With the amount of work he left behind for us to read, re-read, enjoy, re-enjoy, learn from and learn from again, you'd almost think he was still around, cranking out genius on a daily basis.
Caniff began his career in 1932, doing generic assignments on different strips for the syndicate, then in 1933 the adventure began!
Caniff began a strip called "Dickie Dare", a fantasy-adventure strip about a young boy who loved to read adventure stories. He'd read about Robin Hood and the like and then drift off into a fantasy in which he was swashbuckling right alongside his literary heroes. The strip lasted just over a year, and before the run was over, fantasizing about adventure wasn't enough. Dickie found himself traveling 'round the world with dashing soldier-of-fortune/adventurer/family friend, "Dynamite Dan" Flynn.
America's youth was just not experiencing fantasy alongside the fantasy of their fantasy hero...they were experiencing real life adventure alongside their fantasy friend. Caniff cut away two layers in one fell swoop. Genius!
In 1934, Caniff was hired away to do a new strip for the Chicago Tribune. He kept the adventure, he kept the young hero the readers could identify with, he kept the dashing adventurer whom he fought alongside...he changed were the names...now it was young Terry Lee adventuring alongside dashing Pat Ryan and their adventures were set in the exotic orient.
"Terry and the Pirates" may be the most elaborate, well executed, best drawn, most layered in character or story, adventure strip ever done. Caniff had listened to his muse and followed suit.
Please take my advice. Do some googling around for Milton Caniff and read the volumes written by scholars for decades about his man. Read as many strips as you can and wrap yourselves in the complexity of story...complexity that belies this strips limited space to tell that story.