Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I've been intrigued lately by original Caniff strip art and those who collect it. When fellow Caniff fan Ron M. posted about art he was selling through Heritage Auctions, I decided to ask him about how he got into collecting. His experience is very similar to my own. "Like most of us," Ron told me, "I read the Sunday funnies each week as a kid. But I have to admit I read only the humor strips. I didn't care for the other genres, of course this was the '80s and most the classic strips were already gone.

Terry & the Pirates - 1/12/43

In the early '90s, I bought a lot of the various reprint books and, in a lot of the introductions, they would typically mention the all-time greats, and Milton Caniff's name always came up(along with Al Capp). Regarding Caniff, once I read some of the strips in various book collections, I quickly found I enjoyed both 'Terry & the Pirates' and 'Steve Canyon'. The storytelling ability was the main enjoyment for me, the historical appreciation for Caniff's artistic abilities came a few years later. I really love his pacing and how it made you want to read the next strip, also his various locations, and his expertise with shading."

Terry & the Pirates - 7/15/43

Ron began collecting original art in 2004, buying them at auction via Heritage, eBay and Russ Cochran. What does he look for in a strip? "I personally use how much I like the art as a barometer of whether I want to buy the page (assuming I have the funds). I dont like to buy pages with too much text or word balloons, so almost all my dailies I have bought I felt the art was really cool. I decided to only buy dailies , and avoid pages that have alot of whiteout. Of course, I love all original art, it's all one of a kind; I just narrowed my criteria so I wouldn't spend more than i can afford."

Steve Canyon 7/12/48

With the boom of reprint collections collecting classic strips, Ron has been getting more enjoyment out of reading than collecting. 'Terry & the Pirates', his favorite, has been reprinted by the Library of American Comics/IDW and is still available. New collections of 'Li'l Abner', another favorite, start this month. Also topping his list are Pogo (collections begin in October from Fantagraphics, Blondie (currently being done by IDW), and Krazy Kat (currently being done by Fantagraphics). This plethora of material led Ron to the decision to sell some of his collection.

Terry & the Pirates 4/23/49

I was intrigued that his collection includes 'Terry & the Pirates' pages by George Wunder. Wunder had the thankless task of not only following Caniff on 'Terry', but competing with Caniff's new creation 'Steve Canyon'. Wunder has been judged by some as little more than a serviceable practitioner of the Caniff school. Ron gave me his perspective: "I really enjoy George Wunder art, as the first Terry Pirates pages I read in the '90s were by Wunder, not Caniff. I've always liked his art, nice crisp lines, so I'm not sure why a lot of people feel the need to constantly say he's just not as good as Caniff. I certainly would not call him an also-ran. To me, Wunder was one of the top talents in cartooning. Put me in the camp that feels he is underrated. Theres a good percentage of people who's only recollection of 'Terry' is probably the Wunder version. I enjoy both artists' work equally, and have never been one to partake in the 'who's better' arguments. Caniff is one of the elites, and to me Wunder is right up there in the next tier as well."

Terry & the Pirates 10/23/67

I asked Ron if he wanted me to provide specific links to his auctions. He responded that I should promote the entire auction of comic book art, which can be found here.

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