Monday, January 20, 2014


Legendary artist Russ Heath will be given the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Cartoonists Society (NCS).  The honor will be presented by the NCS at their annual Reuben Awards, being held this May in San Diego.  "It's very humbling," Heath told the Washington Post.  Heath is best known for his work on the DC war books, and has a career that stretches from the mid-1940s through the present day.  I've been honored to meet and talk with him twice, and did a profile of him in this previous entry.  Congratulations to Russ Heath on something well deserved, as one master of the craft is honored by the spirit of another.

In sad news, longtime Superman artist Al Plastino died on November 25th of last year.  Plastino is best known for the hundreds of covers and stories for the Superman family of comics between 1948 and 1968.  In a Caniff connection, he reportedly did ghost work for George Wunder on the "Terry & the Pirates" comic strip somewhere during the end of its run in the early 1970s.  Also, in an interview with the Silver Age Sage, Plastino spoke highly of Caniff - "Milt was a great man," Plastino recalled.  "He was such a pleasant man to talk to."

Col. Karl Polifka (retired) has written a book about his time flying in the Ravens during Vietnam as part of the military's classified "Steve Canyon" program.  The Ravens were fighter pilots under the control of the CIA, performing covert operations in Laos, which was technically neutral territory.  Caniff and his high-flying hero had no involvement with the program.  I guess it was an homage.  Meeting Steve Canyon was released in the fall of last year.

The latest issue of Comics Revue is #331-332.  It came out this month and is cover dated December 2013.  The issue sports a Christmas cover by Jim Keefe, which includes Steve Canyon hanging a patriotic ornament.  Keefe is the current artist of the Sally Forth comic strip, and discusses the cover on his site.  This issue reprints the "Steve Canyon" strips from November 26 - December 23, 1972, with Sundays in color.  The action shifts back to Poteet, when a woman arrives claiming to be her long-lost mother.

Lucy Caswell w/ Caniff [Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum collection]

The NCS presented the Elzie Segar Award at the Festival of Cartoon Art, held last month at the grand opening of the new home of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.  The award was presented to Lucy Shelton Caswell, founding curator of that institution and current Curator of Special Projects.  It was Caswell who took on the task of creating something out of Milton Caniff's donated papers and artwork in the 1970s, leading the way to tremendous expansion and growth, until retiring from the position in 2010.  According to the NCS, the Segar is given to those "who made a unique and outstanding contribution to the profession of cartooning."  Caswell has certainly done that, by giving cartooning a home and a forum from which it can enrich the world.  Milton Caniff was the first recipient of the Segar, in 1971.  The award had not been given since 1999.  Elzie "E.C." Segar was the creator of Popeye.  

Caswell recently gave an interview, about her career and the library, to Tom Spurgeon at his Comics Reporter website.

Sunday, January 5, 2014



Rkives - Rilo Kiley - I only became interested in Rilo Kiley from Jenny Lewis and her solo work, so it figures that my first Rilo Kiley record would be their post-breakup rarities compilation.  Despite the hodgepodge origin of being a collection of B-sides, demos and unreleased songs, I think it really hangs together as a satisfying album.  Satisfies any jones for indie pop.

Armchair Theatre/ELO LIVE/Zoom - Jeff Lynne - A triple threat from the master himself.  Now I can finally have 1990's "Armchair Theatre" on CD to go with my cassette and vinyl lp.  A thrilling album of perfect Lynne magic, though I was bummed by this reissue's paucity of bonus tracks.  Same for 2001's "Zoom," the album where he reclaimed the ELO name.  It features Lynne's incomparable production, but I was hoping for more extras beyond the two bonus tracks.  The real treat is "ELO Live," taken from a show recorded at the outset of the aborted "Zoom" tour.  While it was released on DVD at the time, this is the first time on CD with four songs not on the DVD as well as two additional studio tracks.

Live at the Academy of Music: 1971 - the Band - I've never really gotten into the band, try as I might.  Just a little too rough around the edges for me to take a lot in one sitting.  My pal Ted has tried for years to get my interested.  With this release (a gift from Ted), I finally get it: the kicking band, the harmonies, the heart and personality.  It's almost too rock solid in that it may be all the Band I'll ever need (and I only have the 2 disc, there's a 4 CD version).  When Dylan comes in for the closing songs, to me it's like, who's this guy?  Get out of here! (sorry, Ted).  Not that I'm not a Dylan fan.   Vol. 10 of Dylan's bootleg series was in this slot until it got bumped by this late entry.

The Complete RCA Albums/Flash Harry - Harry Nilsson - I've avoided many of these 'complete' box sets that have been coming out recently.  I don't want to overload on an artist.  This one was different - the clever whimsy, the rich tone of his voice, and I liked the few albums I already had.  The set begins with his amazing RCA debut (his second album) "Pandemonium Shadow Show" and the first 7 discs showcase his best work.  1974's "Pussy Cats" was produced by John Lennon, and sounds just like Lennon's "Mind Games" album, even with Nilsson doing Lennon-esque vocals.  This is followed by three lackluster efforts, only reviving for "Knillssonn," his RCA swan song.  His final album, "Flash Harry" isn't included in this set, but was released separately in 2013.  Surprisingly, it's not only the album's first time on CD but also it's first US release!  The RCA box is rounded out with three discs of demos and rarities, for a total of 17 discs.  Personally, I've spread it out over several months.  I don't want to burn out on Nilsson!

On the Air: Live at the BBC, Volume 2 - the Beatles - Can't leave a top 5 without the best band in the world.  While this lacks the variety of Volume 1's covers that never made it to albums, it's still a lot of fun.  The lads' cheeky on-air personalities are at full steam, and they really are live at the BBC.  These aren't pantomime records, they are playing new versions of their recorded songs for the BBC audience.  Though they did have the opportunity for multiple takes, it's still the closest we'll get to hearing what the early fabs sounded like "live" without the audience din.