Monday, December 9, 2013


Here's what I liked best of the new music this year.  Some kid me about my musical taste being older than me.  The average age of the artists featured below is 56.  Norah Jones sort of spoils it.  Take out "foreverly" and the average jumps to 64.

Spirit in the Room - Tom Jones (Rounder) - For fans of Praise & Blame, this is a sequel that equals the original.  This is the comeback that stuck for Jones, returning to his soulful blues and gospel roots to overcome his own kitsch appeal.  Like its predecessor, the album is a treat of interesting covers, including Leonard Cohen, Odetta and the Low Anthem's "Charlie Darwin."  Jones also plays tribute to his peers' viability by covering recent tunes from Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan.  Like the best song interpreters, even without writing the words you believe he lived all of it.  Originally released in the UK in 2012, it did not receive U.S. distribution until 2013, so it counts.

Love Has Come for You - Steve Martin and Edie Brickell (Rounder) - Having only known Brickell from her hit of, yikes, 25 years ago, her vocals and lyrics were a captivating surprise.  Being used to following Steve Martin on the talk show circuit, I couldn't help to keep running into this special duo.  Her lilting drawl set against Martin's expert banjo picking makes you feel so good you almost don't realize all the songs involve some type of heartache.  The forgotten love, the friend waiting to be seen as something more and the old saw about a man finding a baby in a suitcase that had been thrown from a train.  I now think of her as way more than Mrs. Paul Simon #3.  On "Letterman," Dave asked, "Does Garfunkel ever come by?"  Brickell answered, "If he does, it's not when I'm there."

New - Paul McCartney (MPL/Concord) - "New" is your required dose of Macca, to be administered every 4-6 years.  I'm not sure if there's anything edgy modern or revelatory to warrant all the critical hooha, positive and welcome as it is.  It hit me as more of a sequel to 2005's "Chaos & Creation in the Backyard."  Well-written tunes punched with inventive production.  I think McCartney's at his best with producers who let him do his thing, but not fall into self-indulgence.  Many of the songs, including the title track, are bright, catchy pop.  That said, it's amazing how arresting it is to hear him presented with just guitar and vocals, as he is on "Early Days" and "Hosanna."  This is the first album where his voice is showing his age, but it's aged well.

Quality Street - Nick Lowe (Yep Roc) - When you've remade yourself as an old-fashioned crooner, albeit with rockabilly tendencies, a Christmas album may have been inevitable.  Lowe presents a mix of original, traditional and cover tunes.  The highlight for me is "Christmas at the Airport," which finds Lowe eking out holiday cheer while snowed in and then abandoned at the terminal.  That's the cheekiest it gets.  Most of the album is done without winks, sometimes even with solemnity.  "I Was Born in Bethlehem" tells the Christmas story from the point of view of a reflective Jesus - "Where my sweet mother/meek and mild/and herself only a child/gave her best/then took her rest."  Anyone else covering Roger Miller's "Old Toy Trains" would either load up on schmaltz or corn.  Lowe makes it a heartwarming ballad.  Overall, the album's a smooth  sleigh ride that, while I have it on CD, begs for a turntable.

foreverly - Billy Joe Armstrong + Norah Jones (Reprise) - I haven't read up too much on this, but for some reason the guy from Green Day and Norah Jones found out their voices harmonize really well.  So well that they decided to remake the Everly Brothers' 1958 album "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us," one of the earliest mainstream efforts to showcase what we now call American roots music.  The result is supremely satisfying, not just from their vocal blend but the timeless sound of the session players.  I have to admit I was hoping for at least one track where they would have the Everlys (still alive and singing) guest.  I guess the album's a hit, as the NFM label as issued "Songs That Daddy Taught Us: The Original Foreverly Recordings and More" which combines the Everlys' "Songs" and a greatest hits package.

Monday, December 2, 2013


John Ellis of the Milton Caniff Estate announced last month that Steve Canyon on DVD Volume 3 will be coming back from the factory this month.  Fingers crossed that everything runs smooth.  Ellis has gone above and beyond in his efforts to give fans the best, most comprehensive experience possible.

Steve Canyon Volume 4, 1953-54 hits the shelves on February 11th.  This book series is edited and designed by Dean Mullaney with historical essays by Bruce Canwell.  These were two jam-packed years for Steve, as he encounters Princess Snowflower, Miss Mizzou, Herself Muldoon and the future Mrs. Canyon.

Cartoonist Leonard Sansone is profiled in the latest issue of Alter Ego.  Sansone was a contemporary of Milton Caniff during WWII.  Both had popular strips published by Camp Newspaper Services.  Caniff had "Male Call," starring Miss Lace, an affable pin-up come to life.  Sansone had "The Wolf," a leering lycanthrope-headed G.I. on the make.  The article features an interview with Sansone's widow, providing insight into "The Wolf" and Sansone's other work.  There are remembrances of Caniff and a page of specialty crossover art with the two characters appearing together (see above).

The lastet issue of Comics Revue (October 2013) reprints the "Steve Canyon" daily and Sunday strips from October 29th through November 25th, 1972.  This issue concludes an Oley Olson football story.  Will Oley be strongarmed by gambling interests to throw the big game between Maumee and Scioto State?  Ask your comics retailer to order you a copy!

Pappy's Golden Age of Comics is a blog that posts complete stories from vintage comics.  Recently Pappy turned his eye to the Terry series published by Harvey Comics.  Terry and the Pirates Comics debuted in 1947, reprinting Milton Caniff stories from the 1930s.  Pappy has scanned the first four issues.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


What do you do when one of your favorite places moves into a brand new home?  You bring the family!

As I wrote about four years ago, this facility originated back in the mid-1970s, when Milton Caniff donated his art and  papers to his alma mater, the Ohio State University.  Under the guidance and vision, the collection grew beyond Caniff to other cartoonists, evolving into the Cartoon Research Library.  In recent years, with the acquisition of the collections of historian Bill Blackbeard and the International Museum of Cartoon Art, the library added "and Museum" to its name.  It also has been named in honor of Billy Ireland, legendary artist of the Columbus Dispatch, who was also a mentor of Caniff.  I say all that to say that now it is in the newly renovated Sullivant Hall at OSU, boasting 40,000 square feet.  Quite an evolution from its beginnings in two classrooms in the Journalism building.

The new museum boasts large gallery spaces.  The main exhibit is Substance and Shadow: The Art of the Cartoon.  This exhibit features a Who's Who of cartoonists and comic book artists, including Noel Sickles, Joe Kubert, Will Eisner and Jack Kirby.  I had a surreal moment looking at a political cartoon by Zits cartoonist Jim Borgman.  I looked up and there was Jim Borgman himself.  Nice seeing you again, Jim!

The other exhibit is Treasures, featuring not only artwork but memorabilia, such as a mint condition Steve Canyon lunchbox.  This reporter can only assume they also have the thermos.  Speaking of treasures, I had a brief chat with Jean Schulz.  Mrs. Schulz, widow of Charles, wasn't just there to check out the Peanuts cartoons on the wall (of which there are several).  Her donation of $6 million is part of what made the new museum possible.  Pretty nice, considering she has her own museum to look after.

My son Noah looking at the all-Caniff display case.  This case included a painted Caniff self-portrait, one strip apiece of "Terry and the Pirates," "Male Call" and "Steve Canyon," and 'Aesop Up to Date,' the cartoon that secured him a job at the Columbus Dispatch.  Dispatch editor Billy Ireland had asked Caniff for a cartoon that would make him "jump out of his chair."

final panel of 'Aesop Up to Date'

The 'Substance and Shadow' exhibit had Caniff as well, reprinting the climax of the infamous Raven Sherman sequence.

Many of the works of other artists were from Caniff's own collection.  Here is the humbling inscription on a "Prince Valiant" strip from Caniff's peer, Hal Foster.

My pal Ted Haycraft pays homage of his own, bowing to a two-page spread by Neal Adams from the classic "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" series.

All-in-all, an amazing new beginning for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.  I can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The drawing above by Bill Ward was recently sold at auction.  It was sold by the great-grand-nephew of Milton Caniff.  He described it as a caricature of Caniff.

I didn't see the resemblance at first, but I kind of get it from this pic of Caniff from 1943.  Ward and Caniff had something in common during WWII.  Both had strips that appeared in military camp newspapers.  Caniff had 'Male Call' -

and Ward had 'Torchy' - 

Click here to read "The Origin of Torchy."  I see a definite Caniff influence in Ward's strip work.  Ward would develop his own signature, sexy style, drawing cartoons primarily for the men's magazine market.
"Just to refresh your memory, Mr. Black, 
I called you in to help me look for an earring."

A Spanking

Lots of these cartoons had a theme of sexy secretaries and their lascivious bosses.  I'm not sure it did much for women's lib!

When the men's mags faded, Ward found work in the humor mags, particularly Cracked.  Even when I was a kid, Ward was still at it, drawing busty Nanny Dickering.  Va-va-voom!  I didn't know what I was reading!  Fortunately, neither did my mom.

To read more about Bill Ward, visit his official website.  But be warned, much of his work is R-rated and NFSW.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Blue Ribbon Press published a line of 'pop-up' books in the 1930s.  They started with nursery rhyme characters like Mother Goose, Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots.  Soon after they moved into licensed characters, including Buck Rogers, Tarzan and this gem pictured above.  This book commonly shows up for auction in the $80 - 100 range.  Owing to age and fragility, they are rarely undamaged or completely intact.  The one above is an exception.  It's the best copy I've seen to date.  It sold for $326.

This is a ticket stub for a 1947 Ohio State football game.  The stub features a picture of Chic Harley as drawn by Caniff.  Chic Harley is a true OSU football great: three-time All-American, charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and the Buckeyes won 23 of the 24 games he played in.  He was in the team's first victory over Michigan (1919) and still holds the OSU individual scoring record (8.74 points per game).  Enthusiasm over Harley's playing is credited with much of the fundraising for Ohio Stadium, built in the early 1920s.  My guess is that Harley appeared at and was honored at this 1947 game, as it was the same year the Chic Harley Scholarship Fund was started (and yes, the Bucks won 13-7).  The stub sold for $25.

Here is a special rarity indeed - a personal item of Milton Caniff's.  Caniff's great-great grand nephew recently sold some Caniff items on Ebay.  The item pictured above was Caniff's traveling liquor case.  As you can see from the first picture, the case was marked with his initials (for Milton Arthur Caniff).  The airline card has his Palm Springs address.  I know nothing of Caniff's drinking habits, though he did appear in print ads for Teacher's Scotch and Walker's DeLuxe.  My dad had one of these cases and I remember wanting to be the one to carry it in from the trunk to the hotel room on trips.  Caniff's case sold at auction for $127.

Canada Dry used "Terry and the Pirates" in promotions in 1952.  The artwork was by George Wunder, who drew "Terry" from 1947 onward.  Premiums included these pinback buttons.  Above is a complete set of five, which is quite a find.  The Terry and the Dragon Lady pins show up quite often, but I'd never even seen a Burma or Hot Shot Charlie before this auction came around.  Since a Dragon Lady pin by itself sold earlier this year for $23, the set of five was a steal at $39.

Sticking with George Wunder, here is a rare charcoal on vellum illustration by him.  The date is unknown.  It's really beautifully done, and quite a departure from his strip work in terms of style.  I'm becoming a Wunder fan more and more (and not just due to the subject matter).  Sadly, this piece bears some heavy water damage on both sides.  It sold for $84.

Friday, November 1, 2013


IT'S REAL!  The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum has finally relocated to Sullivant Hall at the Ohio State University.  The new space represents a major expansion, including multiple galleries, an enlarged reading room and 13,000 feet of on-site storage.  I've been a devotee of the library for years and am excited to go see the new digs.  I know it represents years of hard work, foresight and dedication on the part of Lucy Caswell, Jenny Robb and the staff, volunteers and donors who made it happen.  As we've reported in the past, the papers/drawings of Milton Caniff, donated in 1977, were the foundation of the collection.  The library and museum's namesake, Billy Ireland, was a mentor to Caniff's early professional career.

The library officially opens to the public the weekend of November 16-17th, which is also the same time they are holding a Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art.  Viewing the galleries exhibits is free, but there is a registration fee for the Festival.  Find out all of the details here.  The Festival will include presentations by Paul Pope, Jeff Smith, Los Bros Hernandez, Eddie Campbell, Patrick McDonnell and more!

Photo by Gabriel Olsen © 2013 SDCC
Dean Mullaney received an Inkpot Award at this year's Comic-Con International.  Dean is the Creative Director of the Library of American Comics (LOAC), publisher of The Complete Steve Canyon and many other essential comic strip collections.  He was a special guest of the con, and the Inkpot is recognition for his decades long contribution to comics, from his years as groundbreaking publisher of Eclipse Comics to his current career in comics preservation and enlightenment.

Speaking of the LOAC and Mullaney, their Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth won the Harvey Award for Best Biographical, Historical or Journalistic Presentation.  This book and it's sequel, "Genius, Illustrated" are essential reading for the comics fan.

Continuing awards season, the Shel Dorf Awards were given out last month at Detroit Fanfare. Shel Dorf, who died in 2009, was the letterer on "Steve Canyon" from 1975 - 88.  This year's event was hosted by Brian O'Halloran, known for playing Dante in the "Clerks" movies.  The "Walking Dead" comic book and artist Fiona Staples (artist of "Saga") won multiple awards.  Steve Geppi was given the "Shel Dorf Legacy Award."  Geppi owns Diamond, which he grew from a small comics distributor in the early '80s to a current monopoly of the industry.  He also has an amazing collection, which you can view at this museum.

The Auguest 2013 issue of Comics Revue reprints the "Steve Canyon" strips from October 1972.  In this storyline, Caniff indulged his long love of OSU football by having Oley as a drop kicker on the Maumee University team.  Not much intrigue going on.  Maybe Milt thought he was doing Gil Thorp.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


This past weekend was the 4th annual Cincinnati Comic Expo.  Again occupying Hall A of the Duke Energy Center, there was plenty to do and see.  Here I am with the boys, again disguised as Robin and Flash, with Bossk and a dewback riding stormtrooper.

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to this show was to meet Scott Shaw!  Shaw is a veteran cartoonist best-known for drawing Hanna-Barbera characters and my childhood favorite, Captain Carrot.  Shaw has a great knowledge of comics history, and it was fascinating to talk to him about longtime Milton Caniff associate Shel Dorf.  

Shaw signed my copy of Laff-a-Lympics #11, which he thinks might be his first comics cover.  I loved these Marvel H-B books, mainly for the eye-catching film strip running on the left margin of all the covers.

The other attraction for me was meeting Playboy cartoonist Doug Sneyd.  Sneyd has been drawing for the legendary magazine since 1964.  Some read Playboy for the articles...I read it for the cartoons! 

An example of Sneyd's work.  He's highly regarded for how well he draws, um...faces.

Robin was excited to meet two other Robins.  He's normally reluctant to pose for photographs, so I was glad he got into this one.

Ewoks beware!  Watch out for Flash on a speeder bike.

The boys were really excited to meet Art Baltazar, the artist of Tiny Titans.

Baltazar did these sketches for the boys, based on their costumes.

Getting a temporary tattoo of, who else - Robin!

Ready for action!

We all enjoyed the Lego displays, including this well-constructed depiction of the Imperial base on Endor.

Will we be back next year, Catwoman?  Purr-haps!