On Strips: Allan Salisbury

By | Friday, August 25, 2017 Leave a Comment
Back in 2012, I mentioned picking up a piece of original Allan "Sols" Salisbury art extremely cheaply. Both Salisbury and the Fingers and Foes strip were largely unknown to me, and it looks like I did at least a cursory bit of information digging, but it occurs to me that I relayed almost none of that. So who is he?

Salisbury was born in Kyabram, Australia in 1949. After spending some time in advertising, he developed a pantomime strip called Lennie the Loser. As far as I can tell, it was never picked up but it did help him pick an agent, who suggested that a strip with dialogue might be an easier sell. That's when Salisbury came up with Fingers & Foes.

The strip did, in fact, get picked up by Publishers-Hall Syndicate; the first time an Australian comic strip was purchased by a US syndicate without having previously seen publication in Australia. The strip debuted on March 18, 1974 in several markets, including Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Miami, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. However the strip was canceled after only a few months, largely due to cultural differences. The strip had regular depictions of crime and justice, and Salisbury's approach on many of their sub-topics were considered politically incorrect by 1974 US standards.

Salisbury, though, had developed another strip more-or-less simultaneously called The Old Timer. That one was not picked up in the US, but it did debut in April 1974 in Australia's Daily Telegraph. The strip featured a variety of decidedly Australian characters including Crazy Croc, The Kangaroo, and an aboriginal native called The Last Lost Tribesman, so it's no surprise that it didn't get much traction elsewhere.

In 1976, Salisbury added a character called Snake (an actual snake). He was given more and more of the spotlight to the point where the name of the strip itself was changed to Snake Tales in 1978. As the humor relied less and less on Australia-specific archetypes, it gained more international appeal, getting picked up in the US in 1982. Curiously, strips published in America seemed to be pulled from both contemporary and older material. My best guess as to why (since Salisbury was still creating new strips) is that syndicate editors swapped in older strips when they got a new one that they didn't feel would go over well with an American audience. As there's no real continuity to the strip, this wouldn't pose a problem.

While Salisbury continues working on the strip to this day, it was dropped in the States in 1987. He currently resides on the island of Tasmania, with his wife and three kids.
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