Archive | Caniff

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.

#

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!

 

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:

Continue Reading →

Ad-ing LIFE to the Comics

In various LOAC books we’ve shown (and discussed) examples of the intersection between comics and the world of advertising, yet it’s not a topic we’ve lingered over in this space. I decided to change that just a bit recently, when going through the contents of a bunch of Life Magazines. (One of the perks of this job is being able to sift through old magazines and newspapers, to get a look at — or in some cases, remember — The Way It Used to Be.) These Lifes had a variety of comics-based advertisements, so I snagged a batch of them to share with you.

The earliest Life ad I found with a comics connection was in the magazine’s April 15, 1940 issue. I knew Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Jeff were popular, but until I saw this I had no idea they were experts on digestive difficulties …

Continue Reading →

Episode 013 with special guest Don McGregor

Dean Mullaney and Kurtis Findlay are back for another episode of the Library of American Comics & EuroComics Podcast!

In this special episode, Dean and Kurtis invite Don McGregor to talk about this favorite classic comic strips, including Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon and Dick Tracy!

Subscribe on iTunes

Back to the Shelves

Several years ago we took some time in this space to show you what my LOAC bookshelf looked like. I shelve my books in alphabetical order by author, or by publisher where that makes more sense — for instance, while my William Saroyans are under “S”, my Fantastic Fours are under “M”, with the rest of my Marvel Comics collections. My Library of American Comics titles are therefore under “L,” and then shelved alphabetically in a logical way (well, logical to me, anyway), as you can see:

Continue Reading →

Steve Canyon: Still Swinging in the Sixties!

One of the key points I raised in my text feature for Steve Canyon Volume 8 was that Milton Caniff’s picaresque adventure strip was still a hot property as the Sixties began to unfold. The perceived “Communist threat” was a very real part of life during that period, and the nuclear specter hung heavily over citizens of many countries (having spent my single-digit childhood years in the ’60s, I clearly remember the bi-level department store in my hometown, with both ground-level and basement shopping, and how the stairwells leading down to the basement prominently displayed “Fallout Shelter” decals). We too often try to examine the works of the past from a modern-day sensibility, ignoring a simple but accurate truth: It Was a Different World Back Then. (And our society couldn’t have arrived where it is today without our grandparents, parents, and some of us living through the way it was then … but that’s a thought for another day and another forum).

While doing some advance work for Canyon Volume 9 — which will feature more never-before-reprinted stories, this time from the years 1963-64 — the power of the feature to serve as a “draw” was once again brought home to me as I saw the plethora of advertisements and promotions for the series that ran in various client newspapers. Here’s a small cross-section of them, sure to whet the appetite of any Caniffite:

Continue Reading →

Boys & Their Toys

So I’m busily working away on the text feature for Steve Canyon Volume 8 (a juicy assemblage of material that includes Milton Caniff turning real-life incidents into story fodder!) and I get this e-mail from my dear, long-time friend Doug Thornsjo. If you read the Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim you got a taste of Doug’s writing (and his voluminous knowledge of movie serials) in Volume 2, in which he produced an article about Buster Crabbe’s three chapterplay turns as Flash.

Doug knew that in Canyon we had provided some coverage of the Ideal toy line based on Milton Caniff’s high-flying colonel, items like the Jet Helmet …

Canyon Jet Helmet Continue Reading →

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 …

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes