Sunday, April 26, 2020

Milton Caniff, Terry and the Pirates, October 12, 1940

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been posting my original art collection in alphabetical order. I’ve worked my way though “A” and “B”; now on to “C”. What better place to start than with “Caniff”, i.e., Milton Caniff. Here we have a gorgeous “Terry and The Pirates” daily, part of the historic “Death of Raven Sherman” storyline (Ms. S is seen in the back ground of panel 1. Look fast; in 2 months she’ll be dead). For an added bonus, the Dragon Lady is featured in panels 1 and 2.

Every panel has something beautiful to look at, either with the characters, the composition, the spotting of blacks and use of silhouette. I especially like panel 2, with the outdoor shadow bisecting the bald dude’s head, acting as the outline of his skull, the rest of him practically a silhouette against the ground-white. (Interestingly, no texture ground-texture marks are made to add perspective to that surface).

I don’t want to neglect panels 2 or 3; they could have been used as examples in Wally Wood’s famous “Panels That Always Work” tutorial. We are in the presence of a master, sure of his abilities, flinging a multitude of grace notes with casual ease, like droplets of sweat from a Whirling Dervish.

Panel 3: Note the jagged rocks forming an inverted “V”, giving depth to the down-shot composition, the silhouetted figure acting as middle ground for the lower-right man and the lower left riflemen lying in ambush.

Panel 4: Another down shot (two in a row!), the grassy hump in the lower foreground serving as a frame for the line of parked cars further downhill. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE the middle car with its open door and the tiny figure, again, basically, a silhouette with the light of the shoulder picked out with a tiny fleck of white paint, the gun he loosely holds clearly but subtly framed by the light on the running board and the ground beneath. And the white-silhouette power lines, framed against the darkness of the hills.

And all the expository yadda yadda yadda. This is one dialogue-heavy daily. And it’s PAINLESS, in fact, even enjoyable. The compositions are arranged around these balloon blimps so that nothing pictorial is lost. 

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