Comic Review: Steve Canyon HC Vol 08 1961-1962 (IDW)

With Volume 8, IDW’s continuing series of reprints of the Complete Milton Caniff Steve Canyon strip enters the early 1960’s. Specifically 1961-1962. The extensive foreword by Bruce Canwell sets the […]

With Volume 8, IDW’s continuing series of reprints of the Complete Milton Caniff Steve Canyon strip enters the early 1960’s. Specifically 1961-1962.

The extensive foreword by Bruce Canwell sets the scene for us to remember the early 60’s (if we were around) or at least understand the historical context of this complete collection of daily and Sunday color strips from the period. It’s annotated with photos of Caniff and accompanied by sketches and drawings.

Things were tense for the United States in the international picture, and its allies were also faced with similar dilemmas: cold war maneuvering was occurring, and the Berlin Wall was being constructed. Times they were-also-a-changing for American youth. They were protesting on university campuses.

The stories reflect the times: a radar station is to be built in Britain to assist NATO countries in early warning of intercontinental ballistic missiles. But someone or something keeps mugging Steve Canyon as he tries to convince northern British villagers that the radar system won’t kill the nearby honeybees and birds. Talk about a story remaining relevant; this one could have been written this week!

Times were also changing for newspaper editors, and some were canceling their subscriptions to Caniff’s Steve Canyon strip. Considering the complexity of juggling a daily strip and keeping a changing audience satisfied, it’s amazing how well crafted these stories are, and how well they hold up after almost 60 years!

IDW has done a wonderful job in reprinting these daily and Sunday strips. They are reproduced from high-quality newspaper proofs, and the color restoration on the Sunday strips is clear and bright.

Milton Caniff’s writing and artwork is at full strength here. His dialogue is witty, his ear for slang (with the exception perhaps of the ‘beatnik-daddy-o’ stuff, which rings a bit hollow) is practiced and sharp. The plots are complex. But each day’s strip manages to advance the story along without forgetting to occasionally remind readers of what is going on… something today’s comic writers should keep in mind to allow new readers to jump into a story ‘mid-miniseries’.

The drawings are a testament to Caniff’s ability to squeeze a meaningful amount of visuals into a continuing daily strip. These strips are dialogue heavy, leaving only the bottom of the panel for artwork, yet Caniff adds darks and lights in just the right places. He was a master, there’s no doubt. And we are richer for this reprint, well worth the pleasure of reading.

IDW, The Complete Steve Canyon, 1961-1962, $49.99 for 340 pages of content.

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!