2009 was a great time to be a fan of Milton Caniff, the man best known for his comic strips Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon. New books, DVDs and an ongoing web presence are an amazing feat for an artist who departed this plane over 20 years ago. The name, spirit and life's work of Milton Caniff are alive and well. While I think we'll never top Caniff centennial of 2007, this was still a huge year for Caniffites -
The Complete Terry & the Pirates: Volume 6 was released early in the year, ending the reprinting of Milton Caniff's run of 'Terry' in its entirety. Aviation buffs take note - the 1945 strips focus primarily on air actions involving Terry, Hotshot Charlie and Flip Corkin. Then in 1946, the war ends for the world, but there are plenty of new intrigues for Terry Lee and Hotshot in postwar China. Just a reader's note: if you're new to these stories and want to be surprised, save the detailed text pieces that appear in the front of the book at the end.
Steve Canyon: 1955 came out from Checker BPG, and it's an exciting change. They switched from the standard trade paperback format to a new square format. The big knock against the Checker reprints thus far (1947-54) has been the reprint size of the strips - 6" x 1 5/8". Now they have a little more breathing room at 8" x 2 3/8". The 1956 volume was due out in September, but has yet to be released. I'm actually concerned about Checker as their website is down and I haven't noticed any recent releases. Anybody with a line on Checker's status, please let me know. [12/22/09 update - Checker is alive and well. Thanks to Bleeding Cool for tracking them down.]
Volume 2 of Steve Canyon on DVD The 1958-59 TV series is being painstakingly restored and converted to digital by John Ellis and his loyal minions from the original films. The show is being released in three sets. Volume 2 includes episodes 13 - 24 of the TV series, as well as guest commentary tracks from aviation experts and guest stars from the show (like Richard Anderson). They are now taking pre-orders for Volume 3, due in 2010. I can't stress enough what a labor of love this has been for Ellis and his desire to put together the most comprehensive, quality product possible. Visit him today at the Steve Canyon DVD website.
ON THE WEB
Daily reprints of Steve Canyon and weekly reprints of Male Call are hosted by Dan Thompson at RipHaywire.com.
Doug Drexler continues his reprinting of the "Eel Island" story from 'Steve Canyon' over at Drex Files.
IN THE NEWS
The National Aviation Hall of Fame inducted its class of 2009 at an Enshrinement Ceremony on July 18th in Dayton, Ohio. The Milton Caniff Spirit of Flight Award was presented to the Apollo astronaut crews at the NAHF President's Reception and Dinner. Twelve of the surviving Apollo astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Gene Cernanand Gene Lovell, were there to accept the award. July 20th was the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The Spirit of Flight has been awarded every year since 1981. Many of the Apollo astronauts are already enshrinees of the Hall as individuals.
The Cartoon Research Library at the Ohio State University went through many changes. First, they received the contents of the International Museum of Cartoon Art (IMCA). The IMCA had been created by Mort Walker of Beetle Bailey fame and the collection had been rendered homeless after losing financial backing in 2002, with the contents stuck in storage ever since. Second, they received a $1 million donation from Jean Schulz, widow of Charles Schulz, as well the challenge of a matching gift of $2.5 million. Third, they received a $7 million gift from the elizabeth Ireland Graves Foundation in memory of Billy Ireland. Ireland was a cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch and a mentor/boss to Milton Caniff. The Library is using these gifts for a major expansion. The name has also expanded to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Research Library and Museum. Not bad for a library that started when the contents from Caniff's childhood home were donated and stored in two classrooms in the journalism building!
We recently reported on the death of Shel Dorf. Dorf was letterer of the 'Steve Canyon' comic strip from 1975 until the strip's end (shortly after Caniff's death) in 1988. Dorf was key to the production of 'Canyon', as lettering came before the pictures in Caniff's strips. Caniff would write it in Palm Springs (later New York) and then dictate the strips over the phone to Dorf in San Diego, who would letter them and then mail them off to Dick Rockwell. Rockwell would do the rough pencilling and then send it off to Caniff for changes and finishes. I wrote more about Dorf and Caniff here.
Billy Ireland drawing by Milton Caniff
Shel Dorf photo by Alan Light