Steve Roper, art by Fran Matera
Allen Saunders learned to draw by taking a correspondence course and by attending classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He graduated from Wabash College, a men's liberal arts college in Indiana, in 1920 and taught French there for seven years. At the same time, he freelanced as both a cartoonist for humor publications and as a detective story writer for pulp magazines.
Allen Saunders joined the Toledo News-Bee newspaper as a reporter-cartoonist in 1927. Nine years later, he produced a comic strip for the Publishers Syndicate about a medicine man, 'The Great Gusto', with Elmer Woggon. That strip eventually became 'Big Chief Wahoo', and then 'Steve Roper'. At about the same time, Allen Saunders created a short-lived humor panel, 'Miserable Moments', which he both wrote and drew. Then, in 1940, the syndicate asked Saunders to take over 'Apple Mary', created by Martha Orr in 1932. Saunders worked with female artist Dale Conner on the strip, which was re-titled 'Mary Worth's Family'. In 1942, Ken Ernst took over the drawing while Saunders continued the scripting, and the strip's name was further shortened to 'Mary Worth'. Although Saunders is best known for his work on 'Mary Worth' and 'Steve Roper', he contributed to other comic strips as well, including 'Kerry Drake', for which he ghosted scripts.
Allen Saunders left the writing for 'Steve Roper' and 'Mary Worth' to his son John, during the mid-1950s and the late-1970s, respectively. Saunders Senior retired in the Toledo area in 1978. John Saunders, a former Toledo television newscaster, continues to script the strips today. Both strips are currently syndicated by the North America Syndicate, with 'Mary Worth' appearing in about 300 newspapers, and 'Steve Roper' appearing in about 90 newspapers.