[Editor’s Note: The story of “Inky” Grant and his comic strip will appear here every week or two. Read the whole saga from the beginning, if you wish.]
Upon completion of the first chapter of his “Starguards” comic book, Henry R. (“Inky”) Grant was feeling cautiously hopeful, but also a bit trepidatious. As he wrote in his diary in September 1923, “I do not have enough cocaine to last the month, and as for food…! If it is true, as it seems, that I must finance this endeavor on my own, I do not see how it will be possible without a bit of crime.”
He didn’t wait long. Within days, Inky breathlessly, and with stunning recklessness, described to his diary a crime spree throughout Manhattan and into Brooklyn of pickpocketing and some purse-snatching, “which yielded enough to play the horses and a few games of poker, and which, in turn, yielded enough to last me through November. Or December, if I am careful.”
Inky was not careful, however, and his diary shows that he spent lavishly. While women, drink and cocaine emptied his coffers, his nights on the town also acquainted him with the films of a young screen actor named John Gilbert, who was to play a positive role in his life and his work.
When he returned home after midnight each night, he would write ideas for his science fiction opus, or draw sketches of Mary Luna and Nick Orion, his “Starguards” heroes, battling villains or space monsters.
A call from an editor at George P. Brett & Co., a publishing house of that era, elevated his mood further, and, anticipating a meeting the following Tuesday, Inky hammered out another cheerful, colorful and optimistic “Starguards” chapter. As long as Inky had cash in his pocket, a cigar in his mouth, cocaine in his nose and a woman on his arm, then he could envision a hopeful future for the solar system and the human race as well.
“When Inky was happy,” comics historian Eugene Kovalenko (1930-1985) once noted, “his work was idealistic and cheery and, to be honest, a bit pollyannish. A little corny, cringy. The heroes were heroes, they were true of heart, and all that. When he was happy, Inky loved the human race. He was not, however, very often happy.”
But in early October 1923, awaiting his meeting with the Brett Company, flush with ill-gotten cash, a lively social life, and inspired in his work, Inky was happy, and Chapter 2 of his opus was as optimistic as the galaxy is vast.