Wednesday, November 17, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff

I've said it before but I have a fondness for paperback-sized comic reprints. Sure, they are of fairly poor quality in terms of squashed panels and odd-placing. Tempo books put out a lot of books with reprints of Batman, Flash Gordon, Superman, Popeye, Conan, Beetle Bailey etc. etc. They only put out one Steve Canyon book though which is a shame because this is a lot of fun. I'm a pretty big fan of Caniff's "Terry and the Pirates" but I've only ever read a few issues of Steve Canyon reprints and they were strips where Steve was fightin' in Korea, they were okay but didn't do a lot of me. This paperback reprints (what I imagine) is a more recent (1978) pair of stories. I took to these stories a lot more then the earlier ones. 

There's two tales that run together in here. They drop you right into a continuing storyline with Steve searching for his missing wife when he spots her in a newspaper photo and he's off to Langapora to hunt her down. Along with his buddy/journalist Johnny Mink they tangle with a goofy but deadly King, scale palace walls, rescue a different women, lay on a little bit of a con-game, go inside a dragon, and even have a nice car chase. Of course at the end its open to continuation because right after than Steve's in Hong Kong getting kidnapped, tortured, being mistaken for a Russian spy, being saved by ice cream and finally having a bad experience with acupuncture. The second one is the lesser of the two stories with Steve being out of commission most of the time and being dragged around by a pretty Chinese spy who wants to defect to Russia. Steve's a nice hero, funny when he needs to be, action-ordinated when he needs to be with friends (and enemies) across the globe. That being said, I still like Terry and Pat Ryan better. Every now and then I got on a tear of reading a bunch of adventure strips and I always marvel at the quality of the art AND the writing. The writing always seems to take second place to the art when people discuss these old comics but the tales they told were just as engaging as the art. Now if someone would only reprint William Overgard's run on "Steve Roper and Mike Nomad."

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I think I was a little bit of a "Terry and the Pirates" snob, which is just silly in retrospect since Caniff is just a master of film-noir/high-adventure mash-ups. There's some very problematic caricatures of Asians and other nationalities throughout the book that's indicative to the era. It's something that I can look past, acknowledge as terrible and I understand if others can't. Fair warning. I'd have a newspaper subscription if there was anything this adventurous on the comics page. 

No comments:

Post a Comment