Talk Like a Pirate Day (Terry and the Pirates)

MystaChimeraQuestionHaving seen Hotshot Charlie’s B-17 flying over Simmons Corner a few days ago and in celebration of “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, I thought I’d do a blog post on Terry and the Pirates.  Don’t worry, I promise not to do it in pirate slang.

Terry and the Pirates was created by Milton Caniff in 1934, appearing in black and white newspaper dailies for the first time on October 22 with color Sunday’s following on December 9th.  An adventure comic strip, Terry’s early plot is best summarized by The New Yorker,

“In this ground-breaking adventure serial, a pair of eager Americans, a boy named Terry Lee and a young fortune hunter named Pat Ryan, land in China to search for an abandoned mine and quickly find themselves facing a succession of gangsters, warlords, pirates, and femme fatales up and down the coast. Period colonialism and chinoiserie occasionally combine for some awkwardly overheated depictions, but Caniff visualized his setup—Robert Louis Stevenson by way of the pulps—with a cinematic flair that remains thrilling because it is played straight. Ryan, a two-fisted, often shirtless he-man, exhibits an arrestingly sexual chemistry with various bad girl.”

King George VI and Terry and the Pirates B-17 Bomber.

King George VI and Terry and the Pirates B-17 Bomber.

When the United States went to war in December 1941, Terry and company went to war as well.  The war years were some of Caniff’s finest work with current events woven into the stories and authentic planes, ship, uniforms and weapons researched and depicted.

Terry himself joined the Army Air Corps (this was before the Air Force) and he quickly became a fighter pilot.  Terry’s entire comic crew joined the fight and many new faces were added, including one Charles C. Charles, aka Hotshot Charlie.  The comically flippant Boston pilot became Terry’s best friend in the air force.

Shortly after the war in 1946, Milton Caniff ceased art and story duties on Terry and the Pirates.  As was normal in those years (and is the case with Dick Tracy) the comic strip was owned by the parent newspaper and would continue without Caniff who went on to write Steve Canyon comics. Terry’s story was adopted by George Wunder who carried the comic strip forward another 27 years into the 1970’s before it was cancelled.  George’s art and story work was not well received by many Pirate fans.

Like Dick Tracy before it, Terry and the Pirates has spun off an 18 episode television series (1953), a cliffhanger serial through Columbia Pictures (1940) and several radio programs from 1937 to 1948.  A choice selections of this media are linked below.

If you are interested in reading Terry and the Pirates, Idea and Design Works, LLC (IDW) has reprinted the entire Milton Caniff collection in a six volume set using the same high quality production used for the Dick Tracy collections.  Hermes Press is pitching in to print the follow-up George Wunder years.

Happy Talk like a Pirate Day!

P.S.  – Going back to today’s post title did you know that Talk Like a Pirate Day was created by a couple of guys named John, Mark and maybe Brian while playing racquetball in the 90’s?  They celebrated the day on their own for years until they emailed humorist Dave Barry (who I find hilarious) and the special day really started to roll.

Dick Tracy Joins the Search for Annie


Tracy-AnnieCHICAGO (March 28, 2014) — Faithful readers who’ve wondered what happened to Annie Warbucks will learn all the hair-raising details when two of the greatest adventure comic strips of all time collide starting June 1 in the daily and Sunday adventures of “Dick Tracy.”

When last seen on Sunday, June 13, 2010, in the “Annie” strip’s finale, Annie Warbucks was in the clutches of the war criminal known as “The Butcher of the Balkans” somewhere in Guatemala. Although this notorious assassin assured Annie she wouldn’t meet the same gruesome end as his countless other victims, he warned her she’d never see Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks again and that for the rest of her life she’d accompany him on his deadly travels.

That cliffhanger left unanswered the fate of the courageous young woman whose globe-spanning adventures have thrilled millions since her Aug. 5, 1924, debut and inspired a Broadway musical and two motion pictures based on the show — the most recent set to hit the big screen Christmas 2014. Now, thanks to “Dick Tracy” artist Joe Staton and writer Mike Curtis, fans won’t need to wonder much longer about Annie’s fate.

According to Curtis, it turns out that after some time spent fruitlessly searching the world for his beloved adopted daughter, Warbucks has decided to enlist the help of the only man who can rescue Annie: Dick Tracy.

“As a lifelong admirer of Annie, I felt the need to unravel her disappearance,” says Curtis, who’s helmed “Dick Tracy” with Staton since March 2011. Curtis’ previous writing credits include “Richie Rich” and “Casper the Friendly Ghost” for Harvey Comics.

“Joe and I have planned Annie’s rescue for some time, and we’ll deliver action-packed, over-the-top thrills and chills as the two features combine their casts for what we hope will be the most historic tale in comic strip history,” Curtis says.

Staton says this story arc is a dream come true for him. “Whether I’m working in the DC, Marvel or any other universe, it’s always a privilege to be standing on the shoulders of so many giants,” he says. The artist, who’s been drawing comics for many years and has more than 1,000 credits under his belt, is perhaps best known for his work with the Green Lantern series, for which he created several alien Green Lanterns, including Kilowog, Salakk and Arisia.

“Dick Tracy” was created by Chester Gould, and “Little Orphan Annie” created by his friend Harold Gray. Both are owned and trademarked properties of Tribune Content Agency. Fans across the country, as well as the industry, have given the creative team of Staton and Curtis high marks for having breathed new life into the iconic adventure strip. “Dick Tracy” won the comics world’s signature Harvey Award in 2013 for Best Syndicated Strip. The strip is produced by artist Staton and writer Curtis, along with inker Shelley Pleger, colorist Shane Fisher and technical consultant Sgt. Jim Doherty.

For more details, use our Response Form and we’ll provide you with contact information for Mike Curtis “Dick Tracy” writer and Leigh Hanlon, Associate Editor.  (I don’t want to post their email’s here for a spam bot to pick up)

Flattop Junior’s Car

Fifty-seven and a half years after it’s destruction, Flattop Junior’s car has returned.  Swindler and murderer Silver Nitrate and his sister Sprocket are on the run from the police and have just the vehicle to escape, the sweet ride of the late Flattop Jr!

NitrateCarIntroduced in March of 1956, the teenage son of Flattop was a mechanical genius who modified his ride with features well ahead of his time. Sporting a dash-board fridge, passenger side television and safe, with a running water sink and a hot plate stove in the back, young Jones and his passenger Joe Period lived for a time in the car, listening to tunes on a hi-fi LP record player.  Everything was available at the push of a button and hid back into the vehicle just as easily.  To help keep ahead of the cops, Flattop Jr. also installed a short wave radio scanner, bulletproof glass and a hidden emergency brake to keep the vehicle where he left it.

FlattopInCarThe Junior Jones’s car is one of the well remembered technical marvels created by Chester Gould.  It reminds some of the James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, but that spy-mobile didn’t come about until Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger in 1959 (the movie came later) so Flattop’s vehicle has seniority.  As an interesting side note, Fleming was also the author of another well-known car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which he wrote for his son Caspar.

As if often the case of these engineering marvels, destruction occured.  Flattop Jr’s awesome car was trapped inside an abandoned theater when police surrounded him and he chose to burn the theater down.  The vehicle was torched with very little besides the frame surviving.  Still it allowed the teenage criminal cover to escape…for a time.  Now it appears the vehicle has been restored to its original glory and will once again take part in a classic Dick Tracy chase, which begs the question, where do Silver and Sprocket put their Hyena, Lena?


Captain Video with Vitamin Flintheart

CaptainVideoTitleFrom a mountaintop in the distant future, citizen-scientist Captain Video and his Video Rangers battle the evil of the Astroidal Society preserve peace in the future.  This was the plot of a nightly science fiction show, featuring outlandish weapons and high-tech gizmos.  Captain Video we now know was also aging thespian Vitamin Flintheart’s debut in show business!  Wandering into the DuMont building, Flintheart was cast as one of the Captain’s Video Rangers, but sadly footage of the film was lost…until now!

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On Stage, Mary Perkins!

MaryPerkinsIn classic Mike Curtis fashion, today’s Dick Tracy Sunday features Mary Perkins from the On Stage comic strip.  It looks as though Mary will be co-starring with Vitamin Flintheart, (Perhaps they are doing King Lear).  This marks another retired Tribune Media Services strip crossover, a great way to keep the old strips alive.  The On Stage strip was always well drawn and Joe Staton does a great job duplicating Mary’s look for the panels of Dick Tracy.

MaryPerkinsOn Stage, Mary Perkins was written by Leonard Starr and ran from Feb 10th, 1957 to September 9, 1979.  The strip was a soap opera style backstage broadway drama that followed the career of actress Mary Perkins.  Filming in New York, Hollywood and on international sets across the world, On Stage also brought us adventure and humor to keep the drama from getting to deep.  Unfortunately for Mary, the strip came to conclusion with Leonard left to take over Little Orphan Annie.  Some of you may remember, the Annie strip crossed over into Dick Tracy in 2013, so now two of Starr’s works are in the Tracy universe, Mary and Annie could meet!.  Classic Comic Press has been releasing collected volumes of On Stage.