Facebook pixel Yezbick, Colleague Receive Caswell Research Award

Yezbick, Colleague Receive Caswell Research Award

Daniel F. Yezbick, Ph.D., a recognized media studies scholar, and a professor of English at St. Louis Community College at Wildwood, is a 2023 co-recipient of the Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award. 

This award, which is presented by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (BICLM) in concert with The Ohio State University Libraries, is named for Emerita Lucy Shelton Caswell, a professor and the founding curator of the celebrated archive. 

Daniel YezbickYezbick co-wrote his proposal with Christina M. Knopf, Ph.D., a professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) Cortland, and an internationally recognized military historian and scholar of gender and communications. Their proposal is one of three chosen from a diverse pool of submissions by national and international scholars and artists. 

Together, the pair will receive financial support to travel to the BICLM, the largest cartoon art library in the world, to examine “Male Call,” an American comic strip series created and drawn by Milton Caniff exclusively for U.S. military publications during World War II. At BICLM, their archival research will explore how satiric cartooning and pin-up cultures were developed as elements of war culture, and how couples, families, partners and those mourning loved ones missing or killed in action used Caniff's work to treat their grief.

“I've been engaged with Milton Caniff’s contributions to World War II art and influence for more than 20 years, so this is an exciting opportunity to further my research with the support of the BICLM,” Yezbick said. “Caniff, who is generally forgotten now, was one of the most popular and celebrated media personalities of World War II. His strips, ‘Terry and the Pirates,’ ‘Male Call,’ and ‘Steve Canyon,’ were national treasures that built community around action, adventure and romance.”

Caniff was disabled and couldn’t serve, despite his lifelong love of aviation and his deep patriotism. Instead, he threw his characters into the war effort and the home front. His famous "Creed of the Pilot" from the Sunday, Oct. 17, 1943 ‘Terry and the Pirates’ strip was the first comic to be read into the Congressional record. During and after World War II, Caniff also became a seminal advocate for establishing the U.S. Air Force. 

This ongoing collaboration between Yezbick and Knopf follows a collaborative presentation they made last year at Michigan State’s Comics Studies Society Conference. After submitting their proposal for the BICLM, the duo co-wrote the paper, “Aluminum and Lace: Milton Caniff’s ‘Bombshells’ at the Intersections of World War II Illustration and Insignia,” which they have been invited to present in November at the Blind Spots Illustration Research Symposium hosted by Washington University in St. Louis.

In the future, the pair plans to collaborate on a peer-reviewed scholarly article for a home front studies or war cultures-focused journal. They may also pursue expanded, book-length opportunities as well.

“I’m energized by this collaboration because the BICLM holds the Milton Caniff papers, including thousands of archival letters, drafts and art works related to his international influence in the 1940s,” Yezbick said. “Working with Christina Knopf is also incredibly rewarding. She brings with her a knowledge of the military and war-time use of comic art that’s unmatched by contemporary scholars. There’s much we can learn from this unique strain of history, and I’m eager to expand our general knowledge and appreciation of Caniff’s wartime influence.”

This historical project also dovetails with Yezbick’s ongoing interests in professional and technical communication. In the fall, he collaborated with Thomas Eyssell, Ph.D., associate dean and professor emeritus of finance and legal studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, to develop an article for the “Journal for Certified Senior Advisors.” The piece discusses best practices for “overwhelmed heirs” who inherit a lifetime’s worth of private collections. 

Since publication, the article has garnered national recognition from advisors, retailers and collectors’ communities and organizations. It also led to Eyssell and Yezbick presenting formal workshops in Michigan and North Carolina with future, updated sessions scheduled this summer. 

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