“Dreams of Glory” — Captain Blood! (Updated!)

Comic by William Steig, The New Yorker, August 30, 1952.

I’ve seen myself in comics before — Calvin & Hobbes, Bloom County, Peanuts, Shoe, Hagar the Horrible, Popeye, and even in an imagined sense in Buz Sawyer, Prince Valiant, and The Phantom — but never so closely as in the image above. This is my dream of glory as a child! And likewise many friends and acquaintances of mine, particularly those who’ve lived lives of real or armchair swashbuckling from childhood onward.

The comic was drawn by William Steig, best-known today for Shrek. However, he drew a series of “Dreams of Glory” comics in the 1940s and 50s (I hope I have the dates correct) for various upscale magazines, primarily The New Yorker. Most if not all of the comics were published in a single volume in 1953.

I’ve updated this post due to my examination of the 1953 volume, entitled Dreams of Glory. I discovered that the original comic, shown below, included two figures in the shrouds: a defender stabbing an attacking pirate in the heart. For the life of me I can’t understand why this was removed for publication in a magazine, not when there are already dead pirates everywhere on the deck, clearly dispatched by a child in his daydreams, not in reality.

This is akin to a Disney Pirates of the Caribbean book my kids and I love, a reiteration of the attraction and its song: it shows pirates attacking and plundering and water torturing, guns (cannon!) firing, a Spanish town in flames — but there are no firearms anywhere. They’ve been replaced by slingshots &c.

I understand the de-emphasis on firearms given the horrific rise in school shootings in the US, but I’m not sure that replacing firearms with slingshots, or deleting an actual act of violence while leaving the immediate effects of violence lying all around as in the comic above and below, is anything more than mere window dressing or facade that doesn’t alter the substance at all, much less provide a solution. It’s much easier to alter an illustration than to reasonably limit access to firearms and the evil corners of the Internet, not to mention delve into the development of other possible parts of the solution.

“Captain Blood” as published in 1953 in Dreams of Glory by William Steig. The artist’s preface is worth reading too!

Text copyright Benerson Little 2022. First posted October 12, 2022. Deleted and re-posted October 19, 2022 (unable to reblog, thus…).