Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Last Days of Ambler by Doug Wildey

AMBLER was a short-lived newspaper strip by artist Doug Wildey that never really found its niche. Lasting little more than a year in the early seventies, it was accurately summed up by Alan Holtz at as being about "... a successful folk singer who spent his time drifting around the country righting wrongs and helping those in need. Try to imagine a combination of EASY RIDER and MARY WORTH and you'll have AMBLER pegged."

THE MENOMONEE FALLS GAZETTE, the legendary all-comics newspaper from that period, ran AMBLER for awhile and I was entranced by the art in this sequence (all of you remember, of course, my love of a good snow scene). Although Wildey (best known for his visuals on Hanna-Barbera's JONNY QUEST) has been sometimes taken to task for his prolific use of photo reference, nearly all realistic cartoonists did it from Alex Raymond and Hal Foster to Wally Wood and Al Williamson. One finds it even in Wildey's OUTLAW KID comics for Atlas in the 1950's and it is certainly present in AMBLER. In this sequence, for instance, the investigative reporter is played by the late character actor Paul Douglas.

Here then, all clipped and taped by my 14 year old self (SORRY!!), is the final story arc of AMBLER from December of 1973. Not much happens really but the above average illustrations and great sense of mounting dread and claustrophobia as a blizzard strands a group of travelers in a wonderfully drawn snowstorm still keeps it interesting.

While it's sad that the strip failed, it's loss left Doug Wildey free to return to comic books for the first time in years where ultimately he created the highly acclaimed western strip and painted graphic novels of RIO.


  1. I can see what they mean about Wildey leaning too heavily on the photo reference here -- not a problem I ever had with his work before -- but it's more than outweighed by all the good stuff in these strips. Thanks for saving them all this time!

    It may be the most obvious comment, but it must be said: the black turtleneck and blond hair make Ambler look awfully familiar to Wildey fans...

  2. Thanks a million for posting this! The photo referencing doesn't bother me at all. I really love the work of Doug Wildey and can't understand why he wasn't better known. He was one of the most talented comic artists I have ever seen,plain and simple.

  3. Somehow I never really heard of Doug Wildey until the JONNY QUEST revival in the 80's (the comic-books, not the 3rd-rate cartoons that they inspired H-B- to make). I loved his RIO (in ECLIPSE magazine) but never connected that this was the guy who'd created my #1 favorite TV cartoon series.

    The combination in his later work of flat figure drawings and painted backgrounds-- which looked exactly like animated cartoons-- inspired my own work combining 2D figures & 3D backgrounds.

    It was very annoying that, at the time Alex Toth passed away, someone in ALTER EGO used it as an excuse to needlessly bad-mouth Wildey's animation work (as compared to Toth's). Some people are real A**H***s. I bet a big part of Toth's lifelong frustration was in not having been able to create a TV show as good as Wildey's (which Toth worked on extensively).

    Do you know how obscene it is that in syndicated reruns, Hanna-Barbera actually had Doug Wildey's SIGNATURE removed from the end credits of JONNY QUEST???