Sunday, November 20, 2011


From the archive of oddites, here are Terry & the Pirates tattoo transfers. They feature a nice array of 22 characters from the run of the strip, mostly from war years. 'Terry' was no stranger to merchandising, being not only a popular comic strip, but also adapted to comic book form and a long-running serialized radio show. I'm not sure of the origin of these. Online clues point to them being a cereal premium, but the packaging itself gives us little to go on. There's no name of a product to promote or name of the manufacturer or printed them. One gimmick I like is the way the envelope the tattoos come in can double as a mailer. What a nice gift!

The other intriguing thing to me is the designation "Pack no. 9." Hmmm, what are packs 1 - 8, or even 10+? A little digging and help from other comic fans led to filling in some of the gaps, but not all.


PACK #4 - FUNNY ANIMALS (all from Fawcett, publisher of Captain Marvel)


PACK #8 - CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT (another Fawcett hero, mostly unseen since 1948)

Here are a couple more that do not have pack numbers and may or may not be related to the other series...


Sunday, November 6, 2011


I can't believe it's been three months since the release of CANIFF: A Visual Biography. It's about time I picked the brain of the book's editor, Dean Mullaney, to find out more about how the book came together. As I reported earlier, about a year ago I assisted Dean and Lorraine Turner in researching the book. But that was just one of the three days that they were at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. And that's not the only place they did research. Then the real trick is taking all of that art and turning it into a cohesive narrative, the story of master illustrator Milton Caniff and his six decade art career.

Matt: Dean, when we first spoke in 2008, I asked if there was any more Caniff that you'd like to do. You mentioned an art book back then. Was the final product close to your early vision?

Dean: It was, although that original vision was fairly vague. It started coming together in my head as we chose material for reproduction, but it didn't gel until I had all the scanning done and started organizing the art by period and category.
Matt: Originally I was not enthused about your decision to include story sequences. I thought the non-strip art should stand alone. Upon reading the book, I agree that it's an essential part in talking about "the art of Caniff". How did you choose the sequences that you used?

Dean: You simply can't have a book about a cartoonist without showing his cartoons! I asked my comrade Bruce Canwell for a list of what he considered "must-read" sequences. Most of them coincided with my choices, and he had a few that I didn't pick. I went with his longer list.
Matt: While the book is chronological, it's also thematic. For example, the 'You Are the Flag' piece from 1965 is on page 13. At the outset did you want to avoid a strict adherence to chronology?

Dean: I knew from the start that we couldn't organize it all in a strict chronological sense. For example, you can better understand the pubic service art Caniff donated throughout his career when you see that he was always available for a good cause, when you can see that continuity of purpose. If I had spread out those contributions chronologically throughout the book, it would have been too scattered to appreciate. My job as an editor and designer is to organize the material -- editorially and visually -- in a way that has the most impact on the reader. With his earlier work, I was struggling with how to organize it until I decided to call the chapter "The Buckeye Boy," which allowed me to run everything from his childhood drawings to his and Bunny's Ohio-born relationship. [Esther "Bunny" Parsons was Mrs. Caniff - M.]
Matt: There's quite a bit of material from his Ohio State/Columbus Dispatch days (nearly the first 100 pages!). Were you surprised by not just the quantity but the quality of the work? Much of his college age art is on par with more mature work.
Dean: Like most Caniff fans, I'd seen bits and pieces of this early work, but you don't appreciate how darned good he was until you see page after page of it. It's as close as we can get so many years after the fact of experiencing seeing this young guy's art day in and day out in the paper. The same thing is true of the "Gay Thirties" section. Many comics histories print one or two examples of this panel cartoon. I decided to run an entire month of the strip so readers could get a true feel for it. You need to read that many to get into the rhythm of why it worked.

Matt: What are some of your favorite finds that you didn't know existed?

Dean: Holding Noel Sickles's original art for the "Steve Canyon" logo was the biggest thrill. Others include seeing the poster announcing "Dickie Dare", and finding the rest of the collatoral material for Caniff's one-man show at the Levy Gallery in 1941.
Matt: How has the response been to the book?

Dean: I'm happy to report that I've only heard good things and that sales are strong and consistent. The response that's meant the most to me, though, came from Milton's nephew Harry Guyton. That Harry loves it is good enough for me!
Matt: What can you tell me about Contributing Editor Matt Tauber? He sounds like an awesome dude.

Dean: You may be thinking of his twin…Talk about a nice guy! Seriously, I've told you this before, but you were an essential part of researching the choices that went into the book. It's always great to do something worthwhile that's also fun.

Aw, Dean, I'm blushing. Thanks for the compliments. I will now stop blackmailing you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


They're almost here. John Ellis of the Caniff Estate has announced that Volume 3 of the 'Steve Canyon' TV series on DVD will likely be shipped by December 20th, in time for Christmas. There is still time to pre-order your copy of volume 3 and receive the free slipcase that holds volumes 1-3. You can order it direct from Ellis here.

With the completion of that Canyon project, another begins next month. Steve Canyon Vol.1: 1947-1948 debuts from the Library of American Comics (LOAC), beginning a biannual reprinting of Caniff's classic strip. What a great way to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Steve Canyon! You can pre-order your copy here.

One of the LOAC's friendly rivals in the comic reprint biz, Fantagraphics, recently began their own monumental series, that of Carl Barks and his Disney Duck work. A recent Publisher's Weekly article by James Romberger reviews the first volume, and draws a connection between Barks and Caniff. You can read that here.

Comic book artist and cartoonist Jerry Robinson died this week, on December 7th, at age 87. Robinson is best known as the creator of two essential Batman characters - Robin and the Joker. Some also credit him for the look of the early Batman comics, having started drawing for Batman co-creator Bob Kane in 1939, vastly improving on Kane's limited drawing skills at the age of 17. Robinson went on to do several comic strips - "Jet Scott", "Flubs & Fluffs", "Still Life", "Life with Robinson". He was president of the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) from 1967-69 and won their Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. His collaborative biography - "Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics" - was published last year and is currently available at nice discount. Robinson was active up until his death. Last year he published an updated version of The Comics: an Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art, originally published in 1974. One of the early, and essential, works of comic scholarship.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, which houses the Caniff Collection, was recently featured in this article by Stan Myers in the Repository, which serves the Canton, Ohio area.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) has an online collection of comic books done as a public service. Their Government Comics Collection, run by Prof. Richard Graham, is available online here. Graham has compiled a history of this type of comic into a new book:'Government Issue: Comics for the People'. Caniff was a very civic minded individual, and this is discussed in the book. One pamphlet he worked on - Bullets or Words, can be downloaded and read from this website.