Thursday, March 25, 2010


Milton Caniff was a major influence on both the artists of his day and those who came after. Those who adopted his innovations and techniques are said to be of the "Caniff school" of artists. I'd like to spotlight one of those artists - Lee Elias. Elias made a name for himself in comic books in the 1940s and early '50s, most doing work for DC, Harvey and Fiction House. During the comic book sales decline in the mid-1950s, he turned to comic strips for work.

Several sources state that Lee Elias was Milton Caniff's assistant, from the normally reliable Toonopedia to the sometimes unreliable 'Wikipedia'. He was one of the many assistants used by George Wunder, who took 'Terry & the Pirates' over in 1946. Elias also did work on the 'Terry & the Pirates' comic book for Harvey Comics. Though the comic began in 1946 after Caniff had left, it was mostly Caniff reprint material with a handful of 3-page stories by Elias. This is probably where the confusion comes from, added with the similarity of Elias' style on his own 1950s adventure strip - 'Beyond Mars'. Elias also worked for two years on 'Li'l Abner', assisting its creator, Al Capp, who was a close friend of Caniff's.

Elias returned to comic books in the 1960s, and later taught at the Joe Kubert School. A 1970 interview with Elias was printed in Alter Ego #14. He passed in 1998.
The items below are examples of his original art that I find to be remarkably Caniff-esque. Some beautiful damsels, and that guy on the bike might as well be Steve Canyon. [click pictures for glorious enlargement]

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