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Comic Strip / Steve Canyon

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Steve Canyon is an action-adventure comic strip that ran from 1947 to 1988. It was created, written, and drawn by Milton Caniff, the creator of Terry and the Pirates.

Steve Canyon was an ex-Air Force pilot running his own air-transport business, which brought him into contact with a variety of adventures. When The Korean War broke out in real life, Caniff had Steve rejoin the Air Force, where he remained for the rest of the strip's run, transitioning after Korea into Cold War counter-espionage.

In later years, Caniff varied the tone of the strip by interspersing occasional storylines giving the limelight to various members of Steve's supporting cast, in particular his cousin Poteet, who started out as a student and later became a journalist.

The strip inspired a Steve Canyon TV series in the late 1950s, starring Dean Fredericks. Steve Canyon was also one of the comic strip characters included in the 1972 Massive Multiplayer Crossover The Man Who Hated Laughter.

This series provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Steve, of course, but many others show up in the strip's long run.
  • Eagle Squadron: One extended storyline placed Steve in charge of "The Dragonflies" flying against a "puppet government" in China.
  • Da Editor: "Iron" Myke, the editor of the newspaper Poteet starts working for.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Steve smoked a pipe, to show that he wasn't your usual rough-and-tumble pilot. He was a thinking man's fighter jock.
  • Headgear Headstone: When Milton Caniff died, the last strip to run was a tribute including a panel by Bill Mauldin. This showed Mauldin's World War II soldier Willie sticking a rifle-sized pen into the ground while Steve, in flight suit, set a pilot's helmet atop the pen. (The rest of the tribute was the signatures of twenty or thirty other cartoonists.)
  • Remember the Alamo: Parodied. Steve was having a dream, chock-full of anachronisms, about being part of Perry's 1850s expedition to open up Japan. When a quarrel with the local authorities began, he suggested the ambassador say "Remember Pearl Harbor!" as a "So there!" The ambassador used it and then asked Steve, "Where the heck is Pearl Harbor?"
  • Scamming the Bereaved: In one of the storylines surrounding Poteet Canyon's college days, one of her fellow students goes looking for a part-time job and is recruited by a pair of conmen running this scam, who plan to use him as a fall guy if they hit trouble.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In one storyline, Steve's cargo company has to choose a film to show the princess of Not-Tibet what America is really like. They eventually settle on The Best Years of Our Lives.
    • A 1981 Sunday strip has Steve dreaming of fighting in the dying days of World War I, and attempting and failing to flee a German pilot looking to finish off his damaged plane. Steve is saved by the engagement of another pilot in a Sopwith Camel, and as he waves to his benefactor, the benefactor waves back with a distinctly canine paw.note 
  • Weapon Tombstone: When Caniff died, the final installment of the strip was followed by a tribute from his fellow cartoonists, featuring a depiction by Bill Mauldin of a weapon tombstone in which the weapon was an enormous pen.