MILTON CANIFF Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Name: Milton Caniff                                                                   
Birth name: Milton Arthur Paul Caniff                                                 
Born: 28 February 1907 Hillsboro, Ohio                                                 
Died: 3 May 1988 New York City                                                         
Milton Arthur Paul Caniff (February 28, 1907-May 3, 1988) was an American             
cartoonist famous for the Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon comic strips.         
Caniff was born in Hillsboro, Ohio. He was an Eagle Scout and a recipient of the       
Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. Caniff had done       
some cartoons for local newspapers as a teenager, while studying at Stivers           
School for the Arts. Shortly after matriculating at the Ohio State University,         
from which he graduated in 1930, Caniff began a career in journalism by applying       
to the Columbus Dispatch. There he worked with the noted cartoonist William "Billy"   
Ireland until Caniff's position was eliminated during the Great Depression.           
Caniff related later that he had been uncertain of whether to pursue acting or         
cartooning as a career, and that Ireland said, "Stick to your inkpots, kid,           
actors don't eat regularly,"                                                           
While at Ohio State, Caniff joined the Sigma Chi Fraternity, and later provided       
illustrations for The Magazine of Sigma Chi and The Norman Shield (the                 
fraternity's pledgeship/reference manual).                                             
In 1932, Caniff moved to New York City to accept an artist position in the             
Features Service of the Associated Press. He did general assignment art for           
several months, drawing the strips Dickie Dare and The Gay Thirties, then             
inherited a panel cartoon called Mister Gilfeather in September 1932 when Al           
Capp left the feature. Caniff continued Gilfeather until the spring of 1933,           
when it was retired in favor of a generic comedy in a panel cartoon called The         
Gay Thirties, which he produced until he left AP in the fall of 1934. In July         
1933, Caniff began an adventure fantasy strip, Dickie Dare, influenced by series       
such as Flash Gordon and Brick Bradford. The eponymous central character was           
a youth who dreamed himself into adventures with such literary and legendary           
persons as Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe and King Arthur. In the spring of 1934,         
Caniff changed the strip from fantasy to "reality" when Dickie no longer dreamed       
his adventures but experienced them as he traveled the world with a freelance         
writer, Dickie's adult mentor, "Dynamite Dan" Flynn.                                   
In 1934, Caniff was hired by the New York Daily News to produce a new strip for       
the Chicago Tribune/Daily News syndicate. Daily News publisher Joseph M.               
Patterson wanted an adventure strip set in the mysterious Orient, what Patterson       
described as "the last outpost for adventure,". Caniff, though knowing                 
almost nothing about China, researched the nation's history and learned about         
families for whom piracy was a way of life passed down over the generations. The       
result was Terry and the Pirates, the strip which made Caniff famous. Like             
Dickie Dare, Terry Lee began the strip as a boy who is traveling in China with         
an adult mentor and freelance writer, Pat Ryan. But over the years the title           
character aged and by World War II he was old enough to serve in the Army Air         
Force. During the twelve years that Caniff produced the strip, he introduced           
many fascinating characters, most of whom were "pirates" of one kind or another--Burma,
a blonde with a mysterious possibly criminal past; Chopstick Joe, a Chinese           
petty criminal; Singh Singh, a warlord in the mountains of China; Judas, a             
smuggler; Sanjak, a lesbian; and then boon companions such as Hotshot Charlie,         
Terry's wing man during the War years; Connie and Big Stoop, a Chinese Jeff and       
Mutt (in stature) who followed Terry and Pat Ryan around the country; and April       
Kane, a young woman who was Terry's first love. But Caniff's most memorable           
creation was the Dragon Lady, a pirate queen; she was seemingly ruthless and           
calculating, but Caniff encouraged his readers to think she had romantic               
yearnings for Pat Ryan.                                                               
Lai Choi San, the Dragon Lady, Milton Caniff's most iconic character from Terry       
And the Pirates                                                                       
During the war, Caniff began a second strip, a special version of Terry and the       
Pirates without Terry but featuring the blonde bombshell, Burma. Caniff donated       
all of his work on this strip to the armed forces -- the strip was only               
available in military newspapers. After complaints from the Miami Herald about         
the military version of the strip being published by military newspapers in the       
Herald's circulation territory, the strip was renamed Male Call and given a new       
star, Miss Lace, a beautiful woman who lived near every military base on the           
planet and enjoyed the company of enlisted men, but not officers. Her function,       
Caniff often said, was to remind service men what they were fighting for, and         
while the situations in the strip brimmed with double entendre, Miss Lace was         
not, as far as she appeared in the strip, a loose woman, but she "knew the score."     
Far more so than civilian comic strips which portrayed military characters, Male       
Call was notable for its honest depiction of what the servicemen were up against:     
one strip showed Miss Lace dating a soldier on leave who had lost an arm;             
another strip had her escorting a blinded ex-serviceman. Caniff continued Male         
Call until seven months after V-J Day, ending it in March 1946.                       
The year 1946 also saw the end of Caniff's association with Terry and the             
Pirates. While the strip was a major success, it was not owned by its creator         
but by its distributing syndicate, the Chicago Tribune-New York Daily News, a         
common practice with syndicated comics at the time. And when Caniff was offered       
the chance to own his own strip by Marshall Field, publisher of the Chicago Sun,       
the cartoonist left Terry to produce a strip for Field Enterprises. Caniff             
produced his last strip of Terry and the Pirates in December 1946 and introduced       
his new strip Steve Canyon in the Chicago Sun-Times the following month. At           
the time, Caniff was one of only two or three syndicated cartoonists who owned         
their creations, and he attracted considerable publicity as a result of this