Tag Archives | Milton Caniff
Canifff: A Visual Biography will be on sale in about a month. To hold you over, here are a few more goodies we uncovered. The Dragon Lady color piece is an online extra that didn’t make it in the printed book. This is one of the specialty drawings that Caniff had printed one hundred or so at a time. He would then watercolor them for fans who requested drawings.
Here’s a party we all wish we could time-travel to: a 1948 comic strip costume ball.
Here’s a Sunday page that’s not only a classic, but shows how Caniff created the half-page format. He drew the Sundays in tabloid format, then had the panels photostatted and pasted on a horizontal board. Then, either he or one of his assistants would fill in the art to the left and right. The paste-up lines on this original artwork have darkened over the years, giving us a clearer view of the process.
In writing about classic comics, I’m always on the lookout for connections—how the events of the day influenced strips (and vice versa), how a cartoonist’s personal life made its way into storylines or inspired certain characters. And of course, how the life of one cartoonist crossed paths with others in various social or professional ways.
That made me look at the list of talent represented by the Library of American Comics line of books and consider the list of connections between them that we have documented since Terry and the Pirates Volume 1 went on sale in the summer of 2007. Because Terry was our first release, because this summer we’ll release our big artbook, Caniff, and because Milton—”Mee-yul-tun,” as his wife, Bunny, used to pronounce his name—was always a social, “clubby” sort, I considered Caniff as we have reprinted him, through the 1946 end of Terry. I wrote his name in the center of a piece of paper, grouped the names of our other artists around him, then started making connections between them.
Here is the picture I drew:
Yes, the details are not perfect—Gray, Capp, Gould, and Jack Kent were all also NCS members, for example, and the post-Terry Caniff has syndicate relationships with other cartoonists that aren’t depicted here—but this struck me as an interesting and useful set of groupings. The version above is also cleaner than my original; here I’ve used simple letters to replace the detailed notes I scribbled next to the arrows and boxes I sketched in amidst my cloud of names. This list describes those connections:
A: Young “Texas” Jack Kent appeared in the Li’l Abner “Advice fo’ Chillun” Sunday gag-panel feature, as shown on page 130 of our Li’l Abner, Volume 2.
B: The two artists swapped occasional letters (with Toth the more eager of the two correspondents), as we’ll discuss in Genius, Illustrated, the companion volume to Genius, Isolated, which will be on sale in a matter of weeks.
C: Kent’s King Aroo and Mills’s Miss Fury were both Bell Syndicate strips.
D: The guiding lights behind Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy were correspondents, sometimes gossipy ones, as revealed starting on page 11 of Little Orphan Annie, Volume 5: “The One-Way Road to Justice.”
E: Blondie, Bringing Up Father, Family Circus, Polly & Her Pals, Secret Agent Corrigan, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, and Rip Kirby were all Hearst strips released under the King Features Syndicate banner.
F: Raymond and Williamson were both lauded for their work on Flash Gordon.
Do you see other connections among this group of artists? Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org let us know how you’d revise this picture of the LOAC lineup of talent. It will also be intriguing to watch how the picture grows and changes as we add new releases, including …
Whoops—out of time! Keep watching this space for future announcements!
As we’re organizing material for the forthcoming visual biography entitled CANIFF, we’d like to share some choice items that reside in Milton Caniff’s personal collection at The Ohio State University.
Talk about historical artifcats, here the proud cartoonist telegrams his wife: he’s got a strip of his own!
In addition to the weekly Male Cale strip that Caniff created for the military newspapers during the Second World War, he also provided insignias for dozens upon dozens of American fighting forces units. Here’s one of his comps, circa 1944:
Never one to miss out on an opportunity for publicity, here we see Caniff drawing the va-va-voom girl, Jayne Mansfield, who was then starring in the film “The Girl Can’t Help It.” Mansfield’s co-star was the nebbishy Tom Ewell, who, the year before, had co-starred in “The Seven-Year Itch” with Marilyn Monroe.
More Caniff rarities to come, so stay tuned…
Two days ago, I wrote that there’s no greater thrill than when the first box arrives from the printer with the latest book. A close second is discovering rare artwork or photographs and uncovering new biographical information about a cartoonist. In the case of Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett, our extensive research culminated in an 8,000-word introduction by Jeet Heer that alters the generally accepted view of Sterrett’s life.
On our recent foray to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University (how’s that for a mouthful o’ monicker?!), we were primarily looking through the extensive Milton Caniff archives for original artwork and rarely seen items. If you want Caniff, you go to Ohio State; the justly-famous cartoon library was formed on the basis of Caniff depositing his lifetime of artwork and files to his dear alma mater (class of 1930).
We’re working on the first-ever Milton Caniff artbook, to be published next June. “First ever?” you may ask, with a tinge of doubt. It seems impossible that in a career as well-documented as Milton Caniff’s, there has not been a coffee table artbook dedicated to his work. But there hasn’t. There’s our definitive six-volume Terry and the Pirates, editions of Steve Canyon, Male Call, andDickie Dare, and R.C. Harvey’s phonebook-sized biography—but no artbook.
Original logo color comps for “Buckeye Boys Ranch.”
We think of this new project—simply titled Caniff—as not merely an artbook, but a visual biography that will include many examples of original artworks, promotional pieces, background material, and photographs. Some will be familiar to readers (such the “Pilot’s Creed” TerrySunday that was read into the Congressional Record), but presented in a new version (Caniff’s original watercolor of that famous page, which I saw for the first time on this trip!). Other graphics have never or rarely been collected or reprinted.
And that’s why we were in Columbus, Ohio—to find undiscovered and unreprinted gems by the most influential cartoonist of all time. And find them we did…with a little help from our friends. Last week Lorraine Turner told you about Matt Tauber donning the white gloves in the research room.
Matt Tauber looking through Caniff original artwork
This week, we meet one of the unsung heroes in the field of comics research—OSU’s own Susan Liberator, the Keeper of the White Gloves, the Guardian of the Great Works. Along with Lucy Caswell, Jenny Robb, and Marilyn Scott, the indefatigable Susan has been a tremendous help in all of our research at the Cartoon Library—wading through the Noel Sickles papers, the Shel Dorf, Toni Mendez, and Harold Bell collections, and the wide-ranging Caniff archives. Our much-laudedScorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, as well as Bruce Canwell’s introductions to the Eisner Award-winning Terry series, would have been much poorer without her assistance. And so, a tip of the archivist’s hat to Susan Liberator.
Who said librarian’s don’t smile?
As we were cataloguing artwork, in walked Jared Gardner, Associate Professor of English at Ohio State, who was looking up something for the history of comics course he teaches. We’re big fans of Jared’s writings about comics on guttergeek and elsewhere; it was a pleasure to meet him and talk a bit about comics criticism, Otto Soglow, and how his 21st-century students respond to such 1920s strips as The Gumps. Here we are admiring the original artwork for one of Caniff’s early drawings for the Columbus Dispatch.
In the months ahead, we’ll share additional rarities from Caniff, like this one from Harry Guyton, Milton Caniff’s nephew: an original watercolor from the 1940s that Caniff did on a standard number 10 envelope. The “bunny” is Milton’s wife, Esther, and the great dane is Capt. Blaze, named after the red-headed rascal in Terry and the Pirates.
For now, though, I’ve got a date with the Dragon Lady…
Recently I had the privilege of doing research at the wonderful Cartoon Art Library at The Ohio State University. I have always loved history; it was my best subject in school…after recess and gym. I am a graphic artist and designer, but my hobby is genealogy, and I’ve become a pretty good researcher.
I say pretty good, because I am not and never will be a sleuth like some of my ancestry.com geeks (sorry, I mean “friends”) who are far ahead of me in this field. But I have to tell you, the thought of leaving 88-degree temperatures and my home facing teal water for the double-sweatered university research room with sterile white tables and SILENCE…well, let’s just say I had some mental adjusting to do. But I was anxious to begin the journey, and Dean had sweetened the deal with a promised Michigan family Thanksgiving. So naturally I was all ears.
I am a novice at comic history and here I was accompanying Dean, the bloodhound, on his mission. He instinctively knows what he’s looking for and where to look. I was just following his lead and pulling out any tidbit I thought we could use in one of our upcoming archival books. I swear, he’s like a hawk…nothing escapes his perception. Is he even human? I digress…
Prior to our trip, we had made contact with a wonderful young man named Matt Tauber, who lived in the area and offered his help. Matt has a wonderful blog on Milton Caniff. He arrived early and was waiting as we walked into the library. Thank goodness…someone who actually goes by non-Key West time (in Key West, an hour late is the same as being on time). Dean and I liked him immediately.
He wore a million-dollar smile, emitted non-stop energy and a positive attitude that made the day sing. That’s the best way to describe it…like great harmony. The memory of this day was like listening to a great melody. As I was shuffling through the files, wearing my Ohio State University-issued white cotton gloves, I became aware of a dynamic in the room that became a sort of revelation.
Dean kept stopping, turning, and showing Matt precious gems—obscure articles, original art, letters, memos, pencil sketches, and the mementos of family and friends of the many artists and writers who comprised a historic comics generation that has since passed. Matt would become totally enthralled and the two of them would exchange silent looks of pure joy and understanding.
That’s when it hit me. This was it—this was the reason for the endless hours, the long brainstorming sessions, the meetings, the interviews, the letter writing…all of it. For this…that pure joy. I thought we had embarked on this expedition to uncover facts and art that were useful in telling a story. This was and IS the story. By collecting all this art and information and placing it in a book, we can give others that smile when they see it for the first time and own it for themselves.
As we continue to uncover more of these little jewels, we can pass them along, too. And it will be there for this generation and for all generations. Joy…pure joy. And here I was fretting over the weather, silly me. I was part of an expedition. Some go to the Arctics…I went to Paradise.