Archive | Caniff

The Fantasy Comics Page Salutes …

Stop a hundred random persons on the street and ask them which holiday they associate with the month of May. “Memorial Day” will certainly be the first many select. Others will choose “Mother’s Day.” Some will surely note that Ramadan starts on May 27th of this year.

Yet there are other holidays and observances tied to this often-most-pleasant-of-months. The very first day of the month is May Day, after all … Cinco de Mayo has become increasingly tied into the cultural zeitgeist … and this year Derby Day occurs one day later, on May 6th. The entire month is devoted to raising awareness for both Lyme Disease and Lupus. May 28th is National Burger Day, while the 31st is World No Tobacco Day.

For the purposes of this piece, however, we’re focused on the third Saturday in May, which is designated as Armed Forces Day in the United States. This observance was originally enacted in August of 1949 and marked the consolidation of the four major branches of the American military under the Department of Defense. The very first Armed Forces Day was also celebrated on a May 20th, in the year 1950.

So, with an itch to assemble one of our occasional “fantasy comics pages” that features various strips taken from one day in history, I decided to pick strips that were originally published on an Armed Forces Day early in the event’s history and settled on May 18, 1957.

ASD_Honolulu STAR-BULLETIN_Sat 19570518

I was pleased with the strips I chose from that date — a nice mix, I think, between drama continuities and comedy series, between easily-recognized strips (Archie, Mary Worth) and titles that have fallen into obscurity over time — Jeff Cobb, for example, or Morty Meekle. The former was artist Pete Hoffman’s adventure-hunting investigative reporter, the latter Dick Cavalli’s romance strip for NEA that quickly pushed the kid members of the supporting cast into the spotlight (by the mid-1960s Cavalli renamed the strip Winthrop, after the most prominent of the youngsters, making their takeover complete). Another modern-day obscurity I’ve included here is David Crane, launched in 1956 by Win Mortimer. In an interview with his widow published in Roy Thomas’s Alter Ego # 88, Mortimer’s widow described the strip by saying, “David Crane was small-town minister. Win had a good Biblical background; he could quote anything.”

I couldn’t resist including another installment  of the delightful Penny, as well as a Long Sam — Bob Lubbers never made anyone forget Foster, Caniff, or Raymond, but he was a really excellent craftsman.  Donald Duck was a “must-have” once I saw the newspaper Don was reading — J. Jonah Jameson take note! There’s not much smilin’ going on in this day’s Smilin’ Jack, and to mark the appearance of our tenth LOAC Essentials volume, featuring Norman Marsh’s Dan Dunn, I was glad to find a fresh example of Marsh’s later self-syndicated strip, Dan’l Hale.

As you look at this fantasy comics page, one thing may jump out at you — none of these strips make mention of Armed Forces Day! It will surely surprise no one to hear the May 18th, 1957 Steve Canyon was devoted to observing the day, and Caniffites can turn to page 78 of “Princess in Exile,” our sixth Steve Canyon volume, to see how the U.S. Cartoonist-in-Chief saluted the boys in uniform. For now, though, here’s our fantasy comics page from May 18, 1957 (click any strip for a larger view) …

LONG SAM1_19570518

DDUCK_10621696

DAVID CRANE_19570518

PENNY_19570518

MARY WORTH_19570518

DANL HALE_19570518

MORTY MEEKLE_10621696

JEFF COBB_19570518

ARCHIE_19570518

SMILIN JACK_19570518

A Frankly Fabulous Follow-Up

Regular visitors to this space may recall that in mid-December I posted the first of two pieces about models Milton Caniff employed as characters for his then-upcoming Steve Canyon storylines. The models posed for photo sessions that filled the dual purposes of offering visual reference to assist the drawing of the sequences while also providing client newspapers an eye-catching way to promote the Canyon strip. You can find that piece archived here: “Model Citizens, Part 1”. It provides some post-Caniff “what happened to …” information concerning model Gen Melia, who married playwright and restaurateur Warner LeRoy and later re-married as “Gen Walton.” Given a lack of information about her under that name, I concluded she was living “a lower-profile lifestyle.”

It was a delight, on March 2nd, to receive an e-mail from Bridget LeRoy that says, in part: “As the one and only child of Warner and Gen LeRoy, I greatly enjoyed your blog … just to let you know, [my mother] has written over a dozen children’s books, co-authored three best-selling cookbooks (“Loaves & Fishes”) along with several plays and TV films, and married Tony Walton, one of the greatest set and costume designers of all time. Yearly trips to the Tony Awards and occasionally to the Oscars are a thing. So ‘a lower profile lifestyle’ — not so much. I can’t thank you enough for this piece of my family history. It means the world to me.”

Bridget is not overstating her step-father’s achievements — Mr. Walton is indeed a master at his craft, with Tony Awards for his work on Pippin, House of Blue Leaves, and the 1992 Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls, as well as a “Best Art Direction” Oscar for Bob Fosse’s ambitious, semi-autobiographical 1980 film, All That Jazz (he was earlier nominated by the Academy for work on his initial motion picture project, Disney’s classic Mary Poppins). From 1959 to 1967 Walton was married to his childhood sweetheart, Dame Julie Andrews.

The initial information about her mother Bridget provided sent me digging deeper, and not only did I find links to the Loaves and Fishes cookbooks Gen co-authored with the late Anna Pump (Loaves and Fishes), I found several of her children’s’ books available at on-line used booksellers and ordered three of them. Earliest of the three is Emma’s Dilemma, from 1975, about a teenage girl who may be forced to give away her beloved sheepdog, Pearl. The cover illustration is also credited to Gen LeRoy:

EMMAS

Lucky Stiff! was a breezy 1981 hardcover picture book about pre-teen Anabel and her adjustment to having a new baby brother named Vaughan (“Sounded like yawn. Everyone would laugh at his name”).  Accompanying Gen’s text are lively illustrations like this one, by J. Winslow Higginbottom:

LUCKY 1

Taxi Cat and Huey is an ambitious 1992 book for young readers, written from the first-person perspective of basset hound Huey (‘short for Hubert”), who lives with his owners, Fred and Maureen Walton, and Taxi, the kitten the Waltons introduce into their household. The illustrations are by Karen Ritz:

TAXI & HUEY

When these books arrived at my home I left them on the table in the living room, planning to take them upstairs to my office the next day and scan the artwork you’ve just seen. My wife picked up Taxi Cat and Huey and read it in a single sitting. About the author, my wife said, “She’s good. That’s a really cute story!” So take it from my wife (someone whose interests do not include comics, Caniff, or Canyon) — Gen has real writing chops.

And if that recommendation doesn’t convince you, consider this excerpt from a long October 27, 1995 article by Hap Erstein, theater writer for the Palm Beach Post, concerning Gen’s first theatrical play, titled Not Waving…:

“Most first-time playwrights have to struggle to create interest in their work. Not Gen LeRoy. Her dramatic comedy Not Waving … does not have its world premiere until 8 tonight at the Pope Theater Company, but it has already generated more high-powered attention than most scripts by veteran writers. Such actresses as Julie Harris and this year’s Tony Award winner Cherry Jones have participated in developmental readings of LeRoy’s play. Prestigious though cash-strapped New York theaters like Circle in the Square and Circle Rep once vied to produce it … And even before the debut of Not Waving …, it has been bought by Robert DiNiro’s Tribeca Films for a future movie.”

Erstein goes on to provide information about Gen’s background for his readers: “Her Pope Theater program biography includes an eclectic list of previous professions. ‘Before beginning a career in writing,’ it states, ‘Ms. LeRoy did work as an IBM programmer, dry goods salesperson, waitress, accounts payable clerk, TV commercials model, Norman Rockwell’s New York model for several of his Saturday Evening Post covers, photographer’s assistant, mother of two children, wife, [and] illustrator …'”

That bio touches upon one topic Bridget LeRoy and I had discussed in our e-mail exchanges. “There was one additional piece that [Gen] was a little upset I forgot to mention,” Bridget informed me. “She went on to be Norman Rockwell’s model in three or four or maybe even five of his Saturday Evening Post covers. You can certainly find that online, including a video where she discusses it.”

Indeed I could, and indeed I did. The video is brief but wonderful, an excellent account by Gen of her experiences modeling for Rockwell. It includes several photographs of Gen taken to support two of those Post covers. You can see the video here: Gen Walton on Rockwell, and Post covers for which Gen modeled are shown below:

NR_Family Tree

“Family Tree” — Gen’s likeness is that of the woman beneath the little boy who tops the tree

NR_Easter Morning

“Easter Morning”

NR_University Club

“University Club” — The older members of this 5th Avenue gentleman’s club gained a reputation for clustering around the windows to criticize “daring” new women’s fashions that included hemlines above the knee or, in this case, a sleeveless blouse. Note Rockwell painted himself into the scene at bottom-left, looking over his shoulder at the earnest conversation between the sailor and the young lady.

There are two ways I can bring this discussion around full circle. The first is obvious to any Caniffite: Norman Rockwell’s nephew, Dick Rockwell, was Milton’s long-time assistant on Steve Canyon. But this second way is one only a very few persons have likely seen — until now. Thanks to Bridget LeRoy, we are pleased to share with you this pencil portrait of Gen Melia (as Caniff knew her). Compare it to the photographs of Gen as Whitey Barker in our Steve Canyon Volume 7, or the shots of Gen posing for Rockwell in the YouTube video, and I think you’ll agree Milt did an outstanding job of capturing the essence of one truly accomplished woman:

Caniff_Gen Portrait

Our thanks to Bridget LeRoy for reaching out to us and providing us with so much additional information (Bridget has an impressive resume of her own, as a Google search shows). And yes, I’ll cop to it — while Gen LeRoy Walton’s name certainly did fall out of nationally-syndicated gossip columns of the type I cited in my original piece, the evidence presented here makes it plain that my December conclusion about her living a “lower-profile lifestyle” was thoroughly unjustified! But this is one of those occasions where I’m perfectly happy to have (like Huey, perhaps?) barked up a wrong tree …

A Bit More Lust, A Tad More Bust

Caniffites may recall the tail-end of my introductory essay for Steve Canyon Volume 4, in which I discussed and excerpted a chain of 1953 letters between Milton Caniff and Hugh M. Hefner that I unearthed during one of our research trips to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University. The letters revolved around Hefner’s desire to produce a “Miss Lace” featurette in an early issue of (as Hefner put it) “a new men’s magazine beginning publication this fall.” That magazine was to be called — Stag Party.

There’s many a slip ‘twixt the initial plans for a magazine and its eventual launch, and in Hefner’s case Stag Party was renamed Playboy before it hit the stands. The nudes of the already-iconic Marilyn Monroe contained in that historic first issue helped make “Hef’s” venture a rousing success from the outset — but featuring a high-profile talent like Milton Caniff and a nostalgic — and buxom! — character like Miss Lace in the second issue didn’t exactly hurt the circulation numbers.

My friend and cultural scholar/historian Doug Thornsjo recently acquired a batch of very early Playboys and — *toinnn-n-n-ng!* — the discovery that his new arrivals included the second (January, 1954) issue meant we’d be able to share a sizable portion of the “Miss Lace” feature with you in this space. (We’ll block what the Monty Python crew once called “the naughty bits” in a couple places, just to keep things all-ages-appropriate.)

Here’s the first page of the three-page article:

1 - January 1954_Page_19_A

Page two features four “Lace” strips that appeared in camp newspapers worldwide during the War years. Here are two of my favorites:

1 - January 1954_Page_20_MC A

1 - January 1954_Page_20_MC B

The last page contains four special “Lace”s — Hefner’s lead-in text will explain what made them special:

1 - January 1954_Page_21_MC C

And here’s one more of the rejected “Male Call”s that seems especially appropriate for Playboy:

1 - January 1954_Page_21_MC D

As a little bonus — again, with just a bit of blockage used — here’s an image from later in the second issue of the magazine, featuring the always-exemplary penwork of James Montgomery Flagg:

1 - January 1954 34

Hugh Hefner was something of an artist himself; he was also a great admirer of cartoonists and illustrators, as his use of Caniff and Flagg attests. One of Playboy‘s legitimate contributions to the 20th Century arts scene was its liberal use of cartoons and the generous pay scale it offered to those artists who appeared in its pages during its heyday (fiction writers also benefited from the greater-than-market-average rates Playboy paid). Whatever one may think about Hefner and the culture that grew up around his magazine and him, The Digital Age has yet to generate (to the best of my knowledge) a financial angel for artists and writers who is the equal of “Hef.” (I’d be glad to hear from anyone who can prove me wrong, though!)

And of course, one of the fun things about my job is the ability to revisit past topics when opportunities arise to amplify and expand upon them with new knowledge or imagery. Thanks Doug (as if I didn’t owe you enough already!) for making that possible in this case. Those interested will find Doug and his sharply insightful film reviews, sociopolitical commentary, and line of unique Tarot-based products on the Web at The Duck Soup Homepage.

*****

09/11/16 UPDATE: From the letters pager in Playboy‘s fourth issue, here is the published reader reaction to the “Miss Lace” featurette, including kind words from Pappy himself!

pboy_3-march-1954-3

They Don’t Wear White in Foxholes

As Lucy Shelton Caswell writes in her Introduction to our forthcoming art book—CANIFF: “Milton Caniff came from a family of pack rats and he was married to one for more than fifty years. As a result, his personal and business papers are unusually complete and intact.”

It’s from these comprehensive files at the library that Lucy was instrumental in establishing at The Ohio State University that we’ve culled an incredible array of Caniff’s art, from his childhood through the 1980s. It’s an unprecedented resource to study the career of a major cartoonist. It also presents a challenge—which of the cool artwork and memorabilia will make the cut! It’s a “problem” I wish we had every day.

This is another way of saying that we’re running a little late on deivering the book to the printer. No too late—just a few weeks—but for you Amazon-release-date watchers, be patient. It’ll be printed and in your hands in July instead of June.

To hold you over, here are three more goodies that have never been reprinted:

1. The original art to one of the travel headers Caniff illustrated and lettered as part of his staff job on the Columbus Dispatch in the late ’20s and early ’30s.

 

Travelheaders

2. The original art to one of the many illustrations he made to accompany serialized stories while working at the Associated Press in the early ’30s.

AP_d_6624

3. A syndicate promo piece that introduces Taffy Tucker, everyone’s favorite nurse in Terry and the Pirates.

Taffy_foxholes

And if THAT doesn’t leave you salivating for more, I give up!

 

The Caniff View of the LOAC Lineup

In writing about classic comics, I’m always on the lookout for connections—how the events of the day influenced strips (and vice versa), how a cartoonist’s personal life made its way into storylines or inspired certain characters. And of course, how the life of one cartoonist crossed paths with others in various social or professional ways.

That made me look at the list of talent represented by the Library of American Comics line of books and consider the list of connections between them that we have documented since Terry and the Pirates Volume 1 went on sale in the summer of 2007. Because Terry was our first release, because this summer we’ll release our big artbook, Caniff, and because Milton—”Mee-yul-tun,” as his wife, Bunny, used to pronounce his name—was always a social, “clubby” sort, I considered Caniff as we have reprinted him, through the 1946 end of Terry. I wrote his name in the center of a piece of paper, grouped the names of our other artists around him, then started making connections between them.

Here is the picture I drew:

 

E2

Yes, the details are not perfect—Gray, Capp, Gould, and Jack Kent were all also NCS members, for example, and the post-Terry Caniff has syndicate relationships with other cartoonists that aren’t depicted here—but this struck me as an interesting and useful set of groupings. The version above is also cleaner than my original; here I’ve used simple letters to replace the detailed notes I scribbled next to the arrows and boxes I sketched in amidst my cloud of names. This list describes those connections:

A: Young “Texas” Jack Kent appeared in the Li’l Abner “Advice fo’ Chillun” Sunday gag-panel feature, as shown on page 130 of our Li’l Abner, Volume 2.

B: The two artists swapped occasional letters (with Toth the more eager of the two correspondents), as we’ll discuss in Genius, Illustrated, the companion volume to Genius, Isolated, which will be on sale in a matter of weeks.

C: Kent’s King Aroo and Mills’s Miss Fury were both Bell Syndicate strips.

D: The guiding lights behind Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy were correspondents, sometimes gossipy ones, as revealed starting on page 11 of Little Orphan Annie, Volume 5: “The One-Way Road to Justice.”

E:  Blondie, Bringing Up Father, Family Circus, Polly & Her Pals, Secret Agent Corrigan, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, and Rip Kirby were all Hearst strips released under the King Features Syndicate banner.

F: Raymond and Williamson were both lauded for their work on Flash Gordon.

Do you see other connections among this group of artists? Drop a line to info@loacomics.comand let us know how you’d revise this picture of the LOAC lineup of talent. It will also be intriguing to watch how the picture grows and changes as we add new releases, including …

Whoops—out of time! Keep watching this space for future announcements!

 

 

Caniff Rarities

As we’re organizing material for the forthcoming visual biography entitled CANIFF, we’d like to share some choice items that reside in Milton Caniff’s personal collection at The Ohio State University.

Talk about historical artifcats, here the proud cartoonist telegrams his wife: he’s got a strip of his own!

DickieDare_telegram

In addition to the weekly Male Cale strip that Caniff created for the military newspapers during the Second World War, he also provided insignias for dozens upon dozens of American fighting forces units. Here’s one of his comps, circa 1944:

Boxing

Never one to miss out on an opportunity for publicity, here we see Caniff drawing the va-va-voom girl, Jayne Mansfield, who was then starring in the film “The Girl Can’t Help It.” Mansfield’s co-star was the nebbishy Tom Ewell, who, the year before, had co-starred in “The Seven-Year Itch” with Marilyn Monroe.

Jayne_Mansfield

More Caniff rarities to come, so stay tuned…

Caniff…a Visual Biography

Two days ago, I wrote that there’s no greater thrill than when the first box arrives from the printer with the latest book. A close second is discovering rare artwork or photographs and uncovering new biographical information about a cartoonist. In the case of Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett, our extensive research culminated in an 8,000-word introduction by Jeet Heer that alters the generally accepted view of Sterrett’s life.

OSU_door

On our recent foray to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University (how’s that for a mouthful o’ monicker?!), we were primarily looking through the extensive Milton Caniff archives for original artwork and rarely seen items. If you want Caniff, you go to Ohio State; the justly-famous cartoon library was formed on the basis of Caniff depositing his lifetime of artwork and files to his dear alma mater (class of 1930).

Caniff_cvr-1

We’re working on the first-ever Milton Caniff artbook, to be published next June. “First ever?” you may ask, with a tinge of doubt. It seems impossible that in a career as well-documented as Milton Caniff’s, there has not been a coffee table artbook dedicated to his work. But there hasn’t. There’s our definitive six-volume Terry and the Pirates, editions of Steve Canyon, Male Call, andDickie Dare, and R.C. Harvey’s phonebook-sized biography—but no artbook.

Buckeye

Original logo color comps for “Buckeye Boys Ranch.”

Lorraine

We think of this new project—simply titled Caniff—as not merely an artbook, but a visual biography that will include many examples of original artworks, promotional pieces, background material, and photographs. Some will be familiar to readers (such the “Pilot’s Creed” TerrySunday that was read into the Congressional Record), but presented in a new version (Caniff’s original watercolor of that famous page, which I saw for the first time on this trip!). Other graphics have never or rarely been collected or reprinted.

 

And that’s why we were in Columbus, Ohio—to find undiscovered and unreprinted gems by the most influential cartoonist of all time. And find them we did…with a little help from our friends. Last week Lorraine Turner told you about Matt Tauber donning the white gloves in the research room.

Matt_art

Matt Tauber looking through Caniff original artwork

This week, we meet one of the unsung heroes in the field of comics research—OSU’s own Susan Liberator, the Keeper of the White Gloves, the Guardian of the Great Works. Along with Lucy Caswell, Jenny Robb, and Marilyn Scott, the indefatigable Susan has been a tremendous help in all of our research at the Cartoon Library—wading through the Noel Sickles papers, the Shel Dorf, Toni Mendez, and Harold Bell collections, and the wide-ranging Caniff archives. Our much-laudedScorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, as well as Bruce Canwell’s introductions to the Eisner Award-winning Terry series, would have been much poorer without her assistance. And so, a tip of the archivist’s hat to Susan Liberator.

Susan

Who said librarian’s don’t smile?

As we were cataloguing artwork, in walked Jared Gardner, Associate Professor of English at Ohio State, who was looking up something for the history of comics course he teaches. We’re big fans of Jared’s writings about comics on guttergeek and elsewhere; it was a pleasure to meet him and talk a bit about comics criticism, Otto Soglow, and how his 21st-century students respond to such 1920s strips as The Gumps. Here we are admiring the original artwork for one of Caniff’s early drawings for the Columbus Dispatch.

Jared_Dean

In the months ahead, we’ll share additional rarities from Caniff, like this one from Harry Guyton, Milton Caniff’s nephew: an original watercolor from the 1940s that Caniff did on a standard number 10 envelope. The “bunny” is Milton’s wife, Esther, and the great dane is Capt. Blaze, named after the red-headed rascal in Terry and the Pirates.

 

Bunny_Blaze_Bonds_envelope

For now, though, I’ve got a date with the Dragon Lady…

dean_dragon_lady

 

Unexpected Treasure

Lorraine-1

Recently I had the privilege of doing research at the wonderful Cartoon Art Library at The Ohio State University. I have always loved history; it was my best subject in school…after recess and gym. I am a graphic artist and designer, but my hobby is genealogy, and I’ve become a pretty good researcher.

I say pretty good, because I am not and never will be a sleuth like some of my ancestry.com geeks (sorry, I mean “friends”) who are far ahead of me in this field. But I have to tell you, the thought of leaving 88-degree temperatures and my home facing teal water for the double-sweatered university research room with sterile white tables and SILENCE…well, let’s just say I had some mental adjusting to do. But I was anxious to begin the journey, and Dean had sweetened the deal with a promised Michigan family Thanksgiving. So naturally I was all ears.

I am a novice at comic history and here I was accompanying Dean, the bloodhound, on his mission. He instinctively knows what he’s looking for and where to look. I was just following his lead and pulling out any tidbit I thought we could use in one of our upcoming archival books. I swear, he’s like a hawk…nothing escapes his perception. Is he even human? I digress…

 

matt_dean_lorraine

Prior to our trip, we had made contact with a wonderful young man named Matt Tauber, who lived in the area and offered his help. Matt has a wonderful blog on Milton Caniff. He arrived early and was waiting as we walked into the library. Thank goodness…someone who actually goes by non-Key West time (in Key West, an hour late is the same as being on time). Dean and I liked him immediately.

matt_
He wore a million-dollar smile, emitted non-stop energy and a positive attitude that made the day sing. That’s the best way  to describe it…like great harmony. The memory of this day was like listening to a great melody. As I was shuffling through the files, wearing my Ohio State University-issued white cotton gloves, I became aware of a dynamic in the room that became a sort of revelation.

Dean kept stopping, turning, and showing Matt precious gems—obscure articles, original art, letters, memos, pencil sketches, and the mementos of family and friends of the many artists and writers who comprised a historic comics generation that has since passed. Matt would become totally enthralled and the two of them would exchange silent looks of pure joy and understanding.

That’s when it hit me. This was it—this was the reason for the endless hours, the long brainstorming sessions, the meetings, the interviews, the letter writing…all of it. For this…that pure joy. I thought we had embarked on this expedition to uncover facts and art that were useful in telling a story. This was and IS the story. By collecting all this art and information and placing it in a book, we can give others that smile when they see it for the first time and own it for themselves.

dean_matt

As we continue to uncover more of these little jewels, we can pass them along, too. And it will be there for this generation and for all generations. Joy…pure joy. And here I was fretting over the weather, silly me. I was part of an expedition. Some go to the Arctics…I went to Paradise.

 

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