Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Several Caniff-related books have received Eisner nominations. The Eisner Awards are like the Oscars of comics, given out every year at Comic-Con International.

Caniff: A Visual Biography, edited by Dean Mullaney (IDW/Library of American Comics)has been nominated for best Comics Related Book. I had a hand in this one, so would love to see it take home the prize. A win would be a testament to the dedication and craft of Mullaney, Lorraine Turner and Bruce Canwell for this retrospective of Caniff's life's work.

Another nominee in the same category is Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, edited by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard
(Fantagraphics/Marschall Books), which includes the "Mr. Coffee Nerves" ads of Caniff and Noel Sickles. Also in this category is Genius Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, designed by Dean Mullaney (IDW/Library of American
Comics). Toth's early fan/pro relationship with Caniff matured into one of mutual admiration. The Toth book is also nominated for Best Publication Design.

Two other Library of American Comics releases are nominated for Best Archival Collection/Project - Strips:
* Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim, by Alex Raymond and Don Moore, edited by Dean Mullaney
* TarpĂ© Mills’s Miss Fury Sensational Sundays, 1944–1949, edited by Trina Robbins

Another project that includes Caniff art is nominated in the category of Best Archival Collection/Project — Comic Books: Government Issue: Comics for the People: 1940s–2000s, edited by Richard L. Graham (Abrams ComicArts)

Comics and animation historian Don Markstein passed away on March 10th. He is best known for of Toonopedia, an online encyclopedia of cartoon characters and creators. He also had two stints as editor of Comics Revue, first as co-founder in 1984. Comics Revue has had "Steve Canyon" reprints in nearly every issue since its inception. Markstein co-founded an animation fanzine (Apatoons) and also wrote Disney comics. His Toonopedia, started in 1999, is currently being revamped.

Tribune photo by Scott Iskowitz
Comic strip artist Fran Matera died on March 15th. Not only did he cite Milton Caniff as a main influence on his art, he had several tangential connections. His first post-WWII work was assisting/ghosting for Alfred Andriola on "Kerry Drake."  Andriola himself was an assistant to Caniff in the mid-1930s. Matera was hired in 1947 to draw "Dickie Dare," an Associated Press strip created by Caniff in 1932. Matera was the third successor to Caniff, and drew it until 1949. His longest stint was drawing "Steve Roper and Mike Nomad" from 1985-2004. Matera took the strip over from Bill Overgard, who had once provided a brief assist to Caniff as well as ghosted a "Steve Canyon" comic book.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum now has their own blog, which you can check out here.  It looks like they're managing about 3 posts a week.  The best thing they've posted so far doesn't even feature rare comic art.  Rather, thanks to a new grant the expanded Library & Museum is a major step closer to reality.

Last month, the current creators of the "Dick Tracy" comic strip had a surprise for "Terry & the Pirates" and Caniff fans.  Writer Mike Curtis and artist Joe Staton had a three day sequence with Tracy getting help on a case from Boston's own Charles C. Charles, aka Hotshot Charlie.  Hotshot was a mainstay of the WWII years of the strip, as well as the Wunder years that followed Caniff.  A real treat included by Staton are the portraits in the background of Terry Lee, Burma, Dragon Lady and Caniff himself.  Hotshot even namechecks Bitsy Beekman, a "Steve Canyon" regular, in the third strip.

I asked Curtis about how the sequence came about.  "Joe and I have always been Caniff fans," Curtis wrote me.  I presume Joe read "Terry" growing up, but it wasn't carried in any of my local papers.  I read the Harvey Comics reprints when younger, and have read a lot since then."

And how do these characters intersect?  Curtis explains: "Joe and I are of the opinion that most of the comic strips we read all inhabit one world.  Last year we had Hank O'Hair from "Brenda Starr" in "Tracy"."

One thing still confused me.  Why does Hotshot look like he did in 1944, complete with vintage aircraft in the background?  Curtis told me things are a little bit different in Tracy's world.  "The way Joe and I do Tracy is that it is taking place in the present, but '40s fashions like men wearing hats is common as well.  As we like to say, 'Tracytown' is just down the highway from Sin City and such places."  Thanks, Mike!

Monday, April 16, 2012


This past weekend I attended C2E2, their third and my first. As a veteran of 10 Wizard World Chicagos, I wondered how it would measure up. I was amazed and pleased with the staggering size of the show and the massive attendance. I was there for all three days, and it took me that long to walk the entire floor, meeting the guests I wanted to meet and attending the panels of interest.
Some grumble that the media focuses on those attendees who are dressed up as characters, known as cosplayers. But it's hard not to when there's always one in your field of vision. 10 to 15 years ago, there was an occasional person in costume, sometimes a sexy woman. Today, it's like a hip thing to do for nerdy yet attractive young women to dress up as their favorite characters at a convention. Where was this when I was 25?!?

There were other bizarre goings on, such as folks selling leather corsets, Japanese snacks, and this fellow hawking "mustache monocles."

Last year at Mid-Ohio, I was shocked to see a couple of tattoo artists and people actually getting tattoos. Here at C2E2, there was an entire tattoo area, with 10 or 12 tattoo artists, and they were usually always busy. It left me wondering if some came to the con attending to get tattoos, or make the spontaneous decision when they walked by the tattoo section.

For me, the best part of the show is meeting the pros - the writers and artists who create the comics. Here's Kevin Maguire, one of my favorite artists since the late '80s. Here he's just signed my copy of his now iconic cover for Justice League #1 (1987).

I was surprised to come across Jim Keefe, the current artist of "Flash Gordon". You can check out Keefe's work at his website.. I also met another classic comic strip artist - Gary Gianni (pictured below). Gianni recently turned over the reigns of the Prince Valiant comic strip, which he has drawn since 2004. Here Gianni's signed his latest Prince Valiant book, along with a special sketch.

Joe Kubert was the first guest announced for C2E2 back in December. Upon hearing this, my reaction was 'When is it and how soon can I get tickets.' I've met Joe once before and even had the privilege of doing this interview. Kubert had a Q&A session that focused on the benefits of attending The Kubert School, the art school he founded in 1976. It's a family business in which Kubert's two famous artist sons, Adam and Andy, teach the first and second year students, while Joe teaches the third year. The questions did turn to his career and current projects. His "Joe Kubert Presents" anthology from DC, announced over three years ago, is finally due in August. He later hinted to me that his work would be the subject of an upcoming IDW Artist Edition (shhhhh!).While he talked, he did a drawing demonstration that was projected on a large screen. He drew Nite Owl from the Watchmen. He's inking Andy's pencils on the upcoming "Before Watchmen" one-shot. The drawing was raffled off to benefit St. Jude's. Guess I didn't win, though, as they haven't called.
It was so inspiring to hear a man who's been a professional artist for seven decades so excited about drawing. "I've never taken any stuff to get high or anything like that," Kubert said. "But when everything is coming out right, that's a high." He told us that he draws every day, is still learning new things, and is enthused about how comics create animated movement with still pictures. "You don't even realize you're looking at still pictures," he said, using Hal Foster's Tarzan as an example. "That's magic," said this humble master of the form. "That's really magic."

As I wandered down my last aisle in my last hour at the show, who did I stumble upon but Dot Com! Kevin Brown is in his fifth season playing Dot Com, part of Tracy Jordan's two-man entourage on "30 Rock," one of my favorite shows. This is one of the best celebrity encounters I've had at a con. He was selling "Dotcom for President" buttons and t-shirts. For $5, I got a signed button and a picture with him. I guess I could have gotten the same thing from Anthony "C3PO" Daniels, only it would have been $85. My advice to celebs (and I'm talking to you, Herb Jefferson), have a cheap item to keep the people & $$ moving.

My pal Ted went sketch happy and picked up a trio of drawings. First up, a try at Green Arrow by some guy named Neal Adams...
Ted's also a fan of requesting Big Barda as a sketch subject. Here she is in a humorous vein by Chris Rich-McKelvey of Bald Guy Studios.Finally, a very patient Ted waited a total of about three hours for this drawing by a very popular Amanda Conner. I'd say it was worth it!

Monday, April 9, 2012


Recent Releases of Note

  • Beach Boys - The Smile Sessions [2 CD]
  • Beck - "Looking for a Sign" [single from "Jeff Who Lives at Home" soundtrack]
  • Johnny Cash - The Bootleg Series Vol. 3: Live Around the World
  • Johnny Cash - The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: The Soul of Truth
  • Elvis Costello & the Imposters - The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook [CD/DVD]
  • Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - Dedication
  • Jay Farrar/Will Johnson/Anders Parker/Yim Yames - New Multitudes [1 or 2 CD]
  • First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
  • Peter Gabriel - New Blood - Live in London [DVD]
  • Indigo Girls - Beauty Queen Sister
  • Billy Joel - Opus Collection [Starbucks exclusive compilation]
  • Billy Joel - Piano Man [2 CD Legacy Edition]
  • Billy Joel - The Complete Albums Collection [15 CD box set]
  • Julian Lennon - Everything Changes
  • Paul McCartney - Ocean's Kingdom
  • Paul McCartney - Kisses on the Bottom
  • The Move - Live at the Fillmore [2CD of previously unreleased 1969 concert]
  • William Shatner - Seeking Major Tom
  • Paul Simon - Songwriter [2 CD retrospective]
  • Frank Sinatra - Best of the Best [2 CD compilation]
  • Frank Sinatra - The Concert Sinatra [reissue w/ 2 bonus tracks]
  • Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
  • Ringo Starr - Ringo 2012
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic - The Alpocalypse Tour [DVD]
  • various - Chimes of Freedom [4-CD set of Bob Dylan covers]
  • various (Neil Young/Springsteen/Simon & Garfunkel/Willie Nelson) - The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition [3 DVD or 2 CD]
  • various - John Lennon 70th Birthday Tribute
  • various [Bob Dylan] - The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams

Upcoming Releases

  • ABBA - The Visitors [CD/DVD reissue] [5/1]
  • Beatles - Yellow Submarine [DVD/Blu-Ray reissue] [5/29]
  • Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions [3 CD/1 DVD] [4/21]
  • Phil Collins - Live in Montreux [2 DVD] [5/1]
  • Electric Light Orchestra - Electric Light Orchestra [CD/DVD reissue of 1st album] [6/19]
  • Art Garfunkel - The Singer [2 CD compilation]
  • Nanci Griffith - Intersection [4/10]
  • George Harrison - Living in the Material World [DVD documentary] [5/1]
  • Gordon Lightfoot - All Live [4/17]
  • Paul McCartney - Ram [reissue] [5/22]
  • Willie Nelson - Heroes [5/14]
  • Paul Simon - Graceland [reissue w/ DVD documentary] [6/5]
  • Son Volt - untitled [Fall]
  • Regina Spektor - What We Saw From the Cheap Seats [5/29]
  • Loudon Wainwright III - Older Than My Old Man Now [4/17]
  • Joe Walsh - Analog Man [6/5]
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Americana [6/5]
Record Store Day - April 21st
  • ABBA - "Voulez-Vouz Extended Dance Remix" - 12" 45RPM vinyl
  • The Byrds - "It's No Use"/"Feel a Whole Lot Better" - 7" vinyl
  • Dillard and Clark - "Lyin Down in the MIddle"/"Why Not Your Baby" - 7" vinyl
  • Genesis - Spot the Pigeon EP - 12" blue vinyl - 33 1/3 & 45 RPM
  • The Knack - Live in Los Angeles, 1978 - 10" colored vinyl
  • Paul McCartney - "Another Day"/"Oh Woman Oh Why" - 7" vinyl
  • Bruce Springsteen - "Rocky Ground" - 7" vinyl
  • Regina Spektor - "The Pyaer of Francois Villon" - 7" vinyl
  • Uncle Tupelo - "The Seven Inch Singles Box" - 45 RPM 4-disc set
  • soundtrack - The Breakfast Club - 12" white vinyl
  • soundtrack - Pretty in Pink - 12" pink vinyl

On Tour in the Tri-State

  • Abbey Road on the River - Louisville [5/24-5/27]
  • Aziz Ansari - Kent [4/12], Indy [5/12]
  • Mike Birbigila - Wabash [4/27], Indy [4/28], Cleveland [4/29]
  • Chicago - Columbus [7/27]. Cincinnati [7/29]
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash - Cleveland [6/10], Cincinnati [7/30], Toledo [7/31]
  • Iris Dement - Lexington [4/20]
  • Doobie Brothers - Belterra [5/12], Columbus [7/27], Cincinnati [7/29]
  • Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - Montpelier, OH [6/23]
  • Jim Gaffigan - Cleveland [5/12], Columbus [7/25], Cincinnati [8/17]
  • Colin Hay - Kent [5/16], Cincinnati [5/17]
  • Herman's Hermits - Newark, OH [5/19]
  • Vicki Lawrence - Renfro Valley [4/28]
  • Barry Manilow - Cincinnati [4/20], Columbus [4/21]
  • Steve Miller Band - Cincinnati [7/25]
  • Willie Nelson - Louisville [4/14]
  • Amy Ray - Indy [5/11]
  • Leon Redbone - Kent [4/27]
  • Don Rickles - Belterra [4/28]
  • Jerry Seinfeld - Akron [4/20]
  • William Shatner - Cincinnati [4/13], Cleveland [4/14], Columbus [4/15]
  • Son Volt - Bloomington [5/3]
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band - Cleveland [4/17]
  • Rod Stewart/Stevie Nicks - Cincinnati [7/21]
  • Styx - Louisville [6/23], Cincinnati [6/26]
  • B.J. Thomas - Louisville [8/21]
  • Loudon Wainwright III - Cleveland [4/19]
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic - Indy [5/6], Akron [5/8]

Coming soon....the Reviews!

Monday, April 2, 2012


HERE is a recent expose about a fake Ernie Bushmiller sketch on Ebay. It got me thinking about the Ebay seller I wrote about over two years ago in this post. He was selling caricature prints that he claimed were by Caniff. I could see that they were so obviously not Caniff that I wondered why he was making the claim. So, I e-mailed the seller and asked him. He argued that they were by Caniff, and that he was personally involved in having the art done as a promotion for a company he worked for.

He pointed out that they're signed by Caniff. The signatures on the prints aren't visible with his small, blurry scans. I asked for a better scan, and he refused. I asked Caniff experts, and they agreed that no, Caniff didn't have a side career doing terrible celebrity caricatures. Representatives from the Milton Caniff Estate said they weren't Caniff, and I forwarded an e-mail from them to tell him so. He was undeterred, and a little irate. He told me that the prints were only $18, so it didn't matter if they were by Caniff or not. Then he told me to stop e-mailing him, which I did.

He's also got a print of Joe Palooka, a comic strip character created by Ham Fisher. He says even this is by Caniff, of "Terry and the Pirates Fame." Why would Caniff be ripping off his friend Fisher? The picture is signed, but once again too blurry to be read.

What's boggling is that this same seller does have legitimate Caniff product for sale. He regularly sells National Aviation Hall of Fame prints that were drawn by Caniff.

Another questionable Caniff auction from a different seller was this original drawing. It's one I came close to bidding on, but something wasn't quite right. It's not signed, and the price was low so it seemed collectors were staying away. The ultimate buyer got it for $43.50, and wrote about his skepticism on his own blog. The back says "Museum of Cartoon Art" and "Caniff Class." It makes me think this was a student piece, trying to draw like Caniff. He did a great job as it's a nice drawing, but enough of a question mark that it would be hard to authenticate.

The moral of the story is, of course, BUYER BEWARE.