Friday, April 04, 2008
Meanwhile (Milton Caniff/a biography/951 pgs. & $34.95 from Fantagraphics Books
Written by Robert C. Harvey and available at book and comics shops, and at www.fantagraphics.com.
It is made clear by the author of Meanwhile and many other creative folk that Milton Caniff was “one of the greatest creators of popular fiction of the twentieth century…” But not one person who gasped at the massive biography of Caniff’s life that I carried with me to myriad places had heard of him, and none of them remembered his comic strip Terry and the Pirates; a few said “oh” at the mention of his comic strip Steve Canyon.
The sad thing is that the praise lavished on Caniff by his admirers in this tome about his professional and personal life is completely justified. Caniff was and remains one of the greatest cartoonists who ever lived. Indeed, in his day, his reality-based art and storytelling were a huge influence on the newspaper comics page and in comic books.
You’ll find lavish examples of this work in this book including Sunday pages, daily strips, promotional art, sketches and character designs.
Advice: today’s comics artists could do themselves a world of good if they studied and emulated Caniff’s pen and brush work and his visual storytelling, particularly staging. But they don’t. And today’s comics writers could do themselves a world of good if they would study and immolate Caniff’s pacing, dialog and characterization, especially in Terry. But they won’t.
Finally, readers would do themselves a world of good if they would buy and read this definitive biography of a master cartoonist, and one heck of a nice guy. That means you, bucko.
Buy. Enjoy. Learn about one of the greatest art-forms in the world and one of its greatest practitioners, Milton Caniff.
Meanwhile receives the highest re-commendation.
Check out Dark Corridor #1 for two Michael Vance short stories here.