Rex Morgan, M.D. is one of three American newspaper soap opera strips created by psychiatrist Dr. Nicholas P. Dallis, who later created Judge Parker and Apartment 3-G. Writing under the pseudonym of Dal Curtis, the strip began its 60 plus year run in 1948. The strip centers around the titular doctor, who began the strip by moving into the fictional small town of Glenwood to take over the medical practice of a late friend. Dallis created the strip with the goal of distributing modern medicine to the public in a format they'd find easy to read. In keeping with this, most of the plots dealt with the medical and emotional problems of his patients, which often tackled contemporary health needs of the time. Rounding out the regular cast is June Morgan (nee Gale), Rex's nurse (whom he dated for 47 years before finally marrying her in 1995), their precocious daughter, Sarah, and their dog Abbey. The family now operates their own free clinic.
The strip's dedication to realism in its portrayal of medical ailments has led to the strips being distributed in actual hospitals and schools since its inception. Reportedly, readers of the strip were able to accurate diagnose themselves with illnesses shown in the strip as well (and as the internet wouldn't be widely available for at least 40 years after the strip's debut, this was a pretty big deal.) This, combined with the relatively stable environment of the strip's history, has led to it having a wide, stable distribution and it's one of the more recognized soap strips still running today.
Despite Dallis' intentions with Rex Morgan, he clearly discovered a love for creating comics, and later went on to create two more that had nothing to do with medicine or actual contemporary issues. As such, his role in Rex Morgan diminished over time as he relied more and more on his assistants to handle the writing duties. Dallis retired from all three of his strips in 1990 (a year before his death), and his longtime assistant Woody Wilson took over the writing duties full time for both Rex Morgan and Judge Parker. Wilson shifted the format to focus less on medicine and more on drama, hence such shake-ups as the marriage of Rex and June and the later addition of their daughter Sarah.
For the first thirty years, art duties were handled by the team of Marvin Bradley and Frank Edington, who were succeeded briefly by Frank Springer and later famed painter Fernando Da Silva, before settling in with comic book artist Tony DiPreta from 1984 to 2000. The strip is currently drawn by Graham Nolan.
This work contains examples of:
- Bland-Name Product: "Pacebook". You can apparently create pages dedicated to internal organs there.
- Briefcase Full of Money: One 1980's strip had a kidnapping ransom paid this way. (Turned out the top layer was money; the rest was newspaper.)
- Character Blog: Or at least a parody of one. During a plotline about Mayor Dalton's battle with prostate cancer, it is eventually revealed that the Mayor's prostate has a "Pacebook page" with over 2,000 pals. This led to a fan of The Comics Curmudgeon creating a real-life Facebook page.
- Child Prodigy: Sarah frequently reasons circles around the adults in her life. One 2013 story arc concerns her selling a museum on publishing a book of her art, and she's just five or six.
- Comic-Book Time: Like most soap opera strips, it's best not to think about it too hard how very little time passes in the strip.
- Master Forger: Rex once took his young daughter Sarah to meet an art teacher at his warehouse studio. When asked why he lived so shabbily, the man's response was that he'd been under the thumb of criminal art dealers who demanded that he paint forgeries of acclaimed works. Once the shady dealers were nabbed by the police, this artist went into hiding. He works a subsistence job and tutors vouchsafed pupils on the side.
- Ms. Fanservice: June is frequently used in this way in the art of the strip, though the character herself is not considered within the strip to be overtly sexual.
- Print Long-Runners: The strip began in 1948 and is still running more than 60 years later.
- Totally Radical: The teenager lingo seen in strips actually involving teenagers is chock full of this.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The medical focus of the strip has led to many contemporary issues being featured as they gain notice in the press.