Thursday, March 18, 2010
CANIFF BY THE BAY
The paste two weeks saw a spate of interesting Milton Caniff and Caniff-related items for auction on Ebay. First up is the most interesting of all, an oil painting Caniff did as a wedding present for his assistant, Willie Tuck. According to the seller, who tells me he is Tuck's nephew, it was completed in 1964 and measures 10"x12". Tuck later gave it to the seller's grandmother (presumably her sister) and then later it became the grandson's. An amazing piece of history that was just hanging on the wall.
This 1923 yearbook is a treasure trove of early Caniff artwork. "Could this be some of his earliest published work?" asks the Item Description. It's definitely among his earliest work. Stivers High School sophomore Caniff was a busy student, as part of the newspaper and yearbook staffs, as well as Hi-Y (a YMCA affiliated youth group) and something called the Jeffersonian. Along with his art for the school newspaper, which included a comic strip, he had an after school job helping out in the art department of the Dayton Daily News. Caniff's yearbook work would continue into college when he worked on the Makio at Ohio State. The high school, originally called Stivers Manual Training, is still in existence as the Stivers School for the Arts.
I have some doubts about this next one. The seller claims that this item "is original pen, ink and hand colored by Shel Dorf". I don't doubt that Dorf hand-colored or even inked it. But it is a duplicate of a Caniff 'Miss Lace' strip that was later used as promotional art. Caniff made prints that he could personalize Dorf, Caniff's letterer on 'Steve Canyon' from 1975 to '88, was an artist in his own right, but he didn't draw like Caniff. I'm guessing the 'Tom Fagan' this was given to is the same Fagan who passed away in 2008. As recalled by Mark Evanier, Tom Fagan was a comics fan whose public efforts to promote comics led to him being featured in several comic books as himself. All in all, a nice piece considering Dorf's role in Caniff's career, but not enough to garner the $175 starting bid.
This last one is part of a group of fraudulent Ebay listings. This is just one of over 40 caricatures posted by the same seller. He claims these were caricatures drawn by Milton Caniff for the Brown Derby restaurant. They look nothing like Caniff art, unless it was from an heretofore forgotten shitty caricature period in which he decided not to draw like himself. They don't even look like they are all by the same artist. Some have a signature (though blurry) and some don't. The seller has been nice in answering my questions, and he seems sincere, though not credible. He told me that these drawings were part of a promotion when the Brown Derby started taking the American Express card. He further told me that he set up the commission with Caniff and spoke to him several times. There's no record of any work done for American Express in the archives at the Cartoon Research Library, in neither Caniff's records nor his agent's. I asked the seller for a sharper picture or a picture of Milton Caniff's signature on one of the pictures. He declined, which is a definite 'BUYER BEWARE' red flag.