Author Archive | Bruce Canwell

Fifty Years Ago Today —

— Mankind left its earthly cradle and set foot on another heavenly body as Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin left the confines of their Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), dubbed the Eagle, and walked on the Moon.

That momentous event, however, did not occur until almost 4:18 in the afternoon — which means the Sunday newspapers that day were on sale many hours before Armstrong pressed the first human footprint into lunar soil. In my native New England, coverage of the anticipation of Armstrong and Aldrin’s “extra-vehicular activity” (EVA) was forced below the front-page fold, because news of another newsworthy item concerning a high-profile member of Massachusetts’s “first family” was coming to light.

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Saluting History with a Mini-Fantasy Comics Page

We’re quickly closing in on the 50th anniversary of The Landing of the Eagle, as the Apollo 11 mission brought Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin safely to the surface of the Moon and back. Surely the media coverage of this golden anniversary is difficult to escape, and that’s as it should be — those of us who were alive to follow the voyage of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins (who remained in orbit, piloting the Command Module Columbia as his fellow astronauts trod the Lunar surface) remember it as one of those rare moments when much of the entire planet was united to celebrate an amazing accomplishment.

Being born in mid-July, I was nine years old when Apollo 11 blasted off for its date with destiny, but ten years old when Armstrong made his “one small step for a man.” Headlines across the country mirrored this one, from the Boston Globe, as Columbia roared skyward from Kennedy Space Center atop a Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969:

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The LOAC Road to 200: Goin’ TALL in June!

At the halfway point of the year 2019 (what? already? how can that be possible?), we continue to celebrate the LOAC Road to 200 with our June spin of the LOAC Wheel of Fortune.

Our line of books feature a variety of sizes, shapes, and page counts — sometimes that’s determined by our own aesthetic senses, but often it is dictated by the format of the strips that are available for reprinting. “Tab” Sundays — so-called because they ran in “portrait-oriented” tabloid newspapers — require a different layout than do “halves,” which are structured in landscape mode.

Why is size on our minds? Because for our June spin we opted to load the LOAC Wheel of Fortune with most of our tallest books. Of course, this includes our Champagne Edition titles — Polly and Her Pals Sundays and Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim. Our Superman line of Sunday pages, the Alex Toth Genius series, and Alex’s Bravo for Adventure releases all qualify, as do Miss Fury, Beyond Mars, and King of the Comics. The roster of Big & Tall LOAC volumes looks like this: Continue Reading →

The LOAC Road to 200: Not Forgetting May for the Ol’ LOAC Wheel of Fortune!

Deadlines, family commitments, and some technical difficulties have delayed our May dip into the LOAC Wheel of Fortune, but it’s not like we forgot or anything, believe me!

Since May is the fifth month of the year,. we opted to look at all our releases to-date that have a “5” in their volume number — that encompasses “Volume 5s,” “Volume 15s,” and in the case of Dick Tracy, even a Volume 25! For the first time, if memory serves, we’re also including a pair of 2019 releases in a Wheel of Fortune population, since both Spider-Man and Donald Duck celebrated their fifth volumes (in Donald’s case, his fifth volume of dailies).

So here’s the population, eleven titles strong:

Looking at the list, I found a few surprises in it — I didn’t realize we finished the Al Williamson run on Corrigan before our seventy-fifth release, or that Bungle Family (which is still fresh in my mind, a testament to the quality of the strip) fell into our first hundred books. Anyway, here it is, loaded into the Wheel and ready for a big spin:

And this month’s featured title is <insert drum roll and dramatic pause here> …

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Important News for All Caniffites

Last June, we ran this piece to ask you to join us in wishing a Happy 100th Birthday to Lieutenant Colonel Bernice V. Taylor, the World War II Army nurse who served as Milton Caniff’s model for Terry and the Pirates‘s popular character, Taffy Tucker.

Lt. Col. Taylor’s niece, Judith Bernice Taylor Holliday, reached out to us with this news from April 28th, 2019:

It is with great sadness that I am notifying you that Lt. Col. Bernice Taylor, who was the ‘face’ of Nurse Taffy Tucker in the Terry and the Pirates series of comics during WWII, died peacefully this morning in hospice at the age of 100 years, 10 months and 7 days.  She had been in failing health for several months. She lived an extraordinary life, and her race is run.  

She will be interred after graveside military services at Olive Branch Cemetery, White Cloud, KS, in mid-May.  

While ‘Aunt Bernice’ didn’t engage in the antics of Nurse Taffy, her character in the comics cheered many lonely Air Force soldiers far from home, most of whom are now gone.  For Terry and the Pirates fans, though, she will live on. 

You paid a wonderful tribute to Bernice on her 95th birthday, which the family appreciated.  Please add this final chapter to her story.

Like so many of The Greatest Generation, Lt. Col. Taylor was reluctant to speak of her War-years experiences, even to family members. “The war has been over for a long time,” Judy Holliday quoted Bernice as saying during our initial e-mail exchange in 2013. But it was — and remains — a great honor to have a picture of her, at age 95, with a copy of our fifth Terry and the Pirates volume:

We know you will join us in paying respects to Lt. Col. Taylor, and thanking her for both her service to our country in its time of dire need, and for her place in helping to shape comics history.

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During their lifetimes there was little overlap between Milton Caniff and Walt Disney, but news reached us a few days after Judy Holliday’s sad note that provides a modern-day intersection of sorts between the two: Disney Legend Floyd Norman — who needs no introduction to Disney fans worldwide, and who was so gracious and helpful to us during the preparation of our third Alex Toth book, Genius, Animated — will receive the National Cartoonist Society’s Milton Caniff Award in mid-May.

You can read — and see — more about Mr. Norman and the NCS award in this Daily Cartoonist article. Congratulations, Mr. Norman, for this richly-deserved accolade!

 

Rest Easy, Soldier

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Harry Grant Guyton, nephew of Milton and Esther (“Bunny”) Caniff, at age 94.

Harry was the executor of the Caniff Estate and did so much to make both the Steve Canyon comic strips and the short-lived TV series available for modern-day audiences. He was also a tremendous raconteur, and this seems a fine time to share with you a couple stories Harry shared with us during an interview a few years ago:

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The LOAC Road to 200: The LOAC Wheel of Fortune is Stupefyin’!

We’re Cadillacin’ toward our 200th release, and we thank you for riding along with us! It’s time once again to spin the LOAC Wheel of Fortune to see which past release gets spotlighted for the month of April.

Before we continue our focus on the year 2014, begun last month, a tip of the Dick Tracy fedora to those readers (you know who you are) who corrected us after last month’s “LOAC Wheel” feature appeared. In March we truthfully mentioned that 2014 was our busiest year ever. We went on to point out that we released twenty-three books that year.

“Nay, nay,” said those Ol’ Eagle Eyes who visit this space, “your list is one short! Wonder Woman also appeared in 2014, and it’s not on the list you presented!” What can I say? They were right, and we had fat-fingered the year-of-release for Princess Diana as 2015, not 2014. Here’s a corrected list of our 2014 releases:

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The LOAC Road to 200: March’s LOAC Wheel of Fortune

It’s that time again — as we move toward our two hundredth entry in The Library of American Comics, we’re spinning that LOAC Wheel of Fortune to see which of our past releases gets spotlighted for the month of March.

We wanted to focus on the year 2014, which was the busiest in our almost-twelve-year history. A whopping twenty-three — yup, that’s 23! — Library books were released that year:

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Ad-dicting & En-LIFE-ening

We continue our look at comics-related ads that appeared in Life Magazine, previously begun here. This time, just for fun, we’ll go in reverse-chronological order and start at the tag-end of the 1950s. I was but a wee bairn of two months and twenty-five days old (and Stevenson B. Canyon was once again crossing paths and trading barbs with “The Copperhead,” Copper Calhoon) when this ad for Teacher’s Scotch, starring the one-and-only Milton Caniff, appeared in Life‘s October 12, 1959 issue:

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