The Gay Thirties by Milton Caniff

Milton Caniff

(28 February 1907 – 3 May 1988, USA)

miltoncaniffMilton Caniff’s first involvement in the comics field dates from 1922, when he began working as an illustrator for some local newspapers. At age 25, Caniff was hired by Associated Press, and brought to New York in 1932. He ghosted on features like ‘The Gay Thirties’, before taking over the panel cartoon called ‘Mister Gilfeather’ from Al Capp in September 1932.

Caniff was handed the assignment of a children’s adventure strip called ‘Dickie Dare’. Influenced by such strips as ‘Flash Gordon’ and ‘Brick Bradford’, Caniff took Dickie on the ride of his life.

It was Joseph Patterson at the New York Daily News who noticed the ‘Dickie Dare’ strip and quickly hired Caniff for a new adventure strip called ‘Terry and the Pirates’. The strip made its debut in October, 1934. In the beginning, the comic was fairly rough, until Noel Sickels, who was hired to produce the strip ‘Scorchy Smith’, helped Caniff iron out the wrinkles.

Their collaboration – and Caniff’s later solo flight – produced some of the most memorable strips in the history of the medium. They also did advertising work together, such as the ‘Mr. Coffee Nerves’ character, using the penname Paul Arthur.

During World War II, Caniff produced, besides ‘Terry’, the comic strip ‘Male Call’ for the G.I. Newspapers only. It featured Miss Lace, a sprightly pal to every homesick soldier and sailor away from the U.S. ‘Male Call’ was Caniff’s donation to the war effort; he took no money for it. He retired the strip in 1946.

In early 1947, Caniff, aching for more control of his comic creations, jumped to the Chicago Sun – Times and created ‘Steve Canyon’, a strip about an air-transport pilot seeking adventure.

Although ‘Steve Canyon’ was an immediate success, the strip never matched ‘Terry’ at its best. ‘Steve Canyon’ ran for 41 years and died with the artist in 1988. The final strip, on June 4th, was a two-panel tribute, signed by 78 cartoonists.

Gaining the highest regard of his peers, Caniff earned the very first Cartoonist of the Year trophy awarded by the National Cartoonists Society in 1946, and eventually received the Reuben award for his work in 1971.

The impact Milton Caniff had on comics cannot be overestimated; he was the first cartoonist who brought realism, suspense and sensuality into comics and he inspired many artists with his beautiful drawings, earning him his nickname, “the Rembrandt of the comic strip.”


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Hoohah! by Jack Davis

Jack Davis
(b. 2 December 1924, USA)
jack-davis-foundationDuring his adolescence, Jack Burton Davis’ first work was published in the juvenile periodical Tip Top Comics. When he was in the Navy from 1945 to 1947, he cooperated on the Navy News, for which he created the character Boondocker. After the second World War, he attended the University of Georgia and cooperated on the campus magazine Bullsheet.
In 1951, he joined EC Comics, after having finished his continued studies at the New York’s Art Students League and having assisted artists like Ed Dodd and Mike Roy on respectively ‘Mark Trail’ and ‘The Saint’
Because Davis was quick and efficient, Feldstein and Kurtzman could always depend on him, making him the most versatile artist of the EC crew. Davis worked for all the EC horror comics, including Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, Shock SuspenStories, and Incredible Science-Fiction. When most of the EC titles folded in 1955 due to the Comics Code, Davis continued to work for the company’s funny titles MAD and Panic.
Davis continued to do some comics work for Atlas Comics (1958-1963), as well as Playboy (‘Little Annie Fanny’ stories). But by this time, he mainly focused on illustrating bubble gum cards, movie posters and display advertising. He also worked as an illustrator for magazines like Cracked, Loco, Crazy and Panic.
He did covers and illustrations for TV Guide and Esquire and cooperated with Harvey Kurtzman on several works for Trump, Humbug and Help!. Davis continued to do some comics in the horror genre for the magazines of Warren Publishing in the 1970s. In 2000, the National Cartoonists’ Society gave him the Rueben Award for Best Cartoonist of the Year.




Dixie Road by Jean Dufaux & Hugues Labiano

Jean Dufaux
(b. 7 July 1949, Belgium)
jean dufauxis a prolific comics writer who has written for a lot of famous comics artists. Fascinated by cinema, he took some courses in cinematographic arts, which would later influence him in his comics scenarios. Dufaux did his first scenario work for Tintin, where he eventually teamed up with Renaud. For Tintin he co-wrote ‘Brelan de Dames’ with Jean-Luc Vernal for Renaud. In 1987, Renaud and Dufaux started the ‘Jessica Blandy’ series for Novedi publishers. This became one of Dufaux’ most famous creations, the first series in which he created psychological depth.

Dufaux expanded his activities in the late 1980s, writing comics like ‘Melly Brown’ (art by Musquera), ‘La Toile et la Dague’ (art by Aidans) and most notably, the post-apocalyptic series ‘Beautifica Blues’ (art by Griffo). Again with Griffo, Dufaux started the Casanova inspired series ‘Giacomo C.’ in 1987. With ‘Les Enfants de la Salamandre’ (art by Renaud) Dufaux brought a fantasy element into his comics, which he later continued in ‘Les Jardins de la Peur’ (art by Eddy Paape and Sohier). Jean Dufaux launched four new series in the early 1990s: ‘Chelsy’ (art Éric Joris), ‘Avel’ (art Durieux), ‘Fox’ (art J.F. Charles) and ‘Santiag’ (art Renaud). He also started rebuilding some literary works into comics, for which artists like Griffo, Rotundo, Savey and Malès did the artwork.
In 1992 he introduced the young female artist Vivianne Nicaise to the comics field with the series ‘Sang de Lune’. He restarted ‘Beautifica Blues’ in a second cyclus, ‘Samba-Bugatti’, as well as new series with Jamar (‘Les Voleurs d’Empires) and Grzegorz Rosinski (‘La Complainte des Landes’). The late 1990s also meant the start for new series, like ‘Dixie Road’ (art Labiano), ‘Murena’ (art Philippe Delaby), ‘Rapaces’ (art Marini), ‘Ombres’ (art Lucien Rollin), ‘Les Révoltes’ (art Malès), ‘Niklos Koda’ (art Oliver Grenson) and ‘L’Impératrice Rouge’ (art Adamov). The new millennium brought yet again new series, ‘Djinn’ (art Ana Mirallès) and ‘Les Rochester’ (art Philippe Wurm). During the course of his career, Jean Dufaux has established himself as a very popular scenarist, who is able to write in various genres, but still in his own recognizable style.


Hugues Labiano
hugues labiano3is a French comic book artist and writer who provided cover art for the series Aliens vs. Predator: Xenogenesis for Dark Horse Comics.

Originally from Bayonne, Labiano is a prominent comics creator in France (where they are known by the name Bande-Dessinee) who began in the field in 1984 has since worked for Hachette, Bayard-Presse, Editions Dynamick and for Circus and Vecu magazines.

Eventually Labiano graduated to producing works for leading French comics publishers Les Humanoides Associes, Glenat and Dargaud (for whom he created the series Dixie Road about 1930s America).

Among his more recent works have been the Mister George series, and Black Op for Dargaud.

The covers to AVP: Xenogenesis apparently represent the only American comics work Labiano has done.

The artist lives and works in Paris, France.




Dear Superman by Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster

Joe Shuster
cartoonist (b at Toronto, 10 July 1914; d at Los Angeles, Calif, 30 June 1992),
joe-shusterwho in 1933 with writer Jerry Siegel created the Superman comic book character. In the original version Superman’s mild-mannered alter ego, Clark Kent, worked for the Daily Star, which was patterned after the Toronto Star. The newspaper’s name in the strip was changed later to The Daily Planet.
Shuster, first cousin of comedian Frank Shuster (see WAYNE AND SHUSTER), moved to Cleveland, Ohio, with his family when he was nine years old. He studied art at John Huntington Polytechnical Institute and the Cleveland School of Art, where he met his collaborator, Siegel. The pair began publishing science fiction magazines and in 1936 broke into the comic book business by drawing lackluster adventure tales. Shuster’s illustrations were rudimentary but well conceived.
In 1938 the duo sold Superman for $130 to Action Comics, but failed to copyright the character. They were paid to draw the series as staffers until 1947 when the Man of Steel became the most famous hero in comic book history. When they sued for a more equitable percentage of royalties, they were fired and Shuster stopped drawing completely. By the mid-1970s he was blind and living in a an apartment in Queens, NY. When the first Superman movie, starring Christopher Reeve, made $82.5 million, Siegel sued, and DC comics restored their creators’ credits and agreed to pay each of them $20 000 a year for life.


Jerry Siegel
(17 October 1914 – 28 January 1996, USA)
Jerry Siegel is the father of Superman – the superhero that made comics great and inspired a whole new generation of supernaturally endowed characters. Siegel created Superman in 1933 with his childhood friend Joe Shuster, who did the artwork. Initially, they wanted to sell Superman as a newspaper strip, but since no one was interested it was not until 1938 that Superman was published for the first time, in a comic magazine. His appearance boosted the ailing comic business into a popularity that might not have occurred, had the newspapers taken the initiative in printing this highly successful character.

Most of Superman’s contemporaries are human beings who are transformed into superheroes – the thing that sets Superman apart is that he has a secret identity. On one hand, he is mild-mannered journalist Clark Kent, who repeatedly fails to show up at the right moment; on the other, he is the last son of Krypton, always in time to save the world. Comic philosophers have mused that it is this psychological twist that accounts for Superman’s great success.

Unfortunately for Superman’s creators, their story was less glorious. Jerry Siegel entered into a long and nasty legal fight with National over the rights to his character. Disillusioned, Shuster retreated from the comic scene completely. None of Siegel’s other creations, such as ‘Funnyman’, ‘Reggie van Twerp’, ‘Ken Winston’ and ‘Tallulah’, was ever successful in the long run, which he claimed to be due to his being black-balled from the comic industry. Eventually in 1977, after getting a lot of publicity for his case, Siegel got DC Comics, the successor to National, to award him and Shuster a lifetime annuity. During the 1970s, Siegel wrote several stories for the Italian Disney magazine Topolino. He lived quietly in Los Angeles, until his death in 1996.




The Last Enemy & Donnegan’s Daffy by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby (28 August 1917 – 6 February 1994, USA)
was one of the grandmasters in American comic book art, commonly nicknamed as The King. Born as Jacob Kurtzberg in New York City, he started his career in 1935 as an inbetweener on ‘Popeye’ and ‘Betty Boop’ cartoons for Max Fleischer’s animation studio. He moved to the Lincoln Newspaper Syndicate in 1936, where he produced short-lived newspaper strips like ‘Black Buccaneer’, ‘Detective Riley’, Cyclone Burke’, ‘Abdul Jones’ and ‘Socko the Seadog,’ which he signed with Jack Curtiss. In 1939, he briefly joined the famous Eisner-Iger comic shop. During this period, he contributed to Jumbo Comics, and drew features like ‘The Lone Rider’, ‘Blue Bolt’ and ‘Blue Beetle’ for companies like Novelty and Fox, using a variety of pseudonyms including Curt Davis, Fred Sande, Ted Grey, Jack Cortez and Charles Nicholas.
With ‘Captain America’, created with his partner Joe Simon for Timely in 1941, Kirby developed his artistic style, and garnered the most fame. The character instantly became an American icon. Kirby drew him as a superhuman and soon Captain America became the country’s morale-boosting anti-Nazi hero. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon collaborated until 1956, working for several publishers, like National and Harvey Comics, where they created all kinds of new titles which became the prototypes for all the ‘kid gang’ comic books to follow. They drew the initial episode of ‘Captain Marvel Adventures’ for Fawcett in 1941, and set up titles like Boy Commandos, Newsboy Legion and Boy’s Ranch.
After the War, Kirby and Simon launched ‘Young Romance’, the first romance title, and explored the fields of crime, horror, wester and humor comics in titles like ‘Fighting American’, ‘Police Trap’, ‘Bullseye’ and ‘In Love’, mostly through Crestwood or their own comic book company Mainline. By 1956, Kirby slowly parted with Simon, cooperating only on ‘The Fly’ and ‘Private Strong’ for Archie Comics. During this time, he also produced a lot of work of National/DC and drew some issues of Classics Illustrated for Gilberton. After working with inker Wallace Wood on ‘Skymasters’ and on ‘Challengers of the Unknown’ for DC, he returned to Timely, now called Marvel, where he heralded in a new era of superhero comics with writer/editor Stan Lee.
Together with Lee, he launched the landmark ‘Fantastic Four’ in 1961, shortly afterwards followed by ‘Thor’ in 1962 and a new rendition of ‘Captain America’ in 1964. Kirby defined Marvel’s house style and set up a great many of the company’s present-day key characters. Other well-known titles he graphically initiated are ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (1962), ‘The X-Men’ (1963), and ‘The Silver Surfer’ (1966).
Kirby, Lee and Marvel rose to the top of the industry and many claim they completely revamped the comic book world. After a disagreement with Lee, Kirby left Marvel in 1970 to return to DC as a writer/editor/artist, where he created nearly a dozen titles, but none were as successful as his Marvel work. Among his creations for DC are ‘The Fourth World’ and its subtitles ‘New Gods’, ‘Mister Miracle’ and ‘The Forever People, as well as ‘Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen’, ‘OMAC’, ‘Kamandi’ and ‘The Demon’. He also joined Joe Simon once again in a new version of ‘The Sandman’.
However, by the mid-1970s, he did new work for Marvel again, including ‘The Eternals’, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and the ‘Black Panther’, featuring the first black superhero. In 1979-80, he did an adaptation of the Walt Disney movie ‘The Black Hole’ for the syndicated ‘Walt Disney’s Treasury of Classic Tales’ series. He also ventured into animation, doing designs on among others ‘Turbo Teen’ and ‘Thundarr the Barbarian’. In the 1980s Kirby drew ‘Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers’ and ‘Silver Star’ for Pacific Comics, ‘Destroyer Duck’ for Eclipse Comics and ‘Super Powers’ for DC.

In his 50-year career, Jack Kirby produced many of the field’s most successful concepts and has been responsible for more comic book sales than any other artist, writer or editor. Jack Kirby passed away on 6 February 1994.