Ah, the end of the 1940’s, when women had “intuition” and men who had fought “the Japs” pined for the excitement of a military life. Milt Caniff sketches an era of arch-eyebrowed villainesses with hearts of gold, and heroes who are almost as quick with a witticism as with their fists. Muscular and lantern-jawed, Steve Canyon considers himself a cowboy of the airways, seeking adventure in the cockpit of a plane as the owner of Horizons Unlimited, a freelance international shipping concern. According to his secretary, Steve is a nearly-bankrupt ne’er-do-well whose charm won’t protect him much longer from mounting debt and a seemingly terminal lack of gainful employment. Just as the situation begins to look bleak, Steve and his band of ex-military pals are handed a break in the form of a shipping job for the proud and high-handed Copper Calhoon. Debt and a love of adventure call Steve away from Copper’s side to assist a mining company in transporting some equipment before this relationship can blossom. Steve is once again catapulted into a scene of international high jinks, caught in a web of lies and treachery by gangster Big Red and her unwilling accomplice, the beautiful Delta. Just as Steve begins to see past Delta’s deceptions to the smart and sensitive woman within, they are separated as Steve embarks on a world tour at the whim of a newly-made millionaire. Steve is still not safe from plots and counter plots in the third episode of our story, but he has finally found a woman who wants neither to kill him, nor to disappear… too bad she’s one of those confounded know-it-all woman doctors! The Steve Canyon stories are all “ripping good yarns” which retain most of the humor and excitement for modern readers that they elicited when first published in 1947. Characters in Caniff’s stories all eventually defy the stereotypes they at first seem to embody, lending this post-war story an interesting complexity, and plenty of unexpected twists.

Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon: 1947
ISBN: 9780971024991
by Milton Caniff
Checker Book Publishing Group 2003

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