Gil Thorp by Ray Burns
'Gil Thorp' (1 April 1997).

Ray Burns had a long career in newspaper comics and commercial art, although his name is largely unknown to the public. He was Alex Raymond's assistant on 'Rip Kirby' for nine years until Raymond's death in 1956. He was an occasional ghost illustrator on the 'Berenstain Bears' book series, and succeeded Jack Berrill on the 'Gil Thorp' sports comic (1996-2000).

Early life
He was born as Raymond Howard Bernstein in 1924 in New York City and raised in Stamford, Connecticut. His father was a jewelry salesman. Graduated from high school in 1942, he held several odd jobs until he got bored with them and enlisted in the Navy. He served aboard the destroyer USS Livermore in both the European and the Pacific theatres until 1946. He took part in the invasion of North Africa and Battle of Anzio in Italy, after which he served in France for quite some time. 

Assistance of Alex Raymond
Back in civilian life, he was hired by Alex Raymond to do the lettering of the new daily detective strip 'Rip Kirby' for King Features Syndicate. He was quickly also tasked to do some additional background art. Burns worked with Raymond until Raymond's death in 1956 with the exception of a seventeen month interlude in 1950-1952. During this period he was called back to the Navy to fight in the Korean War, while Bob Leatherbarrow took his place in Raymond's studio. When he returned to Raymond he assisted other cartoonists on the side, such as Gus Edson ('The Gumps') and Frank Beck ('All in a Lifetime', 'Bo the dog').

Ray Burns and Alex Raymond, 1950
Ray Burns and Alex Raymond in 1950.

Illustration work
After Alex Raymond's death in 1956, Burns moved over to the fields of illustration and commercial art. For over four decades, he provided illustrations to more than 85 books, mostly aimed at a juvenile audience. Burns for instance illustrated three books in Stan and Jan Berenstain's children's book series 'The Berenstain Bears'. He also provided advertising illustrations in a variety of styles to clients like Xerox, G.T.E., Union Carbide, Volkswagen, I.T.T. and Richardson-Vicks through agencies like Johnstone and Cushing. He furthermore did storyboards for TV series, including a series of cartoons for a children's game show on Nickelodeon, and artwork for corporate publications of companies such as GTE, Union Carbide and Xerox.

Gil Thorp
By 1994 he returned to cartooning, when he assisted Jack Berrill on his high school sports comic 'Gil Thorp'. He continued the strip with writer Jerry Jenkins for Tribune Media Services after Berrill's death in 1996. Several of Jenkins' stories were however anonymously written by his son Chad Jenkins, a baseball coach at Bethel College. Burns drew 'Gil Thorp' until his own death in November 2000. His final strip was printed on 6 January 2001. 'Gil Thorp' has since been drawn by Frank McLaughlin (2001-2008), Frank Bolle (2008) and Rod Whigham (since 2008).

Raymond H. Burns passed away on 23 November 2000, in Norwalk, Connecticut. He was 76 years old.

Gil Thorp by Ray Burns
'Gil Thorp' (25 August 1999).

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

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