Secret Agent X-9
Secret Agent X-9 was a comic strip begun by writer Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) and artist Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon). Syndicated by King Features, it ran from January 22, 1934 until February 10, 1996.
X-9 was a nameless agent who worked for a nameless agency. X-9 acquired the name “Phil Corrigan” in the 1940s and decades later the strip was renamed Secret Agent Corrigan. The nameless agency was also briefly the FBI when the FBI was in vogue, but when the FBI became less popular, references to it were dropped and the agency was nameless again.
The strip was something of a combination of a secret agent and private eye adventure, and went back and forth between the two. Despite the initial combination of talents, the strip was never a success, and perhaps the confusion about what kind of strip it actually was contributed to this. By the next year, Hammett and Raymond had both left the strip.
It was continued by Charles Flanders (1937), Robert Storm (a King Features “house name”, who did the actual writing is unknown) (1938-1943?), and drawn by Mel Graff from 1939 to the 1960’s. Graff is the one who gave X-9 his name, “Phil Corrigan”. Graff thought it didn’t make sense for a secret agent to be addressed by his secret moniker, “X-9”. The name “Phil Corrigan” was inspired by “Phil Cardigan” who was a character in one of Graff’s earlier comic strips, “The Adventures of Patsy.” Graff also gave X-9 a more personal life with romantic interests “Linda” and “Wilda”. Both these characters inspired popular songs: “Linda” written by Jack Lawrence and “Wilda” written by Graff himself. Wilda became Phil Corrigan’s wife.
Graff was followed by a number of other creators. The strip continued under the hands of the pseudonym “Bob Lewis” (Bob Lubbers) from 1960 through 1966. From 1967 to 1980, it was written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson, who together also collaborated on the Star Wars comic strip. The last artist on the strip was veteran George Evans who wrote and drew the strip from 1980 to his retirement in 1996.
For the pulp magazine “Secret Agent X”, see Secret Agent X
In comic books
The only original comic book story with X-9 produced in the U.S. was a serialized story that ran as a back-up feature in the Flash Gordon book. Five parts of five pages each were published in Flash Gordon #4-8 (1967). The first part (“The Key to Power”) was written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson, and this apparently got them the job as creators of the newspaper strip. The other parts of this story were uncredited.
Secret Agent X-9 has had a long history in European comic books. Most notably in the Agent X9 series of comic books in Scandinavia. The magazine started in 1969 under the title X9 in Sweden. As often is the case with European comics, it was an anthology magazine that also included many other comics. In the first issue, X-9 was joined by Jungle Jim and The Phantom. In the early 70s the magazine merged with another title, Agent, whose main comic was Modesty Blaise. Modesty has since been the main comic of the magazine; despite the name Agent X-9 the strip Secret Agent X-9 does not appear in every issue. The Agent X9 magazine was for a long period published in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, but today only the Swedish and Norwegian editions prevail.
During the 1980s the Agent X9 editors requested more Secret Agent X-9 material from King Features since the newspaper stories were quickly published (despite the fact that the strip didn’t appear in every issue any more). King Features then began to supply the magazine with exclusive Secret Agent X-9 stories, that have never been published elsewhere. Although these stories were made directly for comic magazines, they were produced in the regular strip format. Perhaps so they could have been used for the newspaper strip also, but that never happened. The following produced stories for the Agent X9 magazine:
- Joe Gill (script) and Jack Sparling (art): 2 stories (1983)
- M. Gill (script) and Miguel A. Repetto (art): 30 stories (1985-1995)
- Dean Davis (script) and John Dixon (art): 16 stories (1997-2003)
Secret Agent X-9 was the subject of two film serials in 1937 and 1945. In the first Agent X-9 movie, Scott Kolk played Agent Dexter (not Phil Corrigan) aka Agent X-9, it was based on the “X-9” character who replied in the fifth day of the daily strip in January, 1934, “Call me Dexter. It’s not my name but it’ll do.” The classic 1930’s serial follows the adventures of Secret Agent X-9. One of his top assignment is to recover the crown jewels of Belgravia and to capture master thief, Blackstone. Along with his side kick, Shara Graustark (Jean Rogers), Agent Dexter/X-9 investigates.
The film Secret Agent X-9 (1945) starred a young Lloyd Bridges as Phil Corrigan/X-9. The serial progress through 13 chapters, this time American, Australian and Chinese agents join forces against the Nazis and the Japanese to access an aviation fuel code named “722”. In this serial, the alliance of the America, Australia and China is referred as the “United Nations”. It pre-dates the actual United Nations by only a few months.
Secret Agent X-9 was adapted as a BBC radio drama and broadcast on BBC Radio 7 in January 2009. Secret Agent X-9 starred Stuart Milligan as “X-9” and Connie Booth as “Grace Powers”. There were four episodes, adapted by Mark Brissenden and directed by Chris Wallis.
- The ID of the “Agency Director” in the 1975 TV movie Columbo: Identity Crisis is “Phil Corrigan”!!
- The popular indie rock band, Modest Mouse, released a song entitled, and about Secret Agent X-9 on their album Sad Sappy Sucker.
- In Kurt Vonnegut‘s novel Cat’s Cradle, the character Franklin Hoenikker was known as Secret Agent X-9 in high school.
- Cartoon series Samurai Jack featured a film noir homage episode featuring a robot assassin X9.
- In Stephen King‘s novel “Roadwork” Secret Agent X-9 is mentioned.
- Created by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond
- Writers: Dashiell Hammett, Alex Raymond, Leslie Charteris, Max Trell, Mel Graff, Bob Lubbers, Archie Goodwin, George Evans
- Artists: Alex Raymond, Charles Flanders, Nicholas Afonsky, Austin Briggs, Mel Graff, Bob Lubbers, Al Williamson, George Evans.
- Strickler, Dave. Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924-1995: The Complete Index. Cambria, CA: Comics Access, 1995. ISBN 0-9700077-0-1.
- Toonopedia entry
- Agent X-9 Page in Thrilling Detectives
- Database and Cover Gallery of Secret Agent X-9 Comic Book appearances