Book Review: The Complete Steve Canyon, Volume 8: 1961-1962 by Milton Caniff

The Library of American Comics continues publishing the adventures of Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon with Volume 8, which presents the newspaper comic strips of 1961 and ’62, the 14th and 15th year of the strip’s 41-year run. The premise remains the same as Air Force Colonel Steve Canyon travels the globe conducting official and unofficial missions. Also remaining the same is Caniff’s outstanding artwork.

Steve’s first assignment in this collection is set in England where some of the locals aren’t too happy about the installation of a North American air defense radar station, especially when their sheep start dying. In an amusing twist from Steve’s usual heroics, he is knocked out and manhandled by large local lass Kate the Crowd, who dreams of going to America and becoming a wrestler.

Steve is then off to Asia where old acquaintances Hogan and Princess Sunflower are leading guerrillas against Red China in another attempt to take back her country. The pair don’t know they are being financed by the Soviet Union, who are using Hogan to make it look like America is involved in the uprising. Complicating matters is the arrival of Miss Lynx who seeks to stop Steve from interfering. This storyline has a lot of good plot twists as the characters strive to get what they want.

The Space Race finds its way into the Canyon strip when Steve helps train “jet pilots to operate space craft” as “Project Hardnose” gets under way. The story becomes a soap opera as Tom Council, the man at the top of the class, is fought over by two women, his wife and his former fiancee. The conclusion is a bit silly, and seems better suited for a romance strip.

Steve gets a rest as his ward Poteet takes the lead with a couple of stories set around the campus of Maumee University. The school preps for a scandal because former alumnus Dimity Jo “Carrot” Kane is coming to town to perform her nightclub act. Poteet sees Carrot as a rival, but they become friends, especially after the treatment both receive from their mutual sorority. Kane gets the last laugh when she gets involved with the Queen of the Snow Ball and a real scandal is revealed when readers learn about a former professor’s inappropriate actions.

Steve returns to action traveling to Alaska to discover who was transmitting in an obscure African dialect, and then to Hodag, WI where the citizens, like the British above, aren’t happy about the installation of a secret government project. This time it’s an intercontinental-ballistics-missile site. Though the premise is similar, this time Steve has to deal with the cantankerous Perdita Rune, competing unions, and peace marchers.

Steve heads to Panama at the request for help of old gal pal Mizzo and gets caught up in a family drama that has political implications for an unnamed country. The last two months of 1962 sees Kate meet up with Poteet at Maumee, but the story of a film actor reuniting with a blind date is incomplete.

The Complete Steve Canyon, Volume 8 finds Caniff continuing to work at the top of his game. Steve is more fallible, making him and the stories much more interesting. The drawings remain a highlight of Steve Canyon. The characters convey a range of emotions and actions in the panels. The locations are filled with many details that give them authenticity. The only misstep is his use of yellow for the skin tone of Chinese men in a Sunday strip. In addition to his annual tributes to the military on Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day, Caniff interrupts the strip’s story on July 1, 1961 to draw readers’ attention to the death of “good friend” Lt. Col. David F. McAllister who died in a plane crash on June 4.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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