Friday, June 29, 2012


During WWII, Milton Caniff drew Male Call exclusively for Camp Newspaper Services.  Another well-known G.I. strip was Will Sansone's "The Wolf."  Perhaps fallen into obscurity was "Bernie Blood" by cartoonist Gill Fox.  Fox is best known to comic book fans for his work at Quality Comics, both as an editor and artist on Plastic Man and others.  Caniff and Sansone had a couple of crossovers, so Fox saw that as an opportunity to borrow Miss Lace to meet his character.  As of 6/27, this strip was still on Ebay for $395.  Below is another Bernie Blood giving some friendly advice.

Sticking with WWII, here's the only instance I'm aware of where Caniff drew Hitler.  This is one of many posters of the era warning folks to shut up because you never know who might be listening.  This poster is ultra rare, but I think the National Archives has one.

Milton Caniff answered many letters and requests for drawings with prints as he hadn't enough time to do individual drawings.  What he did do frequently is hand-color the prints.  This is the earliest example I've seen of this practice, from around 1936.

Someone was selling this wire photo of Poteet Canyon, Steve's ward/cousin.  It's the article taped to the back that interested me.  The article is stamped Oct 7 1956, which was the debut year for Poteet.  I wonder how many cities ran this contest looking for Poteet's lookalike.


Dell Four Color is remembered as the comic series that had well over 1000 issues over 20 years.  Two of those issues (#44 and 101) featured "Terry & the Pirates", while 5 later issues featured "Steve Canyon" (recently reprinted here.  Sometimes forgotten is the original 25-issue series of Four Color that preceded it.  Here's a fun cover gallery.  Issue 9 of that first series was a "Terry".  While the interiors were strip reprints, the artist of this mediocre cover is unknown.  This scarce issue recently sold at auction for $250.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I checked out DC's "Black Canary Archives" from the library.  This book primarily reprints her earliest appearances from the late 1940s, when she started out in "Flash Comics", teaming up with Johnny Thunder before transitioning to her own feature.  Someone had described the art by Carmine Infantino as "Caniff-esque", so I had to see for myself.  I did see many overt Caniff influences, which was not uncommon for artists of this era, but nothing outstanding.  Infantino's own style, which would in turn influence others, was a few years off.  These Black Canary stories were his first work for DC.

One of these stories that made me do a quizzical double-take.  It's a reprinting of "Tune of Terror" from Comic Cavalcade #25, dated February 1948.  Black Canary and private detective Larry Lance are falling from a deathly height.  Demonstrating a power not seen before (and I don't think since), she summons a flock of black canaries to come to her aid.  This ability is a wild Golden Age oddity courtesy of writer Robert Kanigher.

As you can see, the black canaries come quickly, "interlocking" their wings to form a flying carpet.  Never mind this would make it very difficult for a bird to fly, let alone with two humans lying on top of you.  Never mind that black canaries don't, um, well...exist.

But, you can't apply too much modern sensibility to these stories.  They were meant to be entertaining and fun.  Defying reality was kind of the point, even if it meant sacrificing the internal logic.  What really interests me is the oath she recites to summon the birds:

Champions small with midnight wing,
foe of every evil thing,
heed my call and arise to flight,
prove the Black Canary's might!

It instantly reminded me of this famous little ditty -

The indispensable "Dial B for Blog" has the lowdown on the Green Lantern oath.  The oath was first used by the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, in 1943, and is credited to sci-fi author Alfred Bester.  I was hoping for some revelation, like maybe the Canary oath predating the GL oath, but no such luck.  I think it's clear that Kanigher borrowed the idea, even including the words "evil" and "might."  Though why black canaries, should they exist, would be foes of evil is unclear.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Every now and then some Milton Caniff-related auctions come up that include rare and unusual items.  Here are a few recent ones:

Milton Caniff did not have a lot of time to do special drawings for everyone that asked.  There was just too much demand and he had a strip to get out.  Early on he solved this by having prints of different characters which he would then personalize and sign.  Sometimes these prints were black and white, sometimes he would hand color them.  For a time in the '40s he had pre-printed color prints that he would send out.  The drawing above is completely original, not a print, and hand colored.  He clearly took his time with this one, as there's nothing "sketchy" about it.  A really exquisite piece and one I'm jealous not to own. 

This is a more typical specialty request, but also a little unusual in that it is poster-sized.  The drawing of Steve is a print and Caniff added in the word balloons, lettering and dedication.  I couldn't find any information on the 9094th, possibly a now-defunct Air Force Reserve unit.  There was an early jet aerobatic team called the Skyblazers, a forerunner and contemporary of the Thunderbirds, but I'm not sure if the reference is connected.  I'd be glad to hear from any Air Force guys on fleshing this out.

They don't get more unusual than this one.  Hand-painted ties of Caniff's Miss Lace character.  These ties were hand painted by Dorothy Hagan.  There is a typed statement above the ties that reads:"Miss Lace - The design on these ties was created and copyrighted by Milton Caniff (creator of Terry and the Pirates) for Squadron 41 for the A.F.A. Conventions of 1950, 1951, & 1952." 

So, who knows if Ms. Hagan just made them for her husband, or there are more ties out there, or perhaps they were some type of prize.  I think they are well done, particularly the green dress which is spot on Caniff.

This shows you the growing popularity of "Terry & the Pirates" in the early years.  Just three years into the strip and it has it's own board game.   I'm not sure how to play, but the board looks kind of complicated.  I'm not sure who did the box art,  but the art on the board itself looks like it was taken from the strip (or redrawn fairly accurately).  The game was manufactured by Whitman in 1937 for the Famous Artists Syndicate and is Whitman product #2181.  "Terry" was a Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate strip, so I'm not sure what the Famous Artists Syndicate was.  Was it possibly a licensor for comic strip properties? Looking for any help with that answer.

Quaker Oats was the sponsor of the "Terry & the Pirates" radio program in the mid-1940s.  Above is a promotional postcard from their Puffed Wheat Sparkies Jingle Contest.  This was one of two postcards sent to contest entrants.  This card depicts six character headshots - Burma, Terry Lee, Dragon Lady, Pat Ryan, Connie and Flip Corkin.  These could be ordered separately as 8x10 color prints.  A set of prints (below) just sold at auction last week for $120.