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Meanwhile...: A Biography of Milton Caniff, Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon Hardcover – July 17, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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In the 1930s and 1940s, the newspaper comic strip was one of the nation's most popular storytelling media, and Caniff's exotic high-adventure Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon were among the most widely read strips. The popularity of the China-based Terry skyrocketed in the early forties, when its cast entered World War II, but it was Caniff's bold abandonment of the successful strip in 1946 to launch Canyon, which continued until the artist's death, in 1988, that landed him on the cover of Time. Today aficionados consider his achievement unmatched, and his innovative combination of atmospherically chiaroscuro illustration and cinematic continuity still hugely influences contemporary cartoonists. Comics scholar Harvey, who worked on this biography for nearly 25 years, had the benefit of extensively interviewing Caniff, and the wealth of firsthand information he obtained and conveys helps explain why it weighs in at just short of 1,000 pages, which may strike some as excessive but, given Caniff's towering stature in the comics field, seems only appropriate, perhaps even necessary. Flagg, Gordon


“A book for hardcore aficionados of classic comic strips, who will be rewarded if they are willing to invest the time it will take to make their way through this literally weighty tome.” (Peter Sanderson - Publishers Weekly)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 952 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics (July 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560977825
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560977827
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #926,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Robert C. Harvey (Ph.D. in English literature) is a cartoonist and comics chronicler. He has cartooned in all the medium's forms--comic strips, gag cartoons, and comic books as well as editorial cartoons, and his books run the gamut of the medium. He has collected three volumes of Cartoons of the Roaring Twenties (Fantagraphics, 1991-92) about magazine cartooning and has authored The Art of the Funnies (1994), an aesthetic history of newspaper comic strips, and its sequel, The Art of the Comic Book (1996), showing how the latter developed from the former, Accidental Ambassador Gordo: The Comic Strip Art of Gus Arriola (2000), and Milton Caniff Conversations (2002), a collection of two dozen interviews conducted with Caniff over the years of his career, starting in 1937 and ending in the 1980s --all from the University Press of Mississippi. His most recent book for the University Press is Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and their Creators (2014). His definitive biography of Caniff, entitled Meanwhile... A Biography of Milton Caniff, Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon, was published by Fantagraphics (June 2007), celebrating the 100th anniversary of Caniff's birth.
Harvey has contributed numerous cartoonists' biographies to Oxford University Press's American National Biography (both online and in print), and has written over 150 short biographies of cartoonists for A Gallery of Rogues: Cartoonists' Self-caricatures (Ohio State University, Cartoon Research Library, 1998). He ghosted an autobiography for Murphy Anderson, a noted comic book artist, and his book about the famous feud between Ham Fisher (Joe Palooka) and Al Capp (Li'l Abner) is awaiting publication at Fantagraphics.
Harvey was associate editor for comic strips of Inks, a scholarly journal about the arts of cartooning. He also curated a comic art exhibition for the Frye Art Museum (September-November 1998) and assembled a book from the show, Children of the Yellow Kid: The Evolution of the American Comic Strip (University of Washington Press, 1998). He published regularly in Cartoonist PROfiles, the profession's most venerable publication, and periodically in Comic Book Marketplace and The Comics Buyer's Guide, and he continues producing articles for The Comics Journal, for which he has written for more than 40 years.
At his website, RCHarvey.com, he posts every other week or so (since 1999) an edition of his online magazine, Rants & Raves, where he reviews graphic novels, reprint collections, and books about cartooning and cartoonists, and retails news, history and lore about cartooning. He can be reached at 17705 E. 99th Avenue, Commerce City, C0 80022 or RC-Harvey@comcast.net. (He often signs his cartoons by affixing a tiny spectacled rabbit. Harvey calls the rabbit Cahoots, but that's not his name. His name, as anyone knows who remembers a Jimmy Stewart movie about a six-foot pooka, is Harvey. RCH is only five-foot-eleven but he has aspirations.)
After graduating from the University of Colorado in 1959, Harvey served in the U.S. Navy then taught English in Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas, in the late 1960s, and for over 25 years he was the convention manager of the National Council of Teachers of English. Harvey is a member of the National Cartoonists Society and the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
--"Meanwhile" is an examination of an entire art form that sadly has fallen, not just out of favor, but by the wayside entirely.

R.C. Harvey, one of the most well-respected authorities on the history of the newspaper comic strip has written the definitive, even monumental, study of Milton Caniff and his work.

Actor Robert Culp referred to Milton Caniff as "immortal" and after reading this fascinating volume, you can understand why.

Mr. Caniff, if he didn't invent the adventure newspaper strip, certainly refined and defined the parameters for generations afterwards.

Not just an accomplished artist, Mr. Caniff was also a consummate story-teller. His influence can still be seen in many forms of media, nearly twenty years after his death.

Through Mr. Harvey's biography (he began writing it before Mr. Caniff passed away), the reader gets to know Milton Caniff as an unassuming workaholic who fit the classic mold of American patriot.

The sections devoted to Terry and the Pirates (and his most iconic creation, Lai Choi San, The Dragon Lady) and Steve Canyon are very illuminating, particularly to students of comic-strip art.

It's hard to realize now the impact the newspaper comic-strip had on the American culture from the 1930s through the 1950s, and Mr. Caniff's work was always held as the standard by which all others strived to attain.

"Meanwhile" is a great book. It's one of the few that I have read in the last few years that I have referred back to within days of finishing it.

This is a classic book about a classic artist whose contributions to American culture need to be rediscovered and celebrated.

Thank you, Mr. Harvey.
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Format: Hardcover
I've just received my book from Amazon yesterday, so I haven't been able to complete it as yet, but upon opening the box I was staggered by the sheer size of the volume. Very few books fulfill the promise of their covers; "Meanwhile" does just that, and more. Paging through the contents I was pleased at the abundance of art included from all stages of Mr. Caniff's career. Milt Caniff's exciting brushwork and facility at crafting mesmerizing stories have always held me spellbound, and been an inspiration to me for many years in my career as an artist.

Mr. Harvey has done the magical; fleshing out the biography of an icon of the golden era of comic strips and not simply chronicling Mr. Caniff's life, but also taking us behind the scenes and into Milt's mind. It's all here: How Milt worked, what inspired him, the real people who were the models for his characters, the real world of syndicated comic strips.

Folks, this is as close to the excitement of time travel as you'll ever get, a reminder of why people waited with eagerness for the daily paper to drop upon their front doorstep in the years before DVDs and home entertainment centers so that they could catch the latest installment of their favorite newsprint heroes. As a previous reviewer so aptly stated, this is an artform that has fallen by the wayside and been forgotten. Today's comics are disposable jokes, akin to the old Joe Bazooka throwaways inside the bubblegum wrappers.

This book contains treasure, and would be worth the price of admission at twice its cost. There is a reason why Milton Caniff was called the "Rembrandt of the Comic Strip", and the story is inside "Meanwhile".

And one more thing in closing. Milt did this all by himself. No assistants to ink his pencils, no "factory" of interns to rubberstamp the same old hash every week, it was just Milt Caniff and his imagination and brushes and ink-stained hands.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As cartoonist biographies go I daresay that there has never been, and will likely never be, another of the length and depth of R.C. Harvey's "Meanwhile...". Coming in just shy of a four digit page count it could scarcely be otherwise. Even more so when you consider that the impressive heft of the tome is not substantially padded with photos and art. To be sure the book is indeed well illustrated, but only with visual aids directly related to the narrative -- there are no long reprints of Caniff's strips here or lengthy portfolios of miscellaneous art.

It is the nature of any successful cartoonist that they spend the bulk of their life hunched over a drawing board, endlessly skrith-skratching away. This is not the sort of lifestyle that would seem to lend itself to a lengthy biography. When we consider that there are plenty of well-rounded biographies of political figures, film stars, activists, people whose lives are filled day by day with the fodder of the biographer, that manage to tell their stories in a shorter page count, we have to wonder just what in the world Harvey is on about in a page count that rivals the King James Bible.

I for one certainly approached the book with trepidation. I've been a fan of Harvey's work for years, but my enjoyment of his work is tempered with the caveat that he is on occasion guilty of going over the top. When he goes into critical analysis mode he is always perceptive and thoughtful, but he can also beat a horse within an inch of its life. I was concerned that here Harvey would be shooting the works, analyzing Terry, Steve and their creator ad nauseam.

That fear, I'm happy to say, was completely groundless. Despite the enormous page count this book is, wonder of wonders, a tightly written narrative.
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