The Chadbourne Dossier: “In a Patriotic Vein” (Eighth in a Series)

Bill Chadbourne, that stout friend of LOAC, gave us a broad range of material from his personal collection that we’ve been sharing with you in recent months through this series. Last time, we explored Will Eisner’s P*S magazine, produced for the U.S. military. It seemed sensible to do a slight shift, to a more generalized patriotic theme, though one that still contains a military flavor, as you’ll see below.

Let’s start with a handful of items Chad provided that are connected with America’s Cartoonist in Chief, Milton Caniff. First up (at right, below): a quick note Milton penned to Chad related to a feature using Caniff art slated to appear in one of the publications Chad produced for the Defense Department.

You can see Milt’s approval of Chad’s finished product, as well as his promise to put one of the comp copies into the hands of his “old high school art teacher,” whom we know was Martha Schauer of the Stivers Manual Training High School of Dayton, Ohio (still open today under the name, “Stivers School for the Arts”). Miss Schauer was Caniff’s earliest important mentor, and he maintained a friendship with her until she passed away in 1985. While delivering her eulogy, Milton told those assembled, “Just before graduation, she called me into her office and said I had failed in my potential – and that any person with talent who did not develop it to the fullest deserved to be punished. ‘I would lick you if I could!’”. He then continued, “Martha Schauer died at age 96 – now I am on my own … ”

At left in the image above, the envelope shows the Caniffs’ post office box number during their years living in Palm Springs, plus Chad’s hand-written note letting us know that he had found this material (along with a number of Alex Toth items shared with you in prior installments) subsequent to sending along his first package of goodies.

Above is one of the many “ready for customizing” pieces Milton had available throughout his career. It touts the then–just-launched Steve Canyon Magazine. This copy was hand-lettered and provided to Chad by Shel Dorf, who in 1983 was lettering the strip as well as serving as the first editor of Kitchen Sink Press’s new periodical, which set about reprinting Canyon from its beginning.

Chad sent us a variety of Golden and Silver Age comic books, including this well-worn Terry and the Pirates issue from Dell Publishing. When one opens the drawn-for-this-book cover, one finds reprints of the Terry dailies, reformatted and with comic book coloring applied to them, with mixed results.

Finally, from the Caniff Corner: the cover and some samples from a beautifully-preserved (and autographed by Milt!) copy of the 1976 “Steve Canyon Book” entitled Let’s See if Anyone Salutes. Because the book is in such fine shape, you’ll pardon us if the samples pages aren’t pristinely reproduced – we just couldn’t bear to crack the book’s spine while extracting these images!

The “Cartoon Stories for New Children” books, of which this title is a part, featured other installments by Mell (Momma, Miss Peach) Lazarus and Gary Trudeau of Doonesbury fame. Trudeau also edited the series.

During research trips to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum we have seen correspondence and receipts that show long-time comic book artist Don Heck contributed significant artwork to Salutes, with Milton inking faces and other major aspects of the artwork.

The messaging in this book is a study in contrasts. The text accompanying the images reproduced at top-right states, “Not everyone agrees that all the ringing declarations in history are truly patriotic, either in content or intent. Many blacks do not think of Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator … because he held back and used the Emancipation Proclamation as a political tool, rather than as a purely humanitarian effort.” Only fifteen pages after presenting this socially-aware perspective, the book devotes a page to discussing how the song Dixie is “a standard minstrel show ‘walk around’ [number].” Society’s tolerances were far different forty-eight years ago than they are today, but the example pages shown at bottom-right in the selection above offer an indication that Let’s See if Anyone Salutes contains material that is still relevant today.

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Chad’s work with the U.S. Government and with Woody Gelman (the latter the subject of this 2023 article) each provided opportunities for him to communicate and sometimes work with several of the best comics artists of the 20th Century. In our Genius series, we looked at and displayed a variety of art pieces from Alex Toth’s contributions to the publication SSAM (Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine), which Chad produced for the military. It was quite a delight for us when Chad provided not just a copy of SSAM’s first issue, but the mock-up for it, as well.

The “Loneliest Guy in Town” cartoon (left, below) that Chad created for this first issue was produced using Craftint board. Chad told us, “Got a lotta flack over this! ‘No more editorials!!’ they said.”

Milton Caniff publicly stated that the Air Force meddled with the content of the 1950s Steve Canyon television series; the Pentagon also clearly had its fingers in the SSAM pie. Chad said, on a post-it note attached to these two pages, that this survey “didn’t fly” with the Powers That Be.

Despite the “Don’t”s imposed from the higher-ups, it’s clear to any reader that SSAM contained many “Do”s – including Alex Toth’s topical Casebook series – that provided lively reading for enlisted men at home and abroad. We’ve found it a pleasure to see an example of the finished product, and to be able to share some of it with you.

Links to all the prior installments in this series can be found at the end of this article. Please do go back and check out any previous pieces you might have missed!

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