Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.32: Milt Caniff

No.32: Milt Caniff

Milton Caniff was one of the key artists and creators that propelled the medium forward in its formative period – the pioneer of action / espionage stories in the comic strip, who brought in a pivotal cinematic component and accent on character development that would be hugely influential, notably with such leading innovators as Will Eisner, Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Jean Giraud, Bernie Krigstein, not to mention many of the EC alumni. His combination of realism, dynamism, mood, exotic locales and naturalistic characters and stories proved to be the handbook for so many. Words: Andrew Colman…

Born in Ohio in 1907, Caniff’s first published work was for a local paper in Columbus, while he was studying at university. After a brief tenure at the paper as a staff artist, the great Depression took hold and he, like many budding artists at the time, moved to New York to find work, in 1932. After a few months he was hired by Associated Press and began drawing numerous strips and panel cartoons, notably The Gay Thirties in 1933, but his artistic style began to gel that year with Dickie Dare. The premise of this strip was that the young Dickie Dare would fantasise about adventuring in far off lands, which gave Caniff free rein to illustrate any era or place he chose. In 1934 Dare was joined by Dynamite Dan Flynn, who began taking him on real life escapades. This strip proved to be of interest to the proprietors of the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate, who offered Caniff the chance to create his own action / adventure series, Terry and the Pirates.

It took a while for Caniff to turn Terry and the Pirates into the celebrated strip it became – over the first year or so he began experimenting with cinematic stylings that greatly emphasized the drama within the series, such as light, chiaroscuro, toning, and camera angles. The strip, set in the far east, brought a great deal of what is considered standard in adventure strips to the fore – archetypes such as the innocent lead, the more mature mentor, femme fatales, loyal servants, silent strongmen, theatrical villains, elements of film noir and sharp, concise dialogue. The series became more episodic, aping Saturday morning serials, while the characters were allowed to develop and change over a period of time – and in order to enhance the realism of the strip, Caniff was not afraid to let certain members of the cast die. It also had several strong female characters, some of whom were love interests, in its ensemble – no question that Eisner’s The Spirit owed a considerable debt to this series.

Focusing on the strip until the mid-1940s, Caniff began to fall out with the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate due to their ownership of all aspects of the Terry and the Pirates property. In 1944 Field Enterprises approached Caniff with the view that they would publish a new strip by him and that he would retain all creator rights, including merchandising. Steve Canyon began its run in 1947, and although it was never quite as cherished as Terry and the Pirates, it was every bit as ambitious. The shift from the wartime context to the Cold War one meant that the character would always be a little more controversial as attitudes changed regarding conflict, but nevertheless the series was very successful and ran for decades, the adventures of its lead (a former Air Force pilot experiencing adventures that weren’t that dissimilar to Terry) a tour de force, that ended up seeing the series turned into a television show in the late 1950s, with spin-off novels and comic series also being published. Throughout the war and beyond Caniff also donated his time to create Male Call (aimed at young GIs), featuring Miss Lace, as well as numerous handbooks for the military, all gratis for the war effort.

Like Burne Hogarth, Caniff was always encouraging young artists to pursue a career in the medium, while he was admired by so many, not just in the industry but by movie directors and celebrities. Both Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon became part of wider pop culture and proved to be two of the most significant newspaper strips of all, and are, needless to say, still superb examples of the form.

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.33: Hal Foster

Here’s links through to the other entries in our 101 Greatest so far as well

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.34: Burne Hogarth

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.35: LB Cole

 

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.37: Bill Everett

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.38: Robert Crumb

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.39: Mac Raboy

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.41: Jim Starlin

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.42: Mike Zeck

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.43: Adam Hughes

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.44: Daniel Clowes

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.45: Gene Colan

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.46: George Perez

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.47: Michael William Kaluta

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.48: Cary Nord

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.49: Frank Quitely

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.50: Mike Ploog

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.51: Johnny Craig

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.52: Darwyn Cooke

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.53: Steve Dillon

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.54: Gil Kane

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.55: Michael Zulli

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.56: John Romita

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.57: Joe Maneely

 

 

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.58: Marshall Rogers

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.59: John Severin

 

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.60: Alex Toth

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.61: Brian Bolland

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.62: David Mazzuchelli

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.63 Reed Crandall

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.64 Harry Anderson

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.65 Nick Cardy

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.66 Matt Wagner

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.67 Bryan Hitch

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.68 Shawn Martinbrough

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.69 Al Feldstein

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.70 Nestor Redondo

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.71 Tarpe Mills

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.72 Eduardo Risso

 

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.73 JH Williams III

 

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.74 Irv Novick

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.75 Dan Zolnerowich

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.76 Gilbert Shelton

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.77 Tommy Lee Edwards

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.78: Sean Phillips

 

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.79: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.80: Dan DeCarlo

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.81: Marie Severin

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.82: John Paul Leon

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.83: Jim Lee

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.84: Denys Cowan

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.85: Ross Andru

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.86: Paul Gustavson

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.87: George Evans

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.88: Michael Golden

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.89: Matt Baker

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.90: Todd McFarlane

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.91: Fiona Staples

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.92: Carl Barks

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.93: Carmine Infantino

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.94: Alan Davis

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.95: CC Beck

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.96: Syd Shores

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.97: Bob Fujitani

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.98: Tim Sale

Tripwire’s 101 Greatest Comic Artists Of All Time: No.99: Jim Aparo

https://tripwiremagazine.co.uk/headlines/tripwires-101-greatest-comic-artists-of-all-time-no-100/

https://tripwiremagazine.co.uk/headlines/tripwires-101-greatest-comic-artists-of-all-time-no-101/

 

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No.32: Milt Caniff Milton Caniff was one of the key artists and creators that propelled the medium forward in its formative period – the pioneer of action / espionage stories in the comic strip, who brought in a pivotal cinematic component and accent on character development that would be hugely influential, notably with such leading
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