Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Several Caniff-related books have received Eisner nominations. The Eisner Awards are like the Oscars of comics, given out every year at Comic-Con International.

Caniff: A Visual Biography, edited by Dean Mullaney (IDW/Library of American Comics)has been nominated for best Comics Related Book. I had a hand in this one, so would love to see it take home the prize. A win would be a testament to the dedication and craft of Mullaney, Lorraine Turner and Bruce Canwell for this retrospective of Caniff's life's work.

Another nominee in the same category is Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, edited by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard
(Fantagraphics/Marschall Books), which includes the "Mr. Coffee Nerves" ads of Caniff and Noel Sickles. Also in this category is Genius Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, designed by Dean Mullaney (IDW/Library of American
Comics). Toth's early fan/pro relationship with Caniff matured into one of mutual admiration. The Toth book is also nominated for Best Publication Design.

Two other Library of American Comics releases are nominated for Best Archival Collection/Project - Strips:
* Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim, by Alex Raymond and Don Moore, edited by Dean Mullaney
* TarpĂ© Mills’s Miss Fury Sensational Sundays, 1944–1949, edited by Trina Robbins

Another project that includes Caniff art is nominated in the category of Best Archival Collection/Project — Comic Books: Government Issue: Comics for the People: 1940s–2000s, edited by Richard L. Graham (Abrams ComicArts)

Comics and animation historian Don Markstein passed away on March 10th. He is best known for of Toonopedia, an online encyclopedia of cartoon characters and creators. He also had two stints as editor of Comics Revue, first as co-founder in 1984. Comics Revue has had "Steve Canyon" reprints in nearly every issue since its inception. Markstein co-founded an animation fanzine (Apatoons) and also wrote Disney comics. His Toonopedia, started in 1999, is currently being revamped.

Tribune photo by Scott Iskowitz
Comic strip artist Fran Matera died on March 15th. Not only did he cite Milton Caniff as a main influence on his art, he had several tangential connections. His first post-WWII work was assisting/ghosting for Alfred Andriola on "Kerry Drake."  Andriola himself was an assistant to Caniff in the mid-1930s. Matera was hired in 1947 to draw "Dickie Dare," an Associated Press strip created by Caniff in 1932. Matera was the third successor to Caniff, and drew it until 1949. His longest stint was drawing "Steve Roper and Mike Nomad" from 1985-2004. Matera took the strip over from Bill Overgard, who had once provided a brief assist to Caniff as well as ghosted a "Steve Canyon" comic book.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum now has their own blog, which you can check out here.  It looks like they're managing about 3 posts a week.  The best thing they've posted so far doesn't even feature rare comic art.  Rather, thanks to a new grant the expanded Library & Museum is a major step closer to reality.

Last month, the current creators of the "Dick Tracy" comic strip had a surprise for "Terry & the Pirates" and Caniff fans.  Writer Mike Curtis and artist Joe Staton had a three day sequence with Tracy getting help on a case from Boston's own Charles C. Charles, aka Hotshot Charlie.  Hotshot was a mainstay of the WWII years of the strip, as well as the Wunder years that followed Caniff.  A real treat included by Staton are the portraits in the background of Terry Lee, Burma, Dragon Lady and Caniff himself.  Hotshot even namechecks Bitsy Beekman, a "Steve Canyon" regular, in the third strip.

I asked Curtis about how the sequence came about.  "Joe and I have always been Caniff fans," Curtis wrote me.  I presume Joe read "Terry" growing up, but it wasn't carried in any of my local papers.  I read the Harvey Comics reprints when younger, and have read a lot since then."

And how do these characters intersect?  Curtis explains: "Joe and I are of the opinion that most of the comic strips we read all inhabit one world.  Last year we had Hank O'Hair from "Brenda Starr" in "Tracy"."

One thing still confused me.  Why does Hotshot look like he did in 1944, complete with vintage aircraft in the background?  Curtis told me things are a little bit different in Tracy's world.  "The way Joe and I do Tracy is that it is taking place in the present, but '40s fashions like men wearing hats is common as well.  As we like to say, 'Tracytown' is just down the highway from Sin City and such places."  Thanks, Mike!

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