Found in the Collection: Milton Caniff’s Life Mask!

Okay readers, one final Halloween post, perhaps the spookiest of them all!
Below, we present to you the life mask of Milton Caniff:

Life mask of Milton Caniff, cast by Shel Dorf. From the Shel Dorf Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Yes indeed folks, this plaster mask was cast of our main man Milton Caniff by his own assistant, Steve Canyon letterer Shel Dorf. Done in the early 80s, Caniff was likely around the age of 76 when this was made. It now resides here at the Cartoon Library where it forms part of the Shel Dorf Collection, along with a plaster casting of Caniff’s hands. We’ll save those for next year!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!

 

Found in the Collection: Mr. Coffee Nerves

Joining the ranks of YoYo Martin as our favorite villains of the comics pages, Mr. Coffee Nerves is a vaudevillian apparition whose arch-nemesis is made of whole wheat and bran, and tastes quite delicious when combined with warm milk. Postum, the coffee-alternative.

“Dad Gives a Good Tip” Postum advertisement. The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Paul Arthur’s character Mr. Coffee Nerves gains his pleasure in breaking up families, destroying careers, instigating murders, and other generally evil intentions perfectly suitable for the host of a caffeine headache. Who is this Paul Arthur, you ask? Well, if you couldn’t take a guess from the style, he’s both Milton Caniff and Noel Sickles.

Milton Caniff and Noel Sickles in their New York City studio, 1937. Photo from the Milton Caniff Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

The old best friends and native-Ohioans shared a studio at 320 East 42nd Street (which Sickles also called home), where amid pumping out Terry and the Pirates and Scorchy Smith, respectively, the two also moonlighted doing advertisement work. “Paul Arthur” was their chosen non-de-plume, and is a reversal of Caniff’s two middle names. As noted by Bruce Canwell in Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, “Because the deadlines of producing a regular comics feature were relentless, employers were not enamored by the thought of their creators adding to their workload, which increased the risk of artists turning in their strips late”, thus the necessity of a pseudonym.

“Jeanne gets a curtain call” Postum advertisement. The Milton Caniff Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

The two worked on the Postum advertisements, and many others like it, from roughly 1936-1938. These advertisements would often allow them to rake in triple of what they were making in the syndicates each week.

“Mother Takes a Hand” Postum advertisement. The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Coffee in the 1930s, it would seem, is marginally decipherable from crack- barring the employment of Snidely Whiplash’s grandfather as a mascot. We love Sickles and Caniff’s interpretation of the character, as later versions in the 1950s unfortunately added a jet-pack to Nerves’ costume and lost the hat. The two geniuses would collaborate again as Paul Arthur in 1977 on an unsold Bruce Lee comic strip, the original drafts of which reside in our collection at the Cartoon Library.

“Peter Joins The Club” Postum advertisement. The Milton Caniff Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. (click to enlarge)

As a bonus for those especially tickled by Mr. Coffee Nerves- give a listen to hear him in dubious action on a radio commercial for Postum, available through the Old-Time Radio website.

Blog Launch, and the Construction of Our New Home in Sullivant Hall

Welcome to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Blog! We’re very excited to join the comics blogosphere, and keep you all informed on what we’re up to. This blog will generally be updated at least twice a week with a smattering of events and activities of the Cartoon Library, highlights from our collection, interviews, and more. We hope you will add us to your feed, and continue to check back for the latest news. Please click the “About Us” tab find out more details about who we are.

For our debut post, I’d like to give a quick background on the history of the collection, culminating in some very exciting news about the move to our new home in 2013.

The Milton Caniff Reading Room opened in 1977  in two renovated classrooms in the Journalism Building of Ohio State University. Caniff [Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon] had donated in multiple installments his entire collection to OSU: 696 cubic feet of original art, correspondence, research files, photographs, memorabilia, merchandise, realia, awards, audio/visual material and scrapbooks.

Founding Curator Lucy Shelton Caswell, and Milton Caniff

Although there was no structure for collecting such materials from cartoonists, and few (if any) institutions in America were, Caniff was a proud OSU graduate and felt compelled to leave his legacy material with his beloved Alma mater. Lucy Caswell had worked in the journalism library and was hired to catalog the Caniff collection.  Caswell recognized how precious these materials were and saw that they were under-appreciated in academic institutions and museums at large.   She set out to establish an appropriate home for the collecting and preservation of cartoon art, and nearly 40 years later this altruistic goal has grown into the largest collection of cartoons and comics in the world.

The Cartoon Library in its original 1977 home in the Journalism Building. Note the ancient computer, and telephone cable wired from the ceiling!

Having grown exponentially by the early 1990s, by then containing 200,000 original cartoons and more than 1,000 linear feet of manuscript materials, the library moved into a new temperature and humidity controlled state-of-the-art facility to better house and preserve materials.

 

Cartoon Library Reading Room.  This space doubles as our exhibition gallery.  (click to enlarge)

A small portion of our art cases for originals, with single-issue comics storage in the background (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This 6,800 square-foot space has remained our home through today.   As the storage area filled up, the Library was given the opportunity to store some of its materials at a new off-site, high-density remote depository that is shared by all the Ohio State University Libraries.

Offsite Storage (click to enlarge)

Offsite Storage (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it may seem hard to imagine , by 2012 we have almost completely run out of space.  Our current holdings have reached over 300,000 originals, nearly 45,000 books, 67,000 serial titles, 3,000 linear feet of manuscript material, and 2.5 million comic strip clippings and tearsheets– making us the largest comprehensive research collection documenting cartoon art in the world.

This is why we are in the process of building a new facility to house the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.  In 2013, we will be moving into a beautiful new home in Sullivant Hall, at the gateway to campus. This new facility will include three exhibition galleries, a large new reading room, a seminar room for educational programming, and much larger office and collection storage facilities. Our square footage will be increased from 6,800 to almost 30,000- a dream come true for a long and lovingly harvested collection that has striven to give the deserved recognition to the underdog medium that is cartoon art.  We are so incredibly thrilled and excited to settle into our new home, and endlessly thankful to those who have made the funding possible. Below, you can enjoy some artist renderings of our soon-to-be home, done by architect George Acock:

North entrance rendering

Gallery Rendering (one of 3 exhibit spaces!)

Please continue to check back here for updates and photos as the construction moves along. We hope you’ll come celebrate with us in 2013!