ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Richard (Dick) Moores, who has been weaving the tales of Skeezix, Nina and Slim in the syndicated comic strip "Gasoline Alley" for more than two decades, died Tuesday at age 77.
Moores, who had been ill for some time, died of liver and kidney failure, a St. Joseph's Hospital spokeswoman said.
He had been the artist and author of "Gasoline Alley" since 1960.
Tribune Media Services, the distributor of the strip, said "Gasoline Alley" will continue without any major changes in style or content. Moores had selected Jim Scancerelli, 45, his top assistant since 1979 and a former artist on the comic strip "Mutt and Jeff," to take over for him.
Character Called His Alter Ego
In a February interview, Moores described the strip's oldest character, Walt Wallet, as his alter ego, saying both had been getting old and forgetful.
"I use Walt to create homey situations and for anybody who's feeling his age to identify with," Moores said. "He's the father figure. He's what keeps them together. He's the one I go to when I want to pull the strip together."
Moores, a native of Lincoln, Neb., had been drawing cartoons since high school. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago for a year and spent five years working for "Dick Tracy" creator Chester Gould.
He met "Gasoline Alley" creator Frank King in Chicago, where they shared a studio while Moores was doing the "Jim Hardy" strip, which later became "Windy and Paddles."
Moores began working for King in 1956 and assumed the primary responsibility for "Gasoline Alley" after King died in 1960.
Before going to work for King, Moores spent 14 years in the Walt Disney comic strip department, drawing "Uncle Remus" and later "Scamp." He also wrote and drew many comic books, albums and hard-cover books featuring Disney characters.
Last week, Moores won the Reuben Award, one of the highest honors for comic strip artists, for the fifth time.
Animals Became Hallmarks
"Gasoline Alley" carried the stamp of Moores' early Disney experiences in the collection of animals that became hallmarks--Rufus and his cat, the Great Dane and the Doberman living in the too-small apartment with Slim and Clovia. Characters grew up and got older in the strip, but no one died. And violence was never allowed.
In recent years, Moores had been composing stories, drawing the faces in ink and pencil, sketching the action, and then sending strips to another artist, who would ink in the drawings.
Moores was one of the few cartoonists whose characters aged as the years passed. Wallet was his oldest character, a grandfather in the strip and the only character he inherited from King.
"The first thing they ask is 'When is Walt going to die?' I won't promise anything. People are born, they grow up, they get older. And eventually somebody's going to have to die. But I wouldn't do anything to hype it," Moores said in a February interview.
Moores is survived by a son and a daughter. His wife, Gretchen, died in 1983, and another son died in August at age 37.