Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
'Terry and the Pirates', 11 October 1936.

Milton Caniff was one of the major artists of American comics, and one of the pioneers in character-driven comic stories. His creations 'Terry and the Pirates' (1934-1946) and 'Steve Canyon' (1947-1988) are both landmarks in newspaper comics. Although he wrote and drew the latter for nearly 40 years, it is Terry who had the biggest impact on comic history. Caniff was the first to craft truly realistic and multi-layered comic characters, whose personalities evolved as the years progressed. His comics are renowned for their exciting, action-packed stories which often take place in exotic locations. But he never lost sight of the human element, which helped his series gather a massive fanbase. With his effective use of black-and-white ink effects and well-balanced emotions he most rightly earned the nickname "Rembrandt of the Comic Strip". Together with his contemporaries Alex Raymond and Harold Foster, Caniff can be considered one of the most influential artists in the field of realistically-drawn comics.

Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff
'Steve Canyon', 1 August 1948.

Early life and career
Milton Arthur Paul Caniff was born in 1907 in Hillsboro, Ohio. His father worked as a printer for the local newspaper, but moved over to the automotive industry when the family moved to Dayton in 1919. Young Milton grew up reading popular newspaper comics like 'Polly and her Pals' by Cliff Sterrett and 'Mutt & Jeff' by Bud Fisher, but admired the work of newspaper cartoonist John T. McCutcheon the most. He also lost himself reading British novelists like Robert Louis Stevenson, Captain Frederick Marryat and Somerset Maugham. While still at high school, he worked part-time as an office boy in the art department of the Dayton Herald-Journal. By 1926 he enrolled at Ohio State University, where he served as art editor of the campus humor magazine, The Sun Dial. Caniff also acted in theatrical productions at his campus, but found his true calling in drawing. In 1927 he made his first appearance in the local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, while still a student. He worked alongside the cartoonists Billy Ireland and Dudley Fisher and particulary Ireland acted as the young man's mentor, stimulating him to continue drawing. Upon his graduation in 1930 he got a staff position with the paper.

Life Is Like That by Milton Caniff
'Life Is Like That' panel featuring Bill "Mr Bojangles" Robinson.

Early comic strips/cartoons
Among his contributions were portraits to accompany biographies in the paper's magazine section. He also had his own comic strip/cartoon panel, called 'Escapes From The Pen' (1929-1931). The feature started as a comic strip and had a weekly run with several intervals between 10 April 1927 and 8 September 1929. It became a daily panel on the comic page on 23 December 1929. The final strip appeared on 5 December 1931. A companion feature called 'Life Is Like That' (1930-1932) ran weekly in the Sunday entertainment section from July 1930 until 17 January 1932. Many of the cartoons dealt with local theatre and music events, but Caniff also made episodes with humorous personal commentary. Caniff's drawings look all the more impressive, considering he was actually left-handed but wrote his dialogues with his right. This was a result of a first-grade teacher who had pressured him into using his "right" hand. To avoid smearing he always inked his pages by working from the right to the left side.

The Gay Thirties by Milton Caniff

Cartooning during the Great Depression
Caniff found himself already without a job about a year after his staff position began, when the Great Depression hit Ohio. Luckily, he got a job with the Associated Press in New York City only three months later. He not only made illustrations for news articles and other features, but also contributed to a one-column feature called 'Puffy the Pig' from March through December 1933. The feature had previously been drawn by Don Flowers and W.A. Killiker, and was subsequently continued by Mel Graff. It consisted of a single illustration with a rhyme underneath it by editor Wilson Hicks. Caniff also succeeded Al Capp on the 'Mister Gilfeather' daily panel in September 1932. Caniff replaced the feature with a more general cartoon called 'The Gay Thirties' in May 1933. In addition to his daytime job, Caniff assisted cartoonist Bill Dwyer on the 'Dumb Dora' strip in the evenings. He was mostly assigned with drawing the female characters in this strip. While working for Dwyer he met Frank Engli, who would become Caniff's loyal letterer on both 'Terry and the Pirates' and 'Steve Canyon' until his death in 1977.

Dickie Dare by Milton Caniff
'Dickie Dare' strip from 17 May 1934.

Dickie Dare
However, Milton Caniff's most interesting work for the Associated Press was 'Dickie Dare', which debuted in the summer of 1933. The series revolved around a young boy, Dickie, and the fantastic adventures he imagined. It offered Caniff the opportunity to let his own imagination go wild and create stories about King Arthur and Robin Hood. In May 1934 the concept of boyhood daydreams was set aside when adventurer "Dynamite" Dan Flynn joined the cast. From now on, Dickie and Flynn travelled the world for real and encountered real-life villains and other dangers. 'Dickie Dare' caught the attention of Captain Joseph Patterson of the New York Daily News. He asked Caniff to create another adventure comic for his Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate. Thus came an end to Caniff's tenure with the Associated Press in December 1934. 'Dickie Dare' was continued in later years by Coulton Waugh (1934-1944, 1949-1957) and his wife Mabel Burvik (1944-1948), as well as Fran Matera (1948-1949), while 'The Gay Thirties' was taken over by Hank Barrow for another five years.

Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
Early action sequence from 'Terry and the Pirates' (27 January 1935).

Terry and the Pirates
Patterson asked Caniff to situate his upcoming strip in the Orient, where pirates and warlords could provide enough material for exciting adventures. Also, in the mid-1930s political tensions were already rising in South East Asia, which would eventually lead to the Second Chinese-Japanese War (1937-1945). For Caniff, this meant even more plot material involving Japanese expansionist militarism. The daily 'Terry and the Pirates' strip made its debut on 22 October 1934, and a color Sunday page was added six weeks later. The dailies and the Sundays initially had a separate continuity, and weren't merged until August 1936. The strip had somewhat of a rough start, as it hardly approached its later-day brilliance during its first year. Caniff was still finding his way as a cartoonist, and could not fully devote himself to his new subject matter, as he still had to fulfill his contractual obligations to the Associated Press until the end of 1934.

Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
'Terry and the Pirates' (26 June 1936).

The main characters seem directly borrowed from the 'Dickie Dare' strip. A young kid called Terry Lee accompanies the writer and "two-fisted adventurer" Pat Ryan on a tramp steamer trip through Chinese waters. They are quickly accompanied by the Chinese George Webster Confucius, a.k.a. Connie, who serves as their translator and loyal servant. Another early addition to the cast is the dangerous "Dragon Lady". While most of the main cast were already there they were still rather one-dimensional. The Oriental characters didn't fare much better. They were basically general Asian stereotypes typical of the time period, complete with pidgin language.

Mr. Coffee Nerves by Paul Arthur
'Mr. Coffee Nerves' ad from 1940.

Collaboration with Noel Sickles
It took Caniff until October 1935 to iron out the wrinkles, owing much to fellow artist Noel Sickles. He and Caniff shared a studio in Woodstock Tower in New York City between 1933 and 1937 where they helped one another out with their comic strips. Caniff lent a helping hand to Sickles' aviation comic 'Scorchy Smith', while Sickles' inventive use of new tools and techniques inspired Caniff. Especially the chiaroscuro effect, which emphasizes drama and atmosphere through black and light contrasts, was incorporated by Caniff in his own work. Sickles' other contribution to the 'Terry' strip was the design of the trademark logo, which first appeared in August 1935. Caniff and Sickles furthermore took several advertising assignments through the Johnstone and Cushing agency, which they produced under the joint pen name "Paul Arthur" (a reversal of Caniff’s two middle names). They produced art for Baker's Coconut and Fels Naptha soap chips, but their most interesting work was done for the coffee substitute Postum by General Foods. Each episode featured a villainous ghost named 'Mr. Coffee Nerves' who personified caffeine headaches. His devastating effect on people's lives was however diminished when his victims drunk Postum and were cured. Other artists for the 'Mr. Coffee Nerves' feature were Lou Fine and Albert Dorne. Caniff and Sickles continued to assist each other on an on-and-off basis throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
Sexual tension between Pat and Burma ('Terry and the Pirates', 20 March 1936).

Terry's heyday
About a year into its run, 'Terry and the Pirates' finally found its shape. Both graphics, characters and plotlines improved. Contrary to his contemporaries Alex Raymond ('Flash Gordon') and Harold Foster ('Prince Vaillant') Caniff was less influenced by classic illustrators and more by cinematic techniques. He paced his plots like the adventure serials which ran in weekly episodes in film theaters, much like TV episodes do today. It gave his impressionistic brushwork a more vivid and dynamic look. His characters became more fleshed out, which was especially visible in young Terry. At the start of the strip, Terry was an innocent youngster. As the years progressed, Terry grew older mentally, emotionally and physically. The readers were witnesses of his road to adulthood, seeing him fall in love for the first time, and eventually becoming an Army Air Force pilot during World War II. Aging comic characters were at that point only present in Frank O. King's 'Gasoline Alley' strip. Other characters in 'Terry' also underwent significant changes. Pat Ryan remained heroic, but also somewhat of a hot-head. Connie and the gigantic mute Big Stoop provided much of the comic relief. According to modern standards Connie remained a rather stereotypical Asian, but his role in the comics grew far beyond being a mere servant. Both he and Big Stoop are true companions to Terry and Pat, with a strong mutual loyalty. Caniff furthermore didn't shy away from splitting his team up. On several occasions, his heroes went their own way, and either Terry or Pat would be gone from the strip for several months.

Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
Sexual tension between Pat and the Dragon Lady ('Terry and the Pirates', 15 October 1939).

Female characters
Yet, it must also be mentioned that 'Terry and the Pirates' owed an important part of its popularity to its strong female characters. One of them was Normandie Drake, a spoiled rich heiress who married the snobby Tony Sandhurst and evolved into a tormented woman as a result. April Kane, secretary of Pat and love interest of Terry, toughened up after spending some years in a Japanese prison camp. The sensual singer Burma (with the 'St. Louis Blues' as her signature song) knew how to use her looks to get what she wants, which offered some steamy scenes between her and Pat Ryan. Caniff applied lesbian innuendo in his storyline with the crossdresser Sanjak, who had a fascination for April Kane. The far from glamorous and independent missionary worker Raven Sherman ran an orphanage with a firm hand. When Caniff killed her off in the autumn of 1941, it nearly caused a national outrage! Readers sent flowers to the newspaper, and Caniff received tons of letters. Some of these praised the storyline, others called its writer a murderer. The Dragon Lady became a far more interesting character upon her return to the narrative in August 1936. Gone was her stereotypical Oriental depiction, in came a more sophisticated and conflicted nature. Sure, she was still cruel and ruthless, but her soft spot for Pat Ryan also made her vulnerable. Later in the series' run she would even become a useful ally for Pat and Terry, when confronted with mutual enemies. The mysterious femme fatale surely became Caniff's most emblematic villain, whose influence could be seen in pop culture in decades to come.

Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
Raven Sherman's dying in Dude Hennick's arms shocked a nation in the dailies from 15 through 17 October 1941.

Terry's influences
The realism in Caniff's comic can largely be attributed to the real-life models he used for staging key scenes: Alicia Quigley, Dorothea Sweeney and Helen Bennett all posed as Burma, Kay Sterns as April Kane and Patricia Ryan as the Dragon Lady, while Bud Davis modelled for Pat and Bill Agnew for Terry. Another important aspect of the true-to-life feel of the strip is Caniff's effort to create an accurate depiction of China. Although he had never visited the country, he read everything he could about it, in his own words exploring the Orient as a true "armchair Marco Polo". The series' narrative was also influenced by the news of the day. In the early years, Terry and Pat were fighting warlords like Papa Pyzon, Captain Judas, Captain Blaze and Klang, but by 1937 a far greater threat came from outside. In July of that year, the battle at the Marco Polo Bridge between the Chinese and Japanese forces marked the beginning of World War II in the Pacific. Caniff couldn't deny these events for long, and from December 1937 the Japanese oppressor became an important part of the storylines, while the Dragon Lady turned from pirate queen into a revolutionary leader. The artist delved into sensitive subject matter as his boss, Captain Patterson, was an influential isolationist who prefered a "hands off" approach. Therefore, Caniff never mentioned the Japanese, but merely called them "the invaders".

Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
Flip Corkin's famous speech in 'Terry and the Pirates' on 17 October 1943.

World War II
The attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and the US subsequently joining the war had a large effect on Milton Caniff and his work. The artist was drafted in 1943, but deemed medically unfit to serve because he suffered from phlebitis and narcolepsy. Caniff still did his fair share for the war effort, though. Thanks to his contacts in the Pacific, he had received detailed insights into China's political turmoil. Among them were Air Force pilots Frank Higgs and Philip Cochran, who in turn served as templates for the new characters Dude Hennick (1940, with his catchphrase "Bless bess, what a mess!") and Flip Corkin (1942). The latter trained Terry as an Air Force pilot when the young hero returned to the narrative in mid 1942. As the comic became more militaristic new sidekicks like Snake Tumblin and Hotshot Charlie turned up. Because of his intense research and many contacts, Caniff was able to present an accurate look on military life and the perils of combat. He sometimes even predicted real-world events, like the invasion by the Allies of northern Burma in March 1944. When the U.S. military started using gliders they were largely inspired by their appearance in 'Terry and the Pirates'. On 17 October 1943 a memorable Sunday comic episode had Flip Corkin explain the duties and responsibilities of a fighter pilot to Terry. Congressman John Carl Hinshaw of California was so moved by it that he read it into the Congressional Record the following day. Since then the page has become a classic and has often been reprinted for patriotic purposes.

Male Call by Milton Caniff
'Male Call'.

Male Call
While 'Terry and the Pirates' gave families back home a glimpse into military life in the "China Burma India Theater", Milton Caniff did much to boost up morale for the boys on duty as well. As a volunteer, he designed hundreds of insignia, posters and other items for the military, and continued to do so for the rest of his life. He contributed many illustrations to training manuals and other handbooks, such as 'What To Do In An Air Raid' (1941) and 'How To Spot A Jap' (1942). In late 1942, Milton Caniff produced a weekly 'Terry and the Pirates' strip starring the sexy Burma for camp newspapers. Contractual obligations forced him to substitute it with another strip, which became 'Male Call', starring the equally sensual Miss Lace. The gag-a-week strip was distributed to military newspapers by the government's Camp Newspaper Service from 24 January 1943 until 3 March 1946. Miss Lace was a sprightly pal to every homesick soldier and sailor away from the U.S. Caniff regarded it as a donation to the war effort and was never paid for it. 

What to do in an air raid by Milton Caniff

Terry and the Pirates: merchandising
The overall success of 'Terry and the Pirates' led to spin-off publications as early as 1938, when 16-page promotional comic books with reprints were released by Western Publishing as giveaways for shoe stores and cereal manufacturers. The strip was adapted into seven volumes of Whitman Publishing's 'Big Little Book' series between 1938 and 1946. A radio serial based on the comic was broadcast three days a week by NBC between 1937 and 1939, and again in 1941-1942 and 1943-1948. The voice of Pat Ryan was performed by Bud Collyer, who would later voice 'Superman' in the animated shorts of the Fleischer Studios, while the Dragon Lady was played by Agnes Moorehead, who is best known for her roles in 'Citizen Kane' and 'Bewitched'. A film serial with William Tracy as Terry Lee and Granville Owen as Pat Ryan was released by Columbia in 1940. An 18-episode TV series was produced by Don Sharpe Enterprises and syndicated in 1953.

Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
'Terry and the Pirates', 15 August 1943.

End of Caniff's Terry run
In 1937 Caniff and his wife moved from the city to the countryside near Haverstraw. Although this ended his regular working relationship with Noel Sickles, it marked the arrival of more co-workers. Letterer Frank Engli worked from Caniff's home studio several days a week, and Adelaide Gilchrest and Wilhelmina Tuck were hired as secretaries/office managers. Graphic assistance came from Alfred Andriola (1936-1938), Charles Raab (1938), Lloyd Ostendorf (1940), Ray Bailey (1940-1944) and Stan Asch. By the mid-1940s Caniff became worried about his financial situation. 'Terry and the Pirates' was indeed a hit, but property of the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate. In case of failing health, all the family's income would be dependent on his ability to continue his strip. Marshall Field of the Field Enterprises syndicate started negotiating with Caniff in late 1944. They made an agreement that Caniff would produce a new strip for them, of which he would get complete ownership, including income from related merchandise. Caniff first had to sit out his contract with Patterson though, until the end of 1946. Patterson, who passed away in mid 1946, never spoke to Caniff again, and the artist became persona-non-grata at the New York Daily News for decades to come. Further complicating the issue was that Caniff was not allowed to write or draw anything down about his new comic strip. Any document of a sketch or plot outline would otherwise immediately become property of the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate, as long as his contract with them hadn't been terminated. Milton Caniff's final 'Terry and the Pirates' strip was published on Sunday 29 December 1946, and his new series, 'Steve Canyon', was launched on 13 January 1947. George Wunder continued 'Terry and the Pirates' for another 26 years, ending its run on 25 February 1973.

Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff
'Steve Canyon', 29 June 1952.

Steve Canyon
The launch of 'Steve Canyon' on 13 January 1947 was accompanied by a lot of media attention. The character and its creator even appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in January 1947. 162 daily and 96 Sunday newspapers in the USA signed up to publish the strip even before it had begun. The theme of post-war demobilization was picked up where 'Terry' had left off, although Caniff now had the entire world as a stage instead of just the Orient. The picaresque hero Steve Canyon was a former Air Force pilot, who now owned his own air-transport business, Horizons Unlimited. Several side characters were introduced in the first year, mostly fellow veterans, but love interest Copper Calhoon and comic relief adventurer Happy Easter were the only ones that lasted. Canyon's later love interest Summer Olson even became his wife in April 1970, making Steve Canyon one of the few married comic heroes. Just like 'Terry', Caniff based several of his characters on real-life persons and models. Actrice Ilona Massey stood model for the new femme fatale in Caniff's oeuvre, the spy Madame Lynx. Pipper the Piper got his looks from John F. Kennedy, while Miss Mizzou was most likely based on Marilyn Monroe. Caniff's old friend Phil Cochron stood model for a second time: after Flip Corkin, he was now the inspiration for General Philerie.

Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff
'Steve Canyon', 16 January 1955.

Caniff continued the patriotic and pro-military tone of his previous comic, especially after the Cold War politics became an important part of the narrative. The character returned to the Air Force during the Korean War, and remained in service for the rest of the strip's run. While 'Steve Canyon' equalled the quality of 'Terry' it was also subject to criticism. Already in 1947 the London Evening News dropped the strip because its use of slang made it difficult for British readers to understand. From 1965 on the Vietnam War drastically changed people's opinion about warfare. By the end of the decade many anti-war protestors saw Caniff's work as "military propaganda". Caniff however was always influenced by the news and politics of the day, and turned to a more inclusive political outlook in the 1970s and 1980s. Milton Caniff's longtime assistant on 'Steve Canyon' was Dick Rockwell, who was hired in 1952 and remained with Caniff until the end of the strip's run on 4 June 1988. Other assistants who have worked on 'Steve Canyon' were Howard Nostrand, Marvin Stein, Lee Elias, Alex Kotzky, Ray Bailey, Doug Wildey, Don Heck, Fred Kida and Willliam Overgard, while Shel Dorf replaced Frank Engli as the letterer in 1977.

Bruce Lee
In 1977 Milton Caniff briefly teamed up with Noel Sickles again. The Los Angeles Times Syndicate tried to cash in on the popularity of martial arts movie star Bruce Lee (1940-1973), and asked the two veteran cartoonists to produce a comic strip about the man. The two made some sample strips, but quickly grew tired of the syndicate's interferences and suggestions. The project was shelved until 1982, when Fran Matera and Sharman DiVono's rendition of 'The Legend of Bruce Lee' (1982-1983) was launched.

Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff
'Steve Canyon', 20 April 1970.

Adaptations and collections
'Steve Canyon' was adapted into a TV series of 34 episodes, which starred Dean Fredericks as Canyon. It aired on NBC in 1958-1959. Caniff also featured the character in a series of novels, which were published by Grosset & Dunlap in the 1950s. Harvey Comics published six comic books with reprint stories in 1948. New stories were made for comic books in Dell Publishing's 'Four Color Comics' series between 1953 and 1959, with art by either Willliam Overgard or Ray Bailey. Kitchen Sink Press reprinted 'Steve Canyon' in 26 issues of Steve Canyon Magazine between 1983 and 1992, while NBM published hardcover volumes of 'Terry and the Pirates' in their Flying Buttress Comics Library line. A first effort to a complete edition of 'Steve Canyon' was started by the Checker Book Publishing Group between 2006 and 2009. The nine volumes of 'Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon' collected the years 1947 to 1955. 'Terry and the Pirates' inaugurated the Library of American Comics by IDW Publishing. Between 2007 and 2009 the entire series was collected in six hardcover volumes, edited by Dean Mullaney. The imprint subsequently began their series of 'Steve Canyon' reprints in 2012.

Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff
'Steve Canyon', 18 September 1949.

Social activities
Milton Caniff was a socially conscious person. Besides providing voluntary artwork to the military, he also remained a loyal supporter of the Boy Scouts and his Sigma Chi fraternity of the Ohio State University. During the war, Caniff was one of several cartoonists who visited wounded soldiers in hospitals, often accompanied by Dorothy Partington, his model for Miss Lace. Other artists who did this kind of charity were Al Capp, Otto Soglow and Rube Goldberg. This created a bond between the artists, which resulted in the founding of the National Cartoonists Society in 1946. The club's gatherings were intended solely as social events, and were also attended by Joe Shuster, Gus Edson, Fred Harman, Ernie Bushmiller, Bill Holman, among several others. Rube Goldberg was the first president, while Caniff was the inaugural treasurer and second president, from 1948 to 1950.

Milton Caniff was the first to win the Cartoonists of the Year award (1947) and the Elzie Segar Award (1971), both bestowed by the National Cartoonists Society. On 6 October 1965 he was one of six cartoonists (the others being Roy Crane, Bill Mauldin, Don Sherwood, Mort Walker and George WunderGeorge Wunder) to be invited by U.S President Lyndon B. Johnson to the White House as "creators of military comics."In 1971 he received the Reuben Award for 'Steve Canyon'. Together with Charles M. Schulz, he is the only comic artist to ever receive a Silver Buffalo (1976), as a "friend of scouting". In 1992 an asteroid was named after Caniff too.

Milton Caniff passed away in New York City on 3 April 1988. Although he had never served in the U.S. Army, Caniff was granted full military honors at his funeral by then Air Force Chief of Staff General Larry D. Welch. The last syndicated 'Steve Canyon' strip was published on 4 June 1988. As a tribute to Caniff it was drawn by Bill Mauldin, with the signatures of 78 fellow cartoonists. 

Milton Caniff with his model for April Kane, around 1941.

Legacy and influence
Milton Caniff's impact on the comic industry cannot be overestimated. His original artwork for 'Terry and the Pirates' was on exhibit in Julien Levy's art gallery in Manhattan as early as 1940, making him probably one of the first comic artists whose work was actually presented as art. Traces of his bold and cinematographic artwork can be seen in comic books and graphic novels to this day, both from the USA and Europe. In addition to the tons of fanmail he received, Milton Caniff encouraged aspiring cartoonists who wrote him, including Chic Stone, Paul Norris, Carmine Infantino, Jules Feiffer, Warren Turfts, Ron Goulart and William Overgard. His comics were a strong influence on Al JaffeeJerry DumasJules FeifferMel Graff, Raye HorneMartin LandauCharles RaabJack Kirby, Will Eisner, Guy Gilchrist, Lee Lorenz, Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Jerry Robinson, Irwin Hasen, Frank Giacoia, Allen BellmanBernie Krigstein, John Severin, Jack Davis, Johnny Craig and Dan Spiegle, among many more. In Europe, Caniff influenced Franco-Belgian artists like Gérald FortonJijé, Albert Uderzo, Eddy Paape, Victor Hubinon, Jean Giraud, Maurice Tillieux and Kline, as well as the Englishmen Stephen DowlingJohn GillattIan Kennedy, the Swiss Philippe Wurm and the Italians Hugo Pratt, Annibale Casabianca and Roy D'Ami. Victor Hubinon and Jean-Michel Charlier's Belgian aviation comic 'Buck Danny' borrowed heavily from Caniff's series, both in the looks of the blonde hero, as in the logo design. In the Netherlands Caniff influenced Henk AllemanMartin Lodewijk and Minck Oosterveer

The Dragon Lady became an archetype for the femme fatale, and the term has become a stereotype for strong, deceitful, domineering, or mysterious East Asian women. The character was the inspiration for Buck Danny's archenemy 'Lady X' and also for Aunt Sidonia's masquerade into "De Draken Vrouw" in the 'Suske en Wiske' episode 'De Sissende Sampan' (1963) by Willy Vandersteen. The World War II comic series 'Pin-Up' (1994-) and its strip-within-a-strip 'Poison Ivy' by the Belgians Philippe Berthet and Yann was a direct homage to Milton Caniff and his comic 'Male Call'.  An image from one of Caniff's 'Steve Canyon' pages was used by Roy Lichtenstein to create his own painting, 'Mr. Bellamy' (1961). In Israel Caniff influenced Asher Dikstein, while in Argentina he inspired Oscar Zárate

Milton Caniff also gained famous fans outside of the comic industry, such as politician Clare Booth Luce, film directors Orson Welles and Federico Fellini, musician Bing Crosby, novelists John Steinbeck and Umberto Eco and even Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor. Hugh Hefner even acknowledged being inspired to take up pipe smoking thanks to the character Pat Ryan. Later, Caniff's 'Male Call' was one of the first comics he published in Playboy. Like any other popular comic, Caniff's work was also parodied in issue #6 (August-September 1953) of Mad Magazine by Harvey Kurtzman and Wallace Wood as 'Teddy and the Pirates'.

Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff

Books and other information about Milton Caniff
'Milton Caniff: Rembrandt of the Comic Strip' by Rick Marschall and John Paul Adams was one of the first books about Milton Caniff, released by Flying Buttress Publications in 1981. R.C. Harvey's 'Meanwhile...: A Biography of Milton Caniff, Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon' was published by Fantagraphics in 2007, followed by Dean Mullaney's 'Caniff: A Visual Biography' by IDW in 2011. For avid Caniff fans, the introduction articles in the IDW collections are also a must-read. In 1977, Milton Caniff had donated his collection of papers and original art to Ohio State University. It became the foundation for what is now known as the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. The library later acquired collections from United Media, King Features Syndicate, Bill Blackbeard's San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection and Mort Walker's International Museum of Cartoon Art, and is by now the largest and most comprehensive academic research facility for comics and cartoon art.

Milton Caniff photo © Jean-Luc Beghin
Milton Caniff photo © Jean-Luc Beghin.

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