Archive | Terry and the Pirates

Mile Markers on the LOAC Road to 200

With a brand-new year and LOAC Essentials Volume 14: Barney Google available on sale, we’ve now successfully traveled The Library of American Comics Road to 200. Each month during 2019 in this space we paused to feature one of our books via the trusty ol’ LOAC Wheel of Fortune, but now seems like an opportune time to show everyone our full list of publications, from Number One to Number Two Hundred.

Of course, a list this big is best absorbed in bite-sized pieces, so we’ll offer it to you in four separate postings, with a few of my personal recollections and observations along the way.

Here is our list of LOAC titles, # 1 – 50 …

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A Betty White Christmas (with Flip Corkin as Rudolph!)

As we pause for a bit here at The Library of American Comics — to celebrate the holidays, see out the old year, and prepare to mark our 200th release — we wanted to take something of a trip back to The Way It All Began (kudos to you if you pinpointed the source of that reference without resorting to Google or Bing) …

One of our axioms is, “The more we know, the more there is to know,” and we do indeed accumulate additional knowledge as we research ongoing topics like Milton Caniff, the impresario behind Steve Canyon and Terry and the Pirates. At the appropriate place in our Terry series we devoted space to Phil Cochran, Caniff’s friend who served as the template for fictional Colonel “Flip” Corkin, seen below with nurse Taffy Tucker and Flip’s star pupil, young Terry Lee himself:

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Gobble Up This Fantasy Comics Page from 1946!

It’s tough to get an American Thanksgiving holiday to appear much later on the calendar than it does this year, on November 28th. It does happen every so often, though, and in fact it happened exactly seventy-three years ago, in 1946. Since it’s been a while since we did one of our “fantasy comics pages” in this space, we thought it might be good to show you a cross-section of what readers were seeing in their post-War newspapers.

We’ve done a fifty-fifty split between strips that mention the holiday and those that don’t. In the latter category, Bringing Up Father is no-so-subtly plugging the motion picture version of the strip that had debuted just three days previously, starring Joe Yule as the every-put-upon Jiggs and Renie Riano as rolling-pin-wielding Maggie. Blondie features the Bumstead kids, with Dagwood getting the final word, while Ernie Bushmiller puts Nancy and Aunt Fritzie through their familiar paces, and what else can one say about the day’s installment of Terry and the Pirates but, “Oh, that Burma …!”

For strips that chose to acknowledge “Turkey Day,” Buck Rogers yearns for some good old fashioned bird and fixin’s. Orphan Annie proves she’s “Daddy’s” girl, Invisible Scarlet O’Neil shows us pugs down on their luck (how invisible was Scarlet? She was nowhere to be seen on Thanksgiving Day!), and my absolute favorite entry on this fantasy page is Mutt & Jeff, with Bud Fisher spreading holiday cheer and dropping Mae West’s name in the bargain. Miss West’s career was pretty quiet by 1946 (her brilliant My Little Chickadee, co-starring W.C. Fields, was already six years old at this point), but she was lovely, she was intelligent, and her mention here shows she was still very much a household name. Many of her films still hold up remarkably well, and in her heyday she dominates the screen whenever she’s in front of the camera — I highly recommend finding, viewing, and enjoying the work of Mae West.

My Leonard Maltin impression completed, I offer you this fantasy comics page from Thanksgiving Day, 1946, plus happy holiday wishes for all our American readers, from everyone at The Library of American Comics!

The Penultimate LOAC Wheel of Fortune

Throughout 2019 we’ve been following the LOAC road to our two hundredth release by running a monthly LOAC Wheel of Fortune, choosing a theme and the books from our decade-plus backlist that fits into it, then loading those results into the Wheel, giving it a spin, and shining the spotlight on the randomly-chosen result. Since November is the eleventh month, and since eleven is represented by two “1”s, we decided to start with our 11th book and include every subsequent “ends-in-1” release to see what we’d get. The results are pretty interesting:

This month’s LOAC Wheel of Fortune list. What’s with the colorful “06” next to Superman Atomic Age Sundays Volume 1? Blame it on Red Kryptonite, folks!

We certainly don’t plan any patterns with thoughts of, “Wouldn’t it be great if Book X corresponded to release number Y?”, but a big scoop of randomness placed our first two Li’l Abner releases ten books apart, and the pattern repeated between the Caniff artbook and Steve Canyon Volume 1, and between Star Wars Volumes 2 and 3. It’s the luck of the draw.

And speaking of luck, we shuffled the list into random order and here’s how it looked:

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Echoing Caniff

Other media were ahead of comics when it came to putting rampant hormones in front of their audiences. In the movies, ribald blonde bombshell Mae West cast the handsome but essentially unknown Cary Grant in 1933’s She Done Him Wrong, a box-office smash and Oscar nominee. West and Grant teamed again (regrettably, for the last time) the very next year in I’m No Angel, while in publishing, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller was released in France and James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice in the States. The steamy sexuality in both books created sensations and scandals — Cancer was banned in the U.S., while Boston took the same action with regard to Postman.

The comics, by contrast, kept most of their romantic relationships at the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald level — that is, until Milton Caniff devoted a week of 1936 Terry and the Pirates dailies to pushing gallant he-man Pat Ryan and the alluring-but-frustrated Burma into each others arms.

The climax of Caniff’s famous TERRY sequence occurs in these two strips, from March 19 and 20, 1936

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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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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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