Hard-boiled Mike Nomad was only the most recent hero of the comic strip that bore his name. Almost all of its readers know Steve Roper, who shared the title, preceded him. Not so many realize Steve Roper wasn’t the original hero either — he took it over from Big Chief Wahoo, who was originally in it for the laughs, and Wahoo got it from his old traveling partner, The Great Gusto. The succession of protagonists goes all the way back to 1936, tho Mike himself was first seen 20 years later and didn’t get his name into the title until more than a dozen years after that.
Mike, whose toughness and resourcefulness could be attributed to his commando training in World War II, was the creation of William Overgard, a former assistant to Milton Caniff on Steve Canyon. Mike was slated from the first to be a star, but Overgard never succeeded in selling his creation to a syndicate. It was only through the back door that he managed to get into print at all — a back door that opened in 1954, when Overgard became the artist on the successful Steve Roper strip. Writer Allen Saunders (Mary Worth, Kerry Drake), who had created the strip in collaboration with artist Elmer Woggon (brother of Bill Woggon, creator of Katy Keene), retired in 1955, turning the writing over to his son, John. Mike was came onto the scene during June, 1956.
Mike had held a succession of low-prestige jobs. He was introduced as a truck driver Steve hired for Proof magazine, of which he was then editor. Later, he drove a cab. In 1985 Mike won a state lottery and, freed from the necessity of working for a living, became able to live on investment income. Unfortunately, his main investment was in the Hogan Security Agency. Once inextricably involved with it, he had to protect his investment by taking on some very odd and often dangerous assignments. The only thing they had in common was that readers enjoyed them.
Steve Roper was eased out of the lead position in the strip by being allowed to grow older and retire (tho he never quite disappeared). As he became less prominent, Mike moved into his place. It was in 1969 that the title of the strip was officially changed to Steve Roper & Mike Nomad. Despite his top billing, Steve hasn’t been the main star for quite some time.
In 1984, Overgard left to concentrate on Rudy, a strip about a talking chimpanzee, which he’d created all on his own. Fran Matera (Dickie Dare, Little Annie Rooney) replaced Overgard. The younger Saunders died in 2003. After that, Matera both wrote and drew the Roper & Nomad strip.
The strip started out at Publishers Syndicate (Apple Mary), but was later handled by King Features, which distributed it to about 50 papers — far from the top echelon of circulation, but enough to eke out an existence — for a time, at least. It ended on December 26, 2004.