Friday, August 28, 2009


Recently I told you about my trip to Geppi's Entertainment Museum. What I saved for this week were the Milton Caniff-related items that I saw.

One of the most impressive displays in the museum is Geppi's large collection of Big Little Books and Better Little Books. There were seven 'Terry & the Pirates' BLBs, and I think the museum has all but one. What's remarkable about the collection, in addition to its comprehensiveness, is the like-new quality of the books. Not bad for cheap books printed in the 1930s and 40s, most of which have been tattered and torn by the kids who read and loved them.

This next item is from Mad Magazine #68 (Jan 1962). It's the original art for Wally Wood's piece entitled 'The Comic Strip Characters Christmas Party' (shown above as it was printed), in which Wood drew over 90 characters, imitating the individual style of the different cartoonists. I've zoomed in (below) on the only meeting between Terry Lee and Steve Canyon. Canyon says, "Say, Terry! I understand Milton Canff is coming! Are you prepared to meet your 'maker'?" The Canyon figure is Caniff-esque, while Terry is clearly drawn in the style of George Wunder (Caniff's successor on 'Terry' who drew the strip from 1947-1975).

This final item nearly knocked me off my feet. With all the original comic strip art framed on the walls, I expected to see an original Caniff. I didn't expect to see the teaser strip for 'Terry & the Pirates'. This strip served as an announcement and advertisement of the new strip. As we know from RC Harvey's peerless Caniff biography, the first daily appeared October 22, 1935, just one week after Caniff signed his contract with the Chicago Tribune Syndicate! I hope it didn't give the reader the idea that this was a static cast. Of the six characters introduced, only Pat, Terry and Connie would be around by February. A careful observation of the strip left me with a conundrum. It announces that the strip "starts in this space tomorrow." But October 22nd was a Monday, so the previous day would have been a Sunday. The Sunday paper would have it's own separate comics section, not the internal pages where the strips ran Monday through Saturday. So, it wouldn't have run on a Sunday. But then it wouldn't have run Saturday for the same reasons.

Riddles aside, the teaser strip makes a lot of promises - exotic adventure, villainy, romance, comedy. Boy, did Caniff ever deliver on those promises! If you saw this strip anywhere else besides the Cartoon Research Library you'd say, 'That should be in a museum.' Thankfully, it is.

The teaser strip as reprinted in The Complete Terry & the Pirates volume 1.


Randy R. said...

Great pics, as always.

That teaser strip still conveys a lot of excitement and anticipation for me, and captures a real sense of adventure and intrigue. Perhaps it's partly the periodness of it, but after all these years, it still works its magic on me!

Anonymous said...

Great post Matt! As far as the conundrum, could it be that this strip would be the one used to promo the strip for papers that joined the strip later than it's initial launch? Obviously it would be useless after the first storyline. Let us know if you find the answer.

Todd Fox

Matt Tauber said...

By jove, Todd, I hadn't thought of that!