Wednesday, April 7, 2010


As part of their curriculum vitae, several cartoonists are listed as having been assistants to Milton Caniff. R.C. Harvey's Caniff biography, Meanwhile..., does a good job of fleshing out the true role of these cartoonists and their limited contributions to Caniff's work, too limited to refer to any of them as assistants. There are exceptions, such as our focus this week - Ray Bailey. Caniff was a man who had trouble saying no, Harvey relates. Civic and military groups, as well as fans, flooded Caniff with requests for special art, particularly during wartime. Caniff was doing two strips, the daily and Sunday 'Terry & the Pirates' syndicated strip and the weekly 'Male Call' for Camp Newspaper Services. He hired Bailey to help out with this 'extra-curricular' work. This is important to know, because most bios state that Bailey was an assistant on 'Terry & the Pirates', whereas it's more accurate to say that he assisted Caniff at the same time Caniff was drawing 'Terry & the Pirates'.

Bailey left Caniff to start his own strip - 'Bruce Gentry', another aviator/adventurer, with Bailey's art firmly in the Caniff school. Despite being popular enough to translate to film, 'Gentry' ended in 1951, and Bailey moved to 'Tom Corbett, Space Cadet' (1951-53). These strips are available online courtesy of Ger Appeldorn, who describes 'Corbett' as a sort of 'What if Caniff drew Terry in space?'. There's also more Ray Bailey courtesy of Ron Harris' Words and Pictures blog.

Bailey went on to comic book work, particularly Dell comics of the 1960s. He came full circle with Caniff, drawing the four Steve Canyon adventures that appeared in Dell's venerable 'Four Color' series. Bailey died in his early 60s in 1975. Below was an item recently for sale on Ebay. The seller billed it as an unpublished story for Harvey Comics. Beautiful stuff!

No comments: