Milton Caniff

The new cartoon art mural titled “The Sky’s the Limit!” at San Diego’s International Airport was unveiled on Memorial Day weekend 2011 and pays homage to San Diego’s rich aviation and comic art histories. A caricature of Comic-Con Founder Shel Dorf and airborne characters Steve Canyon, Snoopy, and Phil Yeh’s Winged Tiger are featured along side cartooned versions of pilots and aircraft from Lindbergh Field . This tribute to the friendly skies and imagination is located on the Sky Bridge at Terminal 1.


In 1983, fan Charlie Roberts sent Milton Caniff a request for a sketch of the Dragon Lady character from the Terry and the Pirates comic strip and enclosed a check for it, hoping it would be adequate. On May 11, 1983, Milt did Charlie’s sketch while talking to Shel Dorf and being videotaped by Tom French. He also signed Charlie’s check over to the National Cartoonist Society’s Milt Gross fund for cartoonists in need. Here’s video of that informal “chalk talk.”

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The following video is from the Shel Dorf Archives and was kindly made available by Charlie Roberts. The interview was originally videotaped by Tom French, who ran the San Diego Comic-Con dealers room for many years. At the time of the interview, Shel was the letterer for Caniff’s comic strip Steve Canyon. The interview is divided into eleven parts and there is a description of the highlights of each part following the video player.


Shel Dorf was a great fan of Milton Caniff, creator of comic strips Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon. It was a fan’s dream come true when Caniff hired him to letter the Steve Canyon strip, which Shel did from 1977 to 1988. An earlier fan thrill for Shel came when Caniff modeled a recurring character in Steve Canyon after him. The character was football-player Thud Shelley. The following image is of a page Shel sent to Richard Alf. (Richard, at age seventeen, helped Shel start San Diego’s Comic-Con International back in 1969, at which time it was known as San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con.)


Charlie Roberts, Southern California Cartoonist Society Member, writes about working and being friends with Shel, Milton Caniff, Comic-Con 1983, and more.


Shel Dorf’s cousin Donna Horwitz remembers good times with Shel when they were children, his saving of comic strips in scrapbooks, Milt Caniff putting Dorf family members in his strip, Shel’s love of family, friends and San Diego, and his pride and happiness over his “baby,” Comic-Con.