Friday, August 28, 2009


Recently I told you about my trip to Geppi's Entertainment Museum. What I saved for this week were the Milton Caniff-related items that I saw.

One of the most impressive displays in the museum is Geppi's large collection of Big Little Books and Better Little Books. There were seven 'Terry & the Pirates' BLBs, and I think the museum has all but one. What's remarkable about the collection, in addition to its comprehensiveness, is the like-new quality of the books. Not bad for cheap books printed in the 1930s and 40s, most of which have been tattered and torn by the kids who read and loved them.

This next item is from Mad Magazine #68 (Jan 1962). It's the original art for Wally Wood's piece entitled 'The Comic Strip Characters Christmas Party' (shown above as it was printed), in which Wood drew over 90 characters, imitating the individual style of the different cartoonists. I've zoomed in (below) on the only meeting between Terry Lee and Steve Canyon. Canyon says, "Say, Terry! I understand Milton Canff is coming! Are you prepared to meet your 'maker'?" The Canyon figure is Caniff-esque, while Terry is clearly drawn in the style of George Wunder (Caniff's successor on 'Terry' who drew the strip from 1947-1975).

This final item nearly knocked me off my feet. With all the original comic strip art framed on the walls, I expected to see an original Caniff. I didn't expect to see the teaser strip for 'Terry & the Pirates'. This strip served as an announcement and advertisement of the new strip. As we know from RC Harvey's peerless Caniff biography, the first daily appeared October 22, 1935, just one week after Caniff signed his contract with the Chicago Tribune Syndicate! I hope it didn't give the reader the idea that this was a static cast. Of the six characters introduced, only Pat, Terry and Connie would be around by February. A careful observation of the strip left me with a conundrum. It announces that the strip "starts in this space tomorrow." But October 22nd was a Monday, so the previous day would have been a Sunday. The Sunday paper would have it's own separate comics section, not the internal pages where the strips ran Monday through Saturday. So, it wouldn't have run on a Sunday. But then it wouldn't have run Saturday for the same reasons.

Riddles aside, the teaser strip makes a lot of promises - exotic adventure, villainy, romance, comedy. Boy, did Caniff ever deliver on those promises! If you saw this strip anywhere else besides the Cartoon Research Library you'd say, 'That should be in a museum.' Thankfully, it is.

The teaser strip as reprinted in The Complete Terry & the Pirates volume 1.

to JILL...

In broken moonlight, we pause to sigh.
Our wedding day, five years gone by.
What words we spoke, I cannot say.
I was lost in you that day.
We pledged our love, the kind that never fails,
Then danced through meadows and happy trails.

Now I'll put this picture back in it's folder.
So we all can forget that we're five years older!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Na-no, na-no, culture lovers! Let's say it's 1979 and you like the TV show "Mork & Mindy". And let's also say you missed seeing the pilot from last fall, or you saw it but really want to see it again. What can you do? You probably didn't tape it, because VCRs are around but they're about $800 - $1000. Syndication is a few years away and the DVD release is *gasp* 25 bleems in the future. Shazbot! But wait...maybe you can read it. Video Novel to the rescue!

From 1977-1980, there was a brief publishing experiment where the movie was told using word balloons superimposed over stills from the movie. These were different from movie novelizations, where a movie is told in prose form. Called fotonovels, video novels or photostories (depending on the publisher), the brevity of the fad only enhances the bizarre kitsch factor.

There is a comprehensive list of these fotonovels. Of interest to me is that "Mork & Mindy" is the only sitcom. Most of them are geared towards science fiction, though movies like 'Rocky II' and 'The Champ' were also intended to appeal to kids. John Travolta headlines two of the novels - 'Grease' and 'Saturday Night Fever'. "Star Trek" is the fotonovel king! Twelve episodes and the first two films were adapted into fotonovel form. The brand was so strong that the 'Star Trek II' photostory was released in 1982, two years after everyone else stopped making them!

Movies and TV shows were once fleeting things. Here and gone. If you really liked a movie you had to see it multiple times, because when were you going to see it again? Folks today who see a new movie multiple times are just strange, since it will be out on DVD in about 3 months. That's why network TV premieres of movies used to be a big deal, but now they're a ho-hum enterprise. Movie memorabilia of the past, such as movie posters, was a way of owning a piece from a movie you liked. I guess movie novelizations filled this role as well. Though with the prevalence of home video I can't understand why they're still being written. You don't need a souvenir to remind them of the movies you like because you can own the movie. I'm not sure why the fotonovel didn't have a long life. Perhaps they seemed as goofy back then as they do today.

I know what your thinking (if you've read this far), a whole blog entry about a "Mork & Mindy" book? Matt must be putting me on...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Continuing with my plan to post a complete Sunday comics section from May 29, 1966, here is a 'Donald Duck' strip. [earlier strip posts can be found here]

Like most Disney work, even though it is signed 'Walt Disney' it's really the work of other artists - in this case artist Al Taliaferro and writer Bob Karp. Taliaferro had been drawing Donald since the temper-prone duck's comics debut in Disney's 'Silly Symphonies' strip in 1934. It was this earlier strip where we first saw Donald's nephews - Huey, Dewey and Louie - who were the co-creation of Taliaferro and writer Ted Osborne. Donald took the nephews along when he got his own strip in 1938. It was drawn by Taliaferro from then until 1969, so this '66 strip is at the tail end of that historic run. The strip lasted into the late 1990s ('98, maybe? That's the last date I got from the worldwide Disney comics database).

Many of these strips were reprinted in comic book form, though I don't have a good reference for that. Disney currently posts old daily comic strips on their website for fans - D23. Early last year, this Sunday strip made the comics blog rounds, as it shows Donald apparently murdering Goofy!

Monday, August 10, 2009


The tour crew - Ted Haycraft, Chuck Dixon, Todd Fox, Matt Tauber

This past weekend I was on the Chuck Dixon Midwest G.I. Joe Tour, which was previewed last week. Joining Chuck on the tour was artist Todd Fox, who has worked with Chuck off and on over the past 20 years, most recently on this year's Airboy special from Moonstone. Acting as tour organizers, entourage, security, publicists and otherwise hangers-on were myself and Ted Haycraft. Comics and pens in hand, we boldly set out to cut a swath of excitement through the heart of America. But first, a pitstop to the tomb of William Henry Harrison in North Bend, Ohio. I brought my son Noah along to see this local monument to Tippecanoe.

Up Up and Away in Cincinnati was the first stop. Owner Kendall Swafford made us feel welcome and I was excited to show my out of town friends the best comic store in the city. There was a great turnout in this fan-friendly atmosphere. It's no wonder that Kendall was nominated for this year's Spirit of Retailing award. One of the highlights was seeing Chuck meet the parents of his editor on G.I. Joe, Andy Schmidt. Sadly, Chuck didn't learn any good dirt with which to blackmail Schmidt.

Chuck and Todd greet fans at Up, Up and Away.

Saturday morning we were greeted at Comic Book World in Florence, Kentucky. Owner Paul Mullins was out of town, but Mark Craddock and the gang there took great care of us with their enthusiasm and hospitality. Chuck was glad to not only greet the fans, but to also find some Groo back issues for his son.

There was no time to lollygag in Florence with a two hour window to get to the other Comic Book World in Louisville, Kentucky. Store manager Doug Adams has an infectious love of comics that was apparent by the crowd of customers who came to the signing. A highlight was getting to meet Todd's uncle and aunt. His uncle Jack Fox is a Louisville radio legend. Have you heard the voice in the airport that tells you not to leave baggage unattended, or that the moving sidewalk is coming to an end? Chances are that it's the voice of Jack Fox. Doug capped the event by generously taking the tour crew out to dinner. Our restaurant and hotel had been taken over by the local hot rod convention, and we got to see some classic cars and one that was really far out.

Ted interviews Chuck for 14 WFIE in Evansville.

Sunday we had an afternoon signing at Comic Quest in Evansville, Indiana. The Quest is near and dear to me, as I worked there from 1990-97. Todd Fox was anxious to greet the fans on his home turf. The customers who came to see Chuck were truly pleased, particularly one G.I. Joe fan who didn't even know about the signing and just happened to come in that day. We also got some media coverage from NBC affiliate WFIE. I was bummed that my pal, store owner Jim Jones, couldn't make it, but it was still a great way to wrap up the tour.

Thanks again to everyone who came out and made this tour an enjoyable success!

Monday, August 3, 2009

ALERT! - Chuck Dixon Midwest G.I. Joe Tour this weekend!



Legendary comic book writer Chuck Dixon is doing a four-city signing tour this weekend - August 7th – 9th.

• Friday, August 7th – Up Up and Away – Cincinnati, Ohio – 4pm-8pm
• Saturday, August 8th – Comic Book World – Florence, Ky – 11am-2pm
• Saturday, August 8th – Comic Book World – Louisville, Ky – 4pm-7pm
• Sunday, August 9th – Comic Quest – Evansville, Indiana – 1pm-5pm

Chuck Dixon is the writer of the G.I. JOE comic book for IDW Publishing. This tour coincides with the opening weekend of the big-budget summer movie – G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA. Dixon has two recent Joe collections - 'G.I. Joe: Volume One' and 'G.I. Joe Movie Prequel'.

Chuck Dixon is celebrating 25 YEARS as a professional comic book writer. He is best known for his seasoned tenure writing the BATMAN family of titles for DC Comics, including 80 issues of DETECTIVE COMICS, 100 issues of ROBIN and long runs of NIGHTWING and BIRDS OF PREY. He is also a fan-favorite for his work on AIRBOY, THE PUNISHER and GREEN ARROW. In addition to G.I. JOE and G.I. JOE: ORIGINS, he is writing THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY for Dynamite Comics, the continuing adventures of 'The Man With No Name' character brought to life by Clint Eastwood in the renowned 1960’s Spaghetti Western film trilogy. Dixon is also a regular contributor to Bongo Comics' exploits of THE SIMPSONS and will soon be writing STARGATE UNIVERSE.

Comic book artist Todd Fox will be Chuck Dixon’s special guest on the tour. Fox is the co-creator of AYM GERONIMO and has been a frequent collaborator with Dixon on characters such as THE PUNISHER, RACER X and AIRBOY.

Yours truly has been involved in the organization and promotion of the tour. So come on out to these fun events and meet Chuck, Todd, me and this guy. You can also check out our tour page on Facebook.