comic in December 1972.


'Scamp' Sunday comic from 1956 - © Disney

Scamp
Between 1950 and 1955 Moores served as an inker for Manuel Gonzales on the newspaper adaptations of Disney films like 'Cinderella' (1950), 'Alice in Wonderland' (1951), 'Peter Pan' (1953), 'Ben and Me' (1953), 'Peter and the Wolf' (1954) and, most notably, 'Lady and the Tramp' (1955). The latter resulted in the launch of a spin-off newspaper strip with 'Scamp', based on the little puppy in 'Lady and the Tramp' (1955). The writer was King Features editor Ward Greene, whose short story 'Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog' had served as main inspiration for the film in the first place. Greene was even credited for his work! Of all comics ever created around a character from a Disney movie 'Scamp' is the most perplexing. The dog was only seen during the final five minutes of the film and didn't even have a speaking line, nor a name! But since he was a puppy dog publishers considered him suitable enough to carry his own title. On 31 October 1955, four months after the film premiered, the first 'Scamp' daily strip was published in newspapers, drawn by Moores. A Sunday page was launched by the same team in the following year, in January 1956. Greene and Moores collaborated on three continuing stories with Scamp, his sisters, parents and the other canine characters from the movie until April 1956. From then on the comic switched to a gag-a-day format, mostly dealing with Scamp's amazement when meeting other neighborhood animals. Both Greene and Moores however left the comic around the same time. 'Scamp' continued to appear in newspapers until 1988, written by Bill Berg, drawn by Bob Grant (1956-1962, 1965-1968), Chuck Fuson (1962-1965), Glenn Schmitz (1968-1969), Mike Arens (1969-1976), Sparky Moore (1976-1978) and Roger Armstrong (1978-1988) and inked by Manuel Gonzales (1956-1981), Bill Wright (1981-1984) and Larry Mayer (1984-1988). Comic book stories with Scamp were mostly written by Del Connell and illustrated by Al Hubbard

Mickey Mouse by Dick Moores
Mickey Mouse - The Wonderful Whizzix

Dell Comics (1943-1956)
In addition to his work on Disney's syndicated features, Moores began freelancing for the comic books of Dell Publishing in 1943. He presumably drew stories starring Warner's 'Bugs Bunny' and 'Porky Pig', based on the characters created by Tex Avery and Friz Freleng. He was of course also assigned on Dell's Disney line of comic books. Between 1946 and 1956 Moores drew and occasionally wrote several adventure comics with 'Mickey Mouse'. These included original stories, but also remakes of newspaper classics like 'Mickey Mouse outwits the Phantom Blot' (1949) and 'The Seven Ghosts' (1949). Moore's story 'The Wonderful Whizzix' (Four Colour issue #427, October 1952) about Mickey and a magical car has often been cited as the inspiration for Disney live-action film series about 'Herbie, The Love Bug'. Moore's studio colleagues Paul Murry and Bill Wright were also prominent illustrators of Mickey's comic book adventures. Moores and Murry also worked on Brer Rabbit's comic book appearances. After some back-up stories in 1946, each drew two stories for the 1949 'Brer Rabbit' comic book one-shot, written by Chase Craig. In that same year, Moores illustrated 'Brer Rabbit Outwits Brer Fox' for a give-away comics booklet for Cheerios. Dick Moores furthermore drew stories with 'Donald Duck', 'Daisy's Diary', the chipmunks 'Chip 'n' Dale', and the 'Big Bad Wolf'. Moores adapted the animated short 'Lambert, the Sheepish Lion' for the September 1953 'Silly Symphonies' one-shot comic book.


Lambert, the Sheepish Lion - © Disney

Telecomics Inc.
In addition to his comics work, Moores worked on animated TV productions with his partner Jack Boyd through their joint studio Telecomics Inc. The company also go down in history as the first to produce animated cartoons for television, although it must be said that their productions hardly contained animated sequences but merely sequentially filmed comics style drawings. Therefore, Hanna-Barbera's 'Crusader Rabbit' (1950) can still be considered the first of its kind. As early as 1942, Moores and Boyd filmed a pilot called 'Case of the Missing Finger Chapter 4, The Belt of Doom' starring a character called Peril Pinkerton. This led to a syndicated 15-minute television program in 1949, which consisted of four three-minute stories with characters such as 'Brother Goose' by Cal Howard, 'Joey and Jug' by Arnold Gillespie, 'Rick Rack Secret Agent' by Miles Pike and Pete Burness, and 'Sa-Lah' by A.J. Metcalf. The highly obscure productions were distributed by Vallee Video, but are now lost. The NBC Network picked up the project and hired Telecomics to produce a cartoon program called 'NBC Comics' (1950-1951), sponsored by Standard Brands. Former lawyer and film studio executive Don Dewar became head of the enterprise. One of the most notable new features on the show was the sci-fi segment with 'Space Barton', with the others being 'Danny March', 'Kid Champion' and 'Johnny and Mr. Do-Right'. At the top of their game, Moores and Boyd had about 50 cartoonists working for them. The adventure didn't last long, though. NBC broadcasted the show from 18 September 1950 through 30 March 30 1951, after which the world was ready for Hanna-Barbera's limited animation.


Merton Musty (The Press-Tribune, 10 March 1948)

Moores created the equally obscure comical newspaper feature 'Merton Musty', which appeared in a couple of Californian newspapers in at least the period 1948-1953. The 1948 episodes have a copyright notice for the unkown "Artists Associated Syndicate", but it could well be a Telecomics production as well. The strip was apparently part of a series of newspaper strips moonlighted by Disney studio artists and animators as a side-project. Other features included were 'Holly Wood' by Gil Turner, 'Milford Muddle' by Jack Bradbury and/or Ray Patin, 'Pam' by Gus Jekel, 'Sleepy Holler' by Jerry Hathcock, 'Animal Antics' by Bob Dalton, 'Sidetrack' by Dick Shaw, and a humor panel by Bob Karp. The author of 'Life with a wife' ("Mitchell") is still not known. Also featured was 'Pepe', most likely the Mexican comic strip 'Pedrito' by William de la Torre ("Will"). Some late 1950 episodes of 'Merton Musty' are drawn/signed by a certain James. Moores allegedly also inked and lettered 'Soapy Waters' (1955-1957), a newspaper comic about a baseball player written by George Stallings. Kay Wright might have been the penciller.


Merton Musty, from The Ukiah Daily Journal (25 October 1950)

Gasoline Alley
In 1956, Frank King asked him to assist him on the daily 'Gasoline Alley' strip. Originally Moores just wrote the plots, but soon enough he helped out with inking and pencilwork too. When King retired in 1959 Moores became his official successor, continuing the daily 'Gasoline Alley' for the next two and a half decades. Moores' run on the strip was very successful. He modernized the style and made use of more dramatic compositions. His sense of comedy and humanity fit the changes in U.S. society at the time better, while still remaining true to the spirit of 'Gasoline Alley'. One of his most notable innovations was giving the female characters more significant and outspoken personalities. However, Moores' most remarkable change was that in the 1970s and 1980s he didn't let characters age anymore, something King's 'Gasoline Alley' had been famous for.


Gasoline Alley (3 December 1956) by Frank King and Dick Moores

Moores also introduced many new characters and focused more on them instead. Among them were Rufus the dim-witted handyman and his brother Magnus, a lowlife who was often seen in jail. Rufus is often seen in the company of his cat, Kitty, and his best friend Joel the junkman. Joel too has a pet: his mule Becky. Rufus' girlfriend, Miss Melba - who'd later become mayor of Gasoline Alley - was also created by the artist. Moores explained in an interview that he liked Rufus and Joel because of their Laurel & Hardyesque possibilities as a comedic duo. 

Just like King, Moores continued the family saga of Walt Wallet, his wife Phyllis and their ever-expanding offspring. Skeezix, who'd served in the U.S. army during World War Two, now saw his son, Chipper, do the same during the Vietnam War (1965-1973). Skeezix' daughter, Clovia, married Slim Skinner on 31 May 1977. Slim, a not-too-bright man, provided a lot of frustration for her, but comic relief for readers at the same time. Cloovia and Slim would adopt two neglected children in the years beyond. The girl Gretchen made her debut on 13 April 1978, while the boy Rover Bump was first introduced to readers on 1 December 1983. If their household wasn't busy enough the family also took two dogs in, namely Kleine the Doberman Pinscher and Sieg the Great Dane. Meanwhile, Walt and Phyllis' other son, Corky and his wife Hope Hassel, would have a boy of their own, Adam, born on 21 April 1960. Walt's adopted daughter, Judy, married Gideon Grubb on 4 May 1961 and had a son with him on 27 June 1966. 


Gasoline Alley (25 October 1978)

In 1975 the artist of 'Gasoline Alley' 's Sunday pages, Bill Perry, retired. Moores took over this responsibility as well, but felt he could need another assistant for this job. He hired Bob Zschiesche, who had experience working on 'Gasoline Alley' since the 1950s, but was never a favorite of Moores because he was a slow worker. Decades later he still turned out to have trouble reaching his deadlines, prompting Moores to train another assistant from 1978 on: Jim Scancarelli. Scancarelli was so good that Moores could let Zschiesche go and put Scancarelli in charge of the Sundays instead.

The National Cartoonists Society handed Moores the Best Story Awards in 1973, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1985. He won the Reuben Award twice, namely in 1974 and 1988. In 1986 Moores passed away from liverand kidney failure, causing Scancarelli to continue 'Gasoline Alley' completely. As of 2018, he still does. In 2012, IDW collected Dick Moores' 1964-1965 run on 'Gasoline Alley' in their Library of American Comics.


Dick Moores in 1965 (The Orlando Sentinel, 7 November 1965)

Dick Moores' Inducks entry

Series and books by Dick Moores in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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