Tuesday, February 24, 2009


[click image to enlarge]

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has proposed a new set of plan for regulating large aircraft not covered by current regulations for the airlines. The Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) covers aircraft over 12,500 lbs (takeoff weight). The program basically takes the TSA regulations used by the airlines - prohibited items, identification checks, air marshals - and applies them to smaller aircraft, such as private jets. The example I heard today was Tiger Woods not being able to take his golf clubs on a private jet because they could be used as a weapon to take over the plane. While many in our class warfare society won't boo-hoo the rich losing some privileges, the larger issue is government's further limitation on our freedom.

In this time of recession, the proposed LASP will hurt general aviation. It will harm pilots, owner/operators, and small airports due to both excessively increased costs and loss of business. Small airports will also be harmed with the expense of enforcing the regulations. But even in economic prosperity, the LASP is the wrong direction for the TSA. From its beginnings in Dayton, Ohio, then typified by Charles Lindbergh, aviation has been synonymous with freedom. The concept and reality of man breaking free of the earth and going where he wills it are ingrained in the American spirit. America has always been the standard bearer of aviation as a symbol of personal freedom, the impetus for flying in the first place. The proposed LASP takes away much of this freedom and diminishes us as a people.

I'm writing this because the Air Force and aviation in general never had a better friend than cartoonist Milton Caniff. Flying became the focus of his strip 'Terry & the Pirates' during wartime. Flight was the root and vocation of his next hero, 'Steve Canyon'. With the LASP, Canyon couldn't have been so freewheeling in his converted C-54. His company, Horizons Unlimited, would have to change its moniker.

This isn't just about private jets. Remote areas of the country served by airplane, such as much of Alaska, will be hard hit. Historic preservationists like those maintaining old B-17s will be hamstrung. Those who fly aircraft under the LASP's 12,500 lb weight requirement? You're next.

The TSA has a website open for public comment until February 27th.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The strip that never was...

R.C. Harvey published the above tasty tidbit (click on the picture to enlarge) in his expansive biography of Milton Caniff, which I've been a booster for since its release in 2007. It's snuck in like an afterthought, just another treasure from the archives at the Cartoon Research Library and Museum. It immediately grabbed my curiosity. I knew there was no Joe Kubert 'Terry & the Pirates' strip, so was this a tryout of some kind? This seemed strange, as by this time the adventure comic strip had all but disappeared.

'Terry & the Pirates' had already had a healthy life. Milton Caniff created the strip in 1934 and drew it until 1946. It was one of the most popular comic strips of it's time, particularly during WWII. After Caniff left to create 'Steve Canyon', 'Terry' was taken over by George Wunder, who drew it for a very long run that ended in 1973. There was a revival attempt in 1995, with art by noted painters Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, but it was short-lived. So, the idea of reviving the strip before that in 1980 doesn't seem out of the question.

I went right to the sources. R.C. Harvey told me that he didn't know, but doubted that the Tribune Media Syndicate had plans to continue the strip. I contacted the Tribune, but (surprise, surprise), no one's been hanging around from 29 years ago with the scoop.

When I interviewed Joe Kubert about his work on the Tales of the Green Berets comic strip, I asked him about the picture. Kubert is a Caniff devotee, and wanted to do 'Terry & the Pirates'-type adventure in 'Green Berets', rather than get involved with Vietnam War politics. He didn't recall any details of the drawing, but probably because I mistakenly identified the character as Steve Canyon and not Terry Lee. In October, I got to meet Joe Kubert face to face at Mid Ohio Con. I showed him the picture above. He recognized it, and simply said that someone had the idea of reviving the strip and asked him to create samples, but nothing ever came of it.

I have a nagging feeling that there's more to this story, But, for now, we know a little more than before. The picture remains, as Harvey wrote, "a bit of a tease that'll just dangle there, unrequited."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Volume 6 of 'The Complete Terry & the Pirates', which was scheduled for release last month, has been delayed. Checking Amazon, there is no new release date. Series editor Dean Mullaney, who I interviewed here, tells me it should be out 'any day now' and added the interesting fact that they are shipped by boat from South Korea.

The website for Hurlburt Field, home of the 1st Special Operations Wing of the USAF, has a nice article about Col. Phil Cochran. Other than his military feats, Cochran gained some renown for being the basis of Caniff's character Col. Flip Corkin in 'Terry & the Pirates'. Corkin figures heavily in Volume 5 of the current 'Terry' reprints, where he takes a leading role in serving as Terry Lee's pilot mentor.

'Steve Canyon' was being posted daily on Humorous Maximus. It looks like that site is gone, but the postings go on at Rip Haywire.com. There's something a little off about the strips, as if they are smaller pictures enlarged beyond clean pixel strength. The site also has Caniff's 'Male Call' strip, featuring popular G.I. pin-up Miss Lace, and his pre-'Terry' strip, Dickie Dare. 'Rip Haywire' is a current syndicated adventure strip by Dan Thompson.

Steve Canyon hats are back! In an effort to promote and propel the release of the "Steve Canyon" TV series on DVD, the Milton Caniff Estate released Steve Canyon caps in black and grey, which quickly sold out. Now the caps have returned on a limited basis, now with a neat inscription on the back. They can be ordered in the Steve Canyon Shoppe!.

'Spotlight on Milton Caniff', an exhibit at the Ohio History Center which I wrote about here, has been extended again to March 15th. Making it more worth your while are additional art exhibits on Norman Rockwell and the prints of Currier & Ives.

'Comic, Heroes, and American Visual Culture' is a current exhibit at the Flint Institute of Arts in Flint, Michigan. The artwork is from the collection Dan Howard, a retired art professor from Nebraska. It includes a hand-colored picture of Terry Lee, which Howard received from Milton Caniff in the mid-1940s in response to a fan letter.