I’ve been working my way through Will Eisner’s Shop Talk, a collection of interviews he did with several of the industry’s greatest artists. In the interview with Milton Caniff, creator of Terry and the Pirates, Caniff brought up the evolution of work of the artist Noel Sickles.
Sickles began as an artist for the comic strip Scorchy Smith, but his editors forced him to imitate the style of its creator, John Terry. It was not until Terry died that Sickles had the freedom to work in his own way. Still he was told to move into it gradually. Between 1935-1936, you can see how the strip changes into Sickles style.
In the beginning the style is dominated by a stiff pen line and halftone. Blacks are use sparingly until a few months later. Sickles begins uses bold blacks. In a couple panels the plane is merely suggested by its shadows. By mid 1936, the shift has been made from a hard line style to an impressionistic one. Deep shadows and silhouettes are now staples. Not only has he brought a new level of detail and draftsmanship to the strip, but he has also brought a strong atmosphere to each panel.
These are not the strips they used in the book, I tried to find the best examples I could online. This had a big influence on Caniff’s style. It’s cool to see the shift all laid out like this, and I just wanted to share.