Milton Caniff was a legendary cartoonist, influencing generations of cartoonists. So, it seemed only natural to my teenage mind that I write to him for advice on cartooning. Who knew that he would write back? And actually fulfill the request of an original. This particular piece of art was the first cartoonist's original art that I'd ever seen:
It was full of visual advice—to see the line work, the brush work, the ben day pattern shading (where you see the yellow-brown splotches is the remaining adhesive from where the ben-day dots once were, but over the years have fallen off).
The white-out! What a lesson. Lots of white-out! Not every line has to be perfect the first time around!
And the size. I knew already that cartoonists worked larger than print size, but 300%? This art was 3 times the size of what we saw in the paper! It's amazing how the detail holds up in reproduction. Below you will see the comparative sizes.
And his letter was warm and encouraging. I see by the date on the letter that I was only 15, but yes, I had submitted a comic strip feature idea to a syndicate. It was to be stories about science—not fiction, but fascinating portrayals of true stories of science. I sent a synopsis and some samples of the first intended story, that of Percival Lowell and his amazing perceptions of the canals of Mars.
I really think I did a decent story line and my art samples don't even embarrass me now. Yet all I got from the syndicate was a form rejection, supplying no encouragement whatsoever.
Hearing from Milton Caniff, though, was hugely encouraging—not knowing that I was fulfilling a cartoonists' tradition, as experienced and portrayed here by Caniff, himself: