Agent X-9 Revisited
GLOVERSVILLE – A top secret agent once roamed Peck’s Lake and the Adirondacks, getting into dozens of adventures.
The exploits of superspy Secret Agent X-9 were seen by newspaper readers in the United States, France and Italy.
Secret Agent X-9 was illustrated and written by Cleveland native and Fulton County resident Mel Graff for 17 years from the late 1930s to 1950s.
His daughter Patsy Suydam of Johnstown was at the Fulton County Museum on Tuesday speaking to more than 20 people about her father’s life and his comic strip.
The comic series was syndicated in 130 newspapers worldwide.
The series was created by Dashiell Hammett, who also wrote “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man,” which later became movies. According to the Library of Congress, Secret Agent X-9 was created in 1934.
Hammett left the comic about six months after creating it, and Graff took over illustrating and writing and strip.
Suydam said one of her father’s first changes was giving the secret agent a name, Phil Corrigan, something the previous strips did not do.
“He thought it was kind of stupid for a secret agent to be called
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X-9; that was like their secret identification,” Suydam said. “So he gave him a name and gave him a family.”
She said Graff featured the Adirondacks and fictionalized Peck’s Lake prominently in many of his story lines. The name of the lake was changed to Albert’s Lake.
Graff also included some Fulton County residents in the strip, although their names were changed.
Suydam said her father visited the Fulton County area for about 10 years before buying a home in Northville around 1946. He lived in the area for about 20 years before moving to Florida.
She said he spent summers at Canada Lake, Caroga Lake and the Great Sacandaga Lake before deciding to move to the area.
Suydam has several comic strip panels that were translated into other languages, including Spanish, Italian and French.
Suydam said Graff also wrote and illustrated “The Adventures of Patsy” in 1932 before taking over the duties of X-9. The strip featured Patsy, who was taken to an Oz-like land.
Suydam said she was named after that comic strip character.
Graff later moved the character onto solving mysteries in Hollywood.
Suydam said her father first worked as an illustrator at a newspaper in Ohio, where he illustrated things such as the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial.
He then moved to New York City, where he continued on as an illustrator.
Suydam said Graff wrote a farewell and drew the comic strip for the last Gloversville Morning Herald edition on Jan. 22, 1955. The Morning Herald merged with the Leader-Republican to create The Leader-Herald.
Suydam said her father began drawing in high school and took correspondents classes in art. He also attended art classes in New York City.
Suydam buys her father’s comic strips when they come up for sale on Internet sites. She said at the time her father was making the comic strip, comic artists did not keep their original strips.
She said he father would sometimes request them to give to children who would talk to him about their interest in being an artist.