One of the challenges of drawing a biographical comic strip is that, unlike a prose biographer, we not only have to know as much as possible about the who, what, when, and where of any given event, but we also have to know what things looked like. This can be particularly difficult when you're talking about remote, rarely photographed places that no longer exist.
A few days ago, Brian Leno made a great post over on the Two-Gun Raconteur site about Frank Thurston Torbett, a one-time collaborator of Robert E. Howard's.
Howard met Frank while taking his mother for medical treatment at Torbett Sanatorium in Marlin, Texas. Of special interest to us was this picture postcard of the Sanatorium that Brian ran with his post:
This picture caused us to remember an episode of The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob that we drew back in 2006. The strip featured the Sanatorium, and our reference for the buildings ultimately came from the postcard seen below (as much illustration as photograph), which bore a 1939 postmark (3 years after REH's death):
At the time, we also had a photograph similar to the one Leno posted, and in comparing the two, it was easy to see that several changes had been made to the buildings during the time between when the two photos were taken.
Most notably, the small structure in the foreground is made of wood in Leno's picture, but (what looks like) cement in the picture we had. Also, the building on the left had an upper floor added, and the hotel clearly changed its name from “Hotel Imperial” to “Hotel Majestic” at some point.
Since we didn't know the exact dates the pictures were taken, we agonized over which version to draw in our strip (which took place in 1935). We ultimately went with cement structure and extra floor, probably because of the general vintage of the automobiles shown in the later postcard.
Later, long after our comic strip had been printed (Conan #26), we discovered that at The Falls County TXGenWeb project, they'd posted a 1947 book written by Dr. J. W. Torbett, Sr. which features the illustration seen below — which, we were happy to see, clearly bears the date, 1928, and shows the cement structure in place, and the extra floor added to the building on the left (also notice that the hotel is named “Anne's Hotel”):
Of course, that picture is not a photograph, so it's possible that the illustration Dr. Torbett included in his book is just an architectural rendering imagining what a proposed new cement structure and extra floor would look like — but even if that's the case, it's likely that these changes were put in place before 1935, when our comic strip shows REH taking his mother there.
Below is the finished strip as it appeared back in 2006 in Dark Horse's Conan #26:
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