I've written before, these are great times for fans of vintage comic
strips. Publishers are bringing back into print many classics of
the genre — among them Popeye, Dick Tracy and Gasoline Alley — in handsome multi-volume editions that will eventually make available complete runs of the strips.
Not least welcome in this avalanche of treasures is the first volume in a series published by IDC that will cover all of Milt Caniff's wonderful Terry and the Pirates adventure
strip. It's a big, well-printed volume with the daily strips in
black-and-white and the Sunday strips in full color. This first
installment covers 1934 to 1936.
Caniff's is known as the “Rembrandt of the comic strip” for his
exquisite draftsmanship, but he has also been studied by filmmakers for
the dynamic cinematic compositions of his panels, the economy and punch
of his visual narrative style.
It's impossible to convey just how much fun Terry and the Pirates
is — a series of rattling good yarns set in the Far East that move
fast and are full of surprises, drawn with wit and elegance and bold
Caniff didn't come up with idea for Terry and the Pirates and he didn't own it — so he eventually moved on to an original series called Steve Canyon, which is even more ambitious visually but, to my mind, a bit stodgier in terms of story and character. The Canyon
strips have been available in a series which prints the panels so small
that it's hard to read the text sometimes without a magnifying glass
and almost impossible to appreciate the graphic work. It's not worth owning.
The IDC edition of Terry and the Pirates, though, does full justice to Caniff's art. I think it's one of the most important publishing events of 2007.