Monday, September 12, 2011

The Complete Terry and the Pirates, Volume 1: 1934-1936

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Adventure (Best of the Rest)
Contains: All "Terry and the Pirates" comic strips, 1934-1936
Year: 1934-1936
Publisher: Originally: Newspapers, This Edition: IDW
Writer: Milton Caniff
Artist: Milton Caniff

Here we are back at it guys, after a bit of an unintentional break.  This volume was massive, containing two years worth of material and coming in at 300+ pages!

Our adventure begins when Terry Lee, a young American boy, arrives in China with a map supposedly leading to his grandfather's fortune in treasure.  He comes with friend and adventurer Pat Ryan and the two soon meet with a fun little Chinese chap named George Webster Confucius, who joins them and who they affectionately begin calling "Connie".  The trio meet with all sorts of broads, toughs, pirates, savages, and the like as they set out on their adventures.

I'll be the first to admit that I've not read many comic strips as opposed to comic books, maybe aside from the occasional Garfield or Peanuts from time to time.  When I set about serious reading of sequential art, they don't strike me as entertaining or captivating as the traditional comic books, with the latter having their superheroes, often more serious subject matter, and themes that simply more often interest me.  We do have to admit, though, our beloved comic books have their roots in this sort of art and when I set out to do this blog, I wanted to cover it all.

Whatever the case, Terry and the Pirates was not as hard to read as I thought it would be before cracking the covers of this huge tome.  Despite a bit of a racist tone toward some ethnicities, the strip seemingly tries to make up for that with the loveable Connie, the Chinese adventurer who's always there to help out Pat and Terry, make us laugh, and who's always cast in a good light as a tried-and-true confidant to the American adventurers.

When I was able to look past that drawback, I got a story that was, despite my expectations, readable.  Me being used to comic BOOKS, as I said, leads me to have the thought that these two years of material could have been wrapped up in about 4 to 5 atory arcs in today's comics, but there were parts that were full of excitement and adventure, making the book hard to close at some points.

We can see Caniff coming into his own through the course of this volume.  The tales get more taut and exciting as we move through the work and the characters develop and we, as readers begin to get edgy about their safety, cheer their battles, and care for them.

Caniff pens and draws what I've come to accept as a great genesis to one of the most hailed adventure strips in the history of the medium.  And though I'll not be beating down the doors of the library or trolling Amazon looking for further volumes, this stringent reader of comic BOOKS was entertained enough to say that this definitely is a strip worthy of research if you want to broaden your horizons in the history of sequential art.

A worthwhile work of an oft-mentioned creator whose name us scourers of the medium will come across more than once.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My Rating: 3 out of 5
6 down, 494 to go


  1. Good stuff! I wouldn't expect to like this at all, if I were to read it. But speaking of Garfield or Peanuts, I wonder if any of those are included in the "500 Essential Graphic Novels". I'll go look right now. Great stuff dude, glad you, at least, semi enjoyed it.

  2. I thought I might recall seeing a Peanuts book on there. Hmmm... Maybe not, though. Can't remember and don't have the list in front of me.

    Anyways, yeah... When I got to the library (where I got it from to read) and saw the size of that book, I thought, "Man! I'm gonna hate this and it's huge and it's comic strips and I just wanna cry! Waaaah!" ;)

    But it actually was entertaining. Looking back, I think Caniff did a great job of mixing the intrigue, excitement, and laughs to the point that I didn't mind it much. Again, not my favorite thing in the world, but worthy of at least a look-through for anyone interested in the medium.