Tailspin Tommy
1935 - 1942
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Tailspin Tommy
Lead frame published November 5, 1939
Los Angeles Times

"Tailspin Tommy," a comic strip about a barnstorming pilot, Tommy Tompkins originally appeared in 1928, written by Glenn Chaffin and illustrated by Hal Forrest. Reynold Brown worked on the strip from around September/November 1935 to May 1942. It was widely syndicated in the newspapers. In 1935 Forrest needed an assistant to do the inking of his pencil drawings and approached Lester Bonar, the art teacher at Alhambra High School, Alhambra, California. Bonar recommended he use Reynold Brown, who had graduated in the Spring. Brown's father had recently died and he was caring for his mother and two younger sisters. Having had a long interest with aircraft he gladly took the job. *

Tailspin Tommy
second frame published November 5, 1939
Los Angeles Times

Brown drove weekly from San Gabriel to Palm Springs. Forrest appreciated Brown's work and soon had him doing the drawings also. Brown was unable to do all the drawing and inking and by 1937 had an inker (identified in his notes as "Lloyd") working for him. Brown was paid $30 a week for his work, from which he paid Lloyd.
A companion strip, "The Four Aces" had been started in 1935. After joining Forrest Brown did some if not all the illustrations for that item also.


From "The Four Aces", August 24, 1941
The San Diego Union

It is not clear when but probably some time in the late '30s, possibly as late as 1941 a new strip was planned, "Front Page Stanley." This was to be about "Stanley Stewart, War Correspondent." It appears to be the first time that Brown would receive credit for his work and his name appears along with Forrest in the signature box at the bottom of the strip, though not in the opening frame. It is not clear that this strip ever made it past the idea stage.

Brown's main desire was to go into illustration. He met one of his heroes, Saturday Evening Post Cover illustrator Norman Rockwell, again through his former teacher, Lester Bonar. Rockwell suggested to Brown that if he wanted to be an illustrator he should leave the comic strip which would otherwise, in the long run adversely affect his artistic development. Taking his aircraft drawing experiences with him, Brown joined North American Aviation in 1942. The "Tailspin Tommy" strip died not long afterwards. According to Brown, Forrest was extremely upset to have him leave. Some writers have speculated that Tailspin could no longer compete graphically with other strips like "Steve Canyon" and "Terry and the Pirates." Brown's sister, Lorraine, said that he told her the strip was closed down due to pressure from the government because it was showing or speculating on the possibility of equipment and/or tactics that were secretly under development.

*This date is an estimate based on the fact that he graduated from high school in 1935 and then went for a few months to art school. When his father died, Brown was able to get the job with Forrest. Brown was definitely with North American Aviation by June, 1942, when a short article about him appeared in their in-house publication, Skyline. This noted that Brown had joined North American "a month ago" and had been with Forrest "for six and a half years."

As part of their strip, drawings of aircraft were included for identifying them. Here are a couple.

to Messerschmidt

to Canadian FDB-1


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