Monday, April 18, 2011


A recent 'Terry & the Pirates' original art auction on eBay had a unique twist. Offered for sale was the strip that was published on January 14, 1942, as well as a heretofore unseen unpublished version! [click to enlarge pictures]
Above is the published version.

Above is the unpublished version. This was drawn first. Apparently there was some objection to the fourth panel and Caniff was asked to redo it. I'm sure Caniff being asked to redraw a panel was a rarity in itself, particularly at the peak of his career. It's not really a key strip and it has none of the main characters. It only has Sammy the Tapper, a minor villain who was getting his kicks blackmailing Terry's love interest, April Kane.

This was written at the bottom of the unpublished version. My best guess is "Kill this out for Herman", and then initialed EM. Perhaps some other Caniff scholars can give me a hand here? Another big curiosity is the date - 1/6/42. Was Caniff asked to make the change just eight days before press time?!? It seems like an unbelievable turnaround.

Now come the two biggest questions. What was wrong with the fourth panel. The auction seller speculated that it looked 'too official'. A collector friend of mine thinks they were worried the type would get muddied up in reduction. But wouldn't Caniff have foreseen that? Also, why draw an entirely new strip over just replacing the offending panel? The first three panels have minor changes, but it's the fourth that's completely different. A dealer friend of mine wondered if they couldn't get the original back to Caniff, or even a stat, and he redrew it from memory. I don't think that's the case, as we have both originals in hand today. I think Caniff was in a constant battle between deadlines and perfectionism. Perhaps he was always thinking of ways he could have done something better, and here he saw an opportunity to improve upon an already finished strip. See what differences you can spot in the panel comparisons.

Of the first three panels, I think this one is improved by the contrast of white paper against the waiter's suit.

Kudos to Caniff for obtaining what was likely an authentic New York rap sheet of its day. The real improvements in the new panel are (1) the use of Sam's mugshot in favor of all that type and (2) the cigarette now falling out of his mouth in shock.

1 comment:

artfrankmiami said...

Being a sometimes editor on the books I design, the new version's larger Wanted Poster says all that is needed to say-Tapper is wanted by NYPD. Nice large and bold, though I'm sure he loved writing all of those charges and having an authentic NYPD form in the strip.