FEATURES

For the Love of Steve Canyon

Milton Caniff colored and personalized this black and white print of Steve Canyon for Richard A. Bauman in 1952.

Richard A. Bauman’s decades-long obsession with the Steve Canyon comic strip began in 1947 with a simple gesture of love by his then fiancee, Dorothy Schmalz. Bauman, a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, served in the Merchant Marines during the latter part of World War II. As crewman aboard a liberty ship, he helped deliver massive amounts of cargo across the Atlantic in support of allied forces. For a time, he was even stationed in a floating warehouse harbored at Normandy. Shortly after returning to the U.S., Bauman met the love of his life.

“He said he knew he loved her the moment he saw her,” Elizabeth Simpson, the couple’s oldest child, recalled in 2013. “I said to him, 'How did you know Mum was the one?' He goes, 'I knew instantaneously she was the one for me.' He met her at church. Somebody had set them up. She couldn't come the first week because she had the flu or a cold. So, he went back the second week and there she was. And they never looked back." To earn money for their upcoming marriage, Bauman continued working as a merchant seaman, picking up jobs that often took him away for months at a stretch. While he was on shore though, Bauman discovered a second love, the new Steve Canyon comic strip.

Steve Canyon debuted January 13, 1947 in 168 newspapers across the U.S. The strip’s title character was a rough-and- ready Army Air Corps veteran, who ran his own air-transport business. This allowed him to trot across the globe, experience adventures and encounter a bevy of exotic femme fatales. The strip was the brainchild of cartoonist Milton Caniff, creator of Terry and the Pirates, the widely influential comic strip of the 1930s and 1940s. In a 2013 interview, Bruce Canwell, associate editor of The Library of American Comics, which is currently reprinting the Steve Canyon series, called Caniff one of the three most significant artists in the history of adventure strips.

“Alex Raymond of Flash Gordon and Hal Foster of Tarzan and Prince Valiant and Milton Caniff are usually considered the troika,” Canwell said. “Caniff out of that threesome is looked upon as part of the pinnacle because, (a) he refined chiaroscuro artistic approach, which emphasizes the use of blacks and whites to create effects of light and shadow that basically revolutionized a whole school of artistic thought within comics, and (b), even though he was trailblazing on the artistic side, he realized that story and characterization were paramount. So he continued to put a great deal of effort and a lot of successful effort into developing well-rounded characters and putting them in interesting, sometimes humorous, sometimes very dramatic situations because the goal always was to make the person buy the paper the next day to find out what happened next."

One of those readers captivated by Caniff’s storytelling was Bauman, who in 1947 was about to leave on a months-long cruise to deliver cargo to China. He worried about missing out on Steve’s latest adventure. Simpson recalled in 2013 Bauman’s angst over his departure, a story that had become a piece of family lore.

“He told my mother, 'I hate to leave you, but I really hate to leave Steve Canyon cause he's in the middle of some kind of crisis,’” Simpson said. “And so, my mother took that as a hint and she cut [the strips] out for him. I think she even put them in a book of some kind. She didn't paste them, but she made sure that they were there so that he could read them when he came back from the trip he'd taken on whatever merchant ship it was." When Bauman returned to New England, he was thrilled at Schmalz’s loving gesture and scrambled to track down the previous six weeks of the strip so that he would have a complete run. Bauman and Schmalz got married on June 4, 1948, and would go on to raise four children.

Bauman enjoyed adding to the string of strips started by his then fiancee’s loving gesture following his time away. It’s fitting then that it was Dorothy Bauman who took the collection into a new realm by writing a letter to Steve Canyon’s creator.

Aug. 13, 1952 Dear Mr. Caniff;

My husband has followed the adventures of Steve Canyon since he first came into being almost six years ago. He has clipped every daily and Sunday issue ever published.

His birthday comes this month, so I’ve been wondering if you’d do me a favor. He’d be very thrilled, I know, to own an original sketch direct from you, of Steve or his favorite girl character, Deen Wilderness.

I hope you’ll feel able to add just a little more to the already complete collection of a most ardent follower of your Steve Canyon.
Thank you very much.

Very truly yours,
Dorothy H. Bauman
(Mrs. Richard A. Bauman)

Shortly thereafter, a package arrived from Caniff containing two pieces of artwork. The first was a hand-colored print of Steve Canyon wearing a flight suit with the message: “Steve Canyon for Richard Bauman — with hearty congratulations on his birthday — Very best wishes from Milton Caniff, New York August 1952.” Over the years, Caniff received many requests from readers for original artwork. To keep up with demand, he had a number of character prints created that he would personalize, sign and send out. The first piece that the Baumans received in 1952 was typical of these types of prints.

Original pencil & ink drawing of Steve Canyon comic strip for Tuesday, March 6, 1951.

The second piece of artwork was something altogether different. It was the original pen and ink drawing from the March 6, 1951 installment of Steve Canyon. The four-panel sequence featured an emotional exchange between Deen Wilderness and her lover Breck Nazaire from the “Operation Fool Ling” storyline. Caniff added the message: “For Richard Bauman — On his birthday — Best Wishes Milton Caniff N.Y Aug. 1952.” Caniff’s response to Dorothy was generous but was also typical of the famed cartoonist’s interactions with fans.

“He had a very keen eye on his audience for many decades and he knew what to do,” Canwell said. “In fact, he had a full-time office assistant, Adelaide Gilchrest, for many years. And Adelaide's job basically was to do all the administrivia and to make sure that he was on top of all the fan mail, because he recognized just how important it was to be connected to the fan community." Canwell pointed out that comic strip fans of the 1940s and 1950s were very different from the pop culture fans that we see these days.

“Today there are so many organized fan cultures and fans subcultures,” Canwell said. “None of that was organized back then.” The syndicated Steve Canyon strip was seen by tens of millions of readers every day. Even if a half a percentage of those millions of readers wrote to Caniff that was still a sizable number of people corresponding with the artist. “He sliced across a lot of demographics of people who would either get his address and write to him directly or write to their papers, and the editors at the newspapers would forward along anything that was an interesting perspective or an interesting request,” Canwell said.

Richard Bauman was understandably delighted by his birthday gift and wrote a thank you note to the artist.

August 25, 1952 Dear Mr. Caniff:

I would like to thank you for your drawing of “Steve” and the original strip of “Dr. Wilderness.” Needless to say they come as a wonderful surprise and they certainly make the complete collection, that I consider one of my prize possessions, really complete.

You can imagine how pleased Mrs. Bauman was to receive your package to present on my birthday. Besides helping me along my collection by writing to you, she has been a big factor in my never missing a single Steve Canyon strip. I go to sea as Chief Mate in the Merchant Marine and no matter where my travels take me, when I return home all the issues that I have missed are waiting for me and I can follow along with the action from where I left “Steve.”

Thanking you again for your kindness. Sincerely,
Richard A. Bauman

On Aug. 11, 1954, Dorothy Bauman wrote to Caniff again to request artwork, this time sending the letter directly to the cartoonist’s Rockland County, N.Y., address.

Dear Mr. Caniff,

Two years ago I wrote asking you for a drawing of Steve Canyon for my husband’s birthday. You very generously sent a full-color drawing of Steve and an original of a daily comic strip.

The drawing of Steve has been framed and now hangs on our living room wall. Needless to say, my husband treasures both the drawing and the comic strip.

We’ve cut the Steve Canyon strip from over a dozen different newspapers and even have one in a foreign language. In the seven and a half years that we’ve saved the strip, we haven’t missed a single issue.

I wonder if it would be possible for you to send for my husband’s birthday (Aug. 16) this year, an original of a colored Sunday strip.

Thank you very much. Very truly yours,
Dorothy H. Bauman
(Mrs. Richard A. Bauman)

Once again, Caniff responded to Dorothy Bauman’s request, sending along the original artwork for the Sunday, April 27, 1952 installment of Steve Canyon. The nine-panel page features Steve as he travels to the Aleutian Islands to recover a sunken guided missile as part of the “Operation Stray” storyline. The page was signed: “For Dick Bauman — Happy Birthday 1954!! Best wishes from your Dorothy — and Milton Caniff N.Y. Aug. 16, 1954.”

Original pencil & ink drawing of Steve Canyon comic strip for Sunday, April 27, 1952.

The artwork arrived at their South Dartmouth, Massachusetts home the day before Richard Bauman’s birthday and he penned a thank you note to Caniff.

“Even our recent hurricane didn’t interrupt my Steve Canyon collection — The Boston Daily Record being delivered — even though the yacht I was captain of was completely wrecked by [Hurricane] “Carol,” Bauman wrote. “Looking forward to further adventures of Steve and thanking you again.”

Milton Caniff colored and personalized this black and white print of Miss Mizzou for 9 Richard A. Bauman in 1956.

Having twice been successful in securing artwork for her husband’s birthday from his favorite comic strip artist, Dorothy Bauman again wrote to Caniff two years later. In response, the artist sent along a hand- colored print of Miss Mizzou, the popular blonde bombshell who frequently flirted with Canyon wearing nothing but high heels and a trench coat. It was signed: “Miss Mizzou for Richard Bauman, with very best wishes. Milton Caniff N.Y. 1956.

Years later, Simpson recalled her father’s affection for the character. “He liked Miss Mizzou because she always lost her clothes,” she said. “He just thought that was very funny.” By this time, Steve Canyon was no longer a high-flying civilian pilot but instead a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. At the outbreak of the Korean War, Caniff chose to return his hero to uniform and the character remained a member of the armed forces for most of the rest of the strip’s life.

Bauman too became a member of the military. Thanks to a new law that allowed him to apply his experience in the Merchant Marines and as a member of the Naval Reserve, he entered U.S. Coast Guard as an officer. He went on to serve in Vietnam during the 1960s and eventually rose to the rank of rear admiral before he retired in 1983. "He had an unusual military career,” said Richard A. Bauman Jr. in 2013. “We started off in New England. Both my folks were from Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The three oldest children were born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and then he went into the Coast Guard in 1957 and shortly there after a year or so, he got transferred down to Portsmouth, Virginia.”

The next stop for the family was Savannah, Georgia for a three-year deployment, then back to Portsmouth for another job. While frequent travel was typical for most military families, the nature of Richard Bauman’s assignments kept him in the Tidewater region of Virginia for a good portion of his career. Richard Bauman’s interest in the military and uniforms in particular inspired Dorothy Bauman’s next art request in December 1957. She asked Caniff if he could draw Canyon in his full-dress uniform with all of his service ribbons on display. Caniff complied with an original four-color drawing with the message: “Steve Canyon all dressed up — for Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Bauman with all good wishes from the tailor ... Milton Caniff N.Y. Jan. 1958.”

Milton Caniff drew this original sketch for Richard A. Bauman in 1958. The drawing is the first time Steve Canyon appears with all of his service ribbons.

“The one where he did all the service ribbons, after Caniff did that for my father, he actually appeared in the comic strip with his full-dress uniform on," said Richard A. Bauman Jr., recalling the first piece of personalized artwork Caniff sent to his father. "Before that, he'd always just worn I think one row or a few of his ribbons, the top ones. I guess after Milton Caniff did all the research, he figured I might as well put it in the comic strips.”

Into the 1960s, Richard Bauman continued to clip Steve Canyon strips and paste them into his growing scrapbook collection. “Every Sunday, he would paste in the weeklies and then do the Sunday, so that there were six weeklies, I think, on the left-hand side and then the right-hand side of the scrapbook was the full page Sunday comic,” Simpson said. “He had paste and he'd sit there and paste them. He liked them to be neat and on the paper.”

Whenever the Coast Guard transferred Bauman to a new duty station, the collection would travel with the family. "Then it got too big to go into the car with us, so he would pay especially to have it shipped in a box and was fire resistant and everything else,” Simpson said. “It meant a lot to him and so it was shipped special, probably shipped separate or sometimes shipped with our household goods, but it was always in a separate box."

On family vacations, the Baumans would travel to Massachusetts to visit relatives or head to Civil War battlefields, such as Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. A portion of each trip would be spent tracking down the latest strip. "Camping was a cheap way of doing things in those days,” said Richard A. Bauman Jr. “Dad would know which newspapers had Steve Canyon. You'd be out in the middle of Timbuktu someplace looking for particular paper to make sure he got the Steve Canyon comic strip.” The hero of that strip was doing his own bit of traveling in the early 1960s. Just as Caniff had Terry Lee of Terry and the Pirates join the Army Air Corps during World War II, he sent Steve Canyon to Vietnam in 1964 to help stave off the “Red Menace.”

With the exception of the 1967 story “Generation Gap” and 1968’s “The Mechanical Woman,” which were both Vietnam-based stories, most of the strip’s involvement in Vietnam concerned Steve passing through the country on the way to another adventure. Such was the case on Sunday, Aug. 7, 1966, when Steve is shown walking by a large sign with the insignia for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Squadron 1. Coincidentally, that was the same squadron Richard Bauman would be joining a year later for a 13-month deployment.

Stationed in Saigon, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Bauman was in command of 13 Coast Guard 82-footers in support of the U.S. Navy’s Operation Market Time. Each ship had a 12-member crew plus a South Vietnamese Army petty officer. The unit’s primary duty was to prevent smuggling along the coast. The most significant action Richard Bauman saw during his time in Vietnam occurred in the wake of the Tet Offensive. On the night of Feb. 29-March 1, 1968, two of the ships under his command — Point Welcome and Point Grey — helped prevent the infiltration of an enemy steel-hulled trawler. Following a firefight, the trawler ran aground and exploded, littering the patrol boats with debris. No one was injured, but the forward pilothouse windows on Point Welcome, the ship Richard Bauman was on, were shattered by the blast. Following that action, he was awarded a the Bronze Star with Combat “V.”

Understandably, Richard Bauman’s deployment to Vietnam created a great deal of stress for the family. Adding in training and travel time, he was gone for a total of 15 months. “It was very difficult for my mother during this whole time because she was raising four kids, for heaven's sake,” Simpson said. “She'd wake up in the middle of the night screaming and we knew that she was having a dream that something had happened to my father."

Every day during the deployment, the couple wrote to each other. As Richard’s August 1967 birthday approached, he suggested in a letter that Dorothy contact Caniff to see if he could send him a new drawing as a gift. By that time, though, the wheels toward the creation of another unique piece of artwork were already turning.

16 July 1967

Dear Mr. Caniff,

I have written to you on three previous occasions, the last in December of 1957, requesting sketches of STEVE CANYON. You have always been most generous in fulfilling my requests. I wonder if I might impose on you once more, this time with a request for a 10x14 sketch of STEVE in a foul weather jacket with a Coast Guard Squadron One patch on the upper left hand side.

Please allow me to take a few minutes of your time to explain why I am making this seemingly strange request. My husband, LCDR Richard A. Bauman, is now serving on the staff of Coast Guard Squadron One in Saigon. His birthday is on August 16th and I can think of nothing that would please him more than another picture of STEVE to add to his collection. The three sketches you’ve sent in the past have been hanging on the wall of our den for well over ten years now. They are among his most treasured possessions and he never fails to show them to anyone who visits our home for the first time.

His STEVE CANYON collection remains complete. He has not missed a single daily or Sunday strip since STEVE first came into being in December of 1946 [Editor’s note: Steve Canyon debuted on Jan. 13, 1947]. STEVE is “housed” here in some 50-odd scrapbooks. I have inherited the task of cutting out and saving each strip for the year that he will be in Vietnam. We will probably end up with two sets of STEVE for most of this year as my husband cuts them out of STARS and STRIPES as often as he gets a copy of the newspaper.

STEVE in a Squadron One jacket would not be as strange as it might seem, as a few months ago our newspaper, THE VIRGINIAN PILOT- LEDGER DISPATCH ran a photo of General [William] Westmoreland wearing just such a jacket. It had been given to him by members of one of the Coast Guard Divisions in Vietnam.

To save you a lot of research time, I am enclosing a small sketch of a Squadron One patch. As you can readily see, I am no artist, but the sketch will give you a rough idea of what one looks like.

I sincerely hope that you can find the time in your busy schedule to fill my request.

Very Truly Yours,

Dorothy H. Bauman

Caniff was pleased to hear from Dorothy again and quickly produced the artwork she requested. “It warms my heart to know that you and your husband, Commander Bauman, continue to be such devoted followers of STEVE CANYON and it is my pleasure to add to your collection of pictures with the attached greetings from STEVE on the occasion of your husband’s birthday,” wrote Caniff, in a letter accompanying the artwork.

As a special request from Dorothy Bauman, Milton Caniff drew this birthday wish for Richard A. Bauman, who was stationed in South Vietnam at the time.

 

 

 

Milton Caniff included a handwritten note with the original artwork he sent to Dorothy Bauman in 1967.

Just as Caniff had created an original four-color drawing for the Baumans 10 years before, he drew a brand-new image of Steve Canyon, an Air Force officer, wearing a Coast Guard foul-weather jacket with a Squadron 1 insignia. “Sir, permission to come aboard — slightly out of uniform .. to wish Commander Bauman a Happy Birthday!” Steve says with a salute. “Best from STEVE CANYON and his crew chief — Milton Caniff 16 August 1967.”

Dorothy Bauman packed up the artwork and shipped it off to her husband along with a copy of the original letter she’d sent to Caniff. In the margin, she penciled in the following message:

The picture arrived via air mail — special delivery at 1500 9 Aug 1967. Couldn’t mail it right way for I had to have it framed. It’s a little smaller than the others, but was I ever tickled with it!

Don’t let the Navy Cruds steal this! Keep under lock and key!

In reference to your letter #136, written on 23 July 1967 — ‘Why don’t you write to Milton Caniff for my birthday and see what it will produce?’ In the words of Rex Harrison in MY FAIR LADY, ‘Damn, damn, damn, damn!’ I outfoxed you before you thought of it!

All my love,

Dottie

After Richard Bauman returned home and to regular duty, he fell back into the routine of clipping strips and pasting them into notebooks.

His collection of Steve Canyon strips and original artwork received a degree of notoriety locally when the Portsmouth Women’s News and Society page of the Virginian-Pilot published a feature about it on Sunday, March 9, 1969. The article recounted the story of how Dorothy had originally clipped the strip when Richard was traveling in the Merchant Marines and later when he was deployed in Vietnam. It also featured photos of Richard saluting next to his most recent piece of original artwork and the family pasting strips into a notebook. As opposition to the Vietnam War continued to grow in the U.S. in the late 1960s, many newspapers began dropping Steve Canyon, which some perceived as if not pro-war at least pro-military. At the same time, editors were replacing serialized adventure strips with “gag-a-day strips” like Peanuts, which were growing in popularity.

“[Caniff] deliberately tried to end every daily installment of Steve Canyon with a joke, not a joke in the sense of Beetle Bailey, but there would be some witticism or something that was slightly humorous or sometimes really humorous,” said R.C. Harvey, author of Meanwhile ... A Biography of Milton Caniff, in a 2013 interview. “And he was doing this very deliberately because he wanted to compete with the gag-a-day strips without giving up the adventure.”

One effect of all this was that it became increasingly difficult for Richard Bauman to find newspapers that carried Steve Canyon. Interspersed throughout the scrapbooks are numerous mastheads and staff boxes, providing evidence that he was constantly on the lookout for newspapers that continued to publish both the Sunday and daily installments of the strip. A potential solution to Richard Bauman’s problem knocked on his front door one day in the early 1970s. Mark Wheatley was a young paperboy for the Virginian Pilot - Ledger Star. He stopped by the Bauman home one night to collect money for their newspaper subscription when he noticed the Steve Canyon artwork hanging in the family’s living room.

As an adult, Wheatley would become a well-known fantasy illustrator and comic book artist. In the early 1970s, he was just a comic book fan who published his own slick-covered fanzine, Nucleus. Wheatley asked Richard Bauman about the artwork and whether he could reprint some of it in his fanzine. According to Wheatley, Richard Bauman was completely unaware of comic book fan culture and the existence of magazines dedicated the medium. Remember, this was years before the internet or even the widespread existence of comic book shops across the U.S.

Much to Wheatley’s surprise, Richard Bauman gathered up the Steve Canyon and Miss Mizzou prints and the two original drawings and handed them to his paperboy. “I was still fairly fresh to the idea of original art at that time,” Wheatley said in 2015. “So I didn't catch that the Mizzou was a print until I saw another one, many years later.”

Whether this chance encounter was what introduced Richard Bauman to world of comic art fandom remains unclear, but throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he sought out fanzines and comics publications like Strip Scene, Near Mint, Caniffites (later renamed The Caniffites Journal) and The Comics Buyer’s Guide. When Kitchen Sink began reprinting Steve Canyon as a magazine in 1983, Bauman became a subscriber. He even bought program books from San Diego Comic-Con that featured special artwork by Caniff. Not only did these publications provide an avenue for Richard Bauman to track down strips and receive news about Caniff, they also provided a forum for him to share his love of collecting Steve Canyon with other fans.

“Thanks for running ‘Strip Source.’ It sure saved my collection recently when ‘The Washington Post’ dropped ‘Steve Canyon’ on May 2, 1979 — without notice or apology.” — Strip Scene #9, Fall 1979

“I am really a ‘Steve Canyon’ specialist. I am interested in ‘Terry’ etc. — but not enough to be a collector; however, anything to with Steve Canyon is down my alley!’ — Caniffites Vol. 1, #14, March 1987

“It seems that newspapers cancel ‘Steve’ without warning. The Cumberland, Maryland newspaper that had served me so well for about five years held a ‘comics readers survey.’ That always gives me a nervy feeling! Sure enough, on June 1 ‘Steve Canyon’ was dropped in favor of a ‘consolidated’ comic page of silly drivel. I searched the paper for a month back to try to find some announcement of the upcoming change. Alas, it was totally without warning

“Luckily, we have friends in Savannah, Georgia where my identified back- up paper comes from. A hurry-up telephone call got them to save ‘Steve’ until I could get a subscription to the Savannah Morning News going.

“I’m all right for the present, but my experience of the last ten years tells me that one day the paper will arrive without ‘Steve Canyon.’ I don’t have any idea of a back-up paper if that happens. If you could identify, through Mr. Caniff’s followers, those papers that have an acceptable size daily and full artwork Sunday ‘Steve Canyons,’ I would be grateful.” — Caniffites #21, December 1987-January 1988

The final two pieces of special artwork Caniff drew for Richard Bauman originated not from his wife Dorothy but rather from his Coast Guard colleagues who were familiar with his love of the Steve Canyon comic strip.

Similar to the 1967 drawing, the first piece of new artwork from Caniff shows Steve Canyon saluting Bauman on his departure from commanding the USCGC Ingham in May 1973. The four signal flags spell out “November - Romeo - Delta - Lima” or “NRDL,” which was the Ingham’s radio signal.

The crew of the USCGC Ingham requested this special salute from Milton Caniff as a going- away gift for Richard A. Bauman in 1973.

“When I commanded a large Coast Guard cutter in the early ‘70s, the crew wrote to Milton Caniff upon my departure,” wrote Richard Bauman, in a letter published in the March 1987 issue of Caniffites. “He sent a large drawing of Steve’s head with the ship’s signal flag call sign and the efficiency ‘E’s’ we had won.”

In 1983, Rear Adm. Richard Bauman was wrapping up his assignment as Chief of the Office of Navigation at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., before transferring to Boston to become the new District Commander of the First Coast Guard District. As a going-away present, Capt. Neal Herbert wrote to Caniff to ask for something special. Unlike the prints and previous original artwork that Caniff had sent to the Baumans over the years highlighting characters from Steve Canyon, Herbert asked for a portrait of Richard Bauman in his uniform. Caniff responded with pencil and ink drawing of Richard Bauman in his Coast Guard cap, with two rear admiral stars peeking up from his shirt collar. The artist signed it: “For Dick long-time friend from afar with congratulations and warm good wishes — from Steve Canyon and Milton Caniff 14 June ‘83.”

After presenting the artwork to Richard Bauman at the going-away luncheon, Herbert sent a letter of thanks to Caniff. “You should have been there to see the expression on Rear Admiral Bauman’s face when he received your sketch of him at his farewell luncheon,” he wrote. “He was duly surprised and overwhelmed — it brought a tear from his eye. It was the highlight of the day, and I know he very much appreciated your thoughtfulness.”

Rear Adm. Richard A Bauman is the subject of this 1983 portrait drawn by his favorite comic strip artist, Milton Caniff.

Richard Bauman sent his own letter of thanks for the artwork, which served as a memento as his first assignment as an admiral.

“Your drawing of me is hung just below the Steve Canyon you drew at the request of my ship’s crews a few years ago,” he wrote. “They are much-admired reminders of a couple of prime assignments within the service.”

A few years later, on April 3, 1988, Milton Caniff died in New York City at the age of 81. His assistants, letterer Shel Dorf and penciller Richard Rockwell, completed the final Steve Canyon story shortly thereafter, ending the comic strip’s 41-year run. By the time the last installment of Steve Canyon appeared on Sunday, June 4, 1988, Richard Bauman had filled up 82 scrapbooks with 14,754 daily strips.

“I pasted the final ‘Steve Canyon’ in my scrapbook, never having missed a Sunday or daily strip from the first to the last,” Richard Bauman wrote in Caniffites #35 (June 1989). “I have been told that I shouldn’t have started cutting them out and saving the strips in scrapbooks. The person who told me that had never lived the life of a serviceman. It would exceed your weight limit every government move. The collection takes up enough room as it is. Saving whole newspaper sheets for 42 years would have robbed one of our kids of a bedroom. ... With eighty-plus scrapbooks ready to be reread, I know what I can do to make my retirement enjoyable.” Richard Bauman finished up his Coast Guard career in Boston in 1983. He and Dorothy later moved back to Northern Virginia.

Simpson recalled that her father used to say there were only three things he wanted to do in his life. “He wanted to be married to my mother 50 years,” she said. “He wanted to be an admiral and he wanted to have command of a ship of his own. And all three of them came through. My mother and father were extremely close. ... He said he knew he loved her the moment he saw her.” Dorothy Bauman passed away in 1998 and Richard died in 2005.

Richard Bauman’s Washington Post obituary recounts many career achievements, including his Merchant Marine service during World War II, his deployment in Vietnam, his marriage to Dorothy and how they had raised four children together. It also mentions the Steve Canyon collection and his love for the comic strip. While the collection stands as a testament to Richard Bauman’s dedication, it never explains what it was that kept him a fan of Steve Canyon over its four-decade long run.

“Like anybody, he opened up the paper and you read the comics, but that was the one that really — ‘captivated’ is a good word,” Richard A. Bauman Jr. said. “He was a great military guy. He liked the uniform services. He enjoyed what he was doing and I think he always thought Steve Canyon was a great representative of what the military was all about, so I think that had a lot to do with that.”

Acknowledgements
After many starts and stops, this project took more than six years to complete. As such, many people were generous with their time and patience in helping with my research. First and foremost, I’d like to thank Richard A. Bauman’s family for allowing me to write this story. In particular, I’d like to thank Elizabeth Simpson and Richard A. Bauman Jr. for sharing memories of their parents. This project would never have gotten off the ground without the help of two comic book retailers — Al Stoltz of Basement Comics and Jeff Weaver of Victory Comics. I’d also like to thank Jeff Singh, a true believer in the karma of collecting, for his support and encouragement. For their help in my research, I want to acknowledge the help of R.C. Harvey; Bruce Canwell; Mark Wheatley; Bill Verge, executive director, USCGC INGHAM (WHEC-35 ) Memorial Museum; and Susan Liberator, public services coordinator, at Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.
Bibliography
Bauman, Dorothy H., Letter to Milton Caniff, August 13, 1952, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Bauman, Dorothy H., Letter to Milton Caniff, August 11, 1954, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Bauman, Dorothy H., Letter to Milton Caniff, July 17, 1967.
Bauman, Dorothy H., Letter to Milton Caniff, August 16, 1967, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Bauman, Richard A., Letter to the Editor, Caniffites Vol. 1, #14, March 1987.
Bauman, Richard A., Letter to the Editor, Caniffites #21, December 1987-January 1988.
Bauman, Richard A., Letter to the Editor, Caniffites #35, June 1989. Bauman, Richard A., Letter to the Editor, Strip Scene #9, Fall 1979.
Bauman, Richard A., Letter to Milton Caniff, August 25, 1952, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Bauman, Richard A., Letter to Milton Caniff, August 1954, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Bauman, Richard A., Letter to Milton Caniff, July 19, 1983, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Bauman, Richard A., Jr., Phone Interview, May 29, 2013.
Caniff, Milton, Letter to Richard A. Bauman, March 17, 1969, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Caniff, Milton, Letter to Dorothy H. Bauman, July 26, 1967, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Caniff, Milton, Memo to Dorothy H. Bauman, August 8, 1967.
Caniff, Milton, Letter to Richard A. Bauman, March 22, 1966, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Canwell, Bruce, Phone Interview, March 13, 2013. Harvey, R.C., Phone Interview, August 10, 2013.
Herbert, Neal, Letter to Milton Caniff, April 8, 1983, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Herbert, Neal, Letter to Milton Caniff, June 17, 1983, courtesy Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University.
Larzelere, Alex, The Coast Guard at War: Vietnam 1965-1975; Naval Institute Press, 1997.
Simpson, Elizabeth, Phone Interview June 2, 2013. Verge, Bill, email, June 27, 2015.
Wheatley, Mark, email, April 8, 2013.
FILED UNDER: ,

One Response to For the Love of Steve Canyon

  1. Russ Maheras says:

    Wow! Great article. And Bauman’s tie with Mark Wheatley was pretty wild, as I not only have some of Mark’s early “Nucleus” fanzines, I just talked to Mark at length two days ago at the Baltimore Comicon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *