Archive | Terry and the Pirates

Happy 80th, Terry and the Pirates!

“Milton Caniff invented the visual and textual language that defines the very vocabulary of all adventure and character based comic art,” wrote Howard Chaykin. “Terry is what I and many others consider the greatest adventure comic strip ever done.” ‘Nuff said, Howard!

The Terry and the Pirates Sunday page premiered eighty years ago this week — on December 9, 1934 (the daily began two months earlier). Here’s that very first Sunday page. Over the next week and a half we’ll present a December Sunday from each succeeding year of the strip. It’s a great capsule of the strip’s development. Enjoy!

Click on any Sunday to see a larger view.



A Very Terry Christmas

Comics fans are well aware of the newspaper strip connection to A Christmas Story, the classic holiday film by Jean Shepherd. Ralphie, the lead character, religiously listens to Little Orphan Annie on the radio and covets an Annie Secret Society Decoder Ring. The entire story revolves around Ralphie’s burning desire for the ultimate Christmas present—a “Red Ryder carbine-action, two-hundred-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time”—named after Fred Harman’s popular western strip.

But what does this December 3, 1939 Terry and the Pirates Sunday have to do with the movie? Please join us on Facebook and post your answer.


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!


Rolling the Dice

Every so often we take a break from archival comic strip work to…well, relax by playing archival board games! Today we pulled from its drawer the 1937 Terry and the Pirates game. It’s an inventive twist on the standard Parcheesi-type strategy—the Pat/Connie/Pop/Dale pieces are there to complicate matters, but all that really counts is moving the Terry-piece down one’s edge of the board to the treasure. A neat little twist, having two tiers of simultaneous action on the board. In Caniff’s narrative, of course, Terry never finds that treasure, but it’s a different story in this game!

For continuity sticklers, Pop and Dale were long gone from the strip by 1937 (their storyline ran in late 1934 and early 1935), replaced by Normandie Drake and the sultry Burma (not to mention the evil Capt. Judas and Tony Sandhurst), but who’s counting calendar pages. A gorgeous game is a gorgeous game!





Happy Birthday ‘Taffy Tucker’

This is my LOAC “feel good” story of the year…

Serious Caniffites have long known that The Rembrandt of the Comic Strips posed men and women as characters from first Terry and the Pirates and later Steve Canyon, having them create tableaux he translated into memorable comic strip panels. Several photo features in the news media of the day chronicled Milt’s working methods and showcased images of the models who portrayed everyone from Pat Ryan to Miss Mizzou; we have run excerpts from several of those features in several of our books, including this one:



On page twenty-four of Terry Volume 5 we featured a picture of Bernice Taylor from Kansas, whom Caniff selected from a variety of candidates as the inspiration for his popular War years Army nurse, Taffy Tucker. Imagine our pleasure around Thanksgiving last year when we received a communication from Judith Bernice Taylor Holliday, whose two middle names were no coincidence: Judy, it turns out, is Bernice’s niece. She had interesting and good news to pass along about her aunt. After years of living in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Bernice Taylor moved back to her native Kansas to be close to her remaining family (“There are four nieces—I’m one—and several nephews remaining in my family,” Judy told us).

Bernice Taylor turns 95 years young on June 20th, and we hope you will join everyone at The Library of American Comics in wishing her the happiest of birthdays! And thanks to Judy Holliday, we can share this picture, taken in March, of Bernice holding a copy of Terry Volume 5 open to her picture:


Judy tells us that her aunt has had two broken hips and a broken femur in recent years. Though she uses a walker to get around these days, “Her mind is sharp and she is a delight to visit with.” She has also lost some of her hearing, but can still use a telephone thanks to a special device that translates the caller’s message into readable text, to which she can answer.

What may surprise you as much as it surprised us was Judy telling us that though Bernice inspired a character in the strip, she was no Terry devotee. Judy said she got her aunt to autograph a copy of Terry Volume 5, but when she showed her aunt the stories, “She was absolutely astounded that the book was about ‘her,’ as she had never even seen any of the comics, during or after the war. She had a fun time looking through the collection—although the big book was hard for her to maneuver—and laughed at the things ‘Nurse Taffy’ got herself into. She said she didn’t remember doing any of those things…LOL!



The July 4, 1943 Sunday featuring Taffy Tucker of the Army Nurse Corps. In this sequence, Taffy has amnesia and has forgotten that Flip Corkin’s her main squeeze. (click for larger size)



“She gave all of her scrapbooks to the family to divide up the pictures they wanted, and I ended up with the original letters from Milton Caniff to Grandma asking permission to use Aunt Bernice’s picture; the original sketch he did of her with his original signature; articles about the WWII nurses from newspapers during the war; and her Air Force commendations as she worked through the ranks to Lieutenant Colonel. The pictures will have to tell Bernice’s story, it seems; Judy told us that when quizzed about her experiences in the ’40s, Bernice simply chooses to say, “The war has been over for a long time.”

Still, the heartwarming love of her family for this most remarkable woman has come through in every one of Judy’s messages to us. “We are hosting a birthday party for her in the assisted living facility where she lives. As one of the few living WWII nurses and a veteran of the CBI Theater, I am very proud of my aunt and the sacrifices she and other WWII nurses made in caring for our troops. And while they never received the honors due them from the politicians in Washington or the military ‘brass’, we who knew and loved them honor them and their service every day. She is our family’s hero.”

Judy thanked us for “the book with her [aunt’s] picture and the collection of ‘her’ antics as Nurse Taffy Tucker,” but it’s we who owe Judy a far greater debt of thanks for sharing the story of her aunt (and her) with us, and allowing us to share it with you. And why do we suspect, if he were here on the start of her 95th year, Milton Caniff would offer her first a snappy salute, followed by his most boyish of grins…?




Amazing, isn’t it, to consider the depth and breadth of material Milton Caniff saved over his long, distinguished career as a newspaperman cartoonist? In my upcoming historical/biographical text for Steve Canyon Volume 4 I note how Milton’s lifetime of collected material formed part of the bedrock for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum and contribute to the pleasure readers take away from R.C. Harvey’s jam-packed biography of the artist, as well as the Caniff-based shelves within our own Library of American Comics. No matter how many of those artifacts get unearthed and published, there are always other intriguing tidbits that never make it between two covers. Fortunately, we have this space in which to serve up additional Miltonian treats.

Like these, for instance …


In Terry and the Pirates Volume 3, we discussed Caniff’s showing at Manhattan’s Julien Levy Gallery, complete with photographs taken during the event. Now we’re pleased to present these two images from the actual invitations sent out by the Gallery …



As one of his first contributions to the War effort following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Caniff offered to do a special Armed Services version of Terry and the Pirates, which quickly morphed into his fondly-recalled Male Call. Above is the letter from Uncle Sam that cemented that deal …

… And as the nation exhaled at the end of World War II, Caniff provided this drawing for a high school yearbook.



In Steve Canyon Volume 2, I mentioned Milton filling sketchbook pages of spot-art while attending an arts festival in Ramapo, New York. Some of the art, and the newspaper copy that accompanies it, are shown above.

Meanwhile, in Canyon Volume 3, we discussed a special 1951 Christmas drawing Caniff produced at the request of the foreign edition of Stars & Stripes, as well as his agreeing to serve on the board of directors for the Kill Devil Hills Memorial Society. Below: first, a letter to Caniff from Stars & Stripes singing the praises of his effort, followed by an article about Kill Devil Hills that the artist deemed worthy of preserving.




Finally, upcoming in our next Steve Canyon release, military readers were invited to crack a code designed to attract the attention of our steadfast hero. Here’s an excerpt from Staff Sergeant Arthur G. Buckley’s guess at a solution.

It’s easy to wish that every cartoonist had followed in Milton Caniff’s footsteps and documented his career with such meticulousness and care, but let’s not be greedy. Let’s just be glad that Caniff left behind such complete records for us to enjoy.




Our Second

Earlier this year, in August, we introduced the title of L.O.A.F.—Library Owes A Favor—for those select individuals who not only support our efforts, but also dip into their storehouses of memories, artwork, correspondence, or memorabilia, sharing those with us in order to make our books as good as they can be. We bestowed our first LOAF citation on the inimitable Bill Peckmann, who still occasionally refers to himself as “LOAFer # 1.”

Today we open up with a pair of Bills, because it’s a pleasure to reveal our second L.O.A.F. recipient: Bill Chadbourne, hereafter referred to as “Chad” (by his own preference, mind!). You’ve briefly been introduced to Chad at the end of the essay in Steve Canyon Volume 1, and you’ll not only encounter him again in future Canyons, he plays a key role in Genius, Illustrated, our concluding chapter examining the life and art of Alex Toth. You’ll have to read the book to learn the hows and whys of Chad’s dealings with Alex, but Tothfans will hardly be surprised to learn Alex’s artistic hero, Noel Sickles, is involved. Meanwhile, here is Chad talking about Chad, in a little autobiography I surreptitiously wormed out of him while we were communicating on other matters:

“Even in the so-called Golden Age of costumed comic book heroes of the 1940s, I was more interested in reading about men in jodhpurs than men in tights,” Chad said about his boyhood comics preferences. “I wanted the booted heroes of Crack Comics, Blackhawks, and Airboy, not the guys wearing masks and capes. I guess that’s why Pat Ryan became my favorite from the first time I discovered him in a comic book reprint of Terry and the Pirates, sometime in the World War II years. There were several comic books repackaging newspaper strips then, with titles likeSparkler, Tip Top, and at least one other. Terry appeared in one of our local newspapers, but my family subscribed to a rival rag. I also had a few Big Little Books of Terry.”


The artists of his boyhood were as much of an inspiration as the heroes they drew, and Chad developed his own fledgling talents, to the delight of his fellow classmates.

“In grammar school, copying the funnies for my pals was a breeze for me if I stuck to characters like Snuffy Smith. By high school I began stealing from Terry in earnest. I lifted an early sequence of villain [Tony] Sandhurst, tied to a post and being threatened by an Asian pirate with a machete. In my version, it was a daydream of a student torturing a teacher. It didn’t work.”

Chad’s artistic skills served him well in the military – well, eventually, that is. “I enlisted in the Air Force in 1952. After twenty months on Cape Cod, chasing vacationing Boston girls, I was on a troopship headed to the Korean Conflict. With the peace talks about to be resolved, I was diverted to Tokyo and eventually found a job on the base newspaper. My cartoon gag panels won a few awards and I thought I was simply wonderful.” Chad was serving in the same city as Alex Toth during the latter’s enlisted days. Both worked on their outfits’ respective newspapers, but neither encountered the other. As he tells it, Chad left the country, only to eventually return:

“Married to my Japanese sweetheart by then, with one son and another on the way, I returned briefly to civilian life, to work for an award-winning independent newspaper in the Los Angeles area. Being squeezed by major dailies, it became a ‘shopper paper’ and I was out. My future as a reporter seemed bleak, and with our second child born I re-enlisted, returned to Japan and another base newspaper. Immediately I begged to do a weekly comic strip. ‘OK,’ the commander said, ‘but it will be a travelogue,’ with Captain Comet—USAF officer, not a superhero—and his Japanese guide, Goto-san, showing the troops what they were missing by squandering their yen on bar girls instead of exploring a perfectly beautiful country. Yeah, like they were going to listen to the brass lecturing them on morals!”


This two-shot, featuring Steve Canyon meeting Chad’s Captain Comet, resulted from a Far East meeting between Chad and Milt. Another meeting between the pair, more than a decade later, was a factor in Chad meeting Alex Toth.

Chad eventually mustered out for the final time and—after a memorable Far East encounter with the Rembrandt of the Comic Strips—returned Stateside, this time going to work for the Department of Defense in a civilian capacity, working on a variety of military publications. Not content to work strictly for Uncle Sugar, Chad connected with Woody Gelman and became part of Woody’s Nostalgia Press. The Nostalgia books notably included newspaper strip collections, introducing Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Lee Falk and Phil Davis’sMandrake the Magician, and others to a new generation of fans. Dean has told Chad and others how influential Nostalgia Press was among he and his friends, so it’s hardly a stretch to say that without Woody and Chad’s Nostalgia offerings, the Library of American Comics as we know it might not exist today. Perhaps this taste of Chad’s wry candor gives you a hint at why we believeGenius, Illustrated would be a lesser work without the insights and artwork he is contributing to that book.

After providing his biographical notes, Chad came back to me with a Caniff-related addendum that may make you smile.

“I nearly forgot the big influence provided by the hardbound 1945 volume, Cartoon Cavalcade, edited by Thomas Craven. Pages 422-423 ran an enlarged Terry from 1943 (Terry’s first flying lesson)—it made me want to see lots more. By the time I was in high school, Harvey Publications began reprinting Terry and the Pirates dailies in full color. Later, they began doing Steve Canyon. I still have those issues, but they are in bad shape. So glad you folks are giving the world handsome, hardbound albums!

“The Cavalcade book was published as a premium, either for an encyclopedia or some major magazine that my uncle subscribed to. While I was always allowed to view it, I was never allowed to borrow it. Decades later, I found a copy, complete with its apology about the cheap paper used to print it. After all, there was a war on!”

There was no conflict when it came time to name our second L.O.A.F. recipient. Take a bow, Bill Chadbourne!

A Very Terry Breakfast


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?



We recently received the second volume of the French edition of the Complete Milton Caniff Terry and the Pirates published by BdArtist(e) in Paris. While we were in France during the summer, we also had the pleasure of meeting Nicolas Forsans, the editor of the series, as well as the publishers (and art gallery owners) Jean-Baptiste Barbier and Antoine Mathon. It was well worth taking the metro to Montmartre to meet them and to attend the gallery’s opening of a new show by the phenomenal artist Floc’h.


The iconic entry to the Montmartre metro station.


Laughing with editor Nicolas Forsans.


In front of BdArtist(e) Gallerie with Jean-Baptiste Barbier and Nicolas

Each volume in the French edition includes a delightful homage section in which artists pay their respects to Milton Caniff and his classic creations. Here are just four of these amazing drawings (if you want to see the rest, you’ll have to buy the books!):


Serge Clerc

HommageAvril_largerFrançoise Avril

HommageBerberianCharles Berberian


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