Thursday, October 13, 2011
(some of) The Making of 'CANIFF'
For the past year I've been hyping CANIFF: A Visual Biography from the Library of American Comics (LOAC). The book's not just essential reading for every Caniffite, it's also a point of pride for me. I played a small part in its creation as a contributing editor. I'd kept in touch LOAC honcho Dean Mullaney since we met back in 2008. When he told me that he was doing research for the Caniff book at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, I asked if he needed any help. The Cartoon Library is only a couple of hours from me, and it's one of my favorite places to go.
Dean met me at the library in late November. He was accompanied by Lorraine Turner, Art Director for the LOAC. The three of us couldn't wait to dive into the carts of research materials that were waiting for us.
We donned our white gloves and began going through the materials separately, consulting each other on different finds. Here Dean and Lorraine discuss a piece of artwork (or what to have for lunch. I can't really tell what Dean's holding).
When I came across something that might be good for the book, I would ask Dean for his opinion on what we should ask the library to scan or copy for us. After awhile, I started selecting things using my own judgment. Hope that was okay, Dean! The artwork I'm looking at here would be used for this page of the book -
Lorraine is looking through the original art that was used for the Steve Canyon Tru-Vue slides. Here's the page from the book -
One of my favorite pieces. The note I'm holding his cropped in this picture. It's a handwritten note from Caniff to Lucy Caswell. I'm paraphrasing, but it's a casual note saying 'Lucy - Here are the first sketches I did of Steve Canyon. Thought you could use them. - Milt.'
When Caniff made public appearances, he normally did a "chalk talk," that is, character sketches on an easel to delight the crowd. Dean asked the library to pull this one, not knowing the massive size of it. Here he is with the library's own Susan Liberator unrolling a portrait of Steve.
I remember thinking when Susan brought out this large package wrapped in paper that she was working on something else. As she meticulously unwrapped it, I don't think any of us knew it until we saw Steve's hair. We all had a laugh, but Dean still had to ask, "Do you have a scanner this big?"
I told Dean and Lorraine several times that this research day was like fantasy camp for me. For them, it seemed like more fun than work and sometimes like kids at Christmas. The book itself shows the love and dedication that Dean, Lorraine and writer Bruce Canwell have not only for Caniff and his art, but for the excellent standards they've established at the Library of American Comics. For me, this dazzling look at the work of my artistic hero means more for the memory of a day shared with friends.