Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1947


By Milton Caniff (Checker Book Publishing Group)
ISBN: 978-0-97102-49-9-1

Milton Caniff wasn’t an overnight sensation. He worked long and hard before he achieved stellar status in the comic strip firmament. Before Terry and the Pirates brought him fame, and Steve Canyon secured his fortune and reputation, the strip which brought him to the attention of legendary Press Baron “Captain” Joseph Patterson (in many ways the co-creator of Terry) was an unassuming daily feature about a little boy hungry for adventure.

Caniff was working for The Associated Press as an entry-level jobbing cartoonist when a gap opened in their strips department. AP was an organisation that devised and syndicated features for the thousands of local and small newspapers which could not afford to produce the cartoons, puzzles, recipes and other fillers that ran between the local headlines and the regional sports.

Over a weekend Caniff came up with Dickie Dare, a studious lad who would read a book and then fantasize himself into the story, taking his faithful little white dog Wags with him. The editors went for it and the strip launched on July 31st 1933. Caniff produced the adventures for less than eighteen months before moving on, but his replacement Coulton Waugh steered the series until its conclusion two decades later.

As well as being one of the greatest comic-strip artists of all time, Caniff was an old-fashioned honest American Patriot, from the time when it wasn’t a dirty word or synonym for fanatic.

The greatest disappointment of his life was that he was never physically fit enough to fight. Instead, during World War II he not only continued the morale-boosting China Seas epic Terry and the Pirates newspaper strip seven days a week, he also designed art, brochures and posters (all unpaid) for the War Department and made live appearances for soldiers and hospital residents. Even that wasn’t enough.

Again unpaid, he devised Male Cale: a strip to be printed in the thousands of local military magazines and papers around the world. Originally using established characters from Terry, Caniff swiftly switched (for reasons best explained in Robert C Harvey’s wonderful Meanwhile… a Biography of Milton Caniff) to a purpose-built (and was she built!) svelte and sexy ingénue who would titillate, amuse but mostly belong to the lonely and homesick American fighting men away from home and under arms.

Funny, saucy, even racy but never lewd or salacious, Miss Lace spoke directly to the enlisted man – the “ordinary Joe” – as entertainer, confidante and trophy date. She built morale and gave brief surcease from terror, loneliness or boredom. Although comparisons abound with our own Jane, the rationales behind each combat glamour girl were poles apart. Miss Lace spoke to and with the soldiers, and she wasn’t in normal papers. She was simply and totally theirs and theirs alone.

After leaving the incredibly successful and world-renowned Terry and the Pirates Caniff created another iconic comic hero in the demobbed World War II pilot Steve Canyon. The reasons for the move were basically rights and creative control, but it’s also easy to see another reason. Terry, set in a fabled Orient – even with the contemporary realism the author so captivatingly imparted – is a young man’s strip and limited by locale.

The worldly, if not war-weary, Canyon was a mature adventurer who could be sent literally anywhere and would appeal to the older, wiser readers of Atom-Age America, now a fully active, if perhaps reluctant, player on the world stage.

Canyon also reflects an older creator who has seen so much more of human nature and frailty than even the mysterious East could provide. Put another way, William Shakespeare could write Romeo and Juliet as a young man, but needed more than passion and genius to produce King Lear.

Steve Canyon began on 13th January 1947, after a long period of public anticipation following a very conspicuous resignation from Terry. Always a master of suspense and adept at manipulating his reader’s attention, Caniff’s eponymous hero didn’t actually appear until January 16th (and then only in a “file photograph”).

The public first met Stevenson Burton Canyon, former bomber pilot, medal winning war-hero, Air-Force flight instructor and latterly, independent charter airline operator in the first Sunday colour page, on 19th January 1947.

By then, eager readers had glimpsed his friends and future enemies, how acquaintances felt about him and even been introduced to ultra-rich, super-spoiled Copper Calhoun, the latest in a startlingly long line of devastating Femme Fatales created by Caniff to bedevil his heroes and captivate his audiences. And thus, the magic began…

This series of collections from Checker re-presents the strip in yearly segments (regrettably, with the Sundays printed in the same black-&-white as the daily episodes) and this one begins as Calhoun manoeuvres Canyon’s Horizons Unlimited charter line into flying her to countries where her pre-war holdings were disrupted. That seemingly simple job results in deadly peril from both strangers and trusted employees. There’s also a goodly helping of old-fashioned intrigue, jealousy and racketeering in the mix too…

The action and tragedy lead directly to an encounter with a couple of deadly female con-artists in ‘Delta’, and a gripping, yet light-hearted, romp in the booming petroleum industry in ‘Easter’s Oil’ which also introduces off-the-wall supporting character Happy Easter and the lascivious Madame Lynx, who would play such large and charismatic roles in the strip’s future.

The first volume ends with ‘Jewels of Africa’, a classic of suspense with modern-day pirate and wrecker Herr Splitz falling foul of our heroes in a world rapidly becoming a hotbed of International tension.

As Caniff’s strip became more and more a compass of geo-political adventure, his skill with human drama became increasingly mature and intense. This was comic strip noir that was still irresistible to a broad spectrum of readers. And that’s as true now as it was then. Steve Canyon is magnificent comic art at its two-fisted best.

These stories are also available in a fancy IDW hardcover archive, but although lovely it does suffer from small print – unless you have a digital edition – so if you love stunning artwork stick with this cheap-&-cheerful monochrome version.
© 2003, Checker Book Publishing Group, an authorized collection of works © Ester Parsons Caniff Estate 1947.

All characters and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of the Ester Parsons Caniff Estate. All rights reserved.

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1953


By Milton Caniff with Dick Rockwell (Checker Books)
ISBN: 978-1-93316-057-3

Steve Canyon began on 13th January 1947, after a canny campaign to boost public anticipation following creator Milton Caniff’s very conspicuous resignation from his previous and world-famous comic strip masterpiece Terry and the Pirates.

Caniff, a true master of suspense and expert in the dark art of forcing reader attention, didn’t show his new hero until four days into the first adventure – and then only in a ‘file photograph’. The primed-and-ready readership first met Stevenson Burton Canyon, bomber pilot, medal-winning war-hero, Air-Force flight instructor and, latterly, independent airline charter operator in the first Sunday colour page, on January 19th 1947.

Almost instantly Caniff was working at the top of his game, producing material exotically familiar and – as ever – bang on the money in terms of the public zeitgeist and taste.

Dropping his hero into the exotic climes he had made his own on Terry, Caniff modified that world based on real-world events, but this time the brooding, unspoken menace was Communism not Fascism. Banditry and duplicity, of course, never changed, no matter who was nominally running the show…

Caniff was simply being marketably contemporary, but he was savvy enough to realise that with the Cold War “hotting up”, Yankees were going to be seen as spies in many countries, so he made that an intrinsic part of the narrative. When Canyon officially re-enlisted, the strip became to all intents and purposes a contemporary War feature…

Over the decades the Steve Canyon strip honestly embraced the philosophy of America as the World’s policeman, becoming a bastion of US militarism and remaining true to its ideals even as the years rolled by and national tastes and readership changed…

Steve foiled plots and chased his true love Summer Olsen around the globe for thirty years: continually frustrated that fate and his many antagonists cruelly kept them unhappily apart until they finally wed in 1970. Canyon had remained a far-ranging agent of Air Force Military Intelligence, even though by this time the Vietnam War had made the Armed Forces an extremely hot potato…

This seventh volume covers the period May 15th 1953 to August 5th 1954 and shows how, as the Korean conflict stuttered to a weary impasse, Caniff smoothly changed tack but not gears reinstating characters, plots and situations he had shelved when the fighting began. Now, his charismatic cast were edging into another post-war world…

Steve Canyon stories seldom had a recognisable beginning or end and the narrative continually flowed and followed upon itself, but for convenience the publishers have broken the saga into generally discrete tales which begin here with ‘The Princess and the Doctor’ which ran from May 15th to September 12th 1953 and saw the veteran adventurer “requested” by his USAF superiors to ferry a doctor into the heart of Red China.

The tale started with a clever code message readers were invited to solve – with a $100 prize offered by the magnificent showman and publicist Caniff – before Steve and Chinese American medic Dr. Louis Shu sneak through Indian passes behind the Bamboo Curtain to save anti-communist rebel Princess Snowflower from a mystery malady that even her psychotically devoted American mentor and former shiftless Soldier-of-Fortune Dogie Hogan can’t handle (for full details of these incredible characters a thorough re-reading of Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1949 is advised and much recommended…).

The Princess and her fanatically loyal forces have been holding out against the Chi-Com for years from an impregnable mountain fastness but her weakened condition is causing her devoted warriors to doubt their cause and Steve is needed to shore up the resistance movement within the new totalitarian monolith…

However Canyon and Hogan are old rivals who have butted heads since the fall of Imperial China and the grizzled veteran sees no reason to welcome the flashy air force know-it-all. He’d have been better advised to keep the good-looking surgeon away from the lonely, impressionable young girl…

And of course, to cap matters the Chinese have a new wonder general who thinks he can finally break the years-long impasse of the infernal royalist modern Masada…

Packed with tension, blistering action, love, anger, betrayal, smouldering sex and withering comedy, this epic saga also features the welcome return of one of the strip’s most unique supporting characters before Steve leaves with his mission more or less accomplished, but with enough dangling plot threads to guarantee another tempestuous visit in the years to come…

The soap opera shufflings and Cold War shenanigans were briefly sidelined in ‘The Halls’ (13th September – December 30th) wherein Canyon, travelling incognito through the contentious region, is mistaken for a Russian spy by overzealous border guards and wrongfully imprisoned in a small non-aligned nation between India and the USSR. Happily even that postage-stamp state has a US Consulate.

Homer Hall, his capable, beautiful and blind wife Gil and their imaginative daughter Hollister never expected much trouble, but when Holly and her pal Lise from the French Embassy discover an American in the city dungeons the romance-starved girls contrive his escape, even as the city’s inevitable cabal of true communist agents engineer a riot to spring their “Soviet Comrade”.

With Mr. Hall trapped outside the capital and riot in the streets, the girls free Steve and he valiantly returns the favour by saving Mrs. Hall from death in her own blazing Consulate building…

With a measure of order restored and Steve cleared of spying charges, his major difficulty is letting down Holly who has conceived the notion that Steve loves and wants to marry her. Mrs. Hall too harbours feeling for the rugged he-man…

The situation is swiftly exacerbated when the Hall Women are evacuated by train to safety in Indiaand the Consul asks Steve to escort them, only to have all three valuable Americans kidnapped by bandits eager for ransom. However the village of thieves panic when they see that Gil Hall is blind, as such women are bad luck, but their attempts to kill her are foiled by their charismatic chieftain Cobra Johnny, a lover of all things American – especially guns and money…

The robber king’s hold on his men soon slips however when smallpox breaks out in the village. With the men clamouring for the head of the “no-see woman”, Gil begins treating the ailing mothers and children: after all the disease took her sight years ago and she has nothing left to lose…

As events escalate Steve and Holly manage to signal the Indian forces searching for them but not before Johnny discovers their ploy and decides to cut his losses…

After extricating himself from that menace the rescued aviator escapes mother and daughter’s unwanted attentions by faking a telegram from his long-lost love Summer Olsen and heads for points west but doesn’t get far. Called into the local Air Force office he is “invited” to help with a little contraband problem.

‘Heroin Smuggler’ ran from December 31st 1953 to April 30th 1954 and saw Lieutenant Colonel Canyon go undercover to catch a diabolical murderer and expose a clever scheme wherein an old acquaintance was somehow running Chinese drugs into the West, past every trap and safeguard the British and Americans could devise…

In a brilliant mystery thriller by the utterly on-form Caniff, Steve’s problem was not discovering how independent airline magnate Herself Muldoon had managed to become the East’s first and foremost drug trafficker, but how to stop his old foe when every agency in the area seemed to work for her. The horrific answer came when one of her ex-service-man pilots finally lost control of the monkey on his back…

The subsequent tale of tragedy was one of the earliest and still most harrowing depictions of the nature and consequences of narcotics addiction ever seen in comics, and the far-from-clean but coldly plausible resolution a moving reminder of the insidious power of the medium to inform and affect…

The worldly, war-weary, Canyon was a mature adventurer who could be sent literally anywhere and would appeal to the older, wiser readers of Red-Menaced, Atom-Age America, now a fully active player on the world stage. Canyon also reflects a more mature creator who has seen so much more of human nature and frailty than even the mysterious Orient could provide. A young Shakespeare could write “Romeo and Juliet” but maturity & experience were needed more than passion to produce “the Tempest” or “King Lear”, but in the final tale in this marvellous monochrome collection the author blends classic drama with sophisticate modern romance by finally allowing another bittersweet, ultimately frustrating reunion of his own star-crossed lovers…

Widow and proud single parent Summer has been forced to take a high-powered, well-paying job with Steve’s industrialist nemesis Copper Calhoun, unaware that the sadistic millionairess was also obsessed – or perhaps infatuated – with Canyon; the one man she could not buy.

Now in ‘Triangle’ (May 1st – August 5th 1954) a long simmering plot boiled over as Canyon finally returned toAmerica and sought out Summer. Neither frustrated lover was aware that Calhoun had been using her vast resources to keep tabs on the pair and even intercept their communications; determined to keep them both separate and miserable…

As the Colonel hit USsoil, Copper despatched Summer and her son Oley on a long-overdue vacation to a fabulousFlorida resort.

Naturally with the pressure off, plenty of time and money on her hands, convivial company and the ardent attentions of dashing playboy Clarke Netherland, Summer’s head was turned – and that’s when the indomitable ingenious Steve burst in, having spent almost all his furlough tracking down his intended…

After battering his way through all of Calhoun’s many obfuscations the last thing the Colonel expected was to have to fight a wooing campaign, but as the tale evolved into a delicious take on the sparkling, glamorous sophisticated Philadelphia Story/High Society movie comedies of the time, no one was aware of the dark secret the enigmatic Mr. Netherland harboured nor just what his conscience would eventually force him to do…

…And as a bitter Steve again buried himself in another dangerous Air Force mission Summer, once more abandoned and bereft, at last discovered some brutal truths and had a final showdown with her boss the Copperhead…

Resulting in some of the most impressive and mature storytelling of his undeniably stellar career, Caniff seamlessly moved from hot combat to Cold War and from exotic locations to homespun soap opera at this time: his skilful passion-play perfectly showing a sublime ability to delineate character and mood.

The art here is some of the most subtly refined of his career and the brilliantly enacted storylines firmly put the series back on the original narrative tracks suspended by the Korean conflict …and there was even better still to follow…

Steve Canyon is comic storytelling at its best. Beautifully illustrated, mesmerising black and white sagas of war, espionage, romance, terror, justice and cynical reality: a masterpiece of graphic narrative every serious fan and story-lover should experience. …And that’s not to in any way disparage the astounding artistic contributions of Dick Rockwell who began assisting with the artwork in 1952, pencilling the scripts which Caniff authored and then inked.

As the Master’s health gradually failed over the years, Rockwell invisibly assumed more and more of the strip’s visual aspect. When Caniff passed away in 1988, Rockwell continued and concluded the final adventure ‘The Snow Princess’ before the series was finally retired with honour on Sunday, June 5th 1988.

Most cartoonists – or workers in any field of artistic endeavour – go to their graves never attaining the giddy heights of being universally associated with a signature piece of unequivocally supreme work. How incredible then when a guy achieves that perfect act of creation, not once but twice – and does so seven days a week for 64 years? Enticing, enthralling, action-packed and emotionally overwhelming, Steve Canyon is an unequivocal high-point of graphic narrative: a full-immersion thrill and a passport to the halcyon glory of another age.

Comics just don’t get better than this.
© Checker Book Publishing Group 2006, an authorized collection of works © Ester Parsons Caniff Estate 1953. All characters and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of the Ester Parsons Caniff Estate. All rights reserved.

Steve Canyon


By Milton Caniff & Dick Rockwell (Tempo Books/Grosset & Dunlap)
ISBN: 0-448-17058-2-150

Here’s another early attempt to catapult comics off the spinner racks and onto proper bookshelves; this time from 1979, part of populist publisher Grosset and Dunlap’s attempt to carve themselves a slice of the burgeoning cartoon and comic strip mass market paperback boom. Other company sorties had included Krazy Kat, Broom Hilda and a host of DC character collections ranging from Superman to Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman to the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Steve Canyon began on 13th January 1947, after a canny campaign to boost public anticipation following Milton Caniff’s very conspicuous resignation from his previous masterpiece Terry and the Pirates.

Caniff, master of suspense and well versed in the art of shaping reader attention, didn’t show his new hero until four days into the first adventure – and then only in a ‘file photograph’. The primed-and-ready readership first met Stevenson Burton Canyon, bomber pilot, medal-winning war-hero, Air-Force flight instructor and latterly, independent airline charter operator in the first Sunday colour page, on 19th January 1947.

Almost instantly Caniff was working at the top of his game, producing material exotic, familiar and – as always – dead on the money in terms of the public zeitgeist and taste.

Dropping his hero into the exotic climes he had made his own on Terry, Caniff modified that world based on real-world events, but this time the brooding, unspoken menace was Communism not Fascism. Banditry and duplicity, of course, never changed, no matter who was nominally running the show…

Caniff was simply being contemporary, but he was savvy enough to realise that with the Cold War “hotting up” inKorea, Yankees were going to be seen as spies in many countries, so he made that a part of the narrative. When Canyon officially re-enlisted, the strip became to all intents and purposes a contemporary War feature…

Over the decades the Steve Canyon strip honestly embraced the philosophy of America as the World’s policeman, becoming a bastion of US militarism and remaining true to its ideals even as the years rolled by and national tastes and readership changed…

Steve foiled plots and chased his true love Summer Olsen around the globe for thirty years – continually frustrated that fate cruelly kept them unhappily apart – until they finally wed in 1970. Steve had stayed a far-ranging agent of Air Force Military Intelligence even though by this time the Vietnam War had made the Armed Forces an extremely contentious issue…

Even after Mr. and Mrs. Canyon finally tied the knot, their lives were never easy. At the time of the two rather severely abridged tales in this digest-sized monochrome collection (spanning 1978-1979), Summer was missing, having inexplicably vanished from the family home without a trace. The stunned and heartbroken Steve spent even more restless years searching for her…

The action begins as the aging agent spots Summer in a newspaper photo showing survivors of a volcanic eruption and earthquake in distant far-eastern country Langapora. Almost immediately Canyon’s accommodating superiors have him on a plane to the hostile Asian nation and Steve’s own network of grateful friends and associates are ready to pitch in. Dissolute reporter Johnny Mink is waiting when he lands in the anti-American state, having made a number of discreet inquiries and told a few necessarily fantastic lies…

The National Office of Information has denied any disaster has occurred and there were certainly no blonde American women in that part of the country. Mink is unsurprised and has a cunning plan, blinding the starstruck government flack in charge of the Bureau with tales of secretly researching locations for a majorHollywoodmovie. It is a ploy that instantly beguiles the glamour-starved official, who clearly envisions a major role for herself…

Carrying spare papers and a passport for Summer, “film director”SteveCanyonromances the junior minister and by sheer chance spots a blonde in the back of a heavily fortified car…

Tracking down the vehicle Steve and Johnny get tantalisingly close but are rebuffed by private security guards belonging to a local ganglord. The woman is American but belongs to the truly baroque and deadly Ah Nu Mero Uno – a movie-mad warlord especially obsessed by Yul Brynner in The King and I

After overcoming immense and utterly bizarre obstacles the determined Americans broach the walls and discover there is indeed a woman from Steve’s chequered past held captive therein, but it’s certainly not Mrs. Canyon…

Of course the gallant Steve has to quash his own desperate needs to rescue his old comrade in distress, countering staggering odds and deadly dilemmas before surrendering those fake papers to save the mystery miss, narrowly escaping in a fast commercial jetliner.

The rescued stray repays Steve generosity of spirit by leaving the plane – without those vital passport papers – at a stopover inSingapore, leaving Canyon free to continue searching for Summer. Disembarking atHong Kong, however, Canyon stumbles into a deadly comedy of errors when he is mistaken by Red Chinese agents for a Russian super-spy.

At that time tensions were high between the Soviets and their notional communist allies and Caniff, always up to the minute in terms of global geopolitics, saw a perfect opportunity to add a few funny thrills to the mix of tense soap-opera pathos as Steve searched for his missing mate…

Abducted, drugged and tortured, Canyon is only saved by the impressionable young female translator Comrade Jo, who sees the unconscious man as her ticket to a glamorous life as a Russian Spy-Queen. Of course the only reason he is unconscious is because Jo’s attempt to thwart the chemical interrogation and brutal torture have left a broken acupuncture needle in Steve’s brain, plunging the “Russian” spy into a deep coma…

On the run with the inert and hulking Steve, little Jo flees her masters only to be understandably rejected by the Soviet Trade Delegation who fear she might be a trap set by their own untrustworthy Party bosses. Soon everybody thinks it best if Jo and her mystery-man disappear quietly and forever, but luckily Steve has an enigmatic if mute guardian angel in the sinister shape of espionage legend Charlie Vanilla and his trusty band ofHong Kong gutter urchins and wharf rats…

Packed with wry action, pure belly laughs and terrific tension, this last tale proves again Caniff’s sheer bravura boldness and invention as the entire epic takes place with new and walk-on characters carrying the tale whilst the veteran lead spends the greater part of the as a mere prop and maguffin…

Steve Canyon is comic storytelling at its best. Beautifully illustrated, mesmerising black and white sagas of war, espionage, romance, terror, justice and cynical reality: a masterpiece of graphic narrative every serious fan and story-lover should experience. Most cartoonists – or workers in any field of artistic endeavour – go to their graves never attaining the giddy heights wherein they are universally associated with a signature piece of unequivocally supreme work. How incredible then when somebody achieves that perfect act of creation, not once but twice – and does so seven days a week for 64 years? …And that’s not to in any way disparage the astounding artistic contributions of Dick Rockwell who began assisting with the artwork in 1952 and, as Caniff’s health gradually failed over the years, invisibly assumed more and more of the strips visual aspect.

When Caniff passed away in 1988 Rockwell continued and concluded the final adventure ‘The Snow Princess’ before the series was finally retired with honour on Sunday, June 5th 1988.

Enticing, enthralling, exotic, action-packed and emotionally charged, Steve Canyon is a slice of the purest popular Americana and masterpiece of graphic narrative: a full-immersion thriller and a passport to the halcyon best bits of another age. Comics just don’t get better than this.

Moreover, I’ve always delighted in the particular buzz these paperback pioneers of the comics biz seem to instantly generate. If you’re in any way of similar mien, I can thoroughly recommend the sheer tactile and olfactory high that only comes from holding such a dinky digest item in your own two hands…
© 1978, 1979, Field Newspaper Syndicate.  All rights reserved.

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1952


By Milton Caniff (Checker Book Publishing Group)
ISBN: 978-1-933160-55-9

Steve Canyon began on 13th January 1947, after a canny campaign to boost public anticipation following Milt Caniff’s very conspicuous resignation from his previous masterpiece Terry and the Pirates. Caniff, master of suspense and used to manipulating reader attention, didn’t show his new hero until four days into the first adventure – and then only in a ‘file photograph’. The primed and ready readership first met Stevenson Burton Canyon, bomber pilot, medal-winning war-hero, Air-Force flight instructor and latterly, independent airline charter operator in the first Sunday colour page, on 19th January 1947.

Almost instantly Caniff was working at the top of his game, producing material both exotic and familiar and, as always dead on the money in terms of the public zeitgeist and taste. Dropping his hero into the exotic climes he had made his own on Terry, Caniff modified that world based on real world events, but this time the brooding unspoken menace was Communism not fascism. Banditry and duplicity, of course, never changed, no matter who was nominally running the show…

Caniff was simply being contemporary, but he was savvy enough to realise that with the Cold War “hotting up” in Korea, Yankees were going to be seen as a spy in many countries, so he made that a part of the narrative. When Canyon officially re-enlisted the strip became to all intents and purposes a War feature…

This sixth volume covers the period April 9th 1952 to May 14th 1953 and shows how, as the Korean conflict stuttered to a weary impasse, Caniff began reinstating characters, plots and situations he had temporarily shelved when the fighting began. Now, his charismatic cast were edging into another post-war world…

Steve Canyon stories seldom had a recognisable beginning or end and the narrative continually flowed and followed upon itself, but for convenience the publishers have broken the saga into generally discrete tales which begin here with ‘Operation Stray’ which ran from April 9th to July 24th 1952. Following Steve’s tumultuous reunion with always out-of-reach true-love Summer Olsen the dutiful old warrior is hastily dispatched to the far North to shepherd a top-secret salvage joint-mission for the US Navy and Air Force.

Plucky Nimbus Neil lived with her meteorologist father on isolated Reynard Island in the Aleutians, where she taught Inuit children and read too much poetry. One night she spotted a Soviet secret weapon crash into the chilly seas, precipitating a desperate scheme to covertly retrieve the device before the Communists caught wise and started their own recovery plan. Further complications involved the lonely lass being irresistibly drawn to surly seaman Lieutenant Arthur Forge but being unwilling to desert her dad and educational dependents – and then the crafty Commies turned up…

The soap opera shufflings and Cold War shenanigans quickly transformed into a ruthless kidnap drama and shooting match which ended in tragedy and disaster…

As the uncharacteristically downbeat drama concluded Steve was frantic to reconnect with Summer, whom he’d abandoned to undertake this last mission. Determined to get back to her he cadged a ride with a motley crew of voyagers on bush pilot Tern’s charter plane which dropped him into a thoroughly different kind of adventure in ‘The Deep Woods’ (July 25th – December 11th).

When the plane crashed over rough country Canyon saved obnoxious businessman Roy G. Himmerskorn and his world-weary, abused and neglected spouse, scandalous good-time girl Miss Mizzou, in time to be “rescued” by charismatic bandit “Bonbon” Caramel. Of course, the murderous woodsman had heard that somebody on the plane had stolen diamonds on them, so his solicitousness wasn’t exactly a charitable act…

There’s a plethora of twists and turns in this sharp thriller beyond the criminal element and when morally uptight Mr. Himmerskorn makes an unwelcome play for the tarnished Miss Mizzou the trek out of the arboreal wilderness takes a decidedly nasty turn with spectacular consequences…

Meanwhile, Summer Olsen has also been forced into another tight corner and has taken a job with Steve’s nemesis Copper Calhoun… a deal with the devil that will have far-reaching repercussions…

With the “will-she, won’t-she” marriage to Summer on indefinite hiatus the lovesick, shell-shocked aviator took a position at an Airbase in definite need of his unique brand of problem solving.

‘Indian Cape’ ran from December 12th 1952 to May 14th 1953 and found newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel Canyon trying to explain the price of vigilance to an obstreperous community of NIMBY-Americans (Not In My Back Yard) who fully appreciated the protection of jet fighters – as long as they didn’t fly over their heads or make any noise.

The happy townsfolk of friendly Middle America weren’t too keen on servicemen hanging around their wives and daughters, either.

As if the bristling animosity wasn’t enough to test Canyon’s coping skills, hotshot flyboys Pipper the Piper and Murky Murphy seemed hell-bent on exacerbating every situation with their high-jinks, a generation-gap was growing between Indian Cape’s kids and elders, town businessmen were trying to blackmail the Air Force and military contractor Calhoun Industries seemed to be involved in some underhand, if not criminal, activity. To smooth things over the company sent in their own trouble-shooter, Summer Olsen…

This skilful passion-play perfectly shows Caniff’s sublime ability to delineate character and the art is some of the most subtly refined of his later period. This sharp and brilliantly enacted drama firmly put the series back on its original narrative tracks and there was even better to come…

Most cartoonists – or workers in any field of artistic endeavour – go to their graves never attaining the giddy heights wherein they are universally associated with a signature piece of unequivocally supreme work. How incredible then when somebody achieves that perfect act of creation, not once but twice – and does so seven days a week for 64 years? Enticing, enthralling, exotic, action-packed and emotionally charged, Steve Canyon is a masterpiece of graphic narrative: a full-immersion thrill and a passport to the halcyon best bits of another age. Comics just don’t get better than this.

© Checker Book Publishing Group 2006, an authorized collection of works © Ester Parsons Caniff Estate 1952. All characters and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of the Ester Parsons Caniff Estate. All rights reserved.

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1951


By Milton Caniff (Checker Book Publishing Group)
ISBN: 978-1-933160-10-8

Most cartoonists – most artists in any field of creative endeavour – go to their graves never attaining those giddy heights wherein they are universally associated with a signature piece of unequivocally supreme work. How incredible then when somebody achieves that sublime act of creation, not once but twice – and does so seven days a week for 64 years?

After reluctantly leaving his incredibly successful, groundbreaking Terry and the Pirates newspaper strip in the hands of others, Milton Caniff created another iconic hero in de-mobbed World War II pilot Steve Canyon. The main reason for the move was rights and creative control, but it’s also easy to see another reason. Terry, set in a fabled Orient, even with the contemporary realism the author so captivatingly imparted, is a young man’s strip and limited by locale.

The worldly, war-weary, Canyon was a mature adventurer who could be sent literally anywhere and would appeal to the older, wiser readers of Red-Menaced, Atom-Age America, now a fully active player on the world stage. Canyon also reflects an older creator who has seen so much more of human nature and frailty than even the mysterious Orient could provide. A young Shakespeare could write “Romeo and Juliet” but maturity and experience were needed as much as passion and genius to produce “the Tempest” or “King Lear”.

Steve Canyon began on 13th January 1947, after an extended build-up of public anticipation following the very conspicuous resignation from Terry. Caniff, the master of suspense and adept at manipulating reader attention, didn’t let his new hero actually appear until four days later – and then only in a ‘file photograph’. The rabid readership first met Stevenson Burton Canyon, bomber pilot, medal-winning war-hero, Air-Force flight instructor and latterly, independent charter airline operator in the first Sunday colour page, on 19th January 1947.

Almost instantly Caniff was working at the top of his game, producing material both exotic and familiar, and once again dead on the money in terms of the public zeitgeist and taste…

Volume five of Milton Caniff’s second graphic magnum opus sees the WWII veteran increasingly mired in a catastrophic battle against World Socialism as the Korean War rumbled on whilst his “will-she, won’t-she” romance with the elusive Summer Olson continued to plague him in fraught and frantic episodes of the daily strip and Sunday page which first appeared between January 28th 1951 to April 6th 1952.

Conveniently contained for your convenience in four fabulous graphic sagas, the Cold War classics commence with ‘Operation Foo Ling’ (January 28th – April 14th), immediately following on from the previous chronicle with the fully reactivated Air Force Major dispatched into Nationalist China to drop the eponymous Chinese magician behind the Bamboo Curtain and fly out the prisoner Ling is tasked with rescuing. Providing medical support, glamour and romantic tension is old flame Deen Wilderness (see Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon: 1948) but is she a thorn in Steve’s side or a rose for new cast-member and dashing flyboy Breck Nazaire?

The mission goes badly from the start: even though Foo Ling carries out his part the commando raid deep into mainland China results in a spectacular firefight during which Breck is left behind and Deen is subsequently charged with deserting her post…

‘The Duchess of Denver’ (April 15th – August 5th), finds Steve in Hong Kong to rendezvous with Ling but quickly embroiled in a criminal scheme perpetrated by a gangster’s moll who suddenly finds herself in over her head. Smugglers, white slavers, spies and gallant White Knights combine in moody noir magnificence in the most exotic hell-holes of the Orient, but as always Caniff wrote – and drew – his women strong and capable enough to cope by themselves if they had to…

The shattering conclusion left Canyon battered, bruised and adrift alone in a lifeboat, so ‘Operation: Eel Island’ (August 6th – November 14th), opens with the recuperating Major on soft clerical duties in a “spit-and-polish” camp once used by the Japanese during WWII, unaware that he’s undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

Moreover, the island-base hides a dangerous secret, and martinet Colonel Index has his hands full with his sultry, wayward wife Delta amidst all those lonely military men. If he ever found out that she and Steve used to date back in the USA…

When intrigue is expedited by a fifth column of spies Colonel Index and Canyon find themselves on a collision course with disaster and dishonour…

This entrancing tome of comic-strip majesty concludes with ‘Crisis on the Campus’ (November 15th 1951 – April 6th 1952) as, posted back to America to lecture R.O.T.C. (that’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) candidates – actually to scrutinize a college professor’s latest invention – Steve is finally, joyously reunited with the long-missing Summer Olson, only to find that the shady halls of Academe are as fraught with tension and peril as the distant East and that in such troubled times there really were Reds under a lot of  Beds…

Most tragically, within moments of a marital “Happy Ever After” Steve and Summer were once again dragged apart by circumstance…

With Mao Tse-tung’s (we know him now as Mao Zedong) Chinese Republic flexing its victorious muscles and  stoking the fires of the Korean War, Caniff increasingly wove news scraps, items of research gained from military friends and advisors and sheer inspired speculation into his unfolding saga. Ever the patriot, his opinions and pro-“Free World” stance might now flavour these strips with a somewhat parochial or jingoistic tang, but as with all fiction viewed through the lens of time passed, context is everything.

Unlike his controversial stance on Vietnam two decades later, this was not an issue which divided America. However the public and officials of the USA treated Communists and “Pinkos” within their own borders, the Red Menace presented by Russia and China was real, immediate, and actively working against Western Interests. The real talking point here is not the extent of a creator’s perceived paranoia, (check out any Atlas/Marvel war title of the period if you want to see totally unrestrained “patriotic fervour”) but rather the restraint which Caniff always showed within his strip compared to what was happening in the world outside it.

Compelling, compulsive, exotic, action-packed and emotionally charged Steve Canyon is a masterpiece of graphic narrative: a full-immersion thrill and a passport to the best parts of another age. Comics just don’t get better than this.

© Checker Book Publishing Group 2005, an authorized collection of works © Ester Parsons Caniff Estate 1951, 1952. All characters and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of the Ester Parsons Caniff Estate. All rights reserved.

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1950


By Milton Caniff (Checker Book Publishing Group)
ISBN: 1-933160-51-9

Most cartoonists – most artists in fact – work their entire lives without reaching the giddy heights wherein they are universally associated with a signature piece of unsurpassable work. How incredible then when somebody achieves that perfect act of creation, not once but twice – seven days a week for decades?

Volume four of Milton Caniff’s second comic-strip masterpiece finds World War II veteran pilot Steve Canyon plunged back into the grip of armed conflict as the Korean War breaks out in the exotic, intrigue-dipped dailies and Sunday page, covering the period from February 19th 1950 until January 27th 1951, subdivided into five frantic episodes for your convenience.

‘Missionary’ (February 19th – March 24th) follows directly on from the previous volume and finds Steve and female air-ace/fighter pilot Doe Redwood recovering from injuries in the sorely-pressed Christian Mission of the redoubtable Miss Plum. Not only is this bold battle-axe hiding the downed pilots but also sheltering a jolly horde of oriental orphans from the encroaching Communists who want the kids for the re-indoctrination schools.

It takes a cunning plan, Yankee ingenuity and sheer guts to save everybody when the ruthless invaders lose patience and try to take the kids by force…

‘Mechanical Brain’ (March 25th – June 3rd) drops the escapees into a bigger frying pan when Steve is forced to impersonate a Soviet advisor to the People’s Army to save his life. Unfortunately “Comrade Smrnsk” is Russia’s greatest mathematician and computer expert – and remember this was back when the things went “Blurp! Bloop!” and were the size of bungalows (that’s thinking machines, not mathematicians I’m talking about). Moreover the Professor is married to Canyon’s old enemy Madame Lynx!

For her own reasons Lynx continues the deception, allowing Steve to deal with another unexpected surprise: the American traitor selling the tech to the Communists, who is accompanied by Steve’s old secretary Feeta-Feeta…

As the Chinese increasingly became seen as a bugbear if not out-of-control aggressor state in the build-up to the Korean Conflict, the ever-contemporary Caniff was weaving snippets of research and speculative news items into the grand story unfolding on his drawing board. Ever the patriot, his opinions and pro-“Free World” stance gives some of these strips a somewhat parochial if not outright jingoistic flavour, but as with all fiction viewed through the lens of time passed, context is everything. Unlike his unpopular stance on Vietnam two decades later, this was not an issue that divided America or even the world at large.

However the public and officials of the USA treated Communists and suspected “Pinkos” within their own borders, the Red Menace of Russia and China was real, immediate, and actively working against Western Interests. The real talking point here is not the extent of a creator’s (mis)perceived paranoia, but rather the restraint which Caniff showed within his strip compared to what was going on in the world outside it. Just check out any Timely/Atlas/Marvel war title of the period if you want to see totally unrestrained “patriotic fervour”…

When the situation becomes untenable Canyon is forced to take extreme action to save the stolen American technology, rescue the unsuspecting Feeta-Feeta and escape the arrayed forces of Socialist Expansion…

Meanwhile back in the mountainous kingdom of Princess Snowflower, American warlord Hogan is coming under pressure not just from the Chinese invaders but also the ruler’s sexist, xenophobic generals and ‘Rallying Point’ (June 4th – August 12th) finds her and the resistance army in extreme danger – which only increases when young Reed Kimberly also resurfaces to join the struggle…

With a deft flourish Caniff had left the titular hero of the strip completely absent from this tale, confident that events and the strong supporting cast could carry the series – and with spectacular success – but with ‘Serge Blu’ (August 13th – October 8th) the disparate plot threads began to merge.

Reunited with another long-lost character Kimberly falls into the hands of opportunistic bandits until together they make their escape. Soon they are reunited with Steve, now a Major on active service with the US Air Force. This terrific master-class in comics creation and drama concludes as an entire airbase is disrupted by Reed’s sultry companion whilst the heroic Canyon is busy attempting to stem the flow of contraband weapons to the Communists – materiel stolen from the Americans and sold by an enigmatic local crime-lord ‘The Mysterious Monsieur Gros’ (October 9th 1950 – January 27th 1951)…

Caniff’s irresistible narrative blend of action, adventure, soap-opera, comedy and sex-appeal has seldom been better employed than in this startling thriller and the oppressive mood of something big and nasty coming lends this entire volume an epic scale which makes these stories as powerful now as they ever were. Moreover the Master’s art went from strength to strength at this time and it’s easy to see why a generation of comics illustrators swiped his style.

Exotic, frenetic, full of traditional values and as always, captivating in both word and picture, this is another old-fashioned, unreconstructed delight. Every panel tells a story and no fan of the medium or art-form will want to miss a single one.

© 2005 Checker Book Publishing Group, an authorized collection of works © Ester Parsons Caniff Estate 1950, 1951. All characters and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of the Ester Parsons Caniff Estate. All rights reserved.

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1948


By Milton Caniff (Checker Book Publishing Group)
ISBN: 978-0-97416-641-4

By the second year of his new strip Milton Caniff was already working at the top of his game, producing material both exotic and familiar, and once again dead on the money in terms of the public zeitgeist and taste. After defeating the wily Herr Splitz, ex-war-hero and charter pilot Steve Canyon is asked to ferry Dr. Deen Wilderness to the Middle East, to set up Health Centres for American enclaves, where business interests were busy establishing themselves and becoming the multinational Corporations of today.

Back then, of course, Caniff was merely being contemporary, but he was savvy enough to realise that with the Cold War beginning any Yankee was going to be seen as a spy in such climes, so he made that a part of the narrative. Canyon was unofficially asked to “keep his eyes open” by the US Navy. When his team land (Happy Easter and Fireball Feeney tagging along for dramatic and comedic purpose), they were immediately embroiled in an espionage plot to enflame the indigenous population.

Caniff never bracketed his tales, preferring to simply keep the action rolling ever on, but for convenience the publishers have broken the saga into discrete units. ‘Medical Sabotage’ ran from November 25th 1947 to March 27th 1948 and described how the mission became the subject of competing propaganda machines and murderous skulduggery by a Communist spymaster using the pseudonym “Chief Izm”.  The climactic battle between Canyon and Izm left Steve and Happy stranded in mountain country, at the mercy of attacking nomad bandits.

Which is where the second adventure begins: ‘The Nine Maid’ started on Sunday the 28th of March, and ran until May 23rd, an exotic piece of froth with the guys trying to stay alive as captives of a mysterious masked woman playing Joan of Arc for the mountain tribes. Claiming to be descended from survivors of the Ninth Crusade the sultry, charismatic freedom fighter eventually enlisted our heroes’ aid in her struggle.

‘Operation Convoy’ began on Sunday May 24th, and saw Steve, Happy and the Nine Maid trapped in a city, futilely evading their foes and the Communist agitators who pay them. When they’re captured, a little Arab girl calling herself “Convoy” offered to free them if Canyon would marry her! Their escape was fraught and frantic but only led to more trouble when they were all picked up by the unconventional Soviet Submarine commander Captain Akoola – “the Shark”. Akoola was a beautiful and doctrinaire woman who gradually thawed not because of Canyon’s virile yumminess, but because she responded to Convoy’s orphan plight. Taking a lead from the Count of Monte Cristo, the two females conspire to liberate the Americans by dumping their supposed corpses overboard…

Adrift at sea Steve and Happy washed onto the Burma Coast for ‘Plantation Sabotage’ (September 4th – November 3rd) wherein raunchy widow Miss Fancy and the brutal, jealous ‘Rak’ – whose attempts to get rid of Canyon were prompted by a much more personal type of intrigue – interfered with the smooth running of plantation life. But even here a shadowy agitator was enflaming the native croppers, with the profiteering Rak’s tacit approval. The tense drama promptly resulted in ‘Puppy Love’ (November 4th 1948 to January 8th 1949) when Rak’s son Reed Kimberley joined the story and the extended cast.

Reaching Rangoon Steve and Happy were unaware that the boy would do anything to avoid returning to America. Reed becomes enmeshed in the snares of native bargirl and teen hellion “Cheetah” whose depredations led to a mid-air hostage crisis which ends this second collection on a tragic cliffhanger…

What Milton Caniff was developing in those post-war years is indistinguishable from the glossy, exotic soap operas and dramas that are the back-bone of modern commercial television. Fast-paced, constantly evolving dramas fed by sub-plots, charismatic characters, exotic locales, non-stop action, and even political intrigue, all wrapped up in a heady mix of sexual tension and sharply observed humour. It seems that we can reproduce the techniques but have lost most of the charm, wit and sheer élan

Steve Canyon is comic storytelling at its best. Beautifully illustrated, mesmerising black and white, sagas of war, espionage, romance, terror, justice and cynical reality: a masterpiece of graphic narrative every serious fan and story-lover should experience.

© 2003, Checker Book Publishing Group, an authorized collection of works
© Ester Parsons Caniff Estate 1947, 1948, 1949.All characters and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of the Ester Parsons Caniff Estate. All Rights Reserved.

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1949

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1949

By Milton Caniff (Checker Book Publishing Group)
ISBN 0-9710249-1-X

The third collection in the daily travails of Milton Caniff’s post-war aviation adventurer covers the period from February 8th 1949 until February 18th 1950, which those fine people at Checker have subdivided into three episodes for your convenience.

‘Operation Snowflower’ leads off the excitement and originally ran (seven days a week, mind) until May 18th. It opens with Canyon and crew anxiously awaiting news of Happy Easter and the unscrupulous Cheetah who were last seen falling out of Canyon’s plane. However the arrival of ruthless millionairess Copper Calhoon soon distracts them all as she informs them that she now also owns the company which Canyon is working for.

As the post-revolutionary Chinese Republic began to flex its muscles in the build-up to the Korean War, the ever-contemporary Caniff began weaving the snippets of research and speculative news items he scrupulously collected into the grand story unfolding on his drawing board. Ever the patriot, his opinions and pro-“Free World” stance gives some of these strips a somewhat parochial if not outright jingoistic flavour, but as with all fiction viewed through the lens of time passed, context is everything.

Unlike his unpopular stance on Vietnam two decades later, this was not an issue that divided America. However the public and officials of the USA treated Communists and “Pinkos” within their own borders, the Red Menace of Russia and China was real, immediate, and actively working against Western Interests. The real talking point here is not the extent of a creator’s percieved paranoia, but rather the restraint which Caniff showed within his strip compared to what was going on in the world outside it.

Calhoon has Canyon flying uranium ores out of the rugged mountain country, and Red agents are agitating to get the raw materials for their own arms programs. The sabotage and unrest they’ve instigated have made the task dangerous and nearly impossible. As all the hard-bitten pilots continue their task Calhoon pressgangs young Reed Kimberly into becoming a companion for the locals’ mysterious ruler – “the Crag Hag”. Keeping the natives on-side is vital and the reluctant lad is nervous about his diplomatic role, but unbeknownst to all, the fearsome sounding Empress is actually a beautiful young teenager named Snow Flower, hungry to hear about the fabulous land of America, and desperate to see anyone her own age – especially boys!

The situation grows progressively worse as the Communist-backed rebels tighten their encirclement of the capital city of Damma. The fall is a foregone conclusion and Calhoon is making her escape plans whilst her men continue their ore flights out. As the city falls she is wounded, forcing Steve to fly her to safety on the last plane out. The Princess, Reed and the imposing Soldier-of-Fortune Dogie Hogan are forced to flee on foot, in a cracking sequence, pursued by the victorious and vicious rebels. When Canyon flies a rescue mission, only the heartbroken Kimberly awaits him. Snow Flower and Hogan have returned to the mountains to organise a resistance movement to fight the Communists.

‘Dragonflies’ follows, originally running from May 19th to October 9th. Steve and the recuperating Reed are cooling their heels, fretting about their total lack of cash or work, when the larger-than-life author and lecturer Romulus Brandywine commissions Steve to fly him around the highly volatile region on a research trip, accompanied by his secretary, the sassy and capable Summer Smith.

Whilst en route from India to the China coast their plane is forced down by Communist rebels, but after much intrigue and action they escape to become part of an anti-communist Foreign Legion of Pilots fighting a holding action against the seemingly unstoppable Red Hordes: The Dragonfly Squadron of the Western Chinese faction.

As if the ongoing conflict trapping the valiant fliers were not enough grief, Steve and Summer’s mutual attraction causes friction amongst the men, but when the hero finds himself once again in a last ditch siege, there’s a pleasant surprise in store as Happy Easter turns up, leading a division of anti-Red cavalry to – temporarily – save the day.

‘Teammates’ began on October 10th 1949 and ran well into 1950 (although this book concludes with February 18th instalment). It introduces a possible rival and definite complication with the unwanted arrival of a new flier at the temporarily reprieved airbase. Doe Redwood is an air-ace who flew half-way around the world to join the fight, in a brand-new top-of-the-line fighter plane, infinitely superior to the crates the veterans use. But she’s a woman and therefore trouble…

No sooner has the dust settled from the traditional culture-clash, battle-of-the-sexes than Steve and Doe have to go undercover into Communist-held territory to liberate vitally needed parts and supplies. However the mission goes spectacularly wrong when they encounter and old friend and foe – svelte Soviet Submarine commander Captain Akoola – and her ward Convoy…

Exotic, frenetic, full of traditional values and as always, captivating in both word and picture, this is another old-fashioned, unreconstructed delight. Caniff was the master of the daily strip drama and he always will be.

© 2004, Checker Book Publishing Group, an authorized collection of works
© Ester Parsons Caniff Estate 1949, 1950. All characters and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of the Ester Parsons Caniff Estate. All Rights Reserved.

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1947

Steve Canyon 1947 

By Milton Caniff (Checker Book Publishing Group)
ISBN 0-9710249-9-5

After leaving the incredibly successful and world-renowned Terry and the Pirates newspaper strip Milton Caniff created another iconic comic hero in the demobbed World War II pilot Steve Canyon. The reasons for the move were basically rights and creative control, but it’s also easy to see another reason. Terry, set in a fabled Orient, even with the contemporary realism the author so captivatingly imparted, is a young man’s strip and limited by locale.

The worldly, if not war-weary, Canyon was a mature adventurer who could be sent literally anywhere and would appeal to the older, wiser readers of Atom-Age America, now a fully active, if perhaps reluctant, player on the world stage. Canyon also reflects an older creator who has seen so much more of human nature and frailty than even the mysterious Orient could provide. Put another way, William Shakespeare could write “Romeo and Juliet” as a young man, but needed more than passion and genius to produce “King Lear”.

Steve Canyon began on 13th January 1947, after a long period of public anticipation following a very conspicuous resignation from Terry. Always a master of suspense and adept at manipulating his reader’s attention, Caniff’s eponymous hero didn’t actually appear until January 16th (and then only in a ‘file photograph’). The public first met Stevenson Burton Canyon, bomber pilot, medal winning war-hero, Air-Force flight instructor and latterly, independent charter airline operator in the first Sunday colour page, on 19th January 1947.

By then eager readers had glimpsed his friends and future enemies, how acquaintances felt about him and even been introduced to ultra-rich and super-spoiled Copper Calhoun, the latest in a startlingly long line of devastating Femme Fatales created by Caniff to bedevil his heroes and captivate his audiences. And the magic promptly began.

This series of collections from Checker represents the strip in yearly segments and this one begins as Calhoun manoeuvres Canyon’s Horizons Unlimited charter line into flying her to countries where her pre-war holdings were disrupted, only to encounter deadly peril from both strangers and trusted employees. There’s also a goodly helping of old fashioned intrigue, jealousy and racketeering in the mix too.

The action and tragedy lead directly to an encounter with a couple of deadly female con-artists in ‘Delta’, and a gripping, yet light-hearted romp in the booming petroleum industry in ‘Easter’s Oil’ – which introduces the off-the-wall supporting character Happy Easter and the lascivious Madame Lynx, who would play such large and charismatic roles in the strip’s future.

The first volume ends with ‘Jewels of Africa’, a classic of suspense with the modern day pirate and Wrecker Herr Splitz falling foul of our heroes in a world rapidly becoming a hotbed of International tension. As Caniff’s strip became more and more a compass of geo-political adventure, his skill with human drama became increasingly mature and intense. This was comic strip noir that was still irresistible to a broad spectrum of readers. And that’s as true now as it was then. Steve Canyon is magnificent comic art at its two-fisted best.

© 2003, Checker Book Publishing Group, an authorized collection of works © Ester Parsons Caniff Estate 1947.
All characters and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of the Ester Parsons Caniff Estate. All Rights Reserved.