Sunday, November 24, 2013


What do you do when one of your favorite places moves into a brand new home?  You bring the family!

As I wrote about four years ago, this facility originated back in the mid-1970s, when Milton Caniff donated his art and  papers to his alma mater, the Ohio State University.  Under the guidance and vision, the collection grew beyond Caniff to other cartoonists, evolving into the Cartoon Research Library.  In recent years, with the acquisition of the collections of historian Bill Blackbeard and the International Museum of Cartoon Art, the library added "and Museum" to its name.  It also has been named in honor of Billy Ireland, legendary artist of the Columbus Dispatch, who was also a mentor of Caniff.  I say all that to say that now it is in the newly renovated Sullivant Hall at OSU, boasting 40,000 square feet.  Quite an evolution from its beginnings in two classrooms in the Journalism building.

The new museum boasts large gallery spaces.  The main exhibit is Substance and Shadow: The Art of the Cartoon.  This exhibit features a Who's Who of cartoonists and comic book artists, including Noel Sickles, Joe Kubert, Will Eisner and Jack Kirby.  I had a surreal moment looking at a political cartoon by Zits cartoonist Jim Borgman.  I looked up and there was Jim Borgman himself.  Nice seeing you again, Jim!

The other exhibit is Treasures, featuring not only artwork but memorabilia, such as a mint condition Steve Canyon lunchbox.  This reporter can only assume they also have the thermos.  Speaking of treasures, I had a brief chat with Jean Schulz.  Mrs. Schulz, widow of Charles, wasn't just there to check out the Peanuts cartoons on the wall (of which there are several).  Her donation of $6 million is part of what made the new museum possible.  Pretty nice, considering she has her own museum to look after.

My son Noah looking at the all-Caniff display case.  This case included a painted Caniff self-portrait, one strip apiece of "Terry and the Pirates," "Male Call" and "Steve Canyon," and 'Aesop Up to Date,' the cartoon that secured him a job at the Columbus Dispatch.  Dispatch editor Billy Ireland had asked Caniff for a cartoon that would make him "jump out of his chair."

final panel of 'Aesop Up to Date'

The 'Substance and Shadow' exhibit had Caniff as well, reprinting the climax of the infamous Raven Sherman sequence.

Many of the works of other artists were from Caniff's own collection.  Here is the humbling inscription on a "Prince Valiant" strip from Caniff's peer, Hal Foster.

My pal Ted Haycraft pays homage of his own, bowing to a two-page spread by Neal Adams from the classic "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" series.

All-in-all, an amazing new beginning for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.  I can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The drawing above by Bill Ward was recently sold at auction.  It was sold by the great-grand-nephew of Milton Caniff.  He described it as a caricature of Caniff.

I didn't see the resemblance at first, but I kind of get it from this pic of Caniff from 1943.  Ward and Caniff had something in common during WWII.  Both had strips that appeared in military camp newspapers.  Caniff had 'Male Call' -

and Ward had 'Torchy' - 

Click here to read "The Origin of Torchy."  I see a definite Caniff influence in Ward's strip work.  Ward would develop his own signature, sexy style, drawing cartoons primarily for the men's magazine market.
"Just to refresh your memory, Mr. Black, 
I called you in to help me look for an earring."

A Spanking

Lots of these cartoons had a theme of sexy secretaries and their lascivious bosses.  I'm not sure it did much for women's lib!

When the men's mags faded, Ward found work in the humor mags, particularly Cracked.  Even when I was a kid, Ward was still at it, drawing busty Nanny Dickering.  Va-va-voom!  I didn't know what I was reading!  Fortunately, neither did my mom.

To read more about Bill Ward, visit his official website.  But be warned, much of his work is R-rated and NFSW.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Blue Ribbon Press published a line of 'pop-up' books in the 1930s.  They started with nursery rhyme characters like Mother Goose, Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots.  Soon after they moved into licensed characters, including Buck Rogers, Tarzan and this gem pictured above.  This book commonly shows up for auction in the $80 - 100 range.  Owing to age and fragility, they are rarely undamaged or completely intact.  The one above is an exception.  It's the best copy I've seen to date.  It sold for $326.

This is a ticket stub for a 1947 Ohio State football game.  The stub features a picture of Chic Harley as drawn by Caniff.  Chic Harley is a true OSU football great: three-time All-American, charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and the Buckeyes won 23 of the 24 games he played in.  He was in the team's first victory over Michigan (1919) and still holds the OSU individual scoring record (8.74 points per game).  Enthusiasm over Harley's playing is credited with much of the fundraising for Ohio Stadium, built in the early 1920s.  My guess is that Harley appeared at and was honored at this 1947 game, as it was the same year the Chic Harley Scholarship Fund was started (and yes, the Bucks won 13-7).  The stub sold for $25.

Here is a special rarity indeed - a personal item of Milton Caniff's.  Caniff's great-great grand nephew recently sold some Caniff items on Ebay.  The item pictured above was Caniff's traveling liquor case.  As you can see from the first picture, the case was marked with his initials (for Milton Arthur Caniff).  The airline card has his Palm Springs address.  I know nothing of Caniff's drinking habits, though he did appear in print ads for Teacher's Scotch and Walker's DeLuxe.  My dad had one of these cases and I remember wanting to be the one to carry it in from the trunk to the hotel room on trips.  Caniff's case sold at auction for $127.

Canada Dry used "Terry and the Pirates" in promotions in 1952.  The artwork was by George Wunder, who drew "Terry" from 1947 onward.  Premiums included these pinback buttons.  Above is a complete set of five, which is quite a find.  The Terry and the Dragon Lady pins show up quite often, but I'd never even seen a Burma or Hot Shot Charlie before this auction came around.  Since a Dragon Lady pin by itself sold earlier this year for $23, the set of five was a steal at $39.

Sticking with George Wunder, here is a rare charcoal on vellum illustration by him.  The date is unknown.  It's really beautifully done, and quite a departure from his strip work in terms of style.  I'm becoming a Wunder fan more and more (and not just due to the subject matter).  Sadly, this piece bears some heavy water damage on both sides.  It sold for $84.

Friday, November 1, 2013


IT'S REAL!  The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum has finally relocated to Sullivant Hall at the Ohio State University.  The new space represents a major expansion, including multiple galleries, an enlarged reading room and 13,000 feet of on-site storage.  I've been a devotee of the library for years and am excited to go see the new digs.  I know it represents years of hard work, foresight and dedication on the part of Lucy Caswell, Jenny Robb and the staff, volunteers and donors who made it happen.  As we've reported in the past, the papers/drawings of Milton Caniff, donated in 1977, were the foundation of the collection.  The library and museum's namesake, Billy Ireland, was a mentor to Caniff's early professional career.

The library officially opens to the public the weekend of November 16-17th, which is also the same time they are holding a Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art.  Viewing the galleries exhibits is free, but there is a registration fee for the Festival.  Find out all of the details here.  The Festival will include presentations by Paul Pope, Jeff Smith, Los Bros Hernandez, Eddie Campbell, Patrick McDonnell and more!

Photo by Gabriel Olsen © 2013 SDCC
Dean Mullaney received an Inkpot Award at this year's Comic-Con International.  Dean is the Creative Director of the Library of American Comics (LOAC), publisher of The Complete Steve Canyon and many other essential comic strip collections.  He was a special guest of the con, and the Inkpot is recognition for his decades long contribution to comics, from his years as groundbreaking publisher of Eclipse Comics to his current career in comics preservation and enlightenment.

Speaking of the LOAC and Mullaney, their Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth won the Harvey Award for Best Biographical, Historical or Journalistic Presentation.  This book and it's sequel, "Genius, Illustrated" are essential reading for the comics fan.

Continuing awards season, the Shel Dorf Awards were given out last month at Detroit Fanfare. Shel Dorf, who died in 2009, was the letterer on "Steve Canyon" from 1975 - 88.  This year's event was hosted by Brian O'Halloran, known for playing Dante in the "Clerks" movies.  The "Walking Dead" comic book and artist Fiona Staples (artist of "Saga") won multiple awards.  Steve Geppi was given the "Shel Dorf Legacy Award."  Geppi owns Diamond, which he grew from a small comics distributor in the early '80s to a current monopoly of the industry.  He also has an amazing collection, which you can view at this museum.

The Auguest 2013 issue of Comics Revue reprints the "Steve Canyon" strips from October 1972.  In this storyline, Caniff indulged his long love of OSU football by having Oley as a drop kicker on the Maumee University team.  Not much intrigue going on.  Maybe Milt thought he was doing Gil Thorp.