Posted By Art Baxter


Today, we will look at a Milt Caniff STEVE CANYON strip from July 29, 1951. Click here to view the entire strip. Caniff began STEVE CANYON in January of 1947. He had just finished a long and successful run on the TERRY AND THE PIRATES strip. He quit the old strip which was owned by the syndicate to begin a new one which he owned. Steve Canyon was a pilot who had all sorts of cold war adventures. A parade of women crossed his path. Some were romantic interests, some were evil and some just stirred the pot to keep the story going. Caniff was no stranger to drawing snazzy dames. In fact he drew a strip called MALE CALL, featuring Miss Lace, for the military papers which had a large serving of cheesecake each installment.

Todays strip is a daily from June 20, 1951. It involves a woman named the Duchess and a gruff Popeye-esque sea captain. The captain had just fished Canyon and the Duchess out of the drink. They need dry clothes so the Duchess is changing. It is in the first panel that we see the expansive real estate of her bare back. She puts on the top and looks in the mirror. Something isn't right. The sea captain is eagerly expecting her. In the last panel we get the gag. No cleavage for you!

I'm not a big Caniff fan but he is an unquestioned master of the form and absolutely one of the greats. He took a little confection of a four panel gag and executes it flawlessly. The strip is all about what we aren't seeing. The Duchess is a worldly character who isn't going to take any crap off a cretin and she does it with style.

Is it sexy? Absolutely, we're watching an attractive woman getting dressed. It is however quite understated and naturalistic. She's not contorting in extreme poses to show off her anatomy. It's quietly sexy.

Caniff died in April of 1988 and STEVE CANYON was finished by his assistant shortly thereafter. It was a cold war relic that had long become irrelevant. CANYON was never quite as good as his TERRY strip but it had its moments and, of course, its babes.

NEXT: B & D on Mongo.

STEVE CANYON is © Milton Caniff

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