I've been reading Steve Canyon strips from IDW's Library of American Comics collections, a month every day, for the last few weeks. I started with volume 2, since that's the volume I had. But now I'm flashing back to volume 1, and since there was some interest in a read-along, here goes!

January 1947.

This is a short month, as the strip began on January 13. Short synopsis: Rich vamp Copper "the Copperhead" Calhoun wants to hire Canyon's Horizons Unlimited air-transport business for a mysterious mission. Steve (and his secretary, Feeta-Feeta) are rude to Calhoun's underling, Mr. Dayzee. Calhoun tests Canyon's bravery and prowess b setting thugs on him, and then hires him, impressed. Dayzee plots with Calhoun's bodyguard, blackmailing him, to kill Canyon during the mission.

Elements of note:
I liked how Canyon isn't introduced until a week into the strip. Canniff spends a week with Feeta-Feeta being sassy to Mr. Dayzee as we wonder what the lead character is like. And then, on the first Sunday page, he appears... but not until after several incidental characters react to him while he's only partially on-panel.

Feeta-Feeta's unusual nickname is taken from the soldiers in American Samoa -- Fita is Samoan for soldier, and from what I can find online, the Fita Fita Guard was the Samoan Marine Reserve.

I like Copper Calhoun's hooded wrap -- it suggests cobra more than copperhead, but it definitely gets the idea of a snake across. 

New Characters of Note:
Steve Canyon, Feeta-Feeta, Copper Calhoun, Mr. Dayzee, Kroom

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  • I was pleased when I saw this topic appear on the main page yesterday, but now I've got to put my money time where my mouth is since I was the guy who pushed for it. To that end, I read January and February 1947 last night. (I don't know what I'm going to do when you skip volume two, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.) I have always had tremendous respect for Milton Caniff for taking the huge risk of switching syndicates in order to gain creative control and ownership of the strip he produced. Imagine walking away from one of the most successful strips in the country into order to put your financial well being into an unproven quantity.

    Chester Gould was made the same offer but he turned it down. No judgement there, of course, but I think T. & the P. lent itself more to transfer than Dick Tracy would have. Caniff would frequently write main characters out of the strip for weeks or even months at a time in order to focus on others. (I'm thinking primarily Pat Ryan, here.) Caniff is referred to as "the Rembrant of the comic strip" and rightly so. One can tell how much work goes into it just by looking at the amount of black in the panels. Caniff was friends with Charles Schulz (who never used an assistant in his life), but Caniff once commented, "Let him try drawing my strip!"

    It's interesting to move from reading Terry directly into reading Steve, but it's also interesting to continue reading Terry under George Wundar, three volumes of which have been released by Hermes Press, another project for another time.

    In addition to his art, I really like Cnaiff's use of patter. Sound like Hollywood of the day. I wish I could speak like that... of course no one would have a clue what I was talking about, but I don't care.

  • I read the first IDW volume of Steve Canyon on a library borrow so I don't have the book in hand but I may still chime in with comments.

    Caniffs dialogue is what really makes both Steve Canyon and Terry. It is quite understandable why his readers were so engaged in his strips. Caniff was tremendously influential on many comic book artists of the Golden and Silver Ages. The writers of those eras could have taken lessons from Caniff as well.

  • "Caniff was tremendously influential on many comic book artists of the Golden and Silver Ages."

    For example, John Romita. Have you ever seen is 1950s Captain America?

  • Glad you guys are along for the ride! As for Volume 2, I think I'll do a section here called "Meanwhile, Two Years in the Future," and talk about those Volume 2 storylines simultaneously with these. It probably won't be every day, though -- a bit of a looser schedule since my reading isn't totally lining up with it.

    February 1947.
    Now that Canyon has been hired by Calhoun, it's time to gather the team! There are five other guys on the Horizons Unlimited crew -- navigator, radio man, flight engineer, co-pilot... and one other i'm forgetting. The truth is, they all kind of run together, and aside from each of them getting an introductory strip, they're pretty much treated as a unit. 

    Steve & co. fly Copper -- not noticing how sad their departure is making Feeta-Feeta -- south of the border, so she can check the books on a number of plantations she owns. At the first one, she confirms her suspicions that she's being robbed. Before she gets to the second plantation the landowner next door, a shady character named Pino Pluma, reaches it first, sending a henchman to kill the manager, burn the ledgers, and stage it so that it looks like a suicide inspired by Calhoun's visit. Then he rushes over and expresses shock and sympathy, and suggests Copper come stay at his plantation next door. Steve joins her, with the whole crew eventually.

    Speaking of the crew, they (and Steve) have a conflict with Kroom, Copper's bodyguard, who's being blackmailed into killing Steve. The crew think he's just jealous, and after a little fisticuffs, they put him in "Coventry" without explaining what that is or what it means. (I think we'd call it "the silent treatment" these days -- or maybe I'm misinterpreting the scene. March may reveal more!)

    Elements of Note:
    My favorite strip this time involves the crew. The first panel is simply a picture of Copper's contract with Steve. The second panel is headshots of each crew member, having the many detailed conversations necessary to make sure the flight is safe and possible. And the final panel is Copper complaining to Canyon that his crew are lazy layabouts, since she doesn't realize what's going on behind the scenes. Give it a rest, Karen.

    Also, when we first see Pino Pluma, he's surrounded by beautiful women, some with lutes and ukeleles. When he gets the news about Copper's visit, he calls an end to the "auditions" and goes about his criminal business. But we get the impression that this guy lives like Hugh Hefner...15 years before Hef got his start.

    New Characters of Note:
    Horizons Unlimited Crew, Pino Pluma

  • Jeff of Earth-J said:

    In addition to his art, I really like Cnaiff's use of patter. Sound like Hollywood of the day. I wish I could speak like that... of course no one would have a clue what I was talking about, but I don't care.

    I love old-time patter like that. I was just watching an episode of Bosch, and a cop is asking a bartender -- 20-year-old, tattooed, blue mohawk -- where a person of interest went on a certain night. She says that he walked out: "He took it on the arches." He looks at her and says "You really ARE old-fashioned, aren't you?" And she gives him a look like, You have no idea. It was a great little scene.

    "Took it on the arches." I'm gonna file that away for future use.

  • I really liked the pacing of the introduction of Canon’s crew. One of them reminds me a bit of dude Hennick, and one is very definitely evakative of Hotshot Charlie.

    And, yes, “Coventry” is the equivalent of the “silent treatment. (It’s used in Prisoner: Cell Block H, too.)

  • If you like that old time patter, you need to check out the movie His Gal Friday. It is amazing how Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell made it through some scenes - the dialogue is non-stop.

  • "Evakative"? Ugh.

  • Busy day yesterday, so I didn't get my update up. Here goes.

    March 1947.

    We get kind of a love rectangle, with Copper as the focus. Pino is courting her for nefarious reasons. Canyon is trying to get between Pino and Copper to protect her. And Kroom, lovesick over Copper, swears revenge on Canyon!

    Pino and Copper go for a picnic, and the crew arranges fly-by surveillance photos that show one of Pino's boats loading up Copper's goods from a secret dock. Meanwhile, Canyon is thrown in jail on trumped-up charges.

    Eventually, the jig is up, as the manager of Copper's first plantation accuses Pino of theft. Pino flees, taking Copper hostage. Kroom, drunk, follows in his car, fearlessly speeding around the curves on the mountain road. Steve breaks out of jail (a truck pulls the bars out of the window) and heads to the airport -- they're going to fly over and parachute to the rescue!

    Elements of Note:
    My favorite part of this month is when Pino and Copper go on a date, but Canyon stays behind... while his crew sabotages their date by using a hose to make it seem like it's raining, or making buzzing noises to make a secluded spot sound full of mosquitoes. But while Canyon's talking to the men over the phone, Pino's henchman can't understand him as he eavesdrops because of all the snappy patter.

    New Characters of Note:
    None that I'm aware of.

  • April 1947.
    Kroom catches up with Copper and Pino. Pino shoots Kroom. Meanwhile, Canyon parachutes down and takes care of Pino. Copper is hurt,, and she demands to be brought next to Kroom. She gives him a kiss before he dies. 

    Then it's back to the states! Copper needs medical attention. Canyon & Co plan to fly to New Orleans with a doctor and nurse as passengers, but instead, they're carrying impostors -- Delta and her father, Bullet-Hole-Pete-In-Person -- who need Steve to fly them back to the states. New Orleans is stormed out, so Steve has to fly back to NYC (with a refueling stop), getting medical advice for Copper over the radio. 

    When they arrive, Customs comes to pick up the stowaways, but it turns out they have passports! So they're free to go, and Steve doesn't even get Delta's name (although Copper overheard it, and gives it to him in the hospital). 

    Delta is working for a lounge singer/crime boss Big Red... who needs her to hire a flight crew to move machinery from  a factory to an oil field. Delta goes to Steve, who Feeta Feeta is reminding has money problems. But it looks like a deal will be struck!

    Elements of Note: I like Delta as a potential romantic sparring partner a lot more than I like Copper Calhoun.

    Poor Feeta-Feeta.... will she always be ignored by Steve? She's planning to get another job (where she might get paid), and Steve berates her for leaving the aviation industry. So she stays, and hocks one of her earrings for $10 so Steve can take Delta to lunch. (How selfless!) But her note also says her other earring can be hocked for a pearl-handled revolver, if Steve doesn't get the job, or if Delta's just out for a free lunch. I loved that note!

    New Characters of Note:
    Delta, Bullet-Hole-Pete, Big Red

    Returning Characters:

    Moving Offstage:
    Copper Calhoun, Pino, Kroom (RIP)

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