A number of rather famous TV shows have been based on comic strips. From “Dennis the Menace” to “Dilbert” these shows have ranged from making live action heroes out of ridiculous cartoon characters to making animated TV shows that feel more like live action stories on TV. Spend some time browsing through the bins at a comic book store and you will see how many TV shows have been adapted for the colorful covers behind which the hide arty chiaroscuro panels that tell brand news stories involving your favorite TV characters. Far less common, but definitely there to seek out, are comic strips that have been based on TV shows.
One of the weirdest choices for a TV show to be adapted into comic strip form for people today would be “Ben Casey .” “Ben Casey” was one of the most popular medical dramas of the 1960s, running from 1961 to 1966. The show was one of those early hits that set the template for hospital dramas to come in its wake from “Medical Center” to “St. Elsewhere” to “E.R.” You had romance, drama, comedy and, above all, life and death decisions. On November 26, 1962, just over a year after the premiere of the television series, “Ben Casey” made its debut as a weekday comic strip. A little less than two years after that, the full color Sunday panel was added. Those who grew up in the Golden Age of Comic Strips had no problem with “Ben Casey” because they grew up with serious serial dramas in comic strip form like “Judge Parker” and “Mary Worth.” The artwork in the “Ben Casey” comic strip is simply amazing and the sexuality can be quite jaw-dropping.
It may be hard to fathom this fact now, but once upon a time a significant portion of the American TV viewing public was obsessed with the show “Dallas.” What had been a relatively modest hit almost overnight became a legend when the show’s oily villain J.R. Ewing was shot by an unknown assailant on the final episode of the season. Over the course of the summer between that gunshot and the first show of the new fall season, “Who Shot J.R.” entered into the lexicon of American pop culture. One of the many beneficiaries of one of the most successful marketing gimmicks in entertainment history were those involved in creating a comic strip based on “Dallas .” J.R. had been shot on March 21, 1980. On February 1, 1981, the “Dallas” comic strip debuted. In the annals of comic strips based on TV shows, it is probably fairly safe to say that none featured representations of the actors playing the characters with quite the creepy authenticity as did the “Dallas” full color strip.
The comic strip and TV show based very loosely on the life of ” Bat Masterson ” both debuted within a month of each other. The comic strip actually appeared first and ceased production about a year and a half before the TV series. Both the show and the strip portrayed “Bat Masterson” as a hero of the Old West with few of the more unsavory aspects of his character.
The Cisco Kid
“The Cisco Kid” had already been successful at the movies and on the radio by the time it came to the small screen in 1950. Comic books preceded the TV series and a graphic novels have brought the adventures of Cisco to a new generation in the 21st century. About a year after the debut of the TV show, fans of the show could get a daily dose of the Cisco Kid with in their newspapers courtesy of a brand new syndicated comic strip.