Caniff, Milt


Creator of the popular “Terry and the Pirates” and “Steve Canyon” comic strips


Type: Letter & card
Description: (1907-1988) American cartoonist and aviation enthusiast, created popular adventure comic strips “Terry and the Pirates” & “Steve Canyon”.

In 1932, Caniff moved to NYC to work with the AP’s Features Service, drawing comic strips “Dickie Dare” and “The Gay Thirties”, then inherited a panel cartoon “Mister Gilfeather” in Sept. 1932 when Al Capp quit the feature. In 1934, Caniff was hired by the New York Daily News to produce a new strip for the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate. Daily News publisher Joseph M. Patterson wanted an adventure strip set in the mysterious Orient. The result was “Terry and the Pirates” which made Caniff famous, and during its 12-year run, introduced fascinating characters, his most memorable creation was the Dragon Lady, a pirate queen.

During WW II, Caniff began a 2nd strip, a special version of “Terry and the Pirates” without Terry but featuring the blonde bombshell, Lace. “Male Call” was notable for its honest depiction of what the servicemen encountered. Caniff continued “Male Call” until March 1946. In 1946, he ended his association with “Terry and the Pirates”. While a major success, it was not owned by Caniff but by the Chicago Tribune-New York Daily News distributing syndicate. When Caniff was offered the chance to own his own strip by Marshall Field, publisher of the Chicago Sun, he quit Terry to produce his new strip “Steve Canyon” in the Chicago Sun-Times; Caniff was then one of only 2 or 3 syndicated cartoonists who owned their creations.

“Steve Canyon”, while not as popular as “Terry and the Pirates”, enjoyed greater longevity, an action strip with a pilot as its main character. Canyon was a civilian pilot with his own one-airplane cargo airline, but he re-enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War and remained in the Air Force for the remainder of the strip’s run. It had a greater circulation than Terry ever had. A short-lived Steve Canyon TV series was produced in 1958. Steve Canyon was often termed the “unofficial spokesman” for the Air Force. The title character’s dedication to the military produced a negative reaction among readers during the Vietnam War, and the strip’s circulation decreased as a result. Caniff produced the strip until his death in 1988. Caniff’s style had a tremendous influence on mid-20th century artists who drew American comic books and adventure strips.

He was a founder of the National Cartoonists Society, its president 1948 & 1949. He received the Society’s 1st Cartoonist of the Year Award in 1947 for work published in 1946, which included both Steve Canyon and Terry and the Pirates. Caniff was named Cartoonist of the Year again, receiving the Reuben trophy, in 1972 for 1971, again for Steve Canyon. He was awarded an Inkpot Award in 1974. He was inducted into the comic book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1988, and received the National Cartoonists Society Elzie Segar Award in 1971, amongst other professional honors and awards. The NCS has since named the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in his honor.

10 ½ x 7 ¼ TLS on his “Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff” letterhead, NewYork City, October 10 1966, thanks a boy for his cordial letter and kind comments, is pleased he enjoys Caniff’s work and sends his autograph. In addition to the signature on the letter, Caniff sends an inscribed card with sentiment and date with his “artist signature” as one would see it in his strips. Two items.

Condition: Very good

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