The Saturday Comic: Milt Caniff’s Male Call

11 May

May 11, 2013


Milt Caniff is legendary for Terry and The Pirates. During World War Two, to honor the soldiers, he did a second, separate Terry and The Pirates strip featuring more women in less clothes. Well, the syndicators of the strip had a problem with that (wonder why?) and so Milt created Male Call, exclusively for the armed forces.

From Wikipedia, which is a disgrace to edia’s everywhere:

To contribute to the war effort, Caniff decided to draw a weekly comic strip and make it available at no cost to military camp newspapers. The Camp Newspaper Service was launched to syndicate Caniff’s weekly page and contributions from other civilians. For CNS, Caniff created a unique version of his Terry and the Pirates, completely different in content from his regular daily and Sunday strips for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. It premiered October 11, 1942. Minus Terry, the CNS version focused on beautiful adventuress Burma, and she was seen in single-page situations rather than a continuity storyline. After three months, however, The Miami Herald objected to this competing use of the character and complained to the Tribune Syndicate. The military spin-off version of Terry and the Pirates came to an end on January 10, 1943.

To launch Male Call two weeks later, Caniff introduced a new character, Miss Lace, a sexy, sophisticated, dark-haired woman who mixed with the GIs at an American base somewhere in China. Comics historian Don Markstein described the Male Call characters:

Miss Lace, who replaced Burma, was designed as the opposite of the earlier character — black-haired as opposed to Burma’s blonde; innocent as opposed to Burma’s world-wisdom; and always soft and sweet, as opposed to Burma’s sometimes flinty exterior… The only character to carry over from Burma’s run was eager young PFC J. Snafroid McGoolty, a very minor player, but also the only recurring named character besides Lace herself… Her adventures tended to be a bit on the risqué side — never to the point of totally unambiguous sexual romps, but enough to draw an occasional complaint from a blue-nose type. These rare complaints were ignored, however, as the vast bulk of reader response was thoroughly enthusiastic. Along with George Baker’s Sad Sack, Bill Mauldin’s Willie & Joe and Dr. Seuss’ Private Snafu, Lace was among the most celebrated of World War II’s military-related cartoon characters. In fact, she may have been the first comic strip character to appear on television — during July, 1945, New York City’s WNBT interviewed Caniff, during the course of which model Dorothy Partington appeared in the role of Lace.

The strip was a gag-a-week series aimed at boosting the morale of servicemen and was oriented towards mild humor and pin-up art. Given its reading demographic, the content was somewhat racier than was permitted in mainstream civilian publications. Nevertheless, the strip still had to pass muster with military censors.

The Camp Newspaper Service distributed the strip to more than 3000 military base newspapers, the largest number of individual papers in which any single comic strip has appeared. Male Call did not appear in any civilian newspapers.


Click to enlarge.



3 Responses to “The Saturday Comic: Milt Caniff’s Male Call”

  1. Daniel Appleton (@WillyAdama) May 11, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    I remember Steve Canyon, I am somewhat familiar with Terry & the Pirates. I TRULY wish I was old enough to remember ” Male Call “. 😉


    • bmj2k May 11, 2013 at 12:23 am #

      I know Steve Canyon a little better too, but Terry and The Pirates is even more of a classic. (Even had a radio show.)


  2. T E Stazyk May 12, 2013 at 5:09 am #

    Probably did as much for morale as Bob Hope!


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