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Stan Lynde dies at 81; created 'Rick O'Shay' comic strip

The Montana-born cartoonist's popular western strip ran for 20 years in major newspapers including The Times.

August 12, 2013|Times Staff and Wire Reports
  • Stan Lynde reflects on his journey as a well known cartoonist at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Mont., in 2012.
Stan Lynde reflects on his journey as a well known cartoonist at the Montana… (Eliza Wiley / The Independent…)

Stan Lynde, creator of the syndicated western comic strip "Rick O'Shay," which ran for 20 years in major newspapers and reached about 15 million readers, died Tuesday of cancer in Helena, Mont. He was 81.

Lynde was a Korean War veteran who had studied journalism at the University of Montana and briefly worked on his family's ranch in Colorado when he realized he wanted to try to make it as a cartoonist.

After buying a one-way ticket to New York City in the 1950s, he worked his way up to commodities reporter at the Wall Street Journal while attending the School of Visual Arts at night. Inspired by the cowboys of his youth, he developed his "Rick O'Shay" comic strip, which was first syndicated in 1958.

The characters in the comic strip were composites "of the old-time cowboys and the people I knew growing up," Lynde once said.

He grew up on a cattle and sheep ranch near Lodge Grass, Mont., on the Crow Indian Reservation. Lynde populated his imaginary western town with such figures as lawman Rick O'Shay, gunslinger Hipshot Percussion and a kid named Quyat Burp.

In 1962, Lynde returned to Montana after "Rick O'Shay" was established and appearing in about 100 papers, including The Times. He set up a basement in his Billings home and bought a 160-acre ranch, branding his cattle with "RIK" in honor of his cartoon hero.

After he got into a contract dispute with his syndicate in 1977, he stopped drawing it. Because the syndicate owned "Rick O'Shay," the strip continued until 1981 with others doing the work.

Lynde launched another strip, "Latigo," about a lawman in the Old West, in 1979. When he ended it four years later, he partly attributed it to a decline in popularity of adventure-style comics with continuing plots.

He was born Myron Stanford Lynde on Sept. 23, 1931, in Billings and grew up listening to his parents read him the Sunday comics. He later recalled wanting to be a cartoonist since age 5 or 6.

His cartoons were published in his high school paper. While serving in the Korean conflict, he created a comic strip, "Ty Foon," for the Navy newspaper.

When Lynde retired from cartooning, he wrote eight western novels featuring the character Merlin Fanshaw, a lawman. He also published "Vigilante Moon," a historical novel about Montana, in 2002.

"I've been able to do the work I love for an appreciative audience," Lynde said in December. "I love this state. ... If my tombstone said something about Montana, I'd be really happy. I've never met any state with people who have such character."

Lynde's survivors include his wife, Lynda, and eight children.

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