Thursday, February 5, 2009

Milton Caniff - Escape Artist

In the big white house on Tor Ridge, west of the Hudson, a light burned all through the winter night. Inside, in a cavernous studio, it glared down on a drawing board where a heavyset, black-haired man put careful strokes on a paneled page. He ignored the accusing clock at his back, but sometimes paused for sips of coffee. Once he dozed off, and his 'pen scratched a crazy zigzag down the sheet. It was daylight when Milton Caniff took off his glasses, pushed his work away and stumbled off to bed.

Behind him, on the desk, he left his night's work: the last Sunday comic page of Terry and the Pirates he would ever draw. Its frames held deftly drawn figures, caught in the restrained gestures of a farewell. The fadeout was appropriately up-to-the-minute: a transport plane lifting into a sky that was streaked like the wan sunrise outside his studio.
Whether Terry Lee and Jane Allen would ever meet again, their creator did not know. He had surrendered his godlike right over them and their actions, which he had guided for eleven years past. Next week, in 220 newspapers including papers as far away as the Times of Seoul, Korea, Milton Caniff's byline will appear on a new comic strip, to be known as Steve Canyon.

In the never-never world of the funnies, this was the news of the year—comparable to Henry Ford quitting his motor company and setting up shop in competition across the street. It was a move involving three of the biggest U.S. press lords: the Chicago Tribune's Colonel Robert Rutherford McCormick (who lost Caniff), and Marshall Field and William Randolph Hearst, who gained him. For Caniff himself, it meant a guarantee of $520,000 for his next five years' work, and a stiff challenge—to outdo the best of his past. . .

Full Article at TIME

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