Archive | Steve Canyon

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:

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

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

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

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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:

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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.

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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!

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The Big Time on the Small Screen

Some readers of our sixth Steve Canyon volume, covering strips published in the years 1957-58, had a question about my text feature for that book. Those inquiries can be summed up with one pithy question: “Where’s the write-up about the Canyon TV show?”

A CANYON ad of the sort that ran in newspapers from coast to coast in the late 1950s.

 

True, that series debuted as part of the NBC 1958 television season, starring Dean Fredericks as Light Colonel Stevenson B. It ran for thirty-four episodes broadcast in 1958-59, and then the ABC network put Canyon into its summer rerun schedule during 1960. (Remember when there was a summer rerun schedule? Seems like ancient history in these days of two hundred channels and streaming video, doesn’t it?)

So I pushed discussion of the show into our upcoming 1959-60 volume, scheduled to be on sale before the end of this year. Why make such a call? It was hardly an inappropriate decision — the show aired more episodes during the ’59-60 period than it did in 1958, after all. There is also an awful lot going on, both in the comic strip and in Milton Caniff’s life, during this particular period, and discussion of the show fits better into the overall flow of the material I’ll cover in Volume 7 than if I had shoehorned it into Volume 6.

Whether you’re a fan of Steve’s television persona or a Caniff fan curious to learn more of this “small screen alternate universe” version of Canyon, rest assured you’ll be getting what I like to think is some pretty nifty coverage when you open up “School for Spies,” Steve Canyon Volume 7, coming your way as the leaves litter the ground. Meanwhile, in addition to that newspaper ad for the series I ran up above, here are some publicity photos related to the series not currently expected to appear in the book, just to whet your appetite for what’s to come …

Dean Fredericks as Steve Canyon, with Milton Caniff showing off his rendering of the actor as his flyboy hero.

 

DEAN F_FFA RECRUITMENT 1

Dean Fredericks with Future Farmers of America (FFA), touring Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base as part of an FFA convention held in Kansas City, Missouri.

 

DEAN F_FFA RECRUITMENT 2

Fredericks adjusts the tie of Air Force recruit Larry King (no not THAT Larry King!) prior to the start of the FFA airbase tour.

MILT_DEAN F_RECOGNIZED

Fredericks is recognized for his Air Force recruitment work by Lieutenant General James Briggs while Milton Caniff looks on and smiles. As Al Capp might phrase it, “What’s good for Dean Fredericks is good for STEVE CANYON!”

A Few of My Favorite Things (Part II of II)

Concluding a look at some of my favorite storylines from the LOAC line of books, as it exists as of May, 2016. Let’s forge boldly onward, and remember this entire list is provided in no particular order …

5. Iconic Crossed Swords. Like “awesome” and “friend,” “iconic” is a word sorely abused in our modern language, its true meaning being eroded and dulled by dullards. So I try to use it carefully, and I chose it with care in reference to the last panel of this Flash Gordon Sunday page from August 14, 1938. Throughout the Alex Raymond/Don Moore run there is a reluctance to bring Flash and Ming the Merciless into direct confrontation; in this sequence, with Gordon and his loosely-knit band of Freemen ambushing the Emperor on The Island of Royal Tombs, we get an image of Ming and Flash squaring off, mano-a-mano, that truly lives up to the word “iconic.” It’s not only a perfect encapsulation of the strip, in a larger sense it’s a stirring representation of Good versus Evil. It is perhaps my favorite moment in the entire run of Flash Gordon, and I suspect I’m not alone in that assessment.

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4. Before the Famous Sandwich, There Was … The Dagwood Hunger Strike. For years while growing up, this was one of those plotlines I heard about and read about but never got to see. Bringing it to fans in our first Blondie collection was therefore a real treat for me, and I found that absorbing Chic Young’s full original run on his strip (given a first boost toward its eventual uber-popularity by this very sequence) was a fun — and sometimes eye-opening — experience. This January 25 daily, from deep in the heart of the Hunger Strike, especially tickled me, foreshadowing as it does Dagwood’s famous appetite, though his penchant for combining unlikely ingredients was a future development that readers of this story circa 1933 could never have guessed was on the far horizon.

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3. Punjab to the Rescue! One of the things I’m most proud of where LOAC is concerned is that we have preserved large spans of several deserving strips. On occasion I still pinch myself when I realize we have succeeded in putting thirty years of Dick Tracy continuity back into print, and we’re approaching doing the same for twenty-five years of that most American of The Library of American Comics, Little Orphan Annie. Harold Gray treated us to many memorable sequences starring the kid with a heart of goal and a quick left hook, but one of my favorites is “Assault on the Hacienda.” Captured by the nefarious Axel, Annie is whisked to a remote South American retreat and put under the care of the exotic Dona Dolores. “Daddy” Warbucks mounts a rescue, but eventually is captured and imprisoned deep underground with the two gals. “Daddy’s” men are still on the job and Punjab, their leader, gets good play in this July 16, 1939 Sunday page — he displays his wits, his strength, and even shows off his sensahumor!

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2. A (Sailor) Man of the World. I recently did a long piece in this space extolling the virtues of Bobby London’s Popeye, and of the many wild and wonderful stories London spins, my favorite (by about the width of one of Poopdeck Pappy’s whiskers!) is “Heavy Metal Toar.” What’s not to love in a yarn that features classic rock music superstars, a lost land, a fountain of youth, and the wonkiest biker scenes this side of Easy Rider. In fact, the August, 1989 daily below trips off a plot point that has the squinky-eyed sailor and Olive’s shapely cousin, Sutra Oyl, on a rest stop at a refreshing pond after riding a chopper south across the border. Sutra Oyl decides to do some skinny-dipping and gets a surprise after suggesting Popeye is too intimidated by her state of undress to join her — he wades in, picks her up, tosses her over his shoulder, and, well, see for yourself …

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1. Canyon Gets the Point. It’s easy to list any number of fantastic Terry and the Pirates stories that qualify as must-reads, but let’s not forget that Steve Canyon has its share of delights, too. This 1952 melodrama sees Steve among a small band who survive the crashing of their light plane in the remote woodlands south of Alaska. There they run into a most unscrupulous-seeming French-Canadian nicknamed Bonbon and hear a random radio news broadcast that indicates one of their number is hiding a stolen diamond necklace. It’s a classic melodrama of the genus “band of strangers forced together in stressful circumstances, with one of their number More Than He (or She) Seems,” and it’s expertly told with all the Caniffian touches we Milton-fans enjoy. This tale also introduced audiences to the snappy Miss Mizzou, she of the Marilyn Monroe physique and the naked-except-for-her-trenchcoat wardrobe. Mizzou became a favorite of readers, popping up semi-regularly when Steve might least expect it, and she was grist for the Caniff Steve Canyon Publicity Mill. J.B. Winter’s fine book, Miss Mizzou: A Life Beyond Comics, offers details of Mizzou’s effect on popular culture and the stir she created in the town of Columbia, Missouri. I recommend it as heartily as I recommend this Steve Canyon adventure.

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That’s my list of ten favorite LOAC stories. If you have your own list of ten (or even five) fave-raves, why not share it with us? Zap it to us at info@loacomics.com and who knows? We may do a follow-up in this space that will feature your list …

Must-See Viewing

What did we chance upon while doing a little on-line research related to our last, Syndicate-centric entry in this space, but this absolutely dee-lightful film of Milton Caniff at work – with Phil Cochran on hand to do a little mugging for the camera, too! Follow this link, scroll to the bottom of the page, then click “Steve Canyon, Terry and the Pirates Cartoonist” for your chance to see the Rembrandt of the Comic Strips wielding his brush …

Also of interest, from three years before Caniff launched Terry, “Newspaper Cartoonists ‘From Trees to Tribunes’.” This 1931 film showcases the folks behind the Chicago Tribune. At roughly the five-minute mark of the feature, you’ll see footage of influential cartoonist John T. McCutcheon, then at around 7:00 you’ll see cartoonists like Sid Smith (The Gumps), Frank (Gasoline Alley) King, and even Harold Gray drawing Little Orphan Annie.

We hope you enjoy these flicker-pictures as much as we did!

 

A Very Terry Breakfast

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There’s something about pancakes and pure maple syrup for breakfast. Add some fresh-squeezed OJ in a 1976 Terry and the Pirates glass and coffee in an early 1950s Dick Tracymug…ah, it doesn’t get any better.

S’funny how in 1976 the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate was still using Milton Caniff promo art when Caniff hadn’t drawn the strip in thirty years. Classics are classics, however, so who can blame them?

It’s a Caniff kind of day: once the breakfast is finished, today’s agenda includes starting design work on Steve Canyon volume 3, featuring Milton”s 1951-1952 strips that find him at the top of his game. The book will be winging its way to you next February.

Until then…what’s for lunch?

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Just a month away

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Next month we celebrate Steve Canyon’s 65th anniversary by releasing the first volume in our new series. Just a few more weeks, folks…

The Proof is in the…

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The only thing more exciting than seeing the proof for a new book from the printer is receiving the actual book a month later. This week is proof-time for Steve Canyon. It arrived late yesterday; this morning I was proofing it overlooking the dock and palm trees (life can be tough sometimes) before heading into the office. As I’ve mentioned at other times, we still check everything by hand. Depending on which book it is, here at LOAC the proofing is done by me, Art Director Lorraine Turner, or Associate Editor Bruce Canwell. On the other coast, Justin Eisinger and Alonzo Simon proof their own copy at IDW headquarters. We’d like to think that between all of us, we catch mistakes before the books are printed. Usually. Fingers crossed and all that.

Time to grab that cup and finish my coffee.

Like You’ve Never Seen It Before!

I initially created the Library of American Comics in 2007 to publish my favorite comic strip of all time—Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates—in a definitive hardcover archival edition, with the uncropped dailies and the Sundays in color. Our six-volume series won the Eisner Award and reviewers have kindly stated that we set the standard for all future archival collections.

As everyone knows, Milton Caniff quit Terry in 1946 in order to create Steve Canyon, a strip which he owned completely. While valiant efforts have been made by others to collect the completeCanyon, none of them were complete. Equally important, each used the cropped dailies and reproduced the Sundays in black-and-white.

We’re going to set the record straight by presenting Milton Caniff’s biggest-selling strip in the definitive edition—complete uncropped dailies and Sundays in color, using Caniff’s personal files of syndicate proofs (and in the few cases where proofs aren’t available, his tearsheets). We’re producing the series in a hardcover set to match Terry and the Pirates. As with Terry, Bruce Canwell is writing the historical essays, while I handle the edits and design. Each volume will contain two complete years. Everyone who enjoyed Terry won’t want to miss this sequel—in some ways, Terry volume seven—in which the horizons are truly unlimited. The first volume will be on sale January 16, 2012.

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Here are a few examples of the dailies as presented in previous collections—and what you’ll see in our new series. I think you’ll agree that the uncropped dailies best display Caniff’s compositional talents. This really is Canyon like you’ve never seen it before!

 

Cropped version

Cropped version

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Library of American Comics complete version

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Library of American Comics complete version

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Library of American Comics complete version

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And if that’s not enough to make you reserve your copy today, here are two 1947 Sundays, reproduced from Caniff’s personal files of syndicate proofs.

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