Wednesday, December 26, 2012


This year marks the beginning of an amazing undertaking, the complete reprinting of the "Steve Canyon" comic strip by the Library of American Comics.  Following up on the stellar format they pioneered with "The Complete Terry & the Pirates," Dean Mullaney and company stunned the comics world with Volume 1 (1947-1948) and Volume 2 (1949-1950).  Each volume contains two complete years of strips, with the Sundays reprinted in color for the first time.  Providing background and historical context is Bruce Canwell with his well-researched introductory pieces in each book.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum held an exhibit at the beginning of the year called "Columbus Cartoonists."  It featured artwork from Milton Caniff and other artists who plied their trade in the state capital, including the library's namesake.  The library staff also started a blog this year, giving them an online ability to highlight work from their collection comic strip art, which is the largest in the world.  The library started in 1977 when Caniff began donating his art and papers to the Ohio State University.

The "Dick Tracy" comic strip had a tribute to Caniff by including some of his characters in a recent storyline.  You can see all the strips and read comments from the creators here.

Last but not least was a significant exhibit that shook the comic strip literati.  "Milton Caniff: An Introduction," curated by Matt Tauber, took over the display case in the lobby of the Green Township branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  The display included tear sheets, photos and memorabilia related to Caniff and his comic strips.  The Green Township library has the third highest circulation in the 41-branch system.  When asked about the success of the exhibit, one librarian said, "Um, well...I do see people looking at it."


All in all, a good year for Caniffites!  I'm looking forward to 2013 for Volume 3 of the Complete "Steve Canyon" TV series on DVD, two new volumes of "Steve Canyon" from the Library of American Comics, as well as the exciting expansion of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in the Fall.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Here are what I think were the best comics of 2012.  As usual, my criteria is kind of loosey-goosey, but as long as it came out in 2012 it's eligible!

DAREDEVIL, VOL. 1 [Marvel] - The most fun I've had reading a comic book this year. Set apart from the heaviness of the Avengers/X-Men books, this is a throwback to when comics could just be comics. Once upon a time, before crossovers and "event" comics, a writer could tell a new story every month, establishing a continuity along the way. It's a thrill to rediscover why I started reading Marvel comics in the first place 30 years ago.

ED BRUBAKER (CAPTAIN AMERICA # /WINTER SOLDIER # ) [Marvel] - Ed Brubaker has earned his place in the pantheon of great Cap writers. On my Cap Rushmore is Brubaker, Mark Waid, J.M. DeMatteis and Stan Lee. So no hard feelings with him ending his eight year run, having rescued Cap from the doldrums and reestablishing him as one of the Marvel greats. Brubaker's also the one who brought Bucky from the dead, establishing him as the Winter Soldier, then the new Captain America. Back into his Cold War guise, Brubaker created a compelling spy series for the solo book. As with Daredevil above, free from entanglements in crossovers, Brubaker was able to run with it.

ANIMAL MAN # [DC] - This series has a lot of things I don't like, as I'm repulsed by gross-out stuff (like bodies being ultra-deformed or inverted).  That said, Jeff Lemire's story of a hero trying to both protect his family and save life itself is a compelling read.  Buddy Baker may be able to adopt the powers of animals, but we still join him as an everyman facing a journey and challenges beyond normal comprehension.

COMICS REVUE #309-318 [Manuscript Press] - Each issue (two issues are combined in each book) is a treasure trove of comic strip reprints.  I started buying this because they reprint "Steve Canyon" every issue (currently from the early '70s).  The rest of each book is well worth it, concentrating on continuity strips from the 1930s to the 80s.  There is a special color section reprinting "Tarzan" by Russ Manning and "Flash Gordon" by Mac Raboy.  Another era of "Tarzan" appears in black and white, drawn by the underrated Bob Lubbers.  The scratchiness of Romero's art in "Modesty Blaise" has grown on me, though I still prefer the illustration work of Al Williamson on "Secret Agent Corrigan," another regular feature.  A surprise favorite of mine has been "The Phantom" by Lee Falk.  Though I find the art at times crude, it has a straight-ahead adventure escapism that's sorely missing from some modern comics.

MIKE MIGNOLA (HELLBOY: THE STORM AND THE FURY/WITCHFINDER: LOST AND GONE FOREVER) [Dark Horse] - Mike Mignola has built a varied universe around Hellboy.  While they all deal with the supernatural, he has slowly built a great fantasy epic out of the main title.  In "The Storm and the Fury", Mignola again hands off the art chores of his signature character to Duncan Fegredo, but Fegredo is the ideal partner who doesn't make us wish for Mignola to return to the art (though he will next year).  Hellboy must save England from an apocalyptic army created by the mad witch Nimue.  Hellboy, despite his appearance, grounds us to the story with his humanity and no b.s. outlook.  

In "Lost and Gone Forever," we follow 19th century occult investigator Sir Edward Grey to the American Wild West.  Co-written with John Arcudi, Grey faces Native American shaman magic as well as the undead.  I mention it mainly because it was the final work of comics legend John Severin.  Severin, a veteran of many Western comics, had a craft that was undiminished at age 90.  It was a perfect fit for this solid story, and kudos to Dark Horse for hiring him for this assignment.

SAGA #1-8 [Image] - What is this thing?  I don't really know.  A mix of alien races and technology and magic.  Two people in love from different worlds journey through the galaxy with their newborn daughter and ghostly nanny.  The big hitch is that multiple forces would like to see them all dead.  Writer Brian K. Vaughan had me for five years with his last opus, "Y: The Last Man."  I plan on being with this one for the duration.

STEVE CANYON VOLUME 1: 1947-1948/STEVE CANYON VOLUME 2: 1949-1950 [Library of American Comics] - What more can I say about Milton Caniff?  Plenty, but for this I'll just say, "The master at his peak."  'Nuff said.  P.S. He had a about a decade long "peak."

glamourpuss #24 - 26 [Aardvark-Vanaheim] - And so the bizarre experiment comes to an end.  Dave Sim enlivened the final issues with the inclusion of Zootanapuss, a Zatanna lookalike, making a mockery of elite fashion.  The other half of the book was spent concluding his saga of the strange death of cartoonist Alex Raymond.  This was the meat of the book for me, combining historical fact with Sim's sometimes bizarre speculation.  Having spent what seemed like a year building up to it, Raymond and Stan Drake finally got in the damn car to take the joyride that would end Raymond's life.  I hope that his plans to collect this storyline and expand on it someday come to fruition, though there is a sad lack of interest in Sim's work.  Sim chronicles the end of this series and his ongoing financial woes here

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE LOSERS [DC] - This is a long-awaited collection, as I've been trying to collect the "Losers" stories by artist John Severin over the last few years.  This book has all of them, as well as their earlier adventures, collecting the Losers stories from "Our Fighting Forces" #123-150, and their first appearance from "G.I. Combat" #138.  While the Kanigher/Severin run deserves the DC Archives treatment (in color on better paper), this will thrill for now.

 JOE KUBERT'S TARZAN OF THE APES ARTIST'S EDITION [IDW] - Tarzan was where I first fell in love with Kubert's work and recognized it for what it was - genius.  Kubert's art has been ubiquitous in comics for 70 years, but I passed it by from being a kid through adulthood.  It's only in the last 15 years or so where I've come to appreciate the craftsmanship of the great illustrators and cartoonists (e.g., Milton Caniff) that I had an "A-ha!" moment while reading an earlier reprint.  Now we have this amazing artifact, which showcases what is still for me some of Kubert's best work.  The Artist's Edition series reproduces the original art at it's original size, getting you as close to the creation process as possible.  Joe Kubert died this year, and this book is a fitting visual epitaph.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


At Christmastime, Caniff always thought of the military men and women, such as those getting by at the local VA hospital, those standing guard while we enjoyed the comforts of home, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Below is his Christmas poem from December 25, 1983.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The world of 70 years ago...

from the Saturday Evening Post, October 24th, 1942.  I think the ads, each beautifully illustrated, tells us something about life back then.  Sometimes it's the fashion, but in many cases it's the sacrifices and adaptations to life in wartime.  It's amazing to me that almost all these companies or products (except Statler Hotels) are still around. I've noted the illustrators where possible.

cover by Mead Schaeffer

Here's a woman undeterred by gas rationing, heading up from her local A&P Super Market.

Cheerios were first introduced in 1941 at Cheerioats.  The young lady is the mascot Cheeri O'Leary.    If you can't read that closely, the "Food Quints" with their letter caps P, C, M, F and V are Protein, Carbohydrate, Mineral, Fat and Vitamin.

General Tire by Robert O. Reid

Ingram's Shaving Cream from Bristol-Myers

Jockey, the famous brand of support underwear, with some tips for the fellas.

Libby's is there for you, concerned shopper lady!

Airplane and tank cannons from Oldsmobile.

Three timeless friends promoting a cereal the ad copy calls "gay as sunlight."

Sir Walter Raleigh.  Tobacco that "tastes good to you...smells good to others."

Somewhat bizarre art for Sylvania.

Statler Hotels...8 locations.  Stay in Cleveland for $3.00 per night!

ARMCO Sheet Metals urging you to donate scrap to your local salvage committee.

Alcoa Aluminum by Glenn Grohe

An editorial message from the Post - "Yes - you can burn books, Goebbels - but you can never burn truth out of the minds of men."

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The Shel Dorf Awards were held last month at the Detroit Fanfare.  Dorf, who passed in 2009, was letterer of "Steve Canyon" from 1975-88, though he is better known as a founder of the San Diego Comic-Con.  The website has not been updated with the winners as of this posting, but you can find many of the results here.

"Steve Canyon Volume 2: 1949-1950" came out in August.  This volume contains one of my all-time favorite Canyon stories, the introduction of Princess Snowflower.  Not only does the book print the strips directly from Caniff's proofs, but the strips are reprinted in color for the first time.  As a bonus, there is an introduction by Bruce Canwell providing historical context to the stories surrounding Caniff and the strip during this timeframe.  You can order it directly from the publisher here.

Research for the above book was done at the Billy Ireland Caroon Library & Museum in Columbus, Ohio.  The Library is moving to its new, larger space in Sullivant Hall on the Ohio State University campus in late 2013.  They are already planning a Grand Opening Festival for November 7-10, 2013.  The new home greatly expands their ability to have multiple exhibits, as well as house the largest collection of original comic strip and comic book art in the world under one roof.  They are not there yet financially, but are getting help from Jean Schulz, the widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz.  She has agreed to match donations up to $2.5 million, and they are at $2.38 million.  Click here to donate to Schulz Challenge!

The October 2012 issue of Comics Revue (#317/318) reprints the "Steve Canyon" strips from May 14 - June 10, 1972.  This magazine is an art lover's treasure trove every issue with Mac Raboy's "Flash Gordon," Russ Manning's "Tarzan," Al Williamson's "Secret Agent Corrigan"along with a dozen other classic strips.  Ask your local comics dealer!

Genius Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth is coming out on 12/18 from the Library of American Comics.  This is volume two of three of this biography/retrospective project.  Toth was a Caniff fan who grew artistically into a peer, culminating in a mutual admiration.  This volume focuses on his latter day comic book stories and his work in animation.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Turning the blog over once again to pal Ted Haycraft, who's provided us with some insightful music reviews!

BOB DYLAN - TEMPEST (Columbia) -There really is no need for another glowing (&/or slobbering) review of Uncle Bob’s latest is there?!?? As usual, a new full-fledged album of new songs from Mr. Dylan justifiably garnered plentyof coverage from every conceivable corner of our media-saturated world. Plus, being one of those Dylan fanatics who would probably pay good money just to see and listen to him read the phone book (or labels of canned goods – ahem!), I’m coming at it with pretty much a biased view with probably any and all objectivity completely thrown out the window!?!! That said, I must say that my own personal reaction to this epic feeling album is that it may be his best since the astounding TIME OUT OF MIND from 1997 (certainly my favorite of all his late career albums which launched his amazing recent run of albums up to and including his CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART album)!  I do have a theory why this is the case. By the time we are nearing the end of this album we get some solid linear story-songs, particularly “Tin Angel” and “Tempest," which for the most part have been absent on his current spate of albums. As great, potent and downright fun the songs are on these albums – especially their music arrangements sounded out by his current excellent road band – you get the feeling (or at least I do) that the verses for them almost act as separate entities and any of them could be switched around, dropped from the song or even new ones added without effecting the overall structure and theme of the song as a whole. So to hear Dylan back in full frontal storytelling mode is a joy to behold! And then he tops it all with a loving tribute to John Lennon – a cut where I can’t shake the deep emotional pull every time I listen to it. That said and done, I must add that actually my favorite track is “Pay In Blood,” which just blew me away on how – despite the dark overtones of its lyrics – is such a wonderful sounding pop song.  I can’t recall the last time Bob came up with such a fun melody!!!

 AIMEE MANN - CHARMER (Superego) - Hey…finally a new album out from the always interesting singer/songwriter Aimee Mann!!! It’s been four years since her last release and, as always, we get a good chunk of well-crafted melodious pop rock songs covering her usually topics of character studies and the ups & downs/in & outs of relationships. No one track sticks out or distinguishes itself, but if you’re a Mann fan you should be solidly satisfied with it and for a new listener this album is as good as any to become one! (And the CD booklet has a nifty design and art by Ed Sherman who also did the eye-fetching layout of Aimee’s last album @#%*! SMILERS.)  

NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE - AMERICANA (Reprise) - HA!!! I laughed out loud – a combo guffaw of amusement, shock and pure joy – right off the bat when I first listened to this album, and I continue to chuckle happily with further replays!  Neil always amazes fans and critics alike on how and where his musical career trek twists and turns and I’m expecting no one has ever anticipated to hear such well-known (grade school-singing) song nuggets like “Oh Susannah” (the opening track), “Clementine” and “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain (titled as “Jesus’ Chariot” here) taken through the Crazy Horse funky-grunge wringer!?!!?? Devoting an entire album to classic ancient American folk songs by musicians of all types is of course a long-standing tradition. When Dylan did it back in ’92 and ’93 with GOOD AS I BEEN TO YOU and WORLD GONE WRONG respectively we got a deep and dark tour through obscurities with a haunting and mournful feel. With Bruce Springsteen’s WE SHALL OVERCOME: THE SEEGER SESSIONS ('06) we plummeted into a full-blown bombastic blast of traditional songs that we are more familiar with, taken to anthem-like heights that Bruce can do in his sleep. So now here we get good ol’ Neil doing his own wonky take on even more familiar songs with even a few scratch-the-head songs thrown in for good measure: the Silhouette’s “Get A Job” and “God Save The Queen”??!? Approach this album in the right frame of mind and I guarantee you a good time – HA indeed (in a good way)!!!    

JUST TELL ME YOU WANT ME: A TRIBUTE TO FLEETWOOD MAC - VARIOUS (Hear Music/Concord) - I can’t claim to be a huge follower or very super knowledgeable of Fleetwood Mac but they certainly have been weaving in & out of my life and musical interests. So I was really intrigued by this tribute release especially since 1) it includes some of my current favorite artists – The New Pornographers, St. Vincent, Karen Elson… & 2) the very interesting song selection which includes not only the expected Nicks (who dominates) and Buckingham picks but several by Peter Green and even one by Bob Welch! It’s an uneven affair, typical of most tribute albums, but some of the highlights include a straightforward, poignant “Landslide” by Antony, a bouncing, honky-tonk take of “Rhiannon” by Best Coast, a take-no-prisoners version of “Gold Dust Woman” by Karen Elson and an electronic infused “Gypsy” constructed by Gardens & Villa.

RY COODER - ELECTION SPECIAL (Nonesuch) - I remember thinking back when Ry Cooder was pumping out a slew of soundtracks (mainly for Walter Hill films) if he was ever going to get back to doing solo albums similar to the ones early in his career (even though I was a huge fan of his movies scores!). Well finally in 2005 he did with CHAVEZ RAVINE followed by 2007’s MY NAME IS BUDDY and 2009’s I, FLATHEAD (which formed a trilogy on some of LA’s cultural history). With the later two, he began to be pretty much the sole songwriter on them, which strongly continued onto 2011’s PULL UP SOME DUST AND SIT DOWN which foreshadowed the overt political theme of his latest release. Now the deal with ELECTION SPECIAL is how it musically sounds and feels like one of Cooder’s best, harkening back to some of his earlier critically-acclaimed output. There’s one (possible) ‘slight’ problem – if you happen to be conservative/hardcore Republican without an open mind (or no sense of humor) you might have to take a wide berth around this (!?). Cooder makes no apologies where his political POV is and you probably can get the gist of it just by looking at some of the titles on the CD jacket: “Mutt Romney Blues”, “The Wall Street Part Of Town”, “Guantanamo” and “Going To Tampa”!!! If anything one should salute Cooder for throwing topical protest music up front and center whether you agree with him or not, and again, let me state that this is some of Cooder’s best music of late – a great and lethal mix of blues, folk and roots rock. The highlight for me is the track entitled “Brother Is Gone” – a haunting tale concerning deals with the devil with some mighty emotional-wrenching mandolin playing by Cooder. And I love how he wraps up the album with the strutting anthem rocking blues with “Take Your Hands Off It”: “…Get your greasy hands off my Bill of Rights / It was written right you can’t make it wrong.” Sing it Ry…and don’t be shy!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Several weeks ago I attended Wizard World Ohio Comic Con in Columbus, Ohio.  This is the show that was once Mid-Ohio Con, which I've attended since 1997.  This show has had a tumultuous history in the past decade, reaching its nadir in 2006/2007 before being sold and becoming a must-attend show, before being sold to Wizard and becoming an entirely different animal.  This was also a different experience for me, as I took my two year old.  He was having a good time, then took an uncharacteristic two-hour nap, before waking and still enjoying himself.
My son, who's not too big on getting his picture taken, asked me take his picture with these stormtroopers.

A stormtrooper busy with paperwork at his desk job.

Gleefully meeting a Tie Fighter pilot.  By the way, he's never seen "Star Wars" and has only a tangential idea of who these people are.

A vintage 1959 Miller-Meteor Combo refurbished and outfitted as a replica of the Ghostbusters vehicle.  This car is so massive I could never get an angle that showed me the entire car.

My son meets the guy from his shirt!

I didn't meet too many of the guests they had at the show, but I did get an autograph from Neal Adams in my copy of "Marvel Visonaries: Stan Lee."  He's signature joins Gene Colan, Dick Ayers, George Perez and Stan himself.  Now if I just get Ditko's I'll be all set.

There were lots of discount dealers to be found.  I particulary enjoyed one 'Everything $1' booth that was high on the esoteric.  These vintage photos are from a 1978 issue of US magazine, pre-release of the "Superman" movie.

One of the odder finds was an issue of Comics Journal 63, an oversized issue that included a Pacific Comics Catalog.  It includes, among its voluminous pages, a fiction story by Harlan Ellison with spot illos by Gil Kane.

Ok, so maybe this item below, a railroad coloring book by Cliff Merritt, was the oddest thing.

My favorite find was some old Cracked Magazines from different eras.  John Severin drew for the mag for decades, and looking back I'm bummed that I neglected the book sometime after the early 1980s (he  likely had something in every issue from the late '50s to late '90s).

The Ghostbusters meet Magnum P.I.

The A-Team visits the Love Boat.  Where else could you get mash-ups like this with dead on likenesses?

Kilowog and I had a great time.  See you next year!!