After five years doing Library of American Comics work I’ve learned many things, but what impresses me most is the interconnectedness of it all. The world of the comic strips was once a tapestry with far more interwoven threads than loose ones; the ties between cartoonists often spanned decades and ranged across any number of comic strips. I’m not talking about “seven degrees of separation” ties (you know —”Artists X & Y were connected because they met at the three NCS meetings at which they were simultaneous attendees over the span of fifteen years”), I’m focused on the way so many of these immense talents built personal/professional bonds or provided advice to up-and-comers who eventually took their own places in the nation’s newspapers or were challenged by the work of other artists working for the same syndicate. For a bunch of folks who were shackled to their drawing boards, these guys sure did get around!
Since I recently finished the text for Steve Canyon Volume 2 (due out this summer and filled with fun and exciting stories), I roughed out the following diagram based around Milton Caniff. Start in the center with the Rembrandt of the Comic Strips, then follow each set of spokes outward—I came up with all these links in a handful of minutes, representing not only to the majority of talents represented in The Library of American Comics, but also several cartoonists whose work is currently being reprinted by other fine publishers. Of course there are myriad ways to draw this picture using any of the other cartoonists shown as the hub of the wheel. The ripples of influence certainly spread even further than this—think how many artists point to John Romita Sr. as an influence!
For the version of my diagram shown below, I mixed in photos and artwork to add some extra flair and perhaps to make you cogitate just a little bit about who is being referenced where (click on the image for a larger size):
You’ll notice I didn’t find strong ties between Caniff and everyone we’ve published at LOAC—there are likely connections between Milton and Bil (Family Circus) Keane, Cliff (Polly & Her Pals) Sterrett, Tarpe (Miss Fury) Mills, and Bob (Archie) Montana, but I didn’t figure them out before deadline. Let us know if you can find them…we’ll add them to the picture!