IMAGE: The Columbia Daily Tribune, December 15, 1958. This shows the new Miss Mizzou parking stickers created by the Chamber of Commerce. Used with permission of the Columbia Daily Tribune.
In the Miss Mizzou book I mention the Miss Mizzou parking stickers from 1958. Two things about the stickers that I didn’t get to include in the book:
- I found an original version of this sticker in Milton Caniff’s archives at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Ohio. It felt like a flexible vinyl sticker that you could easily remove, and it was essentially black ink on a dark red vinyl.
- I found another interesting thing at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum about this sticker: the original drawing used on the left side. The original Caniff drawing actually shows quite a bit more leg; perhaps someone at the local level colored in more of her trench coat to make her more modest? After the events of 1958 featuring Miss Mizzou, I’m sure the Chamber of Commerce didn’t want to take any more risks than necessary with this character.
I wonder if anybody in Columbia still has an original copy of this sticker?
IMAGE: The front and back of a Miss Mizzou bookmark created to promote the Miss Mizzou book.
This is a bit of a personal post I wanted to write to explain why I didn’t want to create any Miss Mizzou merchandise to go along with the Miss Mizzou book. A couple of practical reasons:
- I wanted to err on the side of caution while dealing with a complex character with a controversial past. The character is not as simple and beloved as the Truman Tiger mascot for example.
- The rights to Miss Mizzou are complex; MU has the “Mizzou” trademark, but the Caniff Estate owns the character. Luckily I got permission to do the book because it was history, but merchandising might be a different situation.
More than these reasons, merchandising didn’t interest me because I want to promote the story of Miss Mizzou, not the character. I’m interested in sharing the story with a new generation of Columbians, MU students, and comic fans. While a lot of my book examines frivolous things, I think there are also interesting lessons to be learned from the story of Miss Mizzou. My role is amateur historian and comics scholar, not intellectual property marketer.
With the interest of sharing the story, I did create one item that might fall in the merchandising category: Bookmarks. These are hopefully a modest promotional tool that I’ve been handing out for free so I can promote my book, and the story of Miss Mizzou.
Oddly enough, just as Miss Mizzou was being introduced in the “Steve Canyon” comic strip in September of 1952, Marilyn Monroe showed up on the cover of “Look” magazine that month dressed as a college coed wearing a Georgia Tech sweater. This would have no doubt have appealed to the college audience who was obsessing on Miss Mizzou in Columbia. How did Monroe find herself in this role?
Georgia Tech had finished their 1951 season undefeated as the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Champions, which gave them optimism for their 1952 season. Monroe had apparently been hired to be on the cover of their 1952 football press guide, and the image was such a hit that “Look” magazine did a feature giving coverage to the hopeful team. (Georgia Tech won its second straight SEC crown that year.)
Higher education wasn’t something Monroe was usually associated with during her career though. Monroe had never finished high school, and only took a couple of college courses during her lifetime. In a way, Monroe’s real life lack of education reflected that of the Miss Mizzou character she inspired, who never did go to college in the comic strip.
In the “Steve Canyon” comic strip Miss Mizzou occasionally name dropped some landmarks located in Columbia, Missouri. Here are a few examples:
IMAGE: Steve Canyon Sunday comic strip, October 5, 1952 — Copyright 2014 the Milton Caniff Estate.
In this first example from 1952, she drops veiled references to two local spots. She declares that she was once known as “Empress De Hink.” This is a reference to Hinkson Creek near campus—a popular spot for students to hang out. In the second panel she mentions the “Cannonball Express,” which is a reference to the Wabash Railroad Station in town. The reference is of course a play on the folk song “Wabash Cannonball.”
IMAGE: Steve Canyon daily comic strip, August 19, 1954 — Copyright 2014 the Milton Caniff Estate.
In this example from 1954, Miss Mizzou mentions the University of Missouri R.O.T.C. which is based in Crowder Hall on the MU campus. The R.O.T.C. was probably mentioned here because they accompanied Bek Stiner around town during her visit to campus in 1952. In the second panel one might think that Caniff is referencing the local Veteran’s Hospital, but apparently it wasn’t built until the 1960’s. In 1975 the hospital was named the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital.
IMAGE: Steve Canyon daily comic strip, August 10, 1962 — Copyright 2014 the Milton Caniff Estate. Courtesy of the Columbia Daily Tribune.
In this example from 1962, Steve Canyon gets a distress letter from Miss Mizzou. To verify it’s really her, she references the historic MU Columns. The columns are the most recognizable icon associated with MU; they are the surviving remnants of the burning of Academic Hall in 1892.