It’s always a fun day when a box of advance copies arrives from the printer. Today was especially joyful when we received FIVE books—three LOAC titles and two books from EuroComics, our sister imprint. Looks like there’s something for everyone: Disney fans, Marvel fans, Krazy Kat fans…plus unlike some of our UK friends, we embrace Europe —European comics specifically. Dieter Lumpen (with amazing art by Rubén Pellejero) is out now, and Hugo Pratt’s Corto will be on sale next month, along with the LOAC titles shown.
If things recently seemed quiet in this space, that’s because Dean, Lorraine, and I were all hard-traveling heroes — D & L were wandering through Europe just in time to enjoy the furor surrounding the UK’s “Brexit” vote, and I started out spending five days in San Diego on business before the wife flew out to join me for a weekend in Las Vegas, the first such trip for either of us.
Of course, San Diego is home to great Mexican food, and I was steered to a restaurant called El Indio, which I’ll gladly recommend. If you grew up living on chain-food restaurants and only want to enter places with familiar signs and menus and decor no matter what town you happen to be in, El Indio is not for you — but if you like family-run places with unique character, excellent food, and a welcoming, personal atmosphere, be sure to visit El Indio on your next trip to San Diego. It’s an “order at the counter” place, and you pick up your food on a tray and eat using plastic utensils, but the menu is large and varied, the servings are generous, the prices low, and the taste? Excellent! While deciding what to order, a couple told me they have been married for thirty-seven years and first came to El Indio while they were dating. If that’s not a testament to the quality being offered, I dunno what is!
Las Vegas was my wife’s dream destination, not mine, but since I was already “in the neighborhood” (if a six-plus hour drive from San Diego qualifies for that description), we’d never have a better opportunity to see Sin City. And during the visit my wife looked at me and said, “This is a dream come true for me, you know.” Pretty tough to have regrets about making the trip under a condition like that!
Now all Canwells are back home in New England (and Dean and Lorraine are due back from their own junket today, as I type this), so things are getting back to “normal.” In addition to this little update on our ramblings, these tidbits may be of interest …
We’re eleven days behind schedule, but we want to wish a mighty happy (if belated) 98th birthday to Bernice Taylor. Ms. Taylor’s niece, Judy Holliday, contacted us on June 20th to remind us of her aunt’s birthday. And who is Bernice Taylor, you might ask — we’ll let Judy supply that answer:
“[Bernice’s] likeness was used by illustrator Milton Caniff in the Terry and the Pirates comic series. Milton saw her in an AP photo that circulated across the US, showing her sitting on a jeep in military fatigues, helmet, and men’s combat boots. He was trying to formulate a character for his comics based on an Army nurse, and he thought she looked like ‘the perfect Nurse Taffy [Tucker].’ She beat out over thirty other nurses who were interviewed. However, her mother didn’t give permission to use Bernice’s service picture for almost three years.”
Judy reports her aunt is frail, and has problems with her vision and hearing, but is still sharp of mind and “she can still recount her military assignments during WWII, though she prefers not to; she says, ‘The war was over a long time ago…'” That’s true, of course, but the distance created by Time in no way diminishes the good works Ms. Taylor contributed, both in her real-life work as a nurse in the 73rd Evac Unit and as the inspiration for the tales Milton Caniff weaved around her fictional counterpart, Nurse Taffy Tucker.
Our next big push: wrapping up the first volume of Red Barry and getting this hard-hitting police series over to the printer. Series creator Will Gould was a colorful character of the first order; we’ll have more about him in this space later this year, as we get closer to Red‘s on-sale date. For now, suffice it to say that before he went into the comics-continuity game, he was a working newspaperman while still in his teens, producing sports cartoons for major New York metro dailies and national syndication. Here’s a sample of his sports work …
… And of course we’ll have lots of other “Gould goodies” in Red Barry, Volume 1!
Some readers of our sixth Steve Canyon volume, covering strips published in the years 1957-58, had a question about my text feature for that book. Those inquiries can be summed up with one pithy question: “Where’s the write-up about the Canyon TV show?”
True, that series debuted as part of the NBC 1958 television season, starring Dean Fredericks as Light Colonel Stevenson B. It ran for thirty-four episodes broadcast in 1958-59, and then the ABC network put Canyon into its summer rerun schedule during 1960. (Remember when there was a summer rerun schedule? Seems like ancient history in these days of two hundred channels and streaming video, doesn’t it?)
So I pushed discussion of the show into our upcoming 1959-60 volume, scheduled to be on sale before the end of this year. Why make such a call? It was hardly an inappropriate decision — the show aired more episodes during the ’59-60 period than it did in 1958, after all. There is also an awful lot going on, both in the comic strip and in Milton Caniff’s life, during this particular period, and discussion of the show fits better into the overall flow of the material I’ll cover in Volume 7 than if I had shoehorned it into Volume 6.
Whether you’re a fan of Steve’s television persona or a Caniff fan curious to learn more of this “small screen alternate universe” version of Canyon, rest assured you’ll be getting what I like to think is some pretty nifty coverage when you open up “School for Spies,” Steve Canyon Volume 7, coming your way as the leaves litter the ground. Meanwhile, in addition to that newspaper ad for the series I ran up above, here are some publicity photos related to the series not currently expected to appear in the book, just to whet your appetite for what’s to come …
Flag Day is June 14th, and this year isn’t just any Flag Day, it’s the 100th anniversary of Flag Day. Yes, in 1916 President Wilson established the date as a way each year to say, “Hurrah for the red-white-and-blue.” Flag Day isn’t an official Federal holiday the way Memorial and Labor Days are, and unlike “big” holidays such as Christmas and New Years, it has always pretty much passed without notice on the nation’s comics pages.
Still, since we haven’t done a “fantasy comics page” in a while, I thought it might be fun to mark this upcoming centennial with a new fantasy page made up of strips published on the fortieth anniversary of Flag Day, June 14th of 1956. Aside from their date of publication, there’s another common thread running through all of these strips. Can you guess what it is? (Click on any strip for a larger view.) Join me on the other side for the answer …
Note that, besides sharing the same date of publication, all the strips above feature one-word titles …
Blondie and Archie are “big name” strips with LOAC connections, while to the best of my recollection we’ve never run a Nancy in this space before.
Dick Moores and writer Ward Greene served up this installment of Scamp, while Pogo certainly needs no introduction to lovers of good comics everywhere. Gus Arriola’s Gordo always puts a smile on my face, while Henry serves up a very different view of childhood.
Finally, we put three now-relatively-forgotten strips into the mix: Grandma, from Charles Kuhn (who did hard manual labor, including serving as a fireman aboard USS Connecticut during World War I, then spent years as an editorial cartoonist before starting Grandma in 1947, when he was fifty-five years of age); The Reverend, by Bill O’Malley (a prolific magazine cartoonist who lived on the West Coast, placed work in magazines ranging from Ladies Home Journal to Playboy, and had his cartoons — related to golf, travel, and his “Two Little Nuns,” Sister Maureen and Sister Colleen — all collected into book form); and Chicagoan George Sixta’s Rivets (the lead character was based on several Navy mascots Sixta had observed during his own military tour of duty; Sixta worked for the Chicago Sun-Times; originally produced the strip Dick Draper, Foreign Correspondent; and published cartoons in the Saturday Evening Post, which is where Rivets made its debut before becoming a Field Enterprises comic strip). The star of Sixta’s strip is supposed to be a wire-haired terrier, and since my own dog is part (predominantly!) terrier, how could I pass up including Rivets in this “one-name wonders” fantasy comics page?
Here’s hoping everyone has a Happy Flag Day —
If you’ll allow me a quick public acknowledgement of “an old friend …”
At the end of April I bought a new computer. Whippy-doo speed, Windows 7 with a Win-10 upgrade available, M-S Office 2016 … I admit, it’s a much faster, more productive environment in which to work.
But since the sword always cuts two ways, the advent of the new computer means I am now ready to part ways with the old computer, which has given me over ten years of faithful service. When I bought it in 2006 it was something of a powerhouse — a Windows XP operating system, Office 2003, loaded with all the memory I would ever need — well, that’s what we figured, based on the then-current state of technology, anyway.
It did indeed zip right along, fulfilling just about my every business or personal requirement for many years of its useful life. A lot of writing happened on this machine — my portion of The Library of American Comics’s launch came from this computer. From Terry and the Pirates, Volume 1 through the entire Alex Toth: Genius trilogy and on to last year’s Beyond Mars and King of the Comics — for every one of our award-winning or -nominated books to which I contributed text, those features were primarily composed on Ol’ Yeller, here. Add in some non-LOAC work, done here and there, plus what has to be hundreds of thousands of words of business and personal correspondence, and this Intel chip has processed a whole lotta my words. So like any craftsman who moves on once a favorite tool has given all it can give, I think it’s not inappropriate to take a moment to reflect on this passing of the torch.
That passing is made easier by the realization that the time to make this move had indeed come. Many applications had stopped or will soon stop supporting Windows XP, producing “.doc” work in a “.docx” world was becoming increasingly difficult, and all that once-robust memory was now being tested by some websites and the larger of our many honkin-big files.
As you can see, in 2006 we had separate read-only and read-write drives. It was possible to get the computer loaded with a floppy disk drive and yes, I did that, too, since most of my work up to that point had been stored on three-inch discs. The need to preserve the material on those discs was part of what took me about five weeks of off-and-on laboring to get all my files migrated to my new machine — I not only had to port over the current working files (thank goodness for Dropbox, which helped expedite that process!), I spent one evening loading one three-inch disc after another into the old computer’s drive, saving its contents down to the hard drive, then copying all those files over to CD. That’s allowed me to preserve a whole batch of my late-20th-Century writing — including all my Batman: The Gauntlet files, my Nick Fury and Deathlok the Demolisher work for a pair of long-departed Marvel editors, my book reviews for Algis Budrys’s TomorrowSF magazine, and every installment of a bi-weekly column I once wrote for an on-line comics publication. The one devoted to how, in the early ’80s, Eclipse and the original McGregor/Gulacy Sabre graphic novel revived my sagging interest in comics is what caught Dean’s attention and put us in communication, leading to LOAC. With those precious memories now saved to a more durable format, I wiped the floppies, then did the same to all my files off the old computer.
Sometime within the next week, I intend to call a business in my town of residence that advertises that it takes and recycles older equipment. If they’re interested, I’ll place my old computer in their hands; I’m reluctant to simply take it to the city recycling center and consign it to the scrap heap. Perhaps, having been a workhorse for me for so long, the old machine might prove useful to a new owner and enjoy a final few, less demanding years of productivity. Is that too much to hope for …?
Meanwhile, I know what you’re hoping for — so join me in this space in just a few days for something more concretely-comics-related!
We spent the entire morning prepping material and deciding what would be slated for the scanning department. Getting digitally captured soon will be four years of mid-1960s Dick Tracy proofs (Yaaay, Moon Maid!) that were saved by Chester Gould’s licensing agent and donated to OSU’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum…plus a book’s worth of Steve Canyon dailies and color Sunday proofs from Milton Caniff’s personal files, which will allow everyone to read the never-before-collected early 1960s strips…plus some fun Spider-Man Sundays, some of Gene Ahern’s 1915 Squirrel Food, and scads more goodies that will be preserved for the future as high-res digital files.
Since “The LOAC Story” debuted on May 18th we’ve received kudos from a handful of readers, and we thank them all for their kind words. It’s great to hear that the folks who have long supported our various ventures enjoyed this foray into the video world.
We were also pleased and gratified to see the video received coverage from two of the most recognized sites in comics journalism. On May 20th, both The Beat and The Comics Reporter linked to “The LOAC Story,” with Heidi MacDonald — the major domo of the staff at Stately Beat Manor — providing additional coverage.
Tom Spurgeon featured our video in his 05/20/16 “Go, Look” segment, which looked like this …
… while The Beat’s story-plus-link ran, here, starting off like this:
Many thanks to both Tom and Heidi for helping spread the word about both the video and our line of books!
How do you transform stacks of rotting paper into 25 Eisner Award nominations?!
IDW has unveiled a short video presentation to acknowledge the importance of the Library of American Comics’s role in preserving the history of our great medium.
The new video tells “The LOAC Story: From Faded Newsprint to Archival Books” in under two minutes. It’s a jaunty synopsis of what we do here at the LOAC fun factory.
To view it, click on the link at the upper left of our home page.
It was a collaborative effort, art directed by Lorraine Turner (who also supplied some voice overs), with video editor Jason Buhrman, and additional voice overs by Clint McElroy.
We also want to give a shout-out to George Teichmann for his technical help, as well as his tireless efforts in migrating everything from the old LOAC website to this new and improved one.
The video is also available for retailers who want to include it as part of their in-store video loop.
Concluding a look at some of my favorite storylines from the LOAC line of books, as it exists as of May, 2016. Let’s forge boldly onward, and remember this entire list is provided in no particular order …
5. Iconic Crossed Swords. Like “awesome” and “friend,” “iconic” is a word sorely abused in our modern language, its true meaning being eroded and dulled by dullards. So I try to use it carefully, and I chose it with care in reference to the last panel of this Flash Gordon Sunday page from August 14, 1938. Throughout the Alex Raymond/Don Moore run there is a reluctance to bring Flash and Ming the Merciless into direct confrontation; in this sequence, with Gordon and his loosely-knit band of Freemen ambushing the Emperor on The Island of Royal Tombs, we get an image of Ming and Flash squaring off, mano-a-mano, that truly lives up to the word “iconic.” It’s not only a perfect encapsulation of the strip, in a larger sense it’s a stirring representation of Good versus Evil. It is perhaps my favorite moment in the entire run of Flash Gordon, and I suspect I’m not alone in that assessment.
4. Before the Famous Sandwich, There Was … The Dagwood Hunger Strike. For years while growing up, this was one of those plotlines I heard about and read about but never got to see. Bringing it to fans in our first Blondie collection was therefore a real treat for me, and I found that absorbing Chic Young’s full original run on his strip (given a first boost toward its eventual uber-popularity by this very sequence) was a fun — and sometimes eye-opening — experience. This January 25 daily, from deep in the heart of the Hunger Strike, especially tickled me, foreshadowing as it does Dagwood’s famous appetite, though his penchant for combining unlikely ingredients was a future development that readers of this story circa 1933 could never have guessed was on the far horizon.
3. Punjab to the Rescue! One of the things I’m most proud of where LOAC is concerned is that we have preserved large spans of several deserving strips. On occasion I still pinch myself when I realize we have succeeded in putting thirty years of Dick Tracy continuity back into print, and we’re approaching doing the same for twenty-five years of that most American of The Library of American Comics, Little Orphan Annie. Harold Gray treated us to many memorable sequences starring the kid with a heart of goal and a quick left hook, but one of my favorites is “Assault on the Hacienda.” Captured by the nefarious Axel, Annie is whisked to a remote South American retreat and put under the care of the exotic Dona Dolores. “Daddy” Warbucks mounts a rescue, but eventually is captured and imprisoned deep underground with the two gals. “Daddy’s” men are still on the job and Punjab, their leader, gets good play in this July 16, 1939 Sunday page — he displays his wits, his strength, and even shows off his sensahumor!
2. A (Sailor) Man of the World. I recently did a long piece in this space extolling the virtues of Bobby London’s Popeye, and of the many wild and wonderful stories London spins, my favorite (by about the width of one of Poopdeck Pappy’s whiskers!) is “Heavy Metal Toar.” What’s not to love in a yarn that features classic rock music superstars, a lost land, a fountain of youth, and the wonkiest biker scenes this side of Easy Rider. In fact, the August, 1989 daily below trips off a plot point that has the squinky-eyed sailor and Olive’s shapely cousin, Sutra Oyl, on a rest stop at a refreshing pond after riding a chopper south across the border. Sutra Oyl decides to do some skinny-dipping and gets a surprise after suggesting Popeye is too intimidated by her state of undress to join her — he wades in, picks her up, tosses her over his shoulder, and, well, see for yourself …
1. Canyon Gets the Point. It’s easy to list any number of fantastic Terry and the Pirates stories that qualify as must-reads, but let’s not forget that Steve Canyon has its share of delights, too. This 1952 melodrama sees Steve among a small band who survive the crashing of their light plane in the remote woodlands south of Alaska. There they run into a most unscrupulous-seeming French-Canadian nicknamed Bonbon and hear a random radio news broadcast that indicates one of their number is hiding a stolen diamond necklace. It’s a classic melodrama of the genus “band of strangers forced together in stressful circumstances, with one of their number More Than He (or She) Seems,” and it’s expertly told with all the Caniffian touches we Milton-fans enjoy. This tale also introduced audiences to the snappy Miss Mizzou, she of the Marilyn Monroe physique and the naked-except-for-her-trenchcoat wardrobe. Mizzou became a favorite of readers, popping up semi-regularly when Steve might least expect it, and she was grist for the Caniff Steve Canyon Publicity Mill. J.B. Winter’s fine book, Miss Mizzou: A Life Beyond Comics, offers details of Mizzou’s effect on popular culture and the stir she created in the town of Columbia, Missouri. I recommend it as heartily as I recommend this Steve Canyon adventure.
That’s my list of ten favorite LOAC stories. If you have your own list of ten (or even five) fave-raves, why not share it with us? Zap it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and who knows? We may do a follow-up in this space that will feature your list …