Friday, Aug 8th, 2014

Happy Birthday, Annie! And Many Happy Tomorrows!

Little Orphan Annie (last name still unknown) turned 90 years old this week. She first appeared on August 5, 1924 in a single newspaper -- the bulldog edition of the New York Daily News. The rest, as they say, is history. Here's Annie and her "real" papa—Harold Gray—and her adoptive one—Oliver Warbucks, in their first meeting. Happy birthday to the mop-haired redhead!

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Sunday, Jul 27th, 2014

A Trifecta: LOAC Sweeps the Eisners

We're very humbled this weekend after winning three Eisner Awards at this year's San Diego Comic-Con International. On behalf of everyone at LOAC, as well as the Alex Toth and Russ Manning families, we thank the Eisner voters for these great honors.

Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth won two awards: Best Comics-Related Book and Best Publication Design.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips won the Best Archival Comic Strip Collection award, beating our other nominee in the same category—Percy Crosby's Skippy.

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It was a good night for LOAC, as well as parent company IDW. For the first time, we collectively led all publishers in Eisner wins. Here's Dean, accepting the Eisner for Genius, Illustrated on behalf of himself and his co-author Bruce Canwell.

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Here's Dean and Art Director Lorraine Turner accepting the award for Russ Manning's Tarzan.

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With IDW's Scott Dunbier:

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Earlier in the day at the IDW booth:

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And the Classic Comics panel. From left: IDW's Greg Goldstein, Dean, Scott, Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics, Peter Maresca of Sunday Press Books, and off camera: Michael Martens of Dark Horse and Craig Yoe of Yoe Books.

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Monday, Jul 21st, 2014

A new imprint from LOAC and IDW

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

As if we weren't busy enough with LOAC releases, we're gearing up for the December premiere of a new imprint—EuroComics. As the name suggestions, it will release English-language editions of the best in European graphic novels…starting with the greatest of them all—Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese. Corto is, in my opinion, one of the ten best comics series ever created. It's also the first "adult" graphic novel series, adult in the sense of being told from an adult perspective—not, for example, simply by using sex and other elements to shock and make a point.

As Hugo Pratt brilliantly outlined the character—at age ten, when Corto Maltese was told by a gypsy palm reader that he had no fate line, the boy grabbed his father's razor and made a deep and bloody line across his palm, declaring to the world that we would make his own fate, that he would control his own destiny.

It can be said that in 1967, when Pratt introduced Corto in the epic adventure "The Ballad of the Salty Sea," he too announced to the world that he was making his own fate, that he would control his own creative destiny.

Long before the term "graphic novel" entered the popular lexicon—ten years before Will Eisner's A Contract with God, two decades before Maus was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns became college texts—Hugo Pratt pioneered the long-form "drawn literature" story. "I'm a writer who draws and an illustrator who writes," was how Pratt described himself.

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Corto Maltese set the standard for all adult adventure comics in Europe—and by extension, around the world. By the mid-1970s it was the continent's most popular series and Hugo Pratt the world's leading graphic novelist.

Kim Thompson once summed up the Pratt's historical importance: "Corto Maltese was the first European strip to advance a mature, artistically serious sensibility within the traditional adventure format. The elliptical narrative of the stories, the pervasive sense of destiny and tragedy, the side trips into the worlds of dreams and magic-all capped off with the exotic, guarded nature of the hero-combined with Pratt's hard-won craft, worldly experience, and scrupulous research to form a work of breathtaking scope and power."

Pratt's books remain best-sellers in Europe and are published in a dozen languages. His work was the subject of a major art show in 2011 at the Pinacotheque in Paris, which hailed Pratt as "the inventor of the literary comic strip" and drew 215,000 visitors. Yet until now, Corto Maltese has been poorly represented in English. A partial and second-hand translation (from the French) by NBM was published in the 1980s and the reformatting of the 2012 edition of "Ballad" met with resistance from readers who wanted to see the comics in their unadulterated format.

We're going to change all that by presenting Corto the way Hugo Pratt intended. We're fortunate to work with Patrizia Zanotti, Pratt's long-time collaborator. Together we have gone through all the different files that the French/Belgian publisher Casterman has and we've identified the ones with the absolute truest reproduction of the black-and-white art. Each book will feature a new translations from Pratt's original Italian scripts by Simone Castaldi and yours truly. Simone is an Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Hofstra, and the author of the authoritative Drawn and Dangerous: Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s (published by the University Press of Mississippi).

For those who aren't familiar with Hugo Pratt and Corto Maltese, you have a great treat in front of you. For those—like me—who until now have only read what's been available in English, there's a similar treat in seeing Corto done to the same standards as our books about Milton Caniff and Alex Toth, two of Pratt's influences.

We'll release the complete Corto Maltese in a series of twelve quality trade paperbacks in Pratt's original oversized B&W format.

The first of the twelve volumes, Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn, to be published December 2014, collects the first six inter-connected short stories Pratt created in France in the early 1970s: "The Secret of Tristan Bantam," "Rendez-vous in Bahia," "Sureshot Samba," "The Brazilian Eagle," "So Much for Gentlemen of Fortune," and "The Seagull's Fault."

The second volume, Corto Maltese: Beyond the Windy Isles, collects the subsequent five stories, and will be released Spring 2015. We'll work our way to the end of the series and then publish the earliest adventures: "The Ballad of the Salty Sea" and "The Early Years."

The complete series will also be released in a matched set of six original art-sized limited edition hardcovers, each containing the equivalent of two of the trade paperbacks.

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Saturday, Jul 19th, 2014

Pree-senting—Stories in Super-Scope

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

One of the benefits superhero fans and students of comics history enjoy as a result of LOAC's teaming with DC is the ability to read the same basic story and plot structure presented in two different formats - the original comic book version, and the "Earth N" version that ran in the newspaper strip version.

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It's easy to find the newspaper versions - check out our Superman: The Silver Age Dailies releases - and our friends at DC have made it easy to read several of the comic book stories thanks to their Archives program.

Released just a few months ago, DC's third Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives volume contains the original versions of no less than five of the stories for which we have printed the newspaper versions. Man of Tomorrow Archives includes, from our first Superman dailies volume:

  • Jerry Siegel and Al Plastino's "The Super-Clown of Metropolis!"
  • "The Captive of the Amazons!", also written by Siegel, with art by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye.
  • And Kaye's inks over Curt Swan, illustrating Otto Binder's "The Superman of the Future!", first published in Action Comics # 256.

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Man of Tomorrow Archives Volume 3 also contains the comics version of a pair of stories we carried in our Superman Dailies Volume 2:

  • "The Super Luck of Badge 77," a Binder/Plastino collaboration.
  • And, from Action # 257, Binder/Boring/Kaye's "The Reporter of Steel!"

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Being able to compare and contrast these five stories by reading the alternate versions contained in these three volumes is one more piece of evidence that this is the Golden Age of comics scholarship. Between DC's Archives, Marvel's Masterworks, The Library of American Comics, and the many other comic book and newspaper strip reprint projects underway from publishers too numerous to mention, an unprecedented amount of the medium's history is once again in print and available for interested readers to savor. At the end of his introduction to Superman: Silver Age Dailies Volume 1, scholar of all things Kryptonian Sidney Friedfertig concluded, "It's a great time to be a Superman fan." I'll agree with Sid and add that it's a great time to be a comics fan, with the LOAC/DC collaboration offering an invaluable window into link between comic strips and comic books.

Here's a preview of Pete Poplaski's cover to Volume Three of the Silver Age Dailies, scheduled for release in December.

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Tuesday, Jul 15th, 2014

Alex Toth, Genius Slipcases Pre-Order!

In answer to the many inquiries from Alex Toth fans about the slipcase for the Alex Toth, Genius trilogy, we're happy to announce not one but two versions!

1. For those who have already bought the books, we're producing a special limited edition slipcase with a signed and numbered "library card" that can be placed in your previously purchased first book of the series. This Limited Edition Slipcase and Library Card set is exclusively available in the IDW online store and limited to advance orders. This listing is for the Slipcase & Library Card set only; no books are included. It's our "thank you" to readers who've bought each book as it was published. The Slipcase and Library Card set will tentatively be available for shipment in late October 2014.

You can pre-order at the IDW online store.

The slipcase artwork features Alex Toth sketches on both sides; the library card features a previously unpublished pencil sketch of the Fox. The library card is signed by authors Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell.

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2. For those who haven't yet bought the books, the complete three-book set will be available in October in a standard edition slipcase featuring an Alex Toth self portrait.

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Saturday, Jul 12th, 2014

What Fools These Mortals Be

With those immortal words Puck magazine skewered hypocracy, crooked politicians, and anyone trying to take advantage of the working man for forty years beginning in 1877. Everyone who loves comics has heard of Puck and wil recognize it as the source from which the comics field eventually grew. Most people have seen a few examples of the magazine's cartoons here and there, but not until now has there been a massive full-color retrospective of the most important humor and cartooning magazine in American history. We are all in debt to Michael Alexander Kahn and Richard Samuel West for sharing their personal complete collections of the magazine's forty-year run. They have selected the best of Puck's full-color cartoons and have organized them by subject matter, providing explanatory captions that place the work in historical perspective.

The book will premiere in early October with a foreword by Calvin and Hobbes' Bill Watterson.

Here are a few few pages to whet your appetite.

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Monday, Jun 16th, 2014

A perfect fit

We received an advance copy of the fifth volume of LOAC Essentials — reprising the rare complete 1930 dailies of Harry Tuthill's The Bungle Family. It will be in stores in a few weeks. We particularly like the way it fits on a shelf next to Big Little Books. In fact, Dean tells us that he specifically designed LOAC Essentials to be the same height as the old BLBs.

Next up in the series is another volume of George Herriman's Baron Bean, containing the complete 1917 strips.

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Monday, May 12th, 2014

Sites for Sore Eyes

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

It's been awhile since I've occupied this space. Not by choice—y'see, I started the month of April being called out of state to deal with a family issue. Where I was hanging my hat for a few weeks brought me reasonably close to Dean's home, close enough to allow us to get together one day for a Real High Level LOAC Strategy Session (well, as high level as we ever get, anyway!).

On the personal front, the good news was that the results of my familial visit were all positive. I got to return home feeling my time away from hearth and home was well spent. The bad news was that once I returned, I had to run like mad to get caught up on all the things that had been given short shrift while I was out-of-pocket. I looked and, *blink!*, April was gone, baby, gone.

I took a couple days here in early May to catch a figurative breath and while I did, it occurred to me that, as hip-hop happening as this site may be, it's not the only site that may be of interest to LOAC readers. Here are some other places you might enjoy visiting:

As we get ready to close out our definitive Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim "Champagne Edition" series (and prepare to shift gears for the Alex Raymond Secret Agent X-9, a project slated to go into production later this year for a 2015 release), this entry in noted comic strip historian Allan Holtz's blog-site caught my eye. I quoted a portion of this piece in my essay for the upcoming Flash/Jim Volume 4.

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One of the joys in my LOAC duties is reading through old newspapers and magazine containing articles about the cartoonists and series we're re-publishing. These periodicals are real-life time machines, transporting me to the time period in question the way no modern-day, special-effects-laden movie or TV show can ever do. Those 21st Century confections are like Cool Whip, but the from-period material I study is like pure whipped cream—I not only get to see the articles of interest, I see the ads, the photographs, the names of the men and women making news at the time. Even the typography and page layout is vastly different from what we experience today. This is a pursuit that's probably not for everyone, but fortunately it's right up my alley.

Another LOAC release coming soon is our third Alex Toth volume, Genius, Animated. (Dean and I have each seen advance copies from the printer and, well, we're pretty happy with the results. We hope you'll feel the same!)

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One person we consulted for the book was the estimable Floyd Norman (Google him or check his bona fides at www.imdb.com if you're unfamiliar with his work). This Disney Legend worked with Alex several times throughout their respective careers. When I recently spoke to Mr. Norman, he said he'd been so busy doing publicity for Disney he had forgotten what he had said to whom!

He had only interesting and meaty things to tell us about Toth, as you'll see when Genius, Animated goes on sale. Meanwhile, here's one way to see what Mr. Norman said at one stop during his tour:

Thanks to our good friend Bill Peckmann for passing along that link to us and making sure we didn't miss it! Bill has a distinguished animation/advertising career of his own (those of us who fondly remember ABC's Schoolhouse Rock cartoons owe Bill a debt of thanks for his work on that fine series, and if you've ever seen the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, guess who created him ...?).

As they say on the late night infomercials, "But wait, there's more!" readers of our prior Toth volume (Genius, Illustrated, currently nominated for two Eisner Awards) may recall seeing examples of Alex's Conan pin-ups produced at the behest of editor Louise Jones (now Louise Simonson) for Marvel's Savage Sword of Conan magazine.

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You can see nine Tothian takes on the iron-thewed Cimmerian here.

Finally, zooming away from individual titles and thinking at the total-LOAC level, are you aware the IDW website maintains a message board devoted to The Library of American Comics? It tends to be one of IDW's livelier boards, with a thoughtful and articulate group of posters (I sometimes appear there, though I wouldn't use terms like "thoughtful" or "articulate" to describe myself!). The site is easy to navigate, so if you're curious about what goes on there, feel free to swing by sometime.

Speaking of swinging by, I plan to be back here more often going forward—though I do have to make another familial trip for five days from the tag-end of May through the first few days of June ...

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Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

From the Chester Gould archives

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

In addition to providing groundbreaking historical essays to our complete Dick Tracy series, Jeff Kersten was a founding member of The Chester Gould/Dick Tracy Museum and serves as the Museum's resident historian and President on its Board of Directors. He, his wife, Keri, and their two little ones, Norah and Halas, recently paid a visit to the home of Jean Gould O'Connell, Chester Gould's daughter, to say hello to their long-time friend. They were also there to scan material from Chester Gould's archives to use in the next couple of volumes of our Tracy series. Keri captured photos of Jeff at work and posing with Jean next to a blow-up of her father on the wall. Some of the scans Jeff made will be in Dick Tracy Volume 17, in stores late summer.

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Tuesday, Apr 15th, 2014

Toth and Crosby Welcome Russ Manning! Four Eisner Nominations for LOAC!

We're pleased to announce that the Library of American Comics has received four Eisner Award nominations this year.

Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth received two nominations—one for Best Comics-Related Book and one for Best Publication Design. (The first book in the trilogy—Genius, Isolated—was previously nominated for an Eisner, and won the Harvey Award).

Percy Crosby's Skippy has garnered its second nomination for Best Archival Collection—Strips with this nod for Volume Two (Volume One was nominated last year).

Also nominated is the Best Archival Collection—Strips category is the first volume of Tarzan: The Russ Manning Newspaper Strips.

Thanks to the nominating committee!

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  • Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips, vol. 1, edited by Dean Mullaney (LOAC/IDW)
  • - See more at: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/will-eisner-comic-industry-award-nominees-2014#sthash.ht4ov3Fe.dpuf
  • Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips, vol. 1, edited by Dean Mullaney (LOAC/IDW)
  • - See more at: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/will-eisner-comic-industry-award-nominees-2014#sthash.ht4ov3Fe.dpuf

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Saturday, Apr 12th, 2014

Never Before seen art by Dick Moores!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Back in the early 1950s when Dick Moores worked at Disney, he also took on outside freelance work. Original sketches for one of these jobs recently came into our possession. What a delightful find! Dick was hired to design character sketches for a miniature golf course in North Hollywood locally owned by a husband and wife.

The sketches are done in pencil on vellum and feature two characters: Puttin' Polly and Golfin' Gus. One or the other character was used in different poses at each hole of the course. The characters were also used on the scorecards, as well as the firm's stationery.

The final inked drawings were printed on color decals (one shown below) and mounted on the metal sign at each hole.

Also in the folder is a sketch of an elfin character, pencil on bond paper.

It's all classic Dick Moores art! Amazing how consistent his style was from the '30s through the '50s and all the way into the '80s with Gasoline Alley. (Shameless plug: if you're a Dick Moores fan and haven't seen our collection of his mid-'60s Gasoline Alley dailies, what are you waiting for?!)

The miniature golf course was sold years ago and no longer exists. Any long-time Los Angeles residents out there with photos of Polly and Gus in action?

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Thursday, Mar 27th, 2014

The Uncensored Popeye!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Now that the first volume of our complete collection of Bobby London's six years of Popeye strips is in stores, it's a good a time as any to spring our big surprise—when we say "complete," we mean COMPLETE!

What IS known: Bobby London's take on the Sailor Man has often been overshadowed by his being fired from the strip in 1992, ostensibly for presenting a storyline that was an allegory about abortion. In that ultimate tale, Olive had become addicted to the Home Shopping Network and ordered a Baby Brutus mechanical doll. When Popeye insists that she get rid of the "baby," two priests mistakenly believe that the baby is real and that Olive is going exercise her pro-choice rights. King Features Syndicate pulled the final three weeks of strips and daily newspapers began running reprints, except for one paper that brazenly published the strips.That was that. Story over in mid-stream.

Now, twenty-two years later, thanks to the kind cooperation of the good folks at King Features, those three weeks will be included in the second volume of our series. But wait…that's not all! Turns out that in order to fulfill his contract, Bobby produced an ADDITIONAL SIX WEEKS of strips beyond the three that were pulled from syndiction! These six weeks were sent to King and prompted returned. Bobby's been sitting on them all these years and has sent us copies. (Thanks, Bobby!)

Bottom line? Our second volume, to be published in October, will contain—for the first time anywhere—ALL NINE weeks of "censored" Bobby London's Popeye strips. Trust us, it's worth the wait! Here's one daily to whet your appetite (click on image for a larger version). In the meantime, don't miss the first volume, which is on sale now.

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Copyright 2014 King Features Syndicate. Popeye TM Hearst Holdings, Inc.

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Wednesday, Mar 19th, 2014

Abnerian Artifacts

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Seems to me as if it was only yesterday when Li'l Abner Volume 6 hit the stands, bringing us the "wonder" that was Lena the Hyena, but here I am, deep in the writing of introductory text for Volume 7, which I immodestly claim will be the high water mark of our Abner series—and not just because Al Capp has such entertaining stuff waiting for you. He does have those great stories coming, headlined by the arrival of the Shmoo, but we've unearthed some nifty information I'll be folding into my essay. It's always great fun to write these features when we get to shine the spotlight on juicy, fun tidbits, some which have not been discussed in prior Abner reprint efforts, others that may have been mentioned, but now get presented in a somewhat different context.

Sometimes we find things that, for one reason or another, won't be included in our actual printed volumes. That's OK, because we get to present several of those pieces here!

Case in point…

Li'l Abner's 1948 Shmoo storyline was, in many ways, the biggest hit in comics history up to that time. In Volume 7 we'll discuss the magnitude of that hit and how it was also a financial and promotional bonanza for Al Capp. One indication of the magnitude of the Shmoo Saga's popularity: Simon and Shuster rushed to get this story between two covers in time for 1948's Christmas shopping season. Priced at a whopping one dollar, it was assumed the book would fly off bookstore shelves (you remember bookstores, right?), which is exactly what it did.

In San Mateo, California, the Peninsula Bookshop knew the Shmoo collection was going to be big—they took out this ad in the local newspaper, the Times:

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Sometimes we discover something we absolutely love, but the condition of the artifact is such it may never be restored to a visual quality deemed worthy of printing. Check out this 1947 ad, run on October 7th in the Winnipeg Tribune, advertising the comics lineup in the Trib's weekend companion, the Standard.

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There are a lot of things I like about this ad. First, note the sheer number of strips in this lineup that would eventually make their way into Library of American Comics editions. The ad gives its keynote position to Milton Caniff and Steve Canyon (ol' Steverino was less than a year old on this date, in the midst of his tussle with Herr Splitz and Madame Lynx), but the Standard kept the old even while it embraced the new—both Canyon and George Wunder's Terry and the Pirates were in its lineup! But of most interest for our purposes here, check out how Capp and Li'l Abner are positioned immediately beneath Ham Fisher and Joe Palooka. As we've discussed—and will continue to discuss in upcoming LOAC Abner volumes - Capp and Fisher engaged in a long and increasingly bitter feud, so think of Capp's reaction if he saw this ad! The roof must have blown off the artist's Boston studio and flipped 360 degrees in mid-air before settling back into place…

Capp's story is a reminder that for some celebrities (and Al was a celebrity, make no mistake about it), no matter how much success accrues, there are always mountains to climb and enemies to combat—but despite the dark linings in his silvery cloud, this singular talent had an ability to entertain that was unmatched among comic strip creators, then or now. That's part of what makes his story so fascinating, and part of what makes Li'l Abner a must-read for anyone interested in comic strip history.

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Monday, Mar 17th, 2014

Another puzzler

Every so often we take a comic strip puzzle from the stacks and put it together so we can share it with readers. Here's a 1933 Radio Orphan Annie premium, complete with the original carboard mailer box. We hope you enjoy it.

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Friday, Mar 14th, 2014

Alex Toth model sheets

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Genius, Animated, the third book in our Alex Toth trilogy, is -- tada -- at the printer. It will be in stores in May. Adding the 336 pages in this volume, the complete set contains, as Bruce noted, more than 1,000 pages of Toth.

Even with 1,000 pages, there is some art that we just couldn't fit. Here are five model sheets from 1967's Young Samson and Goliath reproduced from the original artwork. (All TM and © Hanna-Barbera)

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Thursday, Mar 6th, 2014

Alex Toth, Storyboarder (part two)

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Some more "extras" that we couldn't fit in the forthcoming GENIUS, ANIMATED: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth, the third book in our Alex Toth trilogy.

More to come…! (Art TM and © Hanna-Barbera.)

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Wednesday, Mar 5th, 2014

Alex Toth, Storyboarder (part one)

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

We're in the final stages of production for GENIUS, ANIMATED: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth, the third book in our Alex Toth trilogy. Deciding what art makes it into the book is a challenge. It's like trying to put together a 500-piece puzzle with 1,500 pieces!

We'll start sharing some of the pieces that aren't going to be in the book. If you think these are great, wait 'till you see what did make the final cut! (Art TM and © Hanna-Barbera.)

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More tomorrow…!

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Thursday, Feb 27th, 2014

The Fontan(elli) of Youth

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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What does Stimpy have to do with LOAC? Read on…!

Dean, Lorraine, and I have appeared in this space many a time reporting on our research trips to university libraries on both coasts and in the great American heartland. The treasures held in places like UCLA and the Mugar Archives at Boston University have enhanced LOAC's Bringing Up Father and Little Orphan Annie releases; as they supply material that helps make possible books like Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles and Steve Canyon, we always enjoy visiting and catching up with Jenny Robb, Susan Liberator, Marilyn Scott, and the other dedicated staff members at OSU's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, as we do with old pal Randy Scott at Michigan State University for Rip Kirby and other series.

The schools provide us invaluable assistance. We equate the finding of rarely-seen George McManus or Harold Gray artifacts to the feeling Indiana Jones gets when he finds those lost antiquities (though we miss out on all the murderous Nazis and pits of deadly snakes, thank goodness)—yet LOAC does not subsist through academia alone.

Another resource that helps add luster to our line of books is the readers who have been true to their favorite classic cartoonists for years, often for decades. These staunch fans have amassed an amazing variety of clipped strips, newspaper and magazine articles, merchandise, and sometimes actual correspondence; moreover, they have been unstintingly kind in their willingness to loan prized pieces from their collections so we can publish them and share them with all of you.

And sometimes, they give us certain artifacts outright...

A time or two in past features, we've mentioned the name Mike Fontanelli. Mike is an Emmy Award-nominated animator, designer, writer, and layout man who has been involved with familiar programs such as Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Simpsons, and Ren & Stimpy. (See? We tol'ja you'd find out what Stimpy had to do with LOAC. Keep reading for the full story…) Mike is also a major Al Capp/Li'l Abner fan, and when he recently e-mailed me to say, "I'm cleaning out some extras and duplicates from my files of Cappiana-just let me know if you'd like 'em and they're yours," you can bet I burned up a few electrons getting my "Yes, yes, oh please Please PLEEZ yes!" reply back to him.

Mike, true to his word, quickly sent this big ol' envelope full of goodies winging its way to my doorstep. We'll save some of the material Mike provided for inclusion in future Li'l Abner volumes, but there's too much nifty stuff for us not to give you a sneak-peek at a handful of items right now.

Mike sent along a handful of 1970s clipped dailies. This first one, dated January 1, 1973, shows a familiar Abnerian gag, the basic premise of which we've already seen him use several times over (take a look at the New Year's entries in some of our prior volumes).

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Al Capp always knew a good thing when he found it…

And check out this little sampler from late April/early May of 1973: years before Evan Dorkin's inspired characters saw print, Pappy Yokum was leading a parade of Li'l Abner characters who would have fit right into Dorkin's Eltingville Comic Book, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, & Role-Playing Club!

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Like so many of us, Pappy dreamed his comic books taught him all he needed to learn about scrappin'!

Merchandising and advertising work was an increasingly important part of Al Capp's portfolio-one can claim Capp was not the artist his friends Milt Caniff and Walt Kelly were, and one can perhaps argue that he wasn't their equal in the writing department (although that's a much more difficult argument to make), but he left them both in the dust when it came to maximizing the value of his characters and his own value as a celebrity cartoonist through licensing and commercial contracts.

Take Cream of Wheat, for example. Capp had a long-running contract with the cereal to produce ads featuring Li'l Abner and his Dogpatch pals. The majority of series installments begin with a panicked Daisy Mae, rushing into frame in classic damsel in distress manner; a steaming, hearty bowl of Cream of Wheat invariably figures into the solution to the problem at hand, as in this example:

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Cream of Wheat —it even prevents your hide from being blasted off when it's being battered by a high-pressure fire hose!

A rarer example of the artist's advertising work is the series of newspaper ads he produced touting Nestlé's Hot Cocoa Mix, titled Al Capp's Corner. "Reddy" is the recurring character in the campaign, though of course the typical (and widely admired) Capp Cuties were also prominently displayed. I get a kick thinking that surely there were kids haranguing reluctant mothers in grocery stores across America, wheedling to get Nestlé's Hot Cocoa added to their shopping basket—until the fathers (recalling the pulchritudinous females in Capp's ads) chimed in something like, "Oh f'crineoutloud, Edna-let the kid get his cocoa!"

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Though not as famous as his Wildroot Cream Oil or Cream of Wheat ad campaigns, Capp's ads for hot cocoa have a certain…undeniable charm.

So, both our caps and our Capps are off to Mike Fontanelli for providing such a CARE package of joy amidst a snowy month of February that was dismal in many ways...and just to complete the Ren & Stimpy connection, Mike personalized the mailing envelope with his renderings of those two beloved (is that the right word?) characters.

Stimpy2

Mike Fontanelli was lobbing Capp creations cross-country to me; Stimpy was lobbing - well - something else across the envelope to Ren!

The Golden Age of Li'l Abner is upon us again! Volume 6 in our series is now on sale, and just ahead in Volume 7, it's the first coming of (*gasp!* *choke!*) the Shmoos! Just ask Mike Fontanelli-he'll tell you it's great stuff!

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Thursday, Feb 13th, 2014

Bungle Me This!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Bungle5

In his Introduction to the upcoming LOAC Essentials Vol. 5, comics historian Paul Tumey writes of Harry J. Tuthill's comic strip:

"The Bungle Family offers no daily punch-line or slapstick pratfall typical of a humorous American comic strip from the 1920s and 1930s—just a slow, steady boil. The strip is populated with decidedly non-heroic characters who are greedy, gossipy, and grouchy—the sort of people one might cross the street to avoid. George and Josephine Bungle are perpetually involved in a seemingly endless succession of small-minded squabbles, punctuated with shameless scrambles for the riches and status that would allow them to claw their way up from their lower middle class purgatory. George Bungle apparently never met a neighbor with whom he couldn't start a feud, a wealthy relative who didn't captivate him, or a new business idea he wasn't convinced would let him 'put one over on Wall Street.'"

It's one of those strips that can't be sampled by one or two dailies in a History of Comics compendium. When we finally added long stretches of the strip to the Library's collection, I sat down to read them and—oh, my—was I hooked. I've never read anything like it. The Bungle Family may be obscure but it's certainly a strip that is essential reading. We hope you give it a try when it's released in early summer.

Here's where the book begins (click on strips for a larger image)…

Bungle1

Bungle2

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Tuesday, Feb 11th, 2014

Divorce and Round-Ups

lorraineposted by Lorraine Turner

Calico

I never thought meditation would have me talking to horses, let alone writing on their behalf. Nonetheless I am excited to announce the release of my very first novel—Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail. It's the story of how a girl ripped apart by divorce helps the wild mustangs torn from the range. Together they face uncertainties brought on by the decisions of others.

It's available now as an e-book, and as a print release the end of March. Recommended for readers age 8 and up, it's not just a young adult book. Adults who have struggled with adversity are making the connection to the book's themes. I invite you to watch the video (less than two minutes)...

This book was written with the sole purpose of raising awareness to the plight of the wild horses and burros being ripped from their natural habitat. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to support the rescued horses that are now in equine sanctuaries. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And you thought I was only the Art Director for LOAC...

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Friday, Feb 7th, 2014

Remembering My Friend Howard

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

It's likely you never knew Howard Downs, but how I wish you'd had the opportunity to meet him. Howard was my friend for almost thirty-five years—and now he's gone.

Howard Downs died on February 4th, 2014. He was fifty-four years old.

Howard1

July 2013: The last time I saw Howard, at my wedding reception.

We met because of a shared love of comics (which explains why this memoriam appears here). It was 1979 when I discovered my home state's first and at the time only comic book store, Duck Soup, in the quaint little tourist town of Hallowell. It was a thirty-minute drive to "the Soup" for me, but as a lifelong Hallowell resident Howard was a regular customer, making it inevitable our paths would cross. Both our initial reactions were likely not positive ones—I think Howard saw me as a mouthy know-it-all and I viewed him as a lot of bluster without much backing it up. Sometimes first impressions are accurate and sometimes they're not. Howard may have been right about me, but I was definitely wrong about him. It was our connection to comics that that allowed us to spend time together, fine-tune our perceptions, and build a connection between ourselves that would last until the end of the last millennium and well into this one.

There were a handful of us who frequented Duck Soup - Howard grew up down the street from our mutual friend, Marvel and DC Comics artist Lee Weeks - and the batch of us forged a connection that has been a constant in our lives. Addresses may change—jobs may change—there can be marriages and separations, children born or children graduating high school or college—but even though we are now scattered across multiple states, our ties to one another have remained firm, unshakeable. Until today, it has always been a pleasure to speak to one of my friends; the problem today is that I told Howard's widow I would deliver the sad, sad news to our little social circle and as of this writing I've not yet been able to reach everyone, but will continue to pursue them, though perhaps the first time ever, I do not look forward to speaking with my friends.

Howard2

August 2011: Howard at right, Walter at left, Dave (center background) and Tom (center foreground)

Howard had an encyclopedic knowledge of comics, and a large collection amassed over a lifetime - Lee once said Howard was a "comics savant" and that was a good label, I think. In the '80s, Howard said it was inevitable that Wally West would become The Flash long before there was a Crisis on Infinite Earths to set up exactly such a change; Howard not only envisioned a West Coast Avengers, he correctly reasoned out at least two-thirds of that super-team's original membership. As the opportunity presented itself, he broadened and deepened his knowledge of comic strips - he wasn't much for advant garde material like Krazy Kat, but he loved many a gag-a-day series and he dived into the adventure strips. Since LOAC raised its tent I've given Howard many a copy of our output. He never hesitated to tell me how the entire Downs family loved being introduced to Scorchy and Rip Kirby and renewing acquaintances with Terry and Tracy, Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim. It meant a lot to him to receive our books; it meant a lot to me that he enjoyed them.

Howard was not always loveable. He could be irascible, he could be more stubborn than a Missouri mule, and though it was never directly confronted, I suspect he was never satisfied with his accomplishments, never as confident as he should have been in his own abilities. Still, I always believed in him. In those times in my life when I was facing a dilemma I would contact Howard, knowing I'd get the straight, no b.s. answer. More than once Howard helped me chart a good course; when I needed help, he was there to offer it. He helped make me the man I am today, and I'm not sure I ever properly thanked him for that.

When we were frequenting Duck Soup with our other friends, the batch of us went to restaurants and watched movies, we prowled bookstores, we took occasional trips to Boston, and we endlessly talked about important issues and trivial topics—offering opinions, sharing dreams, and debating the roster of The Five Greatest Boston Celtics of All Time.

For a few years Howard and I lived in the same city - we regularly played pool at the Forest Avenue Tavern; I was a guest at his first wedding and ushered at his second, when he married the love of his life, Liz, who stood with him in good times and bad and took such good care of him in his final days. She and their daughter, Mary, have to take care of one another now. Howard would expect nothing less.

For myself and the rest of that Duck Soup Group, we will surely gather in the days ahead to say our farewells to our friend, but beyond attendance at the memorial service, we will honor his memory the best way we can, by keeping our connection, though diminished by his loss, strong in the months and years and decades that still lie ahead for us.

Rest easy, Howard. You were loved, and you are already missed.

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Monday, Feb 3rd, 2014

You Do that Voodoo

When in 1986 Bobby London began writing and drawing the daily Popeye newspaper strip, it wasn't long before he brought back the long-story format. Like Segar before him, London invested the continuing adventures with plenty of humor…and to this he added a great deal of hilarious and pointed social commentary. Here's a little tease to hold you over until the first volume hits stores in late March. (Click on each image for a larger view.)

SeaHag1SeaHag2

SeaHag3

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Wednesday, Jan 15th, 2014

You Wuz Dere

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Full disclosure: I lifted the title from this piece from groundbreaking comedian Ernie Kovacs. Ernie regularly had fun goofing on the German language—he did skits that centered around everything from "Wolfgang von Sauerbraten, Famous German Disk Chockey" to "Schnitzeldent Toothpaste"—and in this instance he was also lampooning the popular '50s historical re-enactment/documentary series You Are There, hosted by Walter Cronkite (who was a spritely thirty-six years of age when the show made its televised debut in 1953).

We're all big Kovacs fans here at the LOAC brauhaus, so I knew Dean, Lorraine, and Beau would get a chuckle out of my using Ernie's gag as the title for this look back at the year just past. With apologies to both Cronkite and the Great Kovacs, then: "2013—What sort of year was it? A year like all years, filled with those LOAC books that illuminate previous times. All things are as they were then, and you wuz dere!"

But in case you weren't, here's what you missed:

THE YEAR STARTS WITH A BANG—AND SEVERAL GRINS

A long-anticipated favorite helped us kick off 2013: King Aroo Volume 2 hit store shelves carrying a January, 2013 date, completing our biographical examination of Jack Kent's life and career, and serving up a giant stack of comic strips full of whimsy.

Aroo2

One of my proudest achievements here at LOAC has been helping to bring King Aroo to the attention of the comic-strip-reading public. Though nowhere near as well known as Krazy Kat or Pogo, King Aroo deserves to be considered in their company and holds its own against such powerful competition. It has been both a delight and an honor to learn more about Jack Kent and to share his story with our readers. This is a perfect opportunity to publicly thank Jack Kent Jr., Kent Cummins (Jack Sr.'s nephew), and neighbor Naomi Nye for being so generous with their time and memories.

We also shared a handful of never-before-collected King Aroo Sunday pages on our website for those, like us, who can never get enough of this gentle cartoon masterpiece.

THE ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT LOAC

We've launched new projects every year of The Library's existence and 2013 was no exception. A pair of new series garnered enthusiastic reaction:

Tarzan

Superman

That Silver Age Superman volume was the keynote release following our deal with DC Comics to reprint the entire runs of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman comic strips. I like to think there's a certain symmetry in that deal, since it means the publisher responsible for collecting the Chicago Tribune New York News "crown jewels" (Little Orphan Annie, Terry and the Pirates, and Dick Tracy) is now also responsible for presenting the newspaper adventures of DC's "Superhero Trinity!"

DEAN WINS AN INKPOT, I WIN…

Let's say July was an especially hectic month. Dean was in San Diego, being honored for his many and considerable contributions to the comic book industry and receiving Comic-Con's coveted Inkpot Award.

inkpot

That same weekend, I was in scenic Worcester, Massachusetts, getting married. Here's a shot taken by my sister from Florida during the Friday night rehearsal dinner. It cracked me up as soon as I saw it, because I immediately thought of the line I've included as a caption below the picture:

Krista

"You are in my power ... Now - bark like a dog, Krista. A big dog ..."

 

WHAT WAS FIRST SHALL NOW BE SECOND

Your strong support for two of our previous stand-alone releases allowed us to do follow-up volumes, and in each case we packed these second books full of the strips that were originally published immediately before the contents of our first volume! So Bringing Up Father: Of Cabbages and Kings contains dailies and Sundays from 1937 and 1938, while its predecessor, BUF: From Sea to Shining Sea covered the years 1939 and 1940…

BUF

…And Miss Fury's second release revealed Marla Drake's adventures from 1941-1944, ending exactly one week before the first Sunday page contained in our initial, Eisner-nominated Miss F book.

MissF

 

ESSENTIALLY YOURS

Another big LOAC thrill for me: researching and writing about the Ogunquit, Maine artists' colony for our 1933 Polly and Her Pals entry into the LOAC Essentials line. Polly's Cliff Sterrett was a mainstay at the colony, and as a huge fan of his work it was a pleasure to uncover a bit more background on this singular talent—all while enjoying a year's worth of Polly dailies.

Polly

The Polly Essentials followed another exciting entry in this series: our collection of Sid Smith's seminal "Death of Mary Gold" storyline from The Gumps.

Gumps

We've discussed other Gumps continuities we could include in future Essentials releases. Didja know Andy Gump once ran for President? If that doesn't whet your curiosity, what will…?

AND, AS THEY SAY, MORE—

We hardly neglected our long-running series amidst all the other happenings in 2013. Throughout last year bookshelves got filled with the newest installments of Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, Rip Kirby, Li'l Abner, Steve Canyon, and X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan.

Canyon

Tracy

LOA

More fledgling series—the deservedly-much-lauded Skippy, Star Trek, and Archie—also added fresh releases during 2013.

Skippy

You might wonder, given such a flurry of activity, what we can do for an encore in 2014. Keep watching this space for updates, because Batman and Robin will be making their LOAC debut in 2014—the Shmoos arrive in Dogpatch and almost go on to destroy America as we know it—Orphan Annie moves into the War years—both our Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim and "Alex Toth: Genius" series will conclude, the latter with Genius: Animated (though we still have a Tothian surprise or two up our sleeve!)—Alley Oop and the Bungle Family will get their own Essential—Bobby London's Popeye is finally collected!—and might there be another installment of Rip Kirby on the horizon? Or more Secret Agent X-9? And might we have a few additional surprises up our sleeves that we're waiting to spring on you when you least expect it? As a Bunny named Bugs was known to say: "Ehhh-h-h-h - could be!"

Twelve months from now, we'll likely gather for another Year in Review essay, 2014 will have proven to be at least as busy and pleasing a year as 2013 was, and who knows? Maybe once again we'll say: "You wuz dere!"

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Friday, Jan 10th, 2014

Sunday is Fun Day!

We're mighty pleased to be a part of this insightful article celebrating the Golden Age of newspaper strip reprints by Dana Jennings in the New York Times. Nice to see Flash Gordon in a broadsheet once again! Click on article for a larger version.

NYTimes

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Sunday, Jan 5th, 2014

Heeeere's Bluto…or is it Brutus?!

We're really excited at the ol' LOAC studio -- the first volume of Bobby London's Popeye will be off to the printer very soon. We'll reprint Bobby's complete run of dailies -- from 1986 to 1992 -- in two fat books (each one containing about 50% more than most strip reprint collections). This is the first time any of us have see the entire strip. There was a small colletion of random dailies in 1988 (Mondo Popeye) but that was it.

Andrew Farago, curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, has written the introductions. He was interviewed recently about the project for the Westfield Comics blog.

Popeye

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Wednesday, Dec 25th, 2013

A Very Terry Christmas

Comics fans are well aware of the newspaper strip connection to A Christmas Story, the classic holiday film by Jean Shepherd. Ralphie, the lead character, religiously listens to Little Orphan Annie on the radio and covets an Annie Secret Society Decoder Ring. The entire story revolves around Ralphie's burning desire for the ultimate Christmas present—a "Red Ryder carbine-action, two-hundred-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time"—named after Fred Harman's popular western strip.

But what does this December 3, 1939 Terry and the Pirates Sunday have to do with the movie? Please join us on Facebook and post your answer.

Terry Christmas

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Monday, Dec 23rd, 2013

Must-See Viewing

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

What did we chance upon while doing a little on-line research related to our last, Syndicate-centric entry in this space, but this absolutely dee-lightful film of Milton Caniff at work - with Phil Cochran on hand to do a little mugging for the camera, too! Follow this link, scroll to the bottom of the page, then click "Steve Canyon, Terry and the Pirates Cartoonist" for your chance to see the Rembrandt of the Comic Strips wielding his brush ...

Also of interest, from three years before Caniff launched Terry, "Newspaper Cartoonists 'From Trees to Tribunes'." This 1931 film showcases the folks behind the Chicago Tribune. At roughly the five-minute mark of the feature, you'll see footage of influential cartoonist John T. McCutcheon, then at around 7:00 you'll see cartoonists like Sid Smith (The Gumps), Frank (Gasoline Alley) King, and even Harold Gray drawing Little Orphan Annie.

We hope you enjoy these flicker-pictures as much as we did!

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Sunday, Dec 15th, 2013

Popeye by Bobby London…Finally!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Details to follow, but we're just too excited to keep this under our hats any longer!

Popeye1

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Wednesday, Dec 11th, 2013

Dealing with The Syndicate (take two!)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Thanks to movies and television shows, one definition of the term "The Syndicate" is familiar worldwide. Coppola's Corleone clan was hip-deep in The Syndicate—Tony Soprano ran Syndicate business in New Jersey—Vinnie Terranova infiltrated Sonny Steelgrave's portion of The Syndicate in the first Wiseguy storyline, while Henry Hill realized his dream of becoming part of The Syndicate in Martin Scorcese's Goodfellas. To Joe and Jane Average, "The Syndicate" means gangdom, la familia—you know, The Mob.

If you're reading these words, however, you're almost certainly aware of another definition for "The Syndicate," one Joe and Jane are likely unaware of ... and it's that newspaper-type syndicate that was on my mind recently.

Trib

The Library of American Comics launched in 2007 and reprinted works from the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate in the form of Terry and the Pirates and Little Orphan Annie.

Terry'

LOA

MIGHTY OAKS FROM TINY ACORNS: THE FIRST ANNIE AND TERRY DAILIES.

IDW was already releasing the third of the Tribune-News "crown jewels," Dick Tracy, though LOAC took over the series with Volume Seven in 2009. In the previous year we had branched out to reprint a prime offering from the Associated Press: Noel Sickles's groundbreaking Scorchy Smith.

Scorchy

King Features Syndicate (KFS), of course, has long been a major player in the comic strip business, and in early 2010 our first foray into reprinting KFS material with the Eisner-nominated Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea.

King

THE STATELY KFS LOGO, WITH PEGASUS FRONT AND CENTER.

Syndicates are not gigantic monoliths. They have evolved down through the years—the McClure and Bell Syndicates merged; the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate has changed with the times, becoming TMS News and Features. We've managed to offer samplings from large and small syndicates as our range of offerings has grown. Here is a major listing of our titles and the syndicates that originally brought them to the newspaper-reading public. It's not a comprehensive list—we didn't get into the details of the way, for instance, King Aroo moved from McClure to Stanleigh Arnold's boutique Golden Gate Syndicate—but we think it's still a fun and informative little tally:

Chicago Tribune-New York News:

Terry and the Pirates, Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, The Gumps, Crawford, Gasoline Alley

McClure: King Aroo, Archie (early)

Bell: Miss Fury

United Feature: Li'l Abner, Tarzan

Washington Post Company: Bloom County, Outland, Opus

King Features: Bringing Up Father, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, Rip Kirby, Steve Canyon, Skippy, Archie (later strips), Blondie, Polly & Her Pals, The Little King, Secret Agent Corrigan

Here's the best news: any list of LOAC-published features and their associated Syndicates will only grow in 2014. We've already announced Essential volumes featuring Alley Oop and The Bungle Family—Batman is on his way—and there are more surprises on the way as the upcoming new year unfolds!

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Thursday, Nov 21st, 2013

A "mere" forty or fifty years ago

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

It can sometimes be said that we at LOAC are firmly entrenched in the 1920s through 1940s, but we do venture out of those imaginary boundaries. On the earlier end we have Baron Bean from the 1910s, while in the two strips below we move all the way into the 1960s (Batman) and 1970s (Tarzan), both of which are at the printer. (Click on each for a larger view.) Life's good.

Batman

Tarz

Batman © DC Comics, Inc.; Tarzan © ERB Inc.

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Thursday, Nov 21st, 2013

A "mere" forty or fifty years ago

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

It can sometimes be said that we at LOAC are firmly entrenched in the 1920s through 1940s, but we do venture out of those imaginary boundaries. On the earlier end we have Baron Bean from the 1910s, while in the two strips below we move all the way into the 1960s (Batman) and 1970s (Tarzan), both of which are at the printer. (Click on each for a larger view.) Life's good.

Batman

Tarz

Batman © DC Comics, Inc.; Tarzan © ERB Inc.

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Wednesday, Nov 20th, 2013

Way Over There and Down a Bit

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

New Zealand comics historians Matt Emery and Geoff Harrison are collaborating on a book about New Zealand reprint comics, which—from the 1940s through 1960s—featured many American strips. Matt was kind enough to send samples of covers featuring some of our particular favorites. Thanks, Matt! Good luck with the project!

NZ1

NZ2

NZ3

NZ4

NZ5

NZ6

NZ7

NZ8

NZ9

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Monday, Nov 18th, 2013

Rolling the Dice

Every so often we take a break from archival comic strip work to…well, relax by playing archival board games! Today we pulled from its drawer the 1937 Terry and the Pirates game. It's an inventive twist on the standard Parcheesi-type strategy—the Pat/Connie/Pop/Dale pieces are there to complicate matters, but all that really counts is moving the Terry-piece down one's edge of the board to the treasure. A neat little twist, having two tiers of simultaneous action on the board. In Caniff's narrative, of course, Terry never finds that treasure, but it's a different story in this game!

For continuity sticklers, Pop and Dale were long gone from the strip by 1937 (their storyline ran in late 1934 and early 1935), replaced by Normandie Drake and the sultry Burma (not to mention the evil Capt. Judas and Tony Sandhurst), but who's counting calendar pages. A gorgeous game is a gorgeous game!

Terrybox

board

(click on board above for larger size)

instructions

playing

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Friday, Nov 15th, 2013

Time Marches On -- Well, Sometimes (part two)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

So some heroes change over time, aging at roughly the same rate as the persons who are reading his exploits, but sometimes—even though styles for his supporting cast are allowed to adjust to the current norms - there are heroes who are almost frozen, immune to and unchanged by time. This holds true for crime busters as well as teenagers: note there's very little change in Phil Corrigan's look during Al Williamson's thirteen-plus years artistically helming X-9/Secret Agent Corrigan. Here's Phil from 1967, early in Williamson's run:
Cor1
Here's another look, this time from the summer of 1979.
Cor2
Corrigan is not quite as unchanged as Archie—he wears his hair slightly longer and is somewhat more willing to ditch the neckties—but he's pretty much the same straight-arrow symbol of righteousness readers saw at the start of Williamson's tenure.
When you're talking "straight-arrow symbols of righteousness," of course, you're talking Dick Tracy. While Chester Gould scarcely deviated from Tracy's suit-and-tie, hat-and-yellow-topcoat look, time washed over Tracy's appearance, wearing gradual changes in it the way even the stoutest rock is changed by the coming and going of the tides. Gould started by giving his audience a reed-thin, natty-looking Tracy when the series bowed in 1931:
Tracy1
Thirteen years later, in 1944, America was in the midst of World War II and Dick Tracy was wrapping up his battle against Flattop. By this time he seems a more rugged, square-jawed lawman:
Tracy2
A decade after that Tracy's lines seem cleaner, his hat rides higher on his head, and his gadgetry is a pervasive background element, creating barely an eyeblink thanks do Gould's diagrammatic captioning:
Tracy3
A final thought on this subject: it's easy for us to see the evolution (or lack of same) in the depiction of our favorite newspaper comic characters. We walk over to our bookshelves and pull down various books that allow us to put strips originally published years apart side-by-side for easy comparison. It wasn't as easy for the newspaper readers who followed these series at the time they were being released, installment by installment, in hometown papers all across the land. How many members of the audience were aware of the ways Annie or Tracy or Terry changed across decades? A mighty small percentage of them, I bet!

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Wednesday, Nov 13th, 2013

Time Marches On -- Well, Sometimes (part one)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

In reading the prior entry in this space —looking at examples of Little Orphan Annie's 1947 "Tik Tok" sequence— I started thinking about the ways time brought changes to the look of some of the most enduring characters in newspaper history, while leaving others relatively untouched.

Check it out - here's Annie herself, as depicted in 1924 during her first week of strips:
LOA1
Almost exactly ten years later, America's spunkiest kid is as blank-eyed as ever, but now she looks older and certainly is a better-fed, -coiffed, and -dressed orphan than the ragtag waif we first met.
LOA2
Now check out the '40s-era Annie of the Tik Tok sequence: seemingly thinner, perhaps taller, and sporting "big hair" (that will get even bigger in the years ahead!):
LOA3
Of course, Annie's metamorphosis pales before that of Milton Caniff's Terry Lee. At the outset of Terry and the Pirates, the titular character could have been a cousin or half-brother to the star of Caniff's previous strip, Dickie Dare:
Terry1
Shortly before Hallowe'en in 1939, Caniff wrote the star of his strip out of the continuity for more than half a year. By the time Terry returned to center stage, he had done considerable growing up:
Terry2
The little matter of a world war would further accelerate Terry's maturing, and by the time Caniff left the strip in 1946, Terry had taken over the spotlight as a leading man. No longer playing sidekick, he now had one of his own (Hotshot Charlie), as well as possessing enough sex appeal to pull a bevy of beauties into his orbit:
Terry3
Not every star of "the funnies" followed the paths of Terry and Annie. Bob Montana's Archie Andrews is almost immutable, sporting the same plaid pants, Riverdale sweater, and bow-tie across almost fifteen years. Here's Archie in 1947:
Arch1
And here he is, looking almost identical, circa 1961:
Arch2
Tune in tomorrow for more…!

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Monday, Nov 4th, 2013

When "the Funnies" weren't so funny!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Comics are for kids, eh? In this 1947 daily Harold Gray addresses the complaints he received about the "funnies" not being funny. He also takes a swipe at editorial interference, something he wouldn't have dared done in print a couple of years earlier when Capt. Joe Patterson, the syndicate's founder, was still alive. We're scanning ahead in our Little Orphan Annie series and this story featuring Gray's stand-in, the cartoonist Tik Tok, is one of his best. (Click on images for a larger view.)

Tiktok

A month later, in the February 9th Sunday, Gray ramps it up further. "Fascist moron!!!" Gray was often under attack for his political views and he pushes back in this unusually candid strip!

tik2

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Monday, Oct 28th, 2013

Progressive Signs on a Sensitive Subject

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Here in the 21st Century, violence against women has become socially unacceptable, though unfortunately it has yet to be eradicated from the culture. For decades during the prior century society was much more forgiving in this area - as late as 1964, network TV was willing to shrug off wife beating as an acceptable situation comedy story plot (see the Dick Van Dyke Show episode, "The Lady and the Tiger and the Lawyer," which may be the most infamous achievement in the exceptional career of multi-talented Garry Marshall, who co-wrote this Van Dyke teleplay). By 1977 producer Norman Lear and writers Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf brought a seriocomedic look at rape and its consequences to All in the Family in a controversial hour-long episode entitled "Edith's 50th Birthday," which prompted one female TV reviewer to write, "The point is that the program was not prepared to 'deal' with reality, only to exploit it." 

What do these ruminations have to do with good ol' LOAC? They were spurred by a recent gift by longtime Friend of the Library Ed Maslow.

Over the course of the past few years, Ed has shared several wonderful e-mails with us describing his younger days, reading the New York papers of the day and savoring strips like Flash Gordon and "the crown jewels" of the Tribune Daily News syndicate. Most recently, Ed gave us a fascinating look at violence against women in Dick Tracy. Notice this panel from November 6, 1943. As Ed observed in his note, "The strip that was published in newspapers had Tracy saying 'I hate to shove a lady--but, ow!'"

Shove

But, as Ed went on to both show and tell us, "The way Gould wrote it is the panel below with Tracy saying 'I hate to slap a lady--but, ow!' The art is the same only the word shove has replaced slap.":

shoveorigslap

Apparently by 1943 the syndicate had decided that "It's not right to hit a lady," and that, as a symbol of What's Right, Dick Tracy would abide by that rule, even when tussling with someone as nasty and potentially dangerous as Lois, who certainly had no scruples about beating up Tracy.

Gould's editors had fewer scruples only five years before, Ed reminded us, as he sent this sequence between baddies Karpse and Marrow from the November 13, 1938 Sunday page (click on strip for larger size):

slapper

And shortly after our exchange with Ed on this subject, I was going back through my early Tracys and found this sequence from March 29, 1934. Never mind villain being villainous with villainess, in this shot Tracy is laying a hand on brunette spitfire Jean Penfield, who was trying to move in on him and cut Tess Trueheart out of the picture:

34slap

Of course, to be fair to both Tracy and Chester Gould, the idea of "making a woman come to her senses" by slapping her across the face was a melodramatic device that remained in use well into the 1960s.

Ed Maslow's e-mails to us revealed an intriguing editorial change to the Dick Tracy daily of November 6, 1943, but it also spurred more sobering thoughts about this particularly sobering subject. Despite still-shocking cases that get reported in the news even today, it's clear our society has increasingly moved to reject the idea of violence against females - and, thanks to his editors, Dick Tracy was moving in that direction before World War II had ended, literally decades ahead of many other pop culture heroes.

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Saturday, Oct 26th, 2013

Those Were the Days

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

If I posed the question, "What classic newspaper strip is both the largest AND smallest book in the LOAC catalogue?" and you answered, "Polly and Her Pals," you'd win the proverbial Kewpie Doll. The daily strip has recently been released as Volume Three in LOAC Essentials, measuring 11.5" wide by 4.25" high. We published the Eisner Award-nominated first volume of Cliff Sterrett's Sunday masterpiece nearly two years ago, coming in at a whopping 12" x 16".

A busy publishing schedule has kept us from returning to Polly Sundays, but we've decided that the wait has been long enough. We're putting Volume Two on the schedule for Christmas 2014. It will pick up where the first book left off, reprising all of Sterrett's Sundays from 1928, 1929, and 1930, plus a dozen or so from 1931. Why the extra strips? Our research has revealed that some of the Sundays were drawn by other hands while Sterrett was on vacation, so we're adding an equal number from 1931 to give you a full three years' worth of Sunday Sterretts.

In the meantime, here's a rare item to whet your appetite: an 18" x 24" poster from the late 1910s. Click on the image for a larger view.

Polly_poster

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Thursday, Oct 24th, 2013

A Swingin' Affair

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

The second volume of Russ Manning's Tarzan newspaper strip is now officially at the printer. Here's one of the photos in the book, taken in January 1971 by Clay Miller of the Orange County Register, and graciously supplied by Russ's daughter, Melissa Manning.

Manning swinging

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Wednesday, Oct 23rd, 2013

The LOAC "Timeline of Comic Strips" (October 2013 Edition)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

 

I was looking at my bookshelf full o' LOAC titles the other day, remembering how, when The Library of American Comics began, we were focused on the 1920s and '30s (Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, Scorchy Smith, and of course, Terry and the Pirates). Today, as we close in on ninety individual releases, LOACs offerings extend as far back as the 1910s and all the way out to the 21st Century.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Since one graphic is worth a thousand words, feast your eyes on this Timeline of Comic Strips, as represented by The Library of American Comics output circa mid-October, 2013. Click on images for larger sizes:

Frag1

frag2

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Tuesday, Oct 15th, 2013

A New Fantasy Comics Page

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Every so often we like to pick a date and look at what some popular strips were offering on that particular day. Sometimes, like now, we use this space to assemble those strips into a fantasy comics page.

To the best of our knowledge no newspaper ever featured exactly this collection of strips in their pages, but if they did, this is what they would have served up to their readers on November 5, 1943:

•  Chester Gould proved his dauntless detective did not discriminate in the pursuit of justice—Dick Tracy was as willing top tussle with a dame as he was with a man.

Barnaby used Mr. O'Malley's timely intervention to end political shenanigans in the Baxters' hometown in Crockett Johnson's winsome fantasy series.

• The Caped Crusader literally swings into action at the end of his first five days as a comic strip hero: Batman and Robin officially debuted November 1, 1943.

• Another hero who took inaugural bows on November 1st ended up in a dogfight over the Pacific. Roy Crane's incredible depiction of air and sea battles made Buz Sawyer a new must-read in newspapers across the country.

• When it came to imparting a sense of the Pacific War, no cartoonist resonated with his readers the way Milton Caniff did. Here, his neo-aviator, Terry Lee, wrestles with that demon, Green-Eyed Envy, in Terry and the Pirates.

• While Terry is daydreaming about winning his girl, Abner Yokum is seeking to avoid being taken to the altar by his gal, unaware that Bet-a-Million Bashby has arranged to rig the game by planning an ambush in the form of the irresistible Patricia Hallroom, as Al Capp prepares to begin his memorable 1943 Sadie Hawkins Day antics.

The high degree of alliteration connected to these six strips also tickled us. Consider: there are three "B"s involved (Barnaby - Batman - Buz), and four "C"s (Caniff, Capp, Crane, and Crockett).

We hope you enjoy this sampling of exceptional cartooning talent as much as we did! Click on any strip for a larger version.

Batman

Abner

Buz

Terry

Tracy

Barnaby

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Sunday, Sep 29th, 2013

Remember When…

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Al Capp was such a good writer that even his throwaway gags were brilliant. Here's the opening to a 1946 Sunday series in which the 1933 newspapers FINALLY make it to Dogpatch—thirteen years after the fact. Capp uses the "news" to skewer the 1930s isolationist Republicans and Democracts as represented by the Yokum's own official blowhard, Senator Fogbound.

Click on the Sunday for a larger, more readable version.

Abner Fogbound

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Monday, Sep 23rd, 2013

For fans of George McManus

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

No sooner did I get done writing about our Polly and Her Pals LOAC Essentials volume and the special frisson I got from it than a purchase arrived that made me think of another of our books that has a personal "something extra" attached to it.

BUF2

Bringing Up Father: Of Cabbages and Kings is chockfull of not just the antics of Jiggs and Maggie, but also rare artwork and information obtained as a result of my late-2012 trip to Los Angeles to research the George McManus papers held at UCLA's Charles E. Young Research Library. (A travelogue of that trip can be found here).

Whenever I open up Of Cabbages and Kings I recall what a thrill it was to pick up and examine wonderful artifacts like that 1947 Christmas card, a masterwork of color and design (see page 13 in the book), plus all the great photographs and newspaper articles sprinkled throughout my text. Best of all, however, is the knowledge that after my "warm-up act" is over, the book is loaded with over two hundred fifty pages of McManus-created hilarity. I'm such a fan of McManus that I recently pounced on the opportunity to acquire a variety of 1934 Bringing Up Father dailies. Since our sales indicate I'm not alone in my enjoyment of Maggie and Jiggs's perpetual marital skirmishes, let me share a sampling of them with you here ...

BUF7

BUF8

BUF9

BUF10

BUF11

BUF12

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Thursday, Sep 19th, 2013

For fans of Cliff Sterrett

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

While all our books are special to me in one way or another, certain releases carry with them an extra-special frisson. I like to think our two King Aroos and the Cartoon Monarch volume, for example, help call attention to these unfairly-neglected strips and their exceptional creators (Jack Kent, Otto Soglow). Books such as Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, as well as our Little Orphan Annie, Steve Canyon, and Terry and the Pirates series always energize me because they reflect the research I and others have done at Boston University, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and other sites. I always hope our readers will get as much of a thrill out of seeing reproductions of rarely-seen Christmas cards, notebook entries and sketches, advertising art, and personnel correspondence as we get from touching and examining the originals.

The third in our series of LOAC Essentials, collecting the 1933 Polly and Her Pals dailies, gives me the equivalent of a frisson double whammy.

Polly 3

As scholars with bigger brains than mine have often stated, Polly's creator, Cliff Sterrett, is among those most often-neglected in the pantheon of great comic strip impresarios. Who can read this new collection of the whacky antics of the Perkins clan, including the delightful Christmas sequence that rounds out the book, and not be both utterly charmed and duly impressed with the unique artwork and impressive storytelling and characterization skills on display?

Not only do I hope this Polly Essentials will help shine a deserved spotlight on Cliff Sterrett's talent, I have fingers crossed readers will enjoy my essay, titled "The Downeaster." It represents the scratching of a thirty-year itch.

I became a Polly and Her Pals devotee from my initial introduction to the strip in the pages of the late, much-missed Nemo magazine. When I discovered Sterrett had spent several years residing in Ogunquit, Maine—a town roughly sixty miles from where I grew up—I became fascinated by the possibility of learning more about him and the "artists' colony" with which he was reportedly involved. Time passed, Nemo suspended publication, no further significant information on Sterrett's Ogunquit years was forthcoming, and at the time I perceived no outlet for any writing I might do were I to research the subject.

Once we decided to reprint Polly Sundays in our oversized "Champagne Edition" format, Jeet Heer expressed to Dean his desire to write the text feature for that particular book. I admit I winced a bit at that news, but as I told Dean, I had a full plate in front of me at that time, and it would hardly be fair of me to play "dog in a manger" and keep such a plum assignment for myself. If you read Jeet's exceptional article in our Eisner-nominated 2010 Polly and Her Pals Sundays volume, I think you'll see why I had few regrets over that decision.

PollySunday

Still, when we obtained the 1933 Polly dailies and put it on the schedule as part of our Essentials line, I wasted no time laying claim to that writing assignment! I did my research, wrote my article, and edited the galleys before we shipped the book to the printer ... and I was sky-high all the while.

I'm still sky-high whenever I look at my copy of the completed book. If I've done my job properly, you'll finish reading this article and have a significantly-improved understanding of what the Ogunquit artists' colony was all about and how Cliff Sterrett fit into it. (You'll also see a piece of Sterrett original art we found that was produced for the artist's Maine-based friends and neighbors!)

If our latest LOAC Essentials whets your appetite for more Polly and Her Pals, you'll be glad to know we're planning a future "Champagne Edition" of surrealistic Sterrett Sunday pages from 1928 to 1931. To help tide you over until then, here's a sampling of some later 1938 Polly Sundays from a batch of clipped strips I recently acquired for my own fun and entertainment. (A year when Polly was going brunette!)

Click on strips for larger versions…

P1

P2

P3P4P5

P6

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Sunday, Sep 8th, 2013

Newly discovered Noel Sickles art!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Comics historian Dr. Michael J. Vassallo has uncovered a great stash of previously unreprinted Noel Sickles art from the early 1930s. As noted in our Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, the cartoonist found work at Writer's Digest as he waited for his big break -- a call to New York to join Milton Caniff at the Associated Press. Dr. V has posted a more than generous helping of Sickles art on his blog.

scorchy

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Monday, Sep 2nd, 2013

Pix Involving a Pair of Anglophiles

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

It was a perfect summer afternoon on Saturday, August 24th, as I set out driving northeast in the general direction of Amesbury, Massachusetts. I was en route to a 2:00 PM appointment to interview Al Capp's firstborn, Julie Cairol, about her famous father, her family, and all things Li'l Abner.

Ms. Cairol was a thoroughly gracious host, welcoming me into the house her parents bought in 1939. We spoke for over an hour on the enclosed front porch, having a candid discussion that touched upon the interaction between her two sets of grandparents (no scrapping was involved - the urban, ethnic Caplins and the quintessentially New England Camerons got along like two peas in a pod), the family's relaxed attitudes toward Capp's wooden leg ("We always spoke of it in capitals - The Leg. 'Where is The Leg?'", Ms. Cairol said with an easy laugh), and her father's many contributions to society in general and the world of cartooning in particular. You'll read many of the other intriguing facts, opinions, and insights Ms. Cairol shared with me in our future Li'l Abner volumes.

Once our discussion concluded Ms. Cairol gave me a tour through her home. The structure has changed over time - running water was long ago piped in, though for the first years the Capps owned the property water was carried in from an outdoor well - but each room still reflects refined country living. Many walls are filled with wonderful family photographs, paintings, or memorabilia that would impress any comic strip aficionado, like original E.C. Segar and Ernie Bushmiller drawings that welcomed newborn Julie into the world.

capp

Bringing me around to a rear door, Ms. Cairol led me into the back yard, where a rise on the other side of the river slopes upward, heralding the more than fifty acres of land, some of it located in New Hampshire and some in Massachusetts, that is part of the property. The immediate yard behind the house is dominated by this patriotic fellow, created by artist Jon Mooers:

shmoo

More of The Shmoos - a lot more! - coming your way in our Li'l Abner Volume 7, on sale in 2014.

A statue of Buddha sits in the shade of a friendly tree ...

buddha

... With Pan looking out over a swimming pool that features a small stone representation at each corner: a duck, a hippo, a rabbit, and this fearless Leo.

pan

5

We moved through a wooden gate to the front lawn, where Bacchus is tucked away not far from the garage.

6

I told my fine host as we said our goodbyes, it really is both a sincere honor and a labor of love to be writing essays about her father and his unique Dogpatch cast of characters. And experiences like this are a memorable frosting on the cake.

•  •  •  •  •

One thing Al Capp and I have in common: we're both Anglophiles of the first order. Capp made many a trip to the United Kingdom, as have I. Admittedly, however, Capp stayed in much tonier hotels during his visits than the ones I've favored during mine! So, since I've shared some shots of the Capp homestead with you here, let me share some other photos with you, this time involving me.

Though some of you may have seen enough discussion in posts prior to July 20th concerning my wedding on that day, there have been a handful among you who've inquired about pictures from the nuptials. Given the old rule of thumb that for "X" number of folks who take the time to write in with an inquiry, "XY" persons are out there silently asking the same question, I trust you'll pardon me for sharing this mini-album with you. Some of these pix actually tie in to good ol' LOAC, as you'll see, and I promise, what follows is the last word in this space on the subject!

pose

Here I am with the brand new Mrs. Canwell. I trust you'll agree Krista's wedding dress looks far better than my tux!

tom

"Are you as antsy as I am whenever your picture gets taken, Mike?" Mr. Dudley's expression makes his answer plain, doesn't it? Mike was an immeasurable help to me; his speech brought a tear to more than one eye. There's no doubt he was the best man, in every sense of the term.

flash

Courtney Lucas, our photographer, had an eye for the offbeat. So when she spotted me with old friend Dave Peabody as he was preparing to leave, she asked if we had any comics material available. Since Dave self-publishes his own historically-based comic, Walking Christendom, we were able to pose for a series of pictures with our own works. Feel free to contact me at info@loacomics.com if you'd like to know more about Dave's Walking Christendom. (And note Dave's ginchy Nancy & Sluggo tie!)

krista

When I showed this shot to my bride, she said, "It look like I'm giving people a witchy laugh!" She's entitled to her opinion, just as I am—this is my favorite picture of Krista out of all the shots we received. At background-right, my little nephew Henry is clinging to his dad, my brother-in-law Dave, who was one of my ushers.

5

If you've ever encountered him at a convention, you know my friend Lee Weeks is not just a top-flight comics artist, but also an accomplished magician. Here he is wowing some guests with a few card tricks and a little sleight-of-hand.

flash ring

While I had a copy of Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim Volume 2 in my hands while saying goodbye to my friend Dave, our photographer asked me to remove my wedding band. As you can see, she had an innovative use for it.

end

Finally, an artsy black-and-white shot of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce and Krista Canwell walking off into the sunset. This makes me think of the end of a Charlie Chaplin two-reeler, for some reason ...

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Wednesday, Aug 28th, 2013

Prentice and Williamson in Mexico

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

When Rip Kirby artist John Prentice and his wife decided to move to Mexico in the early 1960s, Prentice's assitant, Al(den) McWilliams, who was also drawing the Twin Earths strip, decided to stay in the U.S.. Enter another great artist, one with a similar name: Al Williamson, who signed on with Prentice. The two men and their wives headed for Mexico City, where they remained for about a year and a half.

Cori Williamson, Al's widow, kindly shared some of Al's "roughs" from 1961 for Rip Kirby Volume Six, which is in stores next week. Below are two examples of Williamson's original work on vellum and Prentice's finished inks.

Williamson_Prentice1

Williamson_Prentice2

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Tuesday, Aug 27th, 2013

Superman -- missing no longer

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

It's been brought to our attention that in the first volume in our Superman Siler Age Dailies series, the July 2, 1959 strip is duplicated and the July 1st strip is missing. Below is the missing strip. Click on it for a larger version. For anyone who wants to print out a high-res replacement page 37 to place in your book, you can download a file here.

Our apologies for the error.

Supes37

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Monday, Aug 26th, 2013

Rare Alex Toth!!!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

We were recently granted access to the Warner Bros. animation archives so we could scan more than ONE HUNDRED pieces of Alex Toth presentation artwork for Hanna-Barbera. Most of these pieces have never been seen outside of H-B and will be the centerpiece of Genius, Animated, the third book in our Alex Toth, Genius trilogy schedule for 2014.

Here's a tease of two presentation boards. Click on each to see a larger version. Sorry, but you'll have to wait for the book to see the rest!

HB2

HB1

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Monday, Aug 12th, 2013

So good that it will make your eyes pop out!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Pete

Here's Pete Poplaski mugging it up as he gets his first look at Volume One of the Superman Silver Age Dailies series for which he's drawing the covers. Ya think he likes it? (Keen eyes will also notice the Wurtlitzer jukebox in the background at Pete's left, a secret sign that he is visiting his old pal -- and jukebox collector -- Denis Kitchen!)

Meanwhile, here's Pete's finished cover for the first of the Superman Sundays series (in stores in December).

SupermanSundays

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Friday, Aug 9th, 2013

From the Nether-lands

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Tarzan

The covers to our first two Tarzan volumes.

Newspaper strip fan John van der Horst was kind enough to write from the Netherlands:

"Today I received my copy [of your first Russ Manning Tarzan newspaper strip collection] from a Dutch comic specialist who imports the books from the US and I must admit it's well beyond my expectations… My sincere compliments as the book is very well binded, strong paper and a fantastic layout.

"You did a wonderful job and it is just a joy to relive my childhood moments by reading and seeing. It still captures every bit of imagination... Imagine: I am sitting in my garden now—it is a glorious summer here—having a drink and enjoying the book, taken away to Russ Manning's world, just like I did at the time at my parents home...."

John sent examples of what the old editions of Manning's Tarzan look like in Dutch. Thanks, John!

Dutch1

Dutch2

All Tarzan images © ERB Inc.

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Monday, Aug 5th, 2013

Uncluttering

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Cleaning out the mental Inbox by serving up these quick tidbits…

"The Third Word in 'Modesto' is 'Modest'" Dept: While he's being quietly humble about it, LOAC Creative Director Dean Mullaney was feted as a Special Guest of the recently-concluded San Diego Comic-Con, which included an open-to-the-public Q&A session hosted by IDW's Imperial Grand Poobah, Ted Adams. It culminated in Dean receiving Comic-Con's highest honor, the Inkpot Award, for his achievements in comics over the thirty-five-year Eclipse-to-LOAC period. (And if one adds in his Marvel letter-writing days, make it a forty year timespan!)

Anyway, here's Dean with his richly-deserved trophy. Note his dapper customized golf shirt! One of the perks of life at LOAC…

Inkpot

"Meanwhile, On the East Coast ..." Dept: My wedding came off smoothly, with everything running on or ahead of schedule and everyone apparently having a good time (none of our roughly one hundred twenty guests complained to us, anyway). I promise, only one more wedding-related entry to come after this, once the pictures come back (you can see me looking like John Steed—or is that Lou Grant?—in the tux), but now seemed a good time to offer sincere thanks to everyone who sent their good wishes and congratulations to myself and the newly-minted missus. I also thought you might enjoy seeing this, sent to us by the redoubtable Bill Peckmann. You may recall Bill was one of the animators who worked on the ABC Schoolhouse Rock shorts of the 1970s, and he recalled everyone's favorite, Conjunction Junction, with this fine piece:

Canwell

And since the new Mrs. Canwell is a technical writer—currently between gigs, so if you're a tech pubs hiring manager in the greater Boston area and reading this...!—we both know a thing or two about "hooking up words and phrases and clauses," as Conjunction Junction helped a whole generation to understand.

"A (Royal) Family Affair" Dept: Ho-ho! I see England's new third-in-line-for-the-throne has been named George, and speculation is rampant that the name was chosen, at least in part, in recognition of the lad's great-grandfather, George VI, who served as ruler of England before Queen Elizabeth, and who teamed with Winston Churchill to steer The Green and Pleasant Land through the trials of World War II.

By an amazing coincidence, a major focus of our second Bringing Up Father volume, "Of Cabbages and Kings", was a lengthy storyline in which Jiggs and Maggie travel across the puddle to attend George VI's coronation! I wonder—should we send a copy to the new prince's parents as a "Welcome baby" gift? (Well, I can dream, can't I?)

 

BUF2

"Coming Attractions" Dept: I trust you've noticed we've announced our fourth LOAC Essentials volume. This will feature a lengthy installment from one of the strips most requested by newspaper strip fans everywhere—Alley Oop! Get ready to thrill to Oop's very first adventures traveling through time, all wrapped up in the one-strip-per-page, inexpensive Essentials package.

Alley Oop Essentials

We've also announced plans to publish Ripley's Believe It or Not. We view this feature as a true slice of Americana, one that should interest newspaper comics fans and perhaps attract some of the audience that has come through the Ripley's Museums to sample our unique LOAC flavor. (Today, Ripley's; tomorrow—Canyon? Archie? Annie? Skippy? We can only hope…) Dean has already examined the Robert Ripley papers and said when it comes to collecting memorabilia, "Ripley makes Milton Caniff look like a piker!" Given the extensiveness of Caniff's OSU holdings, that's a mind-boggling thought!

And of course, there's also our plans to…waitaminnit, can't talk about that yet. Or, of course, my upcoming interviews with…whoops, better not let those cats out of the bag right now, either. Suffice it to say, there are fun and interesting announcements ahead, so keep watching this space!

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Friday, Aug 2nd, 2013

The Water's Hot. Come On In!

Check out this bath scene from the tenth Miss Fury Sunday page (June 8, 1941). Although it ran in newspapers across the country, it was apparently too hot for Timely (Marvel) Comics to print in its 1942 comic book reprint. But you can see this -- and the other censored panels -- in the Complete Miss Fury, 1941-1944, which is off to the printer today for an on sale date in October. (Click on image for a larger version)

MissFury

(For those counting, this is LOAC book #84!)

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Wednesday, Jul 31st, 2013

Christina Toth Hyde, R.I.P.

Alex_Christina

Christina Hyde passed away on Monday, July 29, in her sleep. She was Alex Toth's former wife and mother of their four children. The family made the announcement:

"She celebrated her 80th birthday last week. She was living independently in her home in southern Oregon. She loved her dog Flash, her cat Hugo and tending to her yard and garden.Most of all, she loved her family including her twelve grandchildren. She will be greatly missed as she was very present in all of our lives, especially her grandchildren's."

Eldest daughter Dana adds, "As we begin to embrace what comes next—my dear brother Damon, and Aunt Darlene have driven immediately to Oregon to secure my mom's house due to the threat of fire. There have been many homes evacuated and burned in the outlaying area. Now the fire is 3 miles from her house.

"All my adult life my mother would say that someday when she left the earth, we would sift through all the special things she saved for us. She was not materialistic, but saved notes, things she'd written but not shared yet—little items with history—they were her legacy. It brought her so much joy to imagine us finding them.

"Please pray for my family and all the families that are fighting those fires. Please pray for the safety of my brother and Aunt and all the people trying to secure their property and evacuate.

"My mom's last words about the fire were that if her house burned to the ground she would take the insurance money and build a little cabin even further into the woods...citing that "that is another dream." I believe that right now she is in that cabin (just not on earth).

"Thank you. Have a blessed day."

We at LOAC add our sincere thoughts for the Toth family. Christina was very gracious in granting us interviews and sharing precious family photographs (like the one above of she and Alex in 1958) for our Alex Toth books.

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Wednesday, Jul 24th, 2013

Yay, Trina Robbins!!!!!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Erika

One of the highlights of the San Diego Comic-Con this year was the election of Trina Robbins into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. Congrats to Trina for a well-deserved honor!!! Trina's newest editing job is going to the printer next week—our second book in the series. It represents a dream come true for Trina -- to finally reprint the classic Miss Fury pages by Tarpé Mills that she has telling us all about for years. This book, as well our previous Eisner Award-nominated release, features an intro by Trina and book design by Lorraine Turner.

MissFury2

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Wednesday, Jul 24th, 2013

Why Print Still Matters

LOAC's Bruce Canwell offers his opinion on "Why Print Still Matters" in this blog everyone should read.

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Monday, Jul 22nd, 2013

Noel Sickles: His Own Words & Pictures

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

One of the great things about Library of American Comics books is that each is a shout-out into the big, big world—and sometimes, really interesting halloos come back.

That has certainly been the case with our 2008 release, Scorchy Smith and The Art of Noel Sickles. It remains one of our very favorites, a project that taught us a lot on many levels. For me it was and is an honor to be Bud Sickles's primary biographer, to call attention to his place in comics history, and to help present so much of his splendid artwork to a 21st Century audience.

Scorchy

A few years ago our Scorchy came to the notice of Ohio's Kristy Swope, from the firm of Swope and Swope, Attorneys at Law. Now, that sentence might make some of you gulp with trepidation, but I can assure you this was contact for the most amicable of reasons. Ms. Swope represented the nephew of Noel Sickles, Wesley, who during his teen years produced artwork of his own for his school publications. Ms. Swope originally contacted The Library of American Comics regarding any other surviving Sickles family members about whom she might have been unaware. We exchanged a few pleasant e-mails, with me primarily confirming that Noel and his wife Louise had no children of their own, the names and last known towns of residence for his siblings, and the scant information we had about nieces and nephews. Kristy thanked us for our time and information, and then we went our separate ways and heard nothing from her…

…Until recently, that is.

I hear you gulping in trepidation again—but it's not necessary. Kristy reported that, sadly, Wesley had passed away in February, and while processing his papers she found a handful of documents from Noel she believed would be of interest to us. And was she ever correct!

The earliest of those documents is from late May, 1935, and is titled "Tribute to William A. (Billy) Ireland." Ireland, of course, was the long-time cartooning guiding light of the Columbus Dispatch; his jam-packed Passing Show feature for that newspaper was beloved by thousands of readers and drew a number of aspiring Buckeye State cartoonists to the Dispatch, Sickles and Milton (Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon) Caniff foremost among them.

Passing

Sickles's tribute, written following Ireland's death on May 29, 1935, begins, "Bill Ireland meant so much more to me than I could ever convey with words that I feel it a little useless even to attempt to speak," then goes on to characterize Ireland as, "A deeply serious man, his approach to his work was unusually light-hearted and gay. There were laugh wrinkles in his face, and that is what I will remember most about him."

Ireland

Flash-forward slightly more than eight years, to September 5, 1943. Sickles wrote a letter to the second of his four siblings, Royal, sister-in-law Hazel, and nephew Wesley (yes, the same Wesley whom Kristy Swope represented). This missive was penned while Bud was working for Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C. and it offers intriguing additional facts about this period of Sickles's life, saying, "The Navy had been pursuing me—asking me to work for them—for over a year. As I couldn't do the job I wanted to do for the Army, primarily due to Army red tape, I transferred into the same sort of work for the Navy. I was offered two different commissions by the Navy, but preferred to remain a civilian, as I believe I can do the job better that way." Leave it to Sickles to turn down military commissions—and the higher pay that likely went with them!—in order to maintain his primary alliance to his craft and the end results.

The letter also discusses the Sickles' living situation in D.C., where they took up residence in a Swedish boarding house ("It is unusually clean and has an individual restaurant—good for us all around"). Bud reports that his wife, Louise, was seeking work as a department store fashion artist, which is a terrific bit of first-hand proof that part of the ties that bound the couple together was their shared talents in the field of illustration.

Noel further writes that, "Our one disappointment is that we left Butch—our cat—in care of some people in West Nyack [the Sickles's former town of residence], and now we can't bring him down."

Sickles was in a letter-writing mood on September 5th of '43, because he followed his letter to his brother with one to his father, James Sickles. The deep affection of a son for his father is clear in two passages. In the first Noel asks, "Are you drawing any pictures? I have those you gave me in Chillicothe and when the war is over and we can have a home of our own we want to frame them for our walls. You probably don't remember them, but one of them is an iron works in Scots County, another an Ohio River steamboat, and so on. If you have any more, we would appreciate having them." Later, as he closes, he says, "We yearn for the day when we can live in the country again and have you with us for a long visit. We're sure you would like it. Things have been so unsettled for us for the past two years that we couldn't ask you to come, for fear that we would have to tear up stakes and move the following week."

Whether or not James Sickles ever got that long visit with his son and daughter-in-law is unknown. The knowledge may be lost forever to posterity, yet I hope otherwise. Whether it's me or some other, as-yet-unknown (perhaps as-yet-unnamed!) writer, future investigations may bring to light still more facts. After all, as Dean and I regularly say, "The more we know, the more there is to know!"

For now, however, we extend our most sincere thanks to Kristy Swope as we leave you with some amazing images of Sickles art (some of which weren't in Scorchy Smith: The Art of Noel Sickles):

mountain

 tone

Meadco

airforce

RFK


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Thursday, Jul 18th, 2013

Far From the Madding Crowd

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Though I have some exciting work to do in the weeks ahead, the July 19-21 period will mark one of the few weekends in the past six years when I won't be doing LOAC work. Instead, as already noted in this and other spaces, I'll be in scenic Worcester, Massachusetts, getting married. My bride-to-be Krista and I have been living together since late April, however, this will be the first marriage for each of us. Now, if you'll indulge me for a few hundred words and a small handful of pictures, I'd like to take this space to salute three friends who sadly will be absent from my nuptials.

1. LITTLE PAWS

Little Paws

See, I've not just gained a wife in this deal, I've gained co-ownership of her dog. Part schipperke/part sheltie, my intended rescued this little guy after his first owners suffered financial setbacks, could no longer afford a dog, and turned him over to a shelter. She named him Little Paws when she acquired him at age seven; now age fourteen, L.P. is an incredibly quiet dog who never barks, and whose occasional whines or cries are almost sub-vocal. He is also amazingly patient—there are times he clearly has an Urgent Need, but he maintains his composure until one of us can leash him up and take him outside. He's very inquisitive, very loyal, very well-behaved, and I'm always appreciative of those qualities. I also applaud his good taste: one of his favorite places to lay is on a big Red Sox blanket I own…

I've always been more of a dog person than a cat person (we owned a sheltie for several years while I was growing up, and I recognize several of her traits in L.P.), and having this crazy dog in the house has brought me plenty of laughter and delight. I'm prejudiced, of course, but it would be difficult to find a better dog, or a better four-footed friend of any sort.

We've avoided kenneling him since getting engaged and will avoid it again—a friend of the soon-to-be-Mrs.-Canwell will care for him during the three days we're in Worcester. Still, I'm having my fiancée drop him off—yes, I'm a softie where Little Paws is concerned, but I just can't bring myself to leave him. We know we'll see him in only a few days, but I keep thinking from his perspective, he'll wonder if a second family has abandoned him…

2. MY DAD, LINWOOD CANWELL.

Linwood

Good gravy! This photo must be circa 1962 or '63! That's my father at foreground-left, with his then-ever-present cigarette clamped between his lips. You can likely figure out who that is at right, diligently fishing away…

It's hard to believe my Dad will have been gone fifteen years as of this October; cigarettes and asbestos combined to take him from us too young, at age sixty-two. Linwood William Canwell grew up in the 1940s, an avid hunter and fisherkid in a tiny rural New England town with a general store that sold everything from pickle brine to tires. Educated in a one-room schoolhouse and without a minute of college to his name, he nevertheless carved out a professional career and was universally respected as the smartest man in the room by those around him, a straight shooter with little patience for b.s.

My father was never much of a reader, but for as long as I can remember he was fascinated by language and would play with words and phrases for the amusement of himself and others (a habit he ingrained in me, one I carry forward to this day).

My Dad loved to compete. He was the worst loser ever—and the worst winner, too (manoman, he could rub it in while he was beating you!). The last thing my Dad and I ever did together outside a medical facility was play cribbage at the lakeside cottage he bought in 1970 that remained in our family for three dacades.

Shortly before dawn on the day my father died, mere hours before he would drift into a coma before slipping away forever, only my sister-in-law and I were awake with him, so only I was there to see him take her hand and tell her, "You were a good catch." And amidst the hurly-burly of recent months I've been stopped a time or two by this thought: If there really is a multiverse out there, then somewhere is an Earth where my Dad is still alive, at age 76, and he'll be there for my wedding day. On that world my Dad has had months to get to know my fiancée and play cribbage with her (they would never play Scrabble. She's an excellent player, but so deliberate—read: slow—it would drive him nuts!). I like to think he would have also told her, "You're a good catch."

To end on a less somber note—

3. LOAC's CREATIVE DIRECTOR.

Dean Mullaney

Our Founder

Someone has to be minding the store at the Library, and Dean will be doing so in the midst of this year's San Diego Comic-Con. Can you believe he's passing up the chance to sit through an hour-long wedding ceremony and to eat rubber chicken in favor of being feted like a king as a Special Guest of the Con? He'll also be signing advance copies of our first Superman: Silver Age Dailies release at the IDW booth (#2643), as well (the book officially hits stores at the end of this month).

Dean's been not just the savvy creative force behind LOAC, he's been a mighty fine friend, as well, and not a day goes by when I don't recognize my debt to him (and my deadlines for him!). He richly deserves the honors he'll receive at this year's Comic-Con—but part of me selfishly wishes he could be in Worcester with me to stump the DJ by requesting Hoagie Carmichael's "A-Huggin' and A-Chalkin'"…

It's been a heckuva fun ride so far, Dean, and as we both know it ain't over yet!

• • • • •

Finally, many thanks to everyone out there who has sent good wishes my way as the wedding day grows near. The crush of events has prevented me from reply to everyone, but you can bet I appreciated the kind words—and I'll be back in touch after things settle down to the usual dull roar!

Of course, we invite one and all to keep watching this space for San Diego updates…and I suspect before month's end you'll see some pictures of Bruce and Krista Canwell popping up, as well.

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Tuesday, Jul 16th, 2013

Go West, Go West

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Jiggs_China

It's that time of year again—and while we're not going as far (east or west, depending on your vantage point) as Jiggs and Maggie went on their 1922 trek to China, we are heading across the North American continent to San Diego for Comic-Con. There's a lot to look forward to, especially since the con is an opportune time to see old friends. It's one of the few weeks of the year in which we're not all tied to our computers or drawing boards. It's also a bittersweet time in that I can't help but think of friends who are no longer with us. Even in the midst of 100,000+ people, it's going to feel empty without Kim Thompson…and each year when I first walk into the convention center, I still look around for Steve Gerber to run up and give me an awkward hug.

SteveGerber

Dean and Steve at the 1982 San Diego Comic-Con (photo courtesy Alan Light)

But it's going to be an exciting—and hectic—time in San Diego. I am humbled that SDCC has made me a Special Guest this year, complete with a "Spotlight on Dean Mullaney" panel. If you have time, please stop by Thursday from 1:30-2:30 in Room Four where IDW's head honcho Ted Adams will grill me with questions. On Saturday, come to the booth (#2643) for the premiere of the first volume of Superman: The Silver Age Dailies. Sid Friedfertig and I will be signing copies from 11:00 to noon. There's only 100 advance copies available.

We can start the celebration tomorrow, though, because July 17th marks another year in the life of our very own Bruce Canwell. Please join me in wishing Bruce a happy birthday!

There's another happy event coming up this weekend, too, but Bruce will tell you more about that in Thursday's blog.

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Sunday, Jul 7th, 2013

"We're Ready for Our Close-up, Ms. Sinclair…"

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

As if he hasn't done enough to the LOAC audience by unearthing the WCSH-TV feature in which I participated at age twenty-one, my friend Doug Thornsjo again dipped into his video archives and plucked my co-starring role in another televisual feature circa 1997, this time appearing on WCSH's market rival, CBS-affiliate WGME-TV. In this piece I'm sharing the spotlight with a mutual friend of Doug's and mine, artist Lee Weeks, since this was shot and broadcast while we were participating in a store signing in our home state the day after the release of Lee's and my Batman graphic novel. You can see the end result here (the eagle-eyed among you may notice another mutual friend, LOAFer Mike Dudley, standing to the left of the seated Lee in one of the long shots).

Compared to the earlier WCSH piece, WGNME offers far less condescension in the "tone" of their coverage. It helps that WGME was honed in on a single topic—The Gauntlet—while WCSH was squeezing a "macro-level" look at comics into a couple minutes of airtime (and I admit that my perceptions may also be colored by the fact that Amy Sinclair was undeniably cuter than Dick Gosselin!).

The advances comics had made within popular culture circa 1997 are also clearly visible in the WGME spot. No need to cast around for music that might be appropriate in a piece on comics (a rather desperate and futile search, in the case of WCSH), WGME had Danny Elfman's original Batman theme at hand, ready to mix in at the appropriate places. It also helps that WGME had a lot of terrific Lee Weeks artwork to showcase, though note how the nature of video makes TV coverage of "static" comics difficult: on the tube, unlike on the printed page, the image alone isn't allowed to speak for itself, so sound effects are dropped in to provide both sound and vision, thereby rounding out the "viewing experience."

Quality of coverage aside, this video clip represents one of my own personal high points. There was an exceptional turn-out at the comics shop for the signing, including some of my former classmates, co-workers, and friends; Bruce Kingdon and George Sargeant, two of my favorite teachers, also were kind enough to drop by and catch up with me (the shop where we were signing was located in the same town as my old high school and its owner did an excellent job of promotion, so Bruce and George learned of the event through advertising and advance stories in the area newspaper). It was especially nice when Lee's parents arrived to cheer him on, and terrific to have my brother - also a comics reader of long standing - arrive around mid-afternoon.

After the event Lee's and my old friends—Doug and Mike, Howard Downs, Walter Orrall, Dave Peabody, and Tom Field—joined forces with my brother and the store staff to enjoy a delicious repast at Graziano's Casa Mia, long one of my favorite hang-outs. That night featured good food, better friends, and plenty of laughs; it was filled with the moments that are all too rare, moments that, thanks to the hectic hurly-burly of the moment, we never truly get to savor as they happen, but look back on as especially precious as the passage of time grows.

In looking at this clip a few days ago, Lee brought up an interesting point: sixteen years had passed between the WCSH profile in 1981 and the WGME piece, airing in 1997. Between the WGME piece and today? Yup—another sixteen years have passed and a  lot has changed in that time. Graziano's Casa Mia is no more, as we chronicled earlier in this space —Lee traded working on the cape-&-cowl at DC for a string of successes at Marvel, where he has drawn at least one story featuring each of their "core" characters—and despite having a foot through the doorway, I didn't get to step over the threshold into a comics-writing career (the great collapse of 1998 helped see to that). Still and all, I will always look back on Gauntlet with great fondness. Lee tells me he still gets comments about it from fans he meets at conventions. It pleases us both, that readers enjoyed our work as much as we enjoyed producing it.

For me, of course, it all worked out A-OK in the end. I'm mighty pleased to have been given the opportunity to place the lives and careers of Alex Toth and Noel Sickles into perspective, and perhaps to enlivened the discussion about luminaries such as Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, Cliff Sterrett, and others. The parade of "hot new talent" wheeling in and out of the industry during the past sixteen years shows there is never a shortage of folks willing to write about Batman or the X-Men, but as Dr. Johnny Fever asks in an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, "Who's gonna teach the kids about Bo Diddley?" It's an honor - and a great deal of fun - to put my talents (however small they may be) to use in service of so many of the men who help build that most American of art forms, the comic strip.

I think this is all the video of me that's floating around out there, so you won't have to see my ugly mugg in any upcoming posts (and I hear you all saying, *Whew* at that news!). If you've been at all amused by these little trips through the video Time Tunnel, you can thank Doug Thornsjo by visiting his website — and checking out the neat items he has available there!

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Wednesday, Jul 3rd, 2013

Blasts from the Past -- Part Two

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

The first volume in our Superman Silver Age Dailies series will premiere very soon at the San Diego Comic-Con. The book sports a delightful homage cover by Pete Poplaski. This certainly isn't Pete's first foray into such homage; among other things, he produced the covers to both the Superman and Batman collections published by Kitchen Sink and DC years ago.

And before THAT -- way back in 1977 -- Pete did this fantastic homage cover for a fanzine that Mark Gruenwald and I co-published. (In Omniverse, Mark and I indulged our mutual fascination with character continuity. We formed "Alternity Enterprises" to publish the 'zine within months of my founding Eclipse Comics with my brother, Jan.).

Thirty-six years later it all comes full circle with Pete's cover for Superman Silver Age Dailies. It's somewhat like the parallel universes Mark and I used to love exploring!

Omniverse

Superman1

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Monday, Jul 1st, 2013

Blasts from the Past -- Part One

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Kurtis Findlay was re-reading his set of Zot! that I published years ago and in issue #8 (from March 1985) noticed my editorial begging for a quality reprint of Milton Caniff's complete 12-year-run on Terry and the Pirates. Nice to know that I finally got around to doing it myself around twenty-five years later—and that we won the Eisner Award for it!

Zot

Terry1

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Friday, Jun 28th, 2013

A New-found Collection

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Wallace Ryan of St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada recently posted on our Facebook page that he was the proud owner of more than 50 -- count 'em -- 50 LOAC books, so we asked him to share some photos for our ongoing series of readers' bookcases.

Wallace adds that, "I use the collections in the comic art courses that I teach out here on the distant shores of Newfoundland. It's a way of passing on to my students, the best of graphic history and to create a whole new audience for comics in my city. I co-host the local comic jam and have used that forum to share my love of comics and, in particularly, a lot of the classic material LOAC has brought back to life."

Bravo, Wallace. You're our kinda guy!

Wallace1

Wallace2

Wallace3

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Sunday, Jun 23rd, 2013

Turn Back, Ye Vail of Time

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

My long-time friend Doug Thornsjo, whose fine essay on the Flash Gordon serials ran in Volume 2 of our Flash/Jungle Jim series, recently digitized an ancient piece of video tape that he shared with our mutual friends and me. In turn I shared it with Dean, he suggested we share it with you, and what the heck, why not? Here's the background behind what you're about to view ...

As we've previously noted in this space, in my younger days I wrote LOCs (letters of comment) to Marvel Comics, many of which appeared in the letter columns of their various titles. The hip-hop-happening decade known as "the 1980s" was getting underway when one of those letters, published complete with my name and address, caught the attention of one of the children of Dick Gosselin, then a general-assignment reporter at WCSH-TV, my local NBC affiliate. Gosselin contacted me, asking if I'd be interested in talking about comics for a piece to air on the WCSH 6:00 and 11:00 PM news. A chance to educate folks from the outside world about comics? I was down for that! I was highly confident I'd be able to convince viewers there was far more to the medium than the campy *BIFF!* *BAM!* *POW!* that lingered in the public mind thanks to the 1960s Batman TV show (and the generally wretched film and TV projects that followed it).

My schedule was pretty hectic even then, but we made arrangements for Gosselin and his camera crew to gain access to my garret-like home to shoot footage of my books; I was doing some work in radio broadcasting at the time and we also made arrangements to do face-to-face shooting in a spare office at the radio station, where I could display and discuss what I saw as some of the comics crème de la crème.

On January 10, 1981 - five days before the debut of the groundbreaking Hill Street Blues (I watched that first episode on WCSH, in fact), a mere ten days before Ronald Reagan was sworn into his first term of office as President of the United States, WCSH ran this piece ...

(Click here for video.)

After its initial broadcast, the finished piece left me feeling a lot less confident that I had successfully communicated comics' positive qualities to the local viewing audience. I felt queasy about the whole process at the outset of my interview with Gosselin. Early on he had asked me, "Can I say you have the largest comics collection in the state?" and (wise guy that I am), I sarcastically replied, "You can say it, but it won't be true." I was nonplussed when he went ahead and said it in the finished piece! (I was younger then and less aware that mass media is perfectly willing to distort the facts to tell the story it wants audiences to see.) Gosselin's choice of music and the overall "tone" he gave the piece also struck me as regrettable. It was a time when comic shops were just a'borning (Doug Thornsjo ran the first such establishment in my home state, in fact) and there was a smugly superior attitude among many of the clerks in drugstores or the larger bookstores when one stepped up to the counter with eight or ten new comics in hand. I remember one woman at a local bookstore asking me, "Are you going to read them all tonight ...?" Her contempt dripped from each of those words. I had hoped to use WCSH's forum to combat that sensibility, but I came away feeling the finished piece was shaped in such a way as to squelch those hopes.

Still, I told myself, one or two of my more cogent comments made it on-air. Maybe a seed or two had been planted with at least a few viewers. Then I did my best to shrug over the whole experience (though I admit I didn't add Dick Gosselin to my Christmas card list); within a handful of days it was all in the rearview mirror.

This also occurred during the early days of the home-video revolution. Doug was the only one in our circle of friends who had a video cassette recorder—an enormous, clunky, belt-driven thing with an analogue turn-knob TV channel tuner, but oh, how we all envied him having it! He taped the Gosselin piece when it aired, so over the next handful of years, during visits to Doug's house, I probably saw it two, maybe three other times, when he'd trot it out to good-naturedly torture me.

Decades later, he has digitized my encounter with Dick Gosselin and brought it forward into the 21st Century - but when it comes to comics and the popular culture, this 21st Century must be quite different than anything Dick Gosselin might have imagined. Doug pointed this out in an e-mail to me, saying, "Gosselin is clearly approaching this as something he thinks is 'weird' - but all these years later, with comics absolutely everywhere, animation dominating the airwaves, and comic book movies (and TV series) so much on the ascension, he's the one who comes off looking weird. Who was right and who was wrong?"

Of course, the sword always cuts two ways, and Doug was also spot-on when he observed, "A piece of this nature, running this length, is never done anymore. We have two hours of local news every evening, but when do they ever take the time to do a simple profile piece like this anymore? They don't!" Short attention spans, glitz-heavy graphics, and "news you can use" has certainly changed our journalistic landscape.

Today I can look at Dick Gosselin's WCSH feature with somewhat less of a jaundiced eye than the one I possessed all those years ago - upbeat comments from Dean, Doug, and other old friends have likely helped adjust my state of mind. I'm also rather pleased with my then-self for making sure Eclipse Enterprises's Sabre was visible on-screen, as well as Doug's own self-published venture, Quirk (that doughty "Star-Reject of the Galaxy" will soon be making a comeback; read all about it at Doug's own website.).

And hey, as I told Dean—at least this is incontrovertible evidence that yes, at one time I did have hair - although it's clearly in full retreat, even when I was at that tender young age!

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Thursday, Jun 20th, 2013

Kim Thompson, My Friend

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Kim_Dean

Kim Thompson, Dean Mullaney, and Gary Groth, SDCC 2008


Kim Thompson, who most of you know as the co-owner and influential editor of Fantagraphics, lost his battle with cancer this morning. Kim's many professional accomplishments will be justly lauded today and in the future. My thoughts of Kim, however, are more personal. Two years my junior, he was one of my oldest friends in comics. Nearly forty years ago I decided to published a fanzine and contacted the ten fans who, during the previous twelve months, had the most letters printed in Marvel lettercolumns, inviting them to join the fun. All lived in the U.S., except one -- some guy in Montpellier, France named Kim Thompson. The fanzine ("Woweekazowie!") was eventually published but it didn't last long. Kim and my friendship did. I soon learned that his father was an American contractor overseas and that his mother was Danish.

We became pen pals in the day when that was a literal description. Kim loved language and playing around with words literally. When he came to New York City for a visit and we drove around in my 1974 Toyota Corolla, he would point to road signs, reading each abbreviation phonetically. "Bklyn-Qns Expy" (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) became -- in Kim's jargon -- "Bklin_Qns-Expweee." (I have to admit that forty years later, I still find myself, to the consternation of anyone in the car with me, emulating Kim's method of reading road signs.)

Another time, when Mark Gruenwald and I shared an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Kim came for a visit at a most opportune time. It was a hot and sticky summer night in July 1977. We decided to go on the roof of our five-storey building to try to cool off. Part way up the stairs, the lights went out. We felt our way up the remaining stairs to the access door to the roof and to our surprise, the neighborhood was black. Not only our neighborhood, but as far as we could see north, south, and east. Only west, across the Hudson River in New Jersey, were there lights.

It was the great NYC blackout of 1977.

Mark, always the ringleader for wild and crazy things, suggested that we walk the thirty-or-so blocks down Broadway to Times Square. What a cool thing to be in Times Square with not a single light on! We started walking and people were joyous. At every intersection, a local resident took it upon him or herself to direct traffic. Total cooperation. It was too hot to stay indoors so it seemed like everyone on the island was walking the pavement.

When we finished our mile-and-a-half walk, we stood at the intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street (this was long before it was gentrified) when -- POW -- all the lights came on at once. Every theatre, every marquee, every window light. All at once. It was one of the most remarkable things we'd ever seen. Fifteen or thirty seconds later, the lights went out again -- and stayed that way.

Mark had another idea (remember, he was the "wild and crazy guy"): how many opportunities would we ever have to "throw a moon" in Times Square? Not many, we all agreed, so right there and then, Mark, Kim, and I bared our bottoms to a decided uninterested and unimpressed crowd.

Kim, Mark, and I each went on to -- if I may humbly say so -- achieve some pretty significant goals during our lives in comics, but Kim recently told Eric Reynolds that that event in 1977 was one of the greatest nights of his life. And it was for me, too.

Here's to Kim and Mark, both physically gone, but always with us in spirit and love.

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Sunday, Jun 16th, 2013

Happy Birthday 'Taffy Tucker'

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

This is my LOAC "feel good" story of the year…

Serious Caniffites have long known that The Rembrandt of the Comic Strips posed men and women as characters from first Terry and the Pirates and later Steve Canyon, having them create tableaux he translated into memorable comic strip panels. Several photo features in the news media of the day chronicled Milt's working methods and showcased images of the models who portrayed everyone from Pat Ryan to Miss Mizzou; we have run excerpts from several of those features in several of our books, including this one:

Terry5

On page twenty-four of Terry Volume 5 we featured a picture of Bernice Taylor from Kansas, whom Caniff selected from a variety of candidates as the inspiration for his popular War years Army nurse, Taffy Tucker. Imagine our pleasure around Thanksgiving last year when we received a communication from Judith Bernice Taylor Holliday, whose two middle names were no coincidence: Judy, it turns out, is Bernice's niece. She had interesting and good news to pass along about her aunt. After years of living in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Bernice Taylor moved back to her native Kansas to be close to her remaining family ("There are four nieces—I'm one—and several nephews remaining in my family," Judy told us).  

Bernice Taylor turns 95 years young on June 20th, and we hope you will join everyone at The Library of American Comics in wishing her the happiest of birthdays! And thanks to Judy Holliday, we can share this picture, taken in March, of Bernice holding a copy of Terry Volume 5 open to her picture:

Bernice

Judy tells us that her aunt has had two broken hips and a broken femur in recent years. Though she uses a walker to get around these days, "Her mind is sharp and she is a delight to visit with." She has also lost some of her hearing, but can still use a telephone thanks to a special device that translates the caller's message into readable text, to which she can answer.

What may surprise you as much as it surprised us was Judy telling us that though Bernice inspired a character in the strip, she was no Terry devotee. Judy said she got her aunt to autograph a copy of Terry Volume 5, but when she showed her aunt the stories, "She was absolutely astounded that the book was about 'her,' as she had never even seen any of the comics, during or after the war. She had a fun time looking through the collection—although the big book was hard for her to maneuver—and laughed at the things 'Nurse Taffy' got herself into. She said she didn't remember doing any of those things…LOL!

nurse

Foxholes

The July 4, 1943 Sunday featuring Taffy Tucker of the Army Nurse Corps. In this sequence, Taffy has amnesia and has forgotten that Flip Corkin's her main squeeze. (click for larger size)

Taffy Sunday

"She gave all of her scrapbooks to the family to divide up the pictures they wanted, and I ended up with the original letters from Milton Caniff to Grandma asking permission to use Aunt Bernice's picture; the original sketch he did of her with his original signature; articles about the WWII nurses from newspapers during the war; and her Air Force commendations as she worked through the ranks to Lieutenant Colonel. The pictures will have to tell Bernice's story, it seems; Judy told us that when quizzed about her experiences in the '40s, Bernice simply chooses to say, "The war has been over for a long time."

Still, the heartwarming love of her family for this most remarkable woman has come through in every one of Judy's messages to us. "We are hosting a birthday party for her in the assisted living facility where she lives. As one of the few living WWII nurses and a veteran of the CBI Theater, I am very proud of my aunt and the sacrifices she and other WWII nurses made in caring for our troops. And while they never received the honors due them from the politicians in Washington or the military 'brass', we who knew and loved them honor them and their service every day. She is our family's hero."

Judy thanked us for "the book with her [aunt's] picture and the collection of 'her' antics as Nurse Taffy Tucker," but it's we who owe Judy a far greater debt of thanks for sharing the story of her aunt (and her) with us, and allowing us to share it with you. And why do we suspect, if he were here on the start of her 95th year, Milton Caniff would offer her first a snappy salute, followed by his most boyish of grins…?

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Thursday, Jun 13th, 2013

An All-Time Top Ten

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

One of the cool things about this space is that we can play with presenting a variety of strips in slightly offbeat ways. Several times we've done a faux comics page that represents various strips selected from a specific date—and we'll likely do more of those in the future—but it recently occurred to me to try something different.

Below are noteworthy installments of daily strips that grab me for a variety of reasons, culled from the mid-1920s all the way up to 1980. It's not as simple as saying these comprise my all-time Top Ten, but certainly it's a Top Ten view ... even though tomorrow I could easily assemble another such view, and the next week another, and the next month another still. The variety that informs the rich history of the American comic strip makes it difficult to talk in the terms of absolute-bests; that's one of its many strengths.

Take a look-see at my choices, then I'll rejoin you on the other side for a quick discussion ...

Thimble

Gas

LOA

Buz

Doon

Tracy

Aroo

Terry

Tumble

Calvin

[Click on each strip for larger version]

My first selection, from Thimble Theater, is a slice of Segar's first, last, fabulous Popeye/Bluto donnybrook, surely one of the greatest throw-down in all of comics history. I like this strip because it encapsulates the qualities that make Popeye a character I yearn to write: his amazing physical prowess, his indomitable will, and his heart of gold. I sigh, delighted by Segar's unique verve and wishing more kids today had a role model like Popeye ...

Contrast the frenetic nature of Thimble Theater with the wonderful heartfelt emotion in this August, 1926 selection from Gasoline Alley. I confess: the soap opera from the strip's earliest days revolving around Mme. Octave and Col. Coda doesn't sustain my interest, but my heart melts when Frank King hands us tender moments like these.

My Little Orphan Annie selection illustrates one of the reasons I adore Punjab (I'm partial to The Asp, as well). What self-respecting kid wouldn't like to have a trump card like Punjab up his sleeve when the bullies come a'calling?

Here at LOAC we're big Roy Crane fans, and I believe this extract from Buz Sawyer must have really shook up readers when it was published, on February 5, 1946. Newspapers had to be rotated, then eyes fully absorbed the image and brains flashed the conclusion: "Tot Winter ain't walking away from this one!" As indeed she didn't ... Because many computing screen don't rotate as neatly as a newspaper does, we're also providing you the strip in a vertical format:

Buz_reading

Doonesbury has covered some remarkable territory in its four decade-plus run, but I love it best in its early 1970s incarnation, when the characters were played a bit more broadly, and the connection to headline-making news was still fresh and new. Mark Slackmeyer failing to retain his journalistic equilibrium as he tap-dances on the heads of the Watergate conspirators tickled me greatly when I first read it, and it still makes me grin today.

Max Collins has noted several times that no one was better than Chet Gould at depicting weather—and he's right, of course. Here, from January '45, we see Tracy wrapped in snow and Shaky comes to a fitting end.

My affection for the work of Jack Kent is well documented, so naturally I'd include an installment of King Aroo in this feature. It's a work that is simultaneously smart, gently, and endearing—a rare combination that reflects Kent's own sensibilities.

Here's where you may say, "What? No Raven Sherman?" regarding my choice from Terry and the Pirates. While Raven's final scenes represent the pinnacle of adventure comic stripping, the sequence as a whole is stronger than its individual parts. And I'm partial to this 1938 sequence, the only time Burma and the Dragon Lady were brought together.

I used to read Tumbleweeds religiously in The Boston Globe during my school years and it still amuses me to this very day. I suppose it's not exactly politically correct, but I'm enamored of deadpan humor and "long takes," and Tumbleweeds was a reliable home for both flavors of humor.

Finally, who doesn't laugh uncontrollably at the sight of one of Calvin's grotesque snow sculptures? Thumbing through its Complete collection makes me realize how much we still miss Calvin & Hobbes. And though no one's asking (and though Bill Watterson's own series-closer was sublime), here's a summary of "the last Calvin & Hobbes Sunday" I carry around in my head ...

A few decades in the future, a man (obvious the grown-up Calvin) discusses with his wife their shy, quiet son—they've tried a number of things to get him to open up to the world and they've all failed. What else can they do? Calvin gets an idea, goes upstairs, and opens up a trunk—in the living room, the boy looks up as his Dad introduces his son to an old friend—and Hobbes suggests some mild deviltry to the boy, who laughs at the thought. "What would my Dad say if we did that?" the boy asks Hobbes—and as he starts walking the boy off to get his first taste of mischief, Hobbes says, "Ohh-h-h-h - I think he'll understand ..."

So there's a rundown of Top Ten dailies from me. If you have a Top Ten of your own, why not send it to us at info@loacomics.com? If we can find all the strips, we'll even print the ones we like best right her in this space.

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Wednesday, Jun 5th, 2013

Rarely-Seen-Its

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Amazing, isn't it, to consider the depth and breadth of material Milton Caniff saved over his long, distinguished career as a newspaperman cartoonist? In my upcoming historical/biographical text for Steve Canyon Volume 4 I note how Milton's lifetime of collected material formed part of the bedrock for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum and contribute to the pleasure readers take away from R.C. Harvey's jam-packed biography of the artist, as well as the Caniff-based shelves within our own Library of American Comics. No matter how many of those artifacts get unearthed and published, there are always other intriguing tidbits that never make it between two covers. Fortunately, we have this space in which to serve up additional Miltonian treats.

Like these, for instance ...

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In Terry and the Pirates Volume 3, we discussed Caniff's showing at Manhattan's Julien Levy Gallery, complete with photographs taken during the event. Now we're pleased to present these two images from the actual invitations sent out by the Gallery ...

 

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As one of his first contributions to the War effort following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Caniff offered to do a special Armed Services version of Terry and the Pirates, which quickly morphed into his fondly-recalled Male Call. Above is the letter from Uncle Sam that cemented that deal ...

... And as the nation exhaled at the end of World War II, Caniff provided this drawing for a high school yearbook.

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In Steve Canyon Volume 2, I mentioned Milton filling sketchbook pages of spot-art while attending an arts festival in Ramapo, New York. Some of the art, and the newspaper copy that accompanies it, are shown above.

Meanwhile, in Canyon Volume 3, we discussed a special 1951 Christmas drawing Caniff produced at the request of the foreign edition of Stars & Stripes, as well as his agreeing to serve on the board of directors for the Kill Devil Hills Memorial Society. Below: first, a letter to Caniff from Stars & Stripes singing the praises of his effort, followed by an article about Kill Devil Hills that the artist deemed worthy of preserving.

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Finally, upcoming in our next Steve Canyon release, military readers were invited to crack a code designed to attract the attention of our steadfast hero. Here's an excerpt from Staff Sergeant Arthur G. Buckley's guess at a solution.

It's easy to wish that every cartoonist had followed in Milton Caniff's footsteps and documented his career with such meticulousness and care, but let's not be greedy. Let's just be glad that Caniff left behind such complete records for us to enjoy.

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Saturday, Jun 1st, 2013

For Your Reading Pleasure

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

As regular readers in this space know, Dean and I love good comics art, though we grew into our love of newspaper comic strips through a love of comic books, and we both had our names and words (though not our "handsome" mugs, thank goodness!) regularly plastered on the letters pages of many 1970s-era Marvel Comics. 

So pardon us if we draw all those threads together to note that, when it goes on sale this week, you might want to check out Marvel's Daredevil: Dark Nights # 1, a new mini-series that will feature stories about the sightless superhero separate from the continuity in his ongoing title.

The first three issues of DD: DN will comprise the story "Angels Unaware," written, penciled, and inked by my friend of more than three decades (and sometimes-collaborator) Lee Weeks. With this story, Lee returns not only to the character that cemented his place among the top draughtsmen currently working in the business, but also to writing his own material for the first time in over a decade. If you read his previous auteurships—his beautiful done-in-washes "Thing" story for the too-briefly-lived black-and-white anthology series Shadows & Light, plus his mini-series Spider-Man: Death & Destiny—you know Lee strives to meld his pictures and words into a seamless narrative whole; you know you're in for a treat.

And because Lee's such a good buddy, he's graciously allowing me to share with you a sampling of inked pages from the first issue. The set-up for "Angels Unaware"—a monster blizzard is paralyzing New York City, a young girl in need of a heart transplant awaits the arrival of a donor organ that gets lost in the storm—and a certain Man Without Fear sets out to retrieve that missing heart before time runs out.

Walter Simonson once called Lee "The John Buscema of our generation"—high praise indeed!—and Lee told me he sees page seven of this issue as having, "A Toth-like sensibility, even if it isn't rendered in a Toth-like style." Whatever name you choose to associate with his art, the adjective that comes to mind will surely be, "Exceptional!"

Daredevil: Dark Nights # 1 goes on sale Wednesday, June 5th, at comics shops everywhere. Click on each page for a larger view. © 2013 Marvel.

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Page 7 of the first issue of "Angels Unaware," which creator Lee Weeks says features, "A Toth-like sensibility," a sign that one Master influences others.

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Wonderful use of point-of-view and panel-to-panel progression on this 13th page of Lee Weeks's "Angels Unaware."

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Atmosphere—including a building sense of danger and tension - permeates this page from "Angels Unaware," featured in issues # 1 - 3 of Marvel's Daredevil: Dark Nights.

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Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Peter Falk—Meet Archie Goodwin

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Columbo

Alert reader and Secret Agent X-9 fan Douglas Oberg brought to our attention this fascinating bit of trivia. He writes:

"I was watching Columbo DVDs with friends this past holiday weekend. In one of the episodes the suspect is a CIA agent—the Director of the CIA meets with Columbo and shows him his ID (see attached)."

The episode—Season 5, Episode 3: Identity Crisis—aired November 2, 1975. It was written by William Driskill and series creators Richard Levinson and William Link.

Thanks, Douglas for sharing this!

Further, our pal Andrew Mansell tells us that the character was portrayed by actor David White, best known as "Larry Tate" on Betwitched!

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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

A Moving Experience

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

I'm baaa-a-a-ack, though I'm not yet fully moved into my new home. It's not as if I've been idle where all things LOAC are concerned—I've turned in text for Lil Abner Volume 6 and Steve Canyon Volume 4, edited final copy for the first volumes of both Tarzan and Superman, been absorbing the strips for Rip Kirby Volume 6, and recently I've been re-reading The Gumps: Death of Mary Gold as a pleasant lunchtime dessert—yet I've been less visible in this space than usual. I hope to remedy that situation, starting today. Before I offer a new posting on one of our upcoming releases, please indulge me a few personal reflections related to my getting-ready-to-wrap-up move:

• As a friend pointed out, the seventeen years I lived in my former residence is the longest period of time I've called any place home. My parents moved from "in town" to "out in the country" when I was about twelve, meaning the time spent in either of my two childhood homes doesn't equal the time spent in the place I've just vacated.

• For the first time in my life I used movers to help load, transport, and unload my belongings. When I moved into my former home, my parents insisted on helping me. My Dad was sixty years old then, and at that time we had no idea slightly less than two years to live. At that time, of course, there was no way to know, and even if there was some magic future-showing mirror, we'd all be better off not looking into it.

• Why does it take so long to move? For me, it's because there's so much stuff to be packed, shlepped, and unpacked! Biggest surprise emerging from this process? I learned that selling excess stuff has become incredibly difficult: I advertised my four-piece living room set and a hardwood drop-leaf table for sale, twenty dollars cash-&-carry, and got exactly zero inquiries. I "culled the herd" of several hundred prose books and comics collections, plus thirty-seven years of accumulated science fiction magazines (including full runs of The Twilight Zone and Omni)—I had to donate the books and recycle the mags, because the independent bookseller is now such a specialized, marginalized, and—being internet-based—largely invisible retail entity. I just couldn't find anyone to buy in bulk, even at pennies-per-book.

• On the more upbeat side, looking back at my now-former home, the Batman graphic novel Lee Weeks and I produced went on sale eight months after I moved into the Greater Boston area ...

• ... I walked the younger of my two sisters down the aisle during the change of the millennium ...

• ... One of my nieces and both of my nephews were born after I had settled in, meaning my former home has been the only place they associate with me throughout their lifetimes ...

• ... I was at Fenway Park to see the Red Sox begin their historic turn-around against the Yankees in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, attended Game One of the 2007 World Series, and was high above courtside when the Boston Celtics humbled the Los Angeles Lakers and claimed their NBA-best seventeenth world championship ...

• ... I met my future wife while living there...

• And of course, Dean and I began work on the Library of American Comics in late 2006, with Terry and the Pirates Volume 1 on sale the next summer. Seven years later we're still going strong, augmenting our line of books with this website, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and a dedicated Forum at the IDW website, all of them allowing us to more closely communicate with you. It's great fun offering you sneak-peeks or "We didn't have room for this, but knew you'd like to see it ..." or behind-the-scenes travelogues from our trips to Boston University, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, Comic-Con in San Diego, and UCLA; we'll have those types of features—and more—in the future, you can be sure.

• For now, though, I'll mention that Dean and I recently did a Comics Journal interview with the knowledgeable and insightful Dan Nadel: if you missed it, you'll find it here...

• ... And I'll leave you with a couple photos taken from the deck of my new home. May the next seventeen years be, on balance, as good to me—and to all of you, too—as were the past seventeen!

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I now look out on a small pond that's been augmented with a few man-made touches. Still, folks catch fish here ... someday, maybe I'll take up the ol' rod-&-reel again, in my "spare time" ...

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There's other wildlife more easily visible than the fish—a Blue Heron makes his home on the property, as well as this pair, whom we've dubbed The Duck & The Drake.

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Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

The Town That Time Forgot

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

One of the eight stories in Rip Kirby Volume 6 is "The Town That Time Forgot," in which Rip and Desmond discover a town that has stood still since 1899. Its inhabitants have been immune to the vicissitudes of "modern" (in 1961 when this story was published) life. We're currently working on the book, prepping the art for the printer. The logic of the plot is nonsenseical but it's great fun. In the late '50s/early '60s there was a big fad for anything having to do with Gay '90s culture and Fred Dickenson and John Prentice's readers undoubtedly ate up every iconic image of the period. In these dailies, Rip explains to the town members what they can expect in the outside world. To our eyes, in 2013, it's equally interesting to see the 50-year-old 1960s fashions, as alien to our time as the 1890s "Gibson Girl" look was to the 1961 reader.

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Monday, May 13th, 2013

Is there a Moon Maid in YOUR town?

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

article

In the summer of 1964 the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate launched what turned out to be its last major Dick Tracy promotion—the Miss Moon Maid Contest. Chester Gould introduced the mysterious girl from the moon as 1963 turned into 1964 and it caused a sensation.

Even today, Tracy fans argue about the succeeding "moon period." Some love it (count me in this crowd), while others simply loathe it. Regardless of whether or not you're a fan of the stories, the period represents (in my humble opinion) perhaps the most abstractly diagrammatic drawing of Gould's career. But then again, I was nine years old at the time and loved EVERYTHING in the Sunday comics!

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The Miss Moon Maid Contest invited "girls in the 18 to 25 year age bracket who think they look like Moon Maid." Each participating newspaper appointed a board of local judges to select their town's representative. Ten finalists from around the country were selected and flown to Hollywood for final judging by "a jury of Hollywood celebrities." According to the details sent by the syndicate to local papers, the grand winner would receive "a contract to appear in one or more TV shows and in a movie, a recording contract, and a thousand-dollar wardrobe." (Click on strips for a larger size.)

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Thanks to our friends at TMS News and Features for sharing their file copies for this promotion. We're still several books away from reprinting this period. In the meantime, we'll do further research to determine in what TV shows and movie, if any, the winner appeared.

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Monday, May 6th, 2013

Superman -- Super Criminal?!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

What happens when Earthmen from the future (3004 to be exact) travel back in time (to 1958 to be specific) in order to arrest the master criminal named Shark -- who turns out to be none other than Superman?!!! It'll be a while before we reprint the complete story in our Superman Sundays series, but here's a taste in the meantime -- three consecutive Sundays from June 22 through July 6, 1958. Click on each image for a larger size. (Superman is © and TM DC Comics, natch.)

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Sunday, Apr 28th, 2013

Yes, Lois, He Still Draws with Pen and Ink

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

For what will be the cover for LOAC's 79th release—Superman: The Silver Age Dailies, Volume One—here are some of Pete Poplaski's interim stages. While many artists have switched to drawing digitally, Pete's still does it the old fashioned way on paper—first pencil roughs, then tight pencils, and finally the finished inking. The printed cover will have a slight change from this one because we've shifted the contents a bit. Rather than start with the "Metallo" story from late 1958/early 1959, our premiere book begins with "Earth's Super-Idiot" in April 1959 and continues through "The Mad Woman of Metropolis" in August 1961.

Here are some of the stages of Pete's work for the first cover, plus a sneak preview of the back cover. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, Apr 23rd, 2013

Archie's School Daze 1960

We just sent the first book in the Archie's Swingin' Sixties series to the printer, containing all of Bob Montana's dailies from the start of the school year 1960 through spring vacation in 1963. Here are the first nine dailies to whet your appetite! Click on any daily to see a larger version.

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Tuesday, Apr 16th, 2013

LOAC receives two Eisner nominations!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

The Library of American Comics is proud to note that two of our books are nominated for Eisner Awards this year in the Best Archival Collection -- Newspaper Strips category.

The Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim gets the nod for the second year in a row. Kudos to book designer Lorraine Turner and intro writer Bruce Canwell for being recognized two years running!

The premiere volume of Percy Crosby's Skippy is also nominated. Kudos to co-editor and intro writer Jared Gardner, and to Lorraine Turner for her fantastic book design (especially the die-cut fence dustjacket).

For those counting, this makes 16 Eisner Award nominations for LOAC. Thanks to the Eisner committee for acknowledging our efforts.

Skippy

 

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Wednesday, Apr 10th, 2013

Kitty on Top!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

We've been so busy working on the first volumes of Tarzan and Superman that we let a book dear to our hearts slip through the cracks. Now that Tarzan is at the printer, we can turn our attention to the third volume of LOAC Essentials.

We all know how wonderful Cliff Sterrett's Sundays Polly and Her Pals were, but few people—including us—have seen long runs of his equally surrealistic daily strips. It's easier to find his early '20s dailies than it is his prime strips from the late '20s and early '30s. Last year we were fortunate enough to locate King Features syndicate proofs for 1933. And that set will be printed as LOAC Essentials Volume 3. These strips are a rare treasure indeed!

Plus, Bruce Canwell made a trip up to Maine and uncovered fascinating details about Sterrett's life at the Ogunquit artist colony. Look for it in late July/early August.

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Sunday, Apr 7th, 2013

On the Move…in 2013

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

You may have noticed I've been at least slightly less visible than usual in this space of late (if not, I haven't been doing a good enough job when I am present!). In addition to editing text on upcoming releases (some excellent feature material awaits you in the first Russ Manning Tarzan volume, lemme tell ya!), and busily writing away on text for Li'l Abner Volume 6, which runs the gamut from the pleasing…

Nurse

…to the repulsive…

Gooch

…I am indeed in the midst of a personal change that's kept me off the website (and only occasionally on IDW's LOAC Forum.

Eighty-five years after King Features moved across the street to No. 2 Columbus Circle—see our April 3rd posting—I'm packing up all my books and files and other possessions and moving around the corner to a new home. I'm not going alone, either—y'see, my fiancée will also be moving as we set up housekeeping for our marriage this July. Neither of us is exactly what you'd call "camera persons," so I can't offer you a batch of shots of us going hither and yon, but last year I did get this one candid shot of the future Mrs. Krista Canwell that I'm kinda partial to…

Krista

She doesn't know a dang thing about comic strips, but she's still a pretty grand gal nonetheless.

So pardon me for a bit if I'm largely "out of pocket" until around month's-end—there's a lot of packing, shlepping, and unpacking to get done And Dean got spared the need to come north in July for the wedding—he'll be busy at San Diego Comic-Con that weekend!

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Wednesday, Apr 3rd, 2013

On the move…in 1928

When Bruce Canwell was researching the George McManus papers at UCLA for our second Bringing Up Father book, he came across this sweet "moving notice" from King Features. It's not signed but it's likely by one of their staff artists...perhaps Doc Winner. Click on the image for a larger view. Have fun trying to name all the characters!

Moving

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Monday, Apr 1st, 2013

Radio Orphan Annie

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Little Orphan Annie debuted in her own radio program on the NBC's Blue Network on April 6, 1931. The program, sponspored by Ovaltine, was hugely successful and the income received from it by the Chicago Tribune- New York News Syndicate and Harold Gray rivaled that from sales of the strip itself to newspapers. Today, the show is probably best known from A Christmas Story, the 1983 fim written by Jean Sheppard in which young Ralphie is obsessed with getting an Annie decoder ring.

By the early '40s, Quaker Oats was the sponsor and the program added a new character, the pilot Captain Sparks.The show ended its run in 1942 after the United States entered WW II, but was in the meantime responsible for additional Annie collectibles, including the giveaway comics produced by David McKay and Co.

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Tuesday, Mar 26th, 2013

Recommended on the Shelves

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

We occasionally pause to recommend books that should be of special interest to Library of American Comics readers. This is one of those occasions.

In February Bloomsbury published Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary, by Michael Schumacher and Denis Kitchen; as both a Capp devotee since Denis's 1980s series of Li'l Abner reprints and the current co-editor and writer of text features for LOAC's current Abner hardcovers, this is a book I eagerly looked forward to reading.

Capp

Having finished reading it this week, I can tell you I was not disappointed and if you're a Capp/Abner fan, I suspect you won't be disappointed, either. There is a whole lot to like between these two covers.

Capp's life is a story worth the telling, the sort of story that often makes one ask, "If this is the price of fame, is it a price worth the paying?" Michael and Denis take an unflinching look at that life, touching upon the highs and the lows, the times when Capp was to be lauded for his actions and his creativity as well as the times he operated in a deplorable manner and perhaps was less devoted to his comic strip duties than to his celebrity and his political connections.

Any story is only as good as the talent telling it, and the authors do yeoman work throughout. They kept this reader turning the pages—even when I knew what was about to happen, I was interested to see how they were going to frame and describe the events in question. Newcomers to Capp will find several surprises along the way as they read this book (some of them pleasant, some not).

Perhaps the best tribute I can offer Michael and Denis for their work: I wish there was more of it. Certainly, given the amount of research that went into the writing, the authors had to choose what to leave in and what to omit, what to emphasize and what to treat in summary -- kudos for making me wish they'd been able to include the omissions and expand on the summarized incidents. More artwork would also have been welcome, though certainly the included material forms a nice representative sampling of Capp's output across the years, and there are many excellent photos. There's nothing wrong with living up to the wise old adage: "Always leave 'em wanting more."

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This fine book is a definitive word on the talented creator of Li'l Abner, though it won't be the last word, since I'll continue to write about Al Capp and his Dogpatch cast of characters in our Li'l Abner reprint series (and others Cappian scholars will, I hope, follow these authors and me in the years to come). Michael Schumacher and Denis Kitchen have definitely set me a high bar to clear if my work is to be on a par with Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary. Bravo to them!

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Monday, Mar 25th, 2013

Russ Manning, Master Storyteller

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

In re-reading Russ Manning's Tarzan strips from the beginning, one can't help but marvel at his justly-famous clean lines and dramatic visual storytelling. What's often overlooked, however, is that Manning was a fantastic writer and an absolute master of pacing. These four Sundays -- his first ones -- aptly display how he sets up a story, establishes the characters, and leaves us wanting more. Click on any Sunday for a larger image.

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All images copyright 2013 ERB, Inc.

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Friday, Mar 22nd, 2013

Meet & Greet

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

I'm endlessly fascinated by the paths to comics reading folks have taken. I delight in hearing those stories and I think, over time in this space, my story has been pretty clearly told: I lived in a college town with a daily newspaper and a real, honest-to-Pete newsstand. That meant I had regular access to a selection of comic strips—some I truly liked (Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, The Phantom, Red Eye), some I scanned with less enthusiasm (sorry, but Juliet Jones wasn't going to appeal to me or very many other prepubescent boys)—and comic books, where I quickly settled in as a Marvel devotee.

Redeye

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Two of my boyhood comics staples: Gordon Bess's Red Eye and Marvel's Fantastic Four by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and (later) John Buscema.

 

By the 1980s, when I was of legal age, had made a handful of comics-reading friends, and was willing to roam a bit further afield, I began attending conventions in Boston. That first convention, a two-day 1980s affair at The Park Plaza Hotel, broke on Saturday night with artist Dave Cockrum agreeing to join friends Tom Field, Lee Weeks, and myself for dinner—oh yes, and we also met Howard Chaykin, Keith Giffen, and Al Williamson (with whom Lee would later work once he became the regular penciler on Marvel's Daredevil). At future conventions I'd meet a number of comics creators, and those meetings fell into two categories: those with whom I merely exchanged a fast handshake and a few words (Stan Lee, Scott McCloud, and Coleen Doran immediately spring to mind) and those with whom I got to speak at greater length (Gil Kane, Dauntless Don McGregor, and Mike Mignola, to cite three).

I've never been what you'd call a regular convention attendee, though over time I expanded my range. I have attended two San Diego Cons (and I have to admit, San Diego is such a sensory-overload experience I leave the Convention Center each day with a splitting headache, grateful to be able to unwind across the bridge at the Hotel Del Coronado, where I typically stay while in town), the 2010 NYCC, Ramapo's final convention, the enormous 1999 White Plains show, and a few dozen others as the years have unfolded. I've met many of the major 1960s/'70s Marvel creators (Jack Kirby and Steve Gerber both passing away before I could cross their paths, alas), met and in some cases worked with major "classic" players from DC (met Julie Schwartz and Neal Adams, worked with Jim Aparo, met and subsequently worked for Denny O'Neal), and any number of independent comics creators from the '80s, '90s, and 21st Century, from Billy Tucci to Big John's granddaughter, Stephanie Buscema. "There are," as Lee Weeks just told me in early March, after coming back from a pleasant experience as a guest at a major show in Toronto, "many really nice people in this business."

The point of this is that, while I've met scads of comic book creators, I've been able to shake hands with a far, far shorter list of comic strip talents. For reasons as many as varied as the strip creators themselves, those talents seem less inclined to attend conventions. That's a shame, because who wouldn't want to meet G.B. Trudeau or Bill Watterson?

It was a thrill for me at the 2010 NYCC when colleague Brian Walker brought his father, Mort, to the IDW booth. Spending a fistful of minutes chatting with the man behind Beetle Bailey, which I read almost every day growing up, was a great honor, easily one of my Top Ten Ever convention memories.

BeetleBailey

How much of a Mort Walker fan am I? When primo comics shop Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, MA stocked two European Beetle Bailey graphic novels, I unhesitatingly plunked down my coin, and they're still on my shelf, almost thirty years later.

 

As I look over the LOAC bookshelf, there are so many talents I never got the opportunity to meet, and I wish it could have been otherwise. It would have been a pleasure to shake hands with George McManus and Zeke Zekley, Alex Raymond, or Noel Sickles (though Sickles might have felt otherwise as soon as I brought up Scorchy Smith). And who wouldn't wish for the opportunity to have dinner with Milton Caniff, Jack Kent, Chester Gould, or Al Capp, the way I did with Dave Cockrum? These men were protean creative forces: as we have seen, they were not only influenced by the world in which they lived, through their work they in turn influenced that world. Their contribution to the truly American art form known as comics continues to endure and retain its vitality as it wins new readers during these early years of the 21st Century.

Time and chance have made it impossible for me to ever know McManus or Caniff, except for the picture that emerges while researching their lives at places like UCLA or the Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum & Library. I recently received advance copies of Bringing Up Father: Of Cabbages and Kings and Steve Canyon, Volume 3, and if I've done my job properly, you'll feel you know both gentlemen just a bit better by the time you finish reading the books' text features and dive into the comics themselves.

Meanwhile, in the past eighteen months or so, I've had occasional extremely-pleasant exchanges with current Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton and hope to cross paths with him again one of these fine days ("again" because I met him once many a moon ago at a show, in the days when he was inking for Marvel Comics).

And I admit—it would be mighty cool to meet Trudeau and Watterson somehow, some day, somewhere…

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Wednesday, Mar 20th, 2013

Spine Fetish

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

As an editor, one of the reasons I prefer to make books with a lot of strips is so we will have wide -- and visible -- spines when the books are on our bookshelves.

As a designer, one of my favorite jobs for each overall series is to design those spines. The spines for the Steve Canyon series, for example, were designed before I even started the front cover layout. Now that we have three volumes on the shelf, the airplane-inspired copper-and-aluminum checkerboard pattern becomes clear. (You might also notice the "S" -- "T" -- "E" to the left of the characters up top. Eventually, Canyon's full name will be spelled out, and after that…well, we'll keep that a surprise.)

To the right of Canyon (if that's possible), the Bringing Up Father series has its own look, one that we hope will be recognizeable because of its silver-and-black Art Deco feel. (Jiggs had also better beware of Maggie coming after him with a rolling pin!)

We all have our fetishes. Mine is wide spines.

Both books are advance copies of releases that will be in stores in a few weeks.

Canyon

BUF2_spine

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Thursday, Mar 14th, 2013

It's a Bird…It's a Plane…!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

When Greg Goldstein at IDW called me a few months ago to tell me "some really great news," I could tell he was enjoying keeping me in suspense as to what that good news was.

Well, he had his fun—and deservedly so because his news, as they say, did not disappoint. After years of negotiation with the fine folks at DC Comics, now DC Entertainment, he had secured the rights for the Library of American Comics to produce the definitive archival editions of DC's classic Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman newspaper strips.

We all fondly remember the beautiful job Kitchen Sink Press and DC did in the 1990s reprinting the first few years of the Superman and Batman strips. But that's all there was, although the Man of Steel's strip continued until 1966, leaving nearly twenty-five years of Superman stories missing from the established canon. Lots of comic books have been reprinted in DC's Archive Editions, but not the newspaper strips. Add to that the Batman & Robin strip from the 1960s and the super-rare Wonder Woman daily from the 1940s...and you can see why Greg was so giddy when he called.

So here we stand at the exciting beginning of a multi-year endeavor.

First out of the gate (in July) will be Superman. The dailies will be released in three sub-sets, starting with The Silver Age (1960s), then The Atomic Age (1950s), and finally, The Golden Age (1940s). Sundays will be released in a separate, concurrent, series later in the year.

Many of the stories from the Atomic Age and Golden Age were original tales by Alvin Schwartz. That changed in 1958. Under Mort Weisinger's editorship, Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel was brought in to script adaptations of then-current comic book tales. The art is by none other than Curt Swan, Wayne Boring, and Stan Kaye.

To me, it's like discovering an entire alternate universe of the now-famous Silver Age comic book stories that I read as a kid. It's better than an imaginary story-it's Jerry Siegel doing a remake of his classic Superman's Return to Krypton!...it's Curt Swan, not Al Plastino, drawing The Menace of Metallo. Around the Library, we've come to think of these strips as taking place on a brand new world—Earth-N for Newspapers!

Superman

It's a Swan, it's a Kaye, no...it's a Poplaski!


The first person we contacted was Sid Friedfertig, Brooklyn's #1 Superman Fan. Sid is probably the only person to have amassed a near-complete collection of Superman dailies. Not an easy task—many hardcore Superman comic book collectors have long searched in vain for these delicate scraps of newsprint. Sid's graciously loaned his collection and is already busy writing introductions for each of the collections of dailies. He's thrilled to share his collection, telling me that he always wondered why no one had ever reprinted the strips. At first he didn't even know how long it ran. After a little investigation, he discovered that the strips from about 1942 until 1966 were never seen anywhere after their initial appearance in the newspapers. Years later, he says, "the publisher at DC confirmed to me what I already knew—they didn't have them."

Tom DeHaven, author of the novel It's Superman!, is writing the foreword. For the covers, I turned to another old pal, Pete Poplaski, who created those great covers for the KSP/DC editions. Pete's covers will reflect the Superman drawing styles and themes as they evolved over the years. Volume One is an homage to Curt Swan's art and Ira Schnapp's lettering design.

More on the Volume Two and the upcoming Sundays series in a couple of days. If I didn't know any better, I'd think I was 8 years old again...

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Monday, Mar 11th, 2013

Skipping and Bungling with the Gumps

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

When working on a book, it's very easy to get singleminded in our focus. After all, we're concentrating on getting the best quality source material for up to 800 individual strips, researching every aspect of the series and its creator, and so on. You kinda get blinders on at times.

We're currently verifying some of the 1929 dates for Skippy. It turns out that different newspapers ran the strip on different dates, and some even ran certain strips backwards-panel 3, then panel 2, and then panel 1! It's not as easy as we thought, but we forge ahead until eventually the task is completed, the strips are digitally assembled, and off to the printer it goes.

In researching the correct order for March strips, I was going through the files of the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette, which seemed to publish Skippy chronologically. Running my eyes down the page, I spied the Gumps daily from the same date -- the exact strip that I worked on last month for the "Saga of Mary Gold" story in LOAC Essentials 2.

And it made me stop and sit up. Gumps? That was last month. Skippy? That's this month. What do they have to do with one another. Well, everything, of course—each was at the height of its fame in 1929, and in the case of the Charleston paper, ran on the same page day after day.

It's always instructive to take that step back and view our favorite comics as they were originally seen by our forefathers and foremothers. Here's a delightful full page of comics from March 23, 1929. Click on the page for a larger view, and then click again for an even larger one.

29Mar23

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Friday, Mar 8th, 2013

Essentially yours

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Gumps1

Our advance copy of LOAC Essentials 2: The Gumps arrived by FedEx today. After all the time and effort we put into a new book, there's still nothing as rewarding as opening a box to see the first copy off the presses. This one holds a double thrill in that it's the second book in a series and we get to line it up on our bookcase spine-side out and imagine how it will look when we have five "Essentials" off the presses…and better still, when there are ten books in the series. For now, though, there are just two. The Gumps will be in store in about a month.

Essential_spine

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Wednesday, Mar 6th, 2013

Place in the Sun

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

I dubbed the last blog entry I did for my Amazon Author's Page "Sounding Grumpy ...?"; I hope the tone of this piece doesn't sound like the same title should apply. My goal is to sound a reflective rather than a curmudgeonly note…

…But I have a handful of good friends who have stood by me for more than three decades, and comics were the first (but not only) common bond between us. When discussing modern comics, this group is often lukewarm in its reactions. Some of that reaction is undoubtedly due to the fact that as a group of comics readers, we've Been There, Done That where the best-known, "iconic" characters are concerned. A galactic threat sweeping across an entire universe? In our time we must have read at least a hundred of those. A long-running team of characters disbanding, or being reconstituted with an all-new lineup? Hey, we were all on hand for Wein/Cockrum's Giant-Size X-Men # 1; we know how that game is played. I understand there is a certain amount of eye-rolling going on at the death of the latest Bat-character to serve as Robin—our rule of thumb used to be, "In comics, no one stays dead except Uncle Ben and Bucky." Then they brought back Bucky, and we realized all bets were off…

Bucky

So nowadays it's really tough for most new comics stories to give my social set that "Wow!" factor. I believe changes in the business have also underwhelmed the group, "decompressed" storytelling foremost among them. One of our wits wryly noted, "Today, 'The Galactus Trilogy' would run twelve issues." If the line is funny, it's partly because it contains more than a kernel of truth.

Galactus

Time passes, love waxes and wanes—it's the way of all things. So my comics-reading pals have faced the question: what does one do when the fires of enjoyment have died down to flickering embers? It would be easy to become the equivalent of the grumpy old neighbor on the front stoop, yelling at the bratty kids to stop playing on the lawn and tearing up his azalea bushes. Fortunately, most of my friends took the more rewarding path of tossing fresh wood onto the fire to rekindle the blaze.

And several Library of American Comics releases have served that purpose. For one friend it's been previously-unreprinted adventures of Little Orphan Annie and the whimsy of King Aroo. For another it's the two-fisted adventure of Steve Canyon and Secret Agent Corrigan, plus the rapid-fire hijinx in Li'l Abner. For still another it's Bob Montana's Archie. For those in the group who lean more toward art-analysis than toward story, the Caniff artbook and chockfull-examinations of the careers of Noel Sickles and Alex Toth have been right up their alley. And one of my friends found it as simple as, "In a LOAC book, when a character like Raven Sherman or The Brow dies, I know it's capital-D Death, with no mystical/scientific reincarnation, clones, or mind-transference involved."

Raven

All of which is not to dump on those who are enraptured by the latest brain-blasting adventures of the Big Name action heroes we all recognize on sight—my generation of comics readers had their heyday, eagerly awaiting each new issue of McGregor's Black Panther or the Englehart/Rogers Detective Comics, and we'd be pretty hypocritical (and thoroughly unsuccessful) if we tried to deny today's youth their turn in the sun. The point of this rambling, I suppose, is that comics is and for much of its existence has always been a many and varied medium; when old enthusiasms wane, there are always new vistas to explore, impressive talents, both young and old, to discover (or re-discover).

Yet in this one very narrow case, it's gratifying to know that LOAC books have helped sustain enthusiasm in a slice of the comics readership that means one heckuva lot to me.

I take it as a sign we must be doing something right…

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Friday, Mar 1st, 2013

Best Book of the Year

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Long-time comics historian and commentator R. Fiore calls the first volume of SKIPPY the "Book of the Year" in the current Comics Journal.

PC_TR

A Skippy illustration inscribed by Percy Crosby to his former commanding officer—Teddy Roosevelt.

* * * * *

In the meantime, as we work on the second volume, which covers the years 1928 through 1930, we've encountered an unfortunate glitch. Our primary source for the dailies is Bill Blackbeard's collection at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State; digging deep in those archives, my co-editor Jared Gardner discovered that there are serious gaps in the 1929 dailies. Percy Crosby's daughter, Joan Tibbitts, has come through with some of the missing strips; Jared has uncovered still others in different boxes at OSU; and I located a precious two months' worth in LOAC's stacks. But we're still short. So here's the call to all collectors: anyone with 1929 Skippy dailies is encouraged to get in touch so we can complete the book sooner rather than later.

We're optimistic that the strips will be made available soon. The upshot, of course, is that the book will be delayed. In the meantime, we're concurrently digitizing the strips for the third volume (which we have complete, 1931-1933!). We'll keep you posted on an updated release date for Skippy Volume 2.

Skippy2

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Thursday, Feb 21st, 2013

A Century of Pleasure

Although George McManus passed from this earthly coil in 1954, his immortal characters live on in our collective memory—and (of course) in our forthcoming second volume of his classic newspaper strip. The strip premiered in January 1913. Happy Centennial to Bringing Up Father!

BUF100

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Friday, Feb 15th, 2013

Man-oh-Man-oh-Manning!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

You can now ditch those Italian-language editions of Russ Manning's Tarzan strip you've been holding onto (unless you can speak Italian, of course) because, as we hinted recently, we're reprinting the complete Manning Tarzan newspaper strips -- in a 4-volume set in English -- starting in May.

In 1967 Manning was selected by the Burroughs estate to take over the strip and bring it back to the original Burroughs vision. With assists by Bill Stout, Mike Royer, and Dave Stevens, Manning created 26 original Sunday storylines and 7 daily sagas. The action took place from Pal-ul-don to Opar and Pellucidar and beyond.

We're reproducing the dailies from ERB's own pristine set of syndicate proofs. The interesting thing about Manning daily proofs is that they can be found in three versions, according to our pal and all-around strip expert Rick Norwood (who publishes the fine Comics Revue). As Rick explains, the strip was first run in newspapers using proofs shot from the original art; you can recognize these because the strips contain the original publication date as well as the strip number. Subsequent printings used "proofs" that were copied --and not too well -- from the first-run proofs. In the third go-round, the reproduction deteriorated even further. You can recognize the second- and third-run proofs by their lack of a date, and the addition of extra legal lines obscuring the art. The first run proofs are also larger.

Here's an example of a second-run proof (on top) and the first-run proof we're using (click on it for a larger view):

proof

Amazing difference, eh? Russ Manning deserves no less.

The Sundays will be reproduced from ERB's file copies of tearsheets, filled in with scans providing by Tarzan collectors. The first three volumes chronologically collect the dailies (in front) and color Sundays (in back) from 1967 to 1974, while the fourth book will collect the remaining Sunday strips, which Manning continued until 1979. Henry Franke of The Burroughs Bibliophiles is serving as a contributing editor and is providing a scholarly essay on the strip. Bill Stout has written a marvelous introduction about Russ Manning the man.

For those who enjoy such details, here's the breakdown for the first volume:

Dailies
Tarzan, Jad-Ben-Otho -- Dec. 11, 1967 - Oct. 5, 1968  ~  Strips 8857 - 9114
Tarzan and the Renegade  --  Oct. 7, 1968 - Oct. 18, 1969 ~ Strips: 9115-9438
Sundays
Tarzan Returns to the Land of the Ant Men -- Jan. 14, 1968 - June 16, 1968  ~ Strips: 1923-1945
Tarzan and the Return of Dagga Ramba -- June 23, 1968 - Jan 5, 1969 ~ Strips: 1946-197
Tarzan: Korak and the Elephant Girls  --  Jan 12, 1969 - May 11, 1969   ~  Strips: 1975-1992

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Wednesday, Feb 13th, 2013

Genius is Here

Sealab

Here are the first two reviews—in Comics Bulletin and Comics Alliance—of Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, which goes on sale today!

Jason Sacks writes in Comics Bulletin: "The generosity of artistic material in this book knows no bounds, and the quality of the biographical material is absolutely unparalleled in comics scholarship…. Genius Illustrated sets the absolute gold standard for deluxe artist biographies. There have been some wonderful comics history books released in the last few years, but this book surpasses them all in terms of its production values, its comprehensiveness and the quality of the biographical information presented. Alex Toth was one of the greatest artists ever to work in the comic art medium. This book merits the highest possible compliment: it's a worthy tribute to Toth."

And in Comics Alliance, John Parker says: "Genius, Illustrated is a soaring success…. The amount of material collected in Genius, Illustrated is bordering on the ridiculous…. Add to that a nuanced, heavily-researched, and even-handed biography, and you've got one of the most fascinating books about comics in recent memory"

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Monday, Feb 11th, 2013

Looking Over the Back

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Long, long before I gained a toehold in the comics industry, I was a comics reader…and today my approach to writing and editing is still primarily shaped by my desires as a reader. Our books represent the kinds of packages we (and we think others) would like to read.

Though I may have digested any one of our material a dozen or more times before the final printed edition hits the streets, I always try to set aside time to read each book after I receive my copy of it. Nothing beats holding the finished product between your two hands and settling down in a comfy chair to enjoy it purely as a reader, just the way I've enjoyed so many thousands of other books since the days when I haunted my grade school library, alternating selections from the young readers biography section with entries in the Encyclopedia Brown series, then getting my first taste of prose science fiction through juveniles such as Robert Silverberg's Planet of Death.

I recently stole a couple days and treated myself to a double-play that tickles me no end: I re-read the fifth Walt and Skeezix release from the fine folks at Drawn & Quarterly, immediately following it up with our very first Gasoline Alley volume by Frank King and the estimable Dick Moores.

Walt

I say "treated myself" because the current Gasoline Alley dynamic is, I believe, unique in the comic strip reprint arena. Two different publishers, concurrently producing books from two distinct junctures in the long and delightful history of one major strip. And certainly Alley is a strip that benefits from this condition—Dick Tracy continues to fight crime in each decade of his illustrious career, Terry Lee is banging around Asia whether Milt Caniff or George Wunder is chronicling his adventures, but Dick Moores's Gasoline Alley is radically different from, yet an organic outgrowth of, Frank King's early strips.

GA

By the 1929/1930 dailies reprinted in D&Q's Walt & Skeezix Volume 5, the novelty of the automobile that had been so integral to the launch of the series had long worn off, Walt Wallet's foundling Skeezix celebrates his eighth and ninth birthdays, son Corky is a toddler, Mme. Octave is creating more melodrama, and the Wallets get their first taste of Florida, reflecting changes in King's own life, as Jeet Heer chronicles in the book's Introduction.

Juxtapose that with the conditions circa 1964, in our Gasoline Alley Volume 1!

 

familytree

Skeezix is now forty-three years old, married with two children of his own—we learn Walt and Phyllis (now grandparents five times over, and soon to be six) had another foundling, Judy, enter their lives in 1935. Travels to Florida (or out West, as we had seen in earlier W&S volumes) seem far in the past, and Mme. Octave is long gone, though replaced as troublemakers by the skinflint Pert and his nephew, Alderman Wilmer Bobble. Mr. Wicker is still in the picture, partnered with Walt in the furniture business—Avery is still pinching his first penny—and Doc is still administering medicine and good old-fashioned common sense (which is not as common as most would like to believe!).

We see Corky wrestling with the concern he has underachieved and Judy's husband Gideon feeling like an outsider in the Wallet family circle. We see Skeezix's two children, college-age Chipper and high schooler Clovia, carving out lives of their own as they navigate the rocky road to adulthood. And we see the parade of supporting characters—undreamed of when one reads W&S—who enliven the 1960s Gasoline Alley: Clovia's classmate, Slim Skinner, Joel and Rufus, Doc Fuddle (the erudite local bookseller), and many, many more.

I find our Gasoline Alley whets my appetite, not only for more of Dick Moores's views of the Wallets' unfolding story, but also for future D&Q Walt & Skeezix volumes that will fill in the blanks indicated by GA Volume 1, tantalizing blanks that take me back to my own boyhood, when spotty comic book distribution made it possible to miss one, sometimes even two consecutive issues of Amazing Spider-Man or Avengers or Fantastic Four. The desire to know, "What did I miss?" is a powerful one when a reader is absorbed in a narrative—and thanks to GA Volume 1, as a reader I am more than ever absorbed in the lives of Walt Wallet and his ever-growing family. I only wish there were enough like me so both W&S and GA were selling twenty thousand strong and each series was insured a long, long run to come.

I don't know 19,999 other persons, but we've now hung around together long enough so I feel I can give you this recommendation: if you like well-crafted comics, featuring stories well-told, I unreservedly recommend giving Gasoline Alley a try in both its D&Q and LOAC incarnations.

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Sunday, Feb 10th, 2013

Lots of Nemo, But No Slumberland

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Our chronological peers may remember the halcyon days of yore, when Prestone Anti-Freeze used to advertise in print and electronic media, touting their "Winter/Summer" formula. At this time of year, LOAC operates much the same way—and here's the photographic proof!

nemo

One picture was taken on February 9th, at the end of Winter Storm Nemo—we're betting you can guess which one!

The good news is, our Northern Branch never lost electricity or internet connectivity, even during the worst of the storm, so production on our line of books was slowed only by the amount of time it took to shovel out. Of course, when a storm drops 24 inches of snow on your city, you're still measuring that snow-clearing time in terms of hours! But disruption that amounts to a couple hours of tossing around snow was a much better situation than the nearly half-million New Englanders who were without power as the storm raged.

Dean and Lorraine, of course, said what all Floridians said when they heard about Nemo. "Storm? What storm...?

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Friday, Feb 8th, 2013

Son of Westward, Ho! (Ho-Ho!)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

FathersDay

Above: a 1950 Fathers Day drawing for the St. Paul (Minn.) Dispatch

Following up on my earlier Bringing Up Father discussion and account of my trip to UCLA to research the George McManus Papers there…

UCLA's Special Collections Libraries have a Duplication Services department, through which all requests for copies and computer scans are routed. Before leaving L.A. I had spoken with department lead Brandon Barton about how best to accommodate the logistics of the McManus artwork we'd be requesting from the collection for use in our Of Cabbages & Kings book, and upon my return from the west coast, after a couple days to get my notes in order, I had a three-page list of items zapping toward his inbox (along with as many pages of descriptive notes to assist Brandon's crew in locating the artifacts I wanted).

Holidays and a mix-up regarding one of the boxes made Brandon's task anything but a smooth one, but he and his Duplication Services staff came through with flying colors—and I mean that literally!

Because the artwork and photos I had requested arrived recently, and I was like a kid in a candy store as I reacquainted myself with these treasures. ("Oboyoboyoboyoboyoboyoboyoboy!" is the way I put it in an e-mail to Dean.)

We have some neat family-oriented photos of McManus to share with you in Of Cabbages & Kings, and the artwork…! We have more than we can use in this book or a sequel (or maybe two), so let me tantalize you with just a tidbit or two right now:

Influence

Above: Maggie and Jiggs in service of selling ads for King Features.

Below: an undated card for the Friars Club, of which ol' George was a member.

Friars

Couple that with a text feature that reflects a chunk of my research results and you'll soon have in your pulpy little palms what we immodestly (but accurately) characterize as, "the greatest Bringing Up Father collection ever assembled!" And when you realize BUF comics have been being sandwiched between two covers since 1919, that's saying something!

* * * * *

As a bonus, here's something that was NOT in McManus's papers but which we found in our Library's stacks: a Jiggs "Tijuana Bible," in which Jiggs…well, let's just leave it up to your imagination!

Tijuana

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Friday, Feb 1st, 2013

Once again, size DOES matter

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Now that LOAC Essentials Vol. 2—featuring the 1928-29 Gumps storyline that forever changed comics—is at the printer, we're putting everything back where it belongs. When Jared Gardner, the fearless editor of the book, had some 1928 daily clipped strips on the table, he noticed how much larger they seemed than the comics in his current daily newspaper. He thought we'd all like to see the sad tale of Then vs. Now. Helps illustrate the point why we produce these archival collections in the first place—and why you buy them, doesn't it? (Click on the page for a larger view.)

Seven to one, folks. Pretty bad odds.

Daily_comparison

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Wednesday, Jan 30th, 2013

Toth Re-Redux!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

You'll recall Dean's recent post in this space showing off the advance copy of Genius, Illustrated he received from the printer. After he finished giving it a good going-over, he sent it my way. It traveled fifteen hundred miles and showed up on my doorstep only two days later!

Bruce_Illus

My initial reaction after a fast skimming was: "I thought it would be good, but I didn't imagine it would be this good ..." What prompted that reaction?

Part of it is that, since the book covers Alex Toth's life and career from the mid-1960s to its end in the early 21st Century, we have more color to offer—more color snapshots, more color artwork (wait'll you see that full-color presentation piece Toth did for The Herculoids—wow!). Part of it is that Illustrated has even more pages than its predecessor, Genius, Isolated, yet it also forms a nearly seamless whole when combined with that earlier book.

Part of it is that we were fortunate that comic art fans, other professionals, and "The Friends of Alex" were generous in providing us original artwork to use in the book—we once again reprint many full stories for readers to enjoy, an impressive number of them shot from the original art, as well as a wide variety of rare pieces. (OK, you Toth fans, you say you've seen the Rape: A Man's Problem art Alex did for Uncle Sam—but have you seen the unaltered Rape art? You will, in Genius, Illustrated!) And part of it is that Alex's story is a compelling one, a story that impresses, inspires, and yet touches us in vulnerable, all-too-human ways. We owe a huge vote of thanks to Alex's family, friends, and peers for their candor and insights, for helping us pay what we hope is fitting tribute to the Master.

A couple of extra teaser pages, to whet your appetite.

HB

Ill_conan

Genius, Illustrated goes on sale very soon; be watching for it! Me, I'm settling down over the next day or two to give it a detailed reading and savor every page…

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Friday, Jan 25th, 2013

Alex Toth Redux!

 

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

After two years or researching, writing, and gathering rare and wonderful art, our advance copy of GENIUS, ILLUSTRATED: The Life and Art of Alex Toth has arrived. Here's a quick look at the cover and a couple of interior spreads. The book will be on sale late next month!

Toth2_cover

Toth2Int1

Toth2Int2

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Saturday, Jan 19th, 2013

A Swinging Affair

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

A little tease for a new series we're unveiling in May…

Tarzan1

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Friday, Jan 18th, 2013

Opus Bonus Strip!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Courtesy of Roger Ash at Westfield Comics, here's a rare item: a Bloom County strip that never appeared (to our knowledge) in the newspaper. It was printed on the top of the box containing the Opus phone from Tyco. The copyright on the box is 1988. Thanks for sharing, Rog!

Opus_phone

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Monday, Jan 14th, 2013

Westward, Ho! (Ho-Ho!)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

For months Dean and I have been tantalized by the knowledge that UCLA is holding the George McManus papers. We know the delights we have unearthed at other schools when examining their holdings related to Milton Caniff, Harold Gray, Otto Soglow, Noel Sickles, and others. What wonders might the McManus papers hold?

BUF1

For much of this year one thing or another prevented us from trekking to Los Angeles to find out. A family situation scuttled Dean's planned springtime trip…the need to finish the concluding installment of our mammoth Alex Toth biography was Job One for my summer…but as the leaves started falling and the mast of that big ship Year-End Holidays became visible on the horizon, I realized the westward trip needed to be taken soon if it was to happen at all this year.

That's why on Tuesday, November 13th, I headed to the airport to begin the long, LONG transcontinental flight that would bring me to UCLA.

Once upon a time I enjoyed flying—but the conditions over the past eleven years have sucked much of the pleasure out of the at-one-time-friendly-skies for me. Being treated like a criminal (complete with pat-downs—I'm not a "scan my image and do what with it?" kinda guy) is not high on my list of life's joys. Add the fact that the sheer length of this trip was made longer than advertised by a couple irksome factors—that had to do with scheduling and not with "the theater of security"—and I had plenty of time to wax philosophical. Or as philosophical as I'm likely to get—Immanuel Kant I ain't, as anyone who knows me will gladly tell you. "We're kernels in a giant can of corn, launched skyward," I jotted in my notebook in marginalia. "The cold equations tell us we'll go up can come down safely; we hope no variables are introduced to alter the equations." Some delays, but not enough to disastrously change the equations—I arrived in Los Angeles safe and sound.

My one-word impression of the city Harlan Ellison used to call Cloud Cuckooland? Chaotic would fill the bill. More than once during my visit I wondered, "How did newcomers successfully drive out here before the advent of the GPS?" I still haven't fathomed the answer to that question. I'm used to Boston, London, New York, Glasgow—cities where you can get around on foot (or by a combination of mass transit and shoe leather) so you can get your bearings and get a sense of what the city is all about. Given the culture in L.A. is, as a friend who lives in the area explains it, "all about driving and parking," the city seems to whizz-z-z past in one's peripheral vision as one focuses on the road ahead and the cars ducking and diving from lane to lane like randomly-excited atoms.

405

Sunset

View from my hotel room: first looking out across the scenic 405 to North Sepulveda Boulevard (home to Manny's Pizzeria, where one gets a tasty calzone—and the Mobil and 76 gas stations whose signage you see in the distance), then turning around to view West Sunset Boulevard, in the general direction of UCLA.

Still, I can attest that the climate this time of year is delightful: temps were consistently in the mid-70s each day with low, low humidity. I had two-plus days of sun, never more than a sprinkle of rain during the cloudy spells. And hey—I was in the land of Philip Marlowe and Jim Rockford; there was a definite kick to that, even though Marlowe's L.A. is more than seven decades gone, Rockford's more than forty.

I wasn't there to commune with the spirits of beloved fictional gumshoes, of course, I was there to examine the papers of George McManus. Early Wednesday morning, I began doing just that.

Wilson

anatomy

I arose from the bowels of UCLA's "Parking Structure 4" to find myself on Wilson Plaza. Further on, I discovered the university is helpfully providing an anatomy lesson, against  which passers-by can check their first-hand knowledge.

 Two things I find UCLA lacks: a decent on-line map and good on-campus signage. Yes, I admit it, after getting parked I ended up walking around campus for close to an hour, trying to get my bearings and locate the Charles E. Young Research Library, where the McManus treasures awaited me. I did snap a few shots of the grounds as I ambled about, knowing they'd come in handy for a feature like this…

JannsDickson

Yes, I climbed these, the Janss Steps, to reach my destination. Overshooting the turn I should have made, I found myself for a time in Dickson Court, where I took this second shot.

…And eventually I found the Murphy Sculpture Garden…

Murphy1

Murphy2

The Sculpture Garden was long on abstracts, short on nudes. No, the trash can is not a sculpture!

…Which my map showed was in close proximity to the Young Research Library, as indeed it was.

Lib1

Lib2

Long distance and up-close-and-personal views of the Charles E. Young Research Library.

First stop was the Circulation Desk, where I had to obtain a UCLA Access Library Card before proceeding. I bantered about basketball with a couple of the guys behind the counter as my card was being processed. Then I went downstairs to the Special Collections room. More processing took place there, culminating in my receiving a locker key attached to a gigantic hasp; I was reminded of my boyhood, when keys to gas station restrooms came similarly equipped. Locker # 1 became the repository for all my worldly goods except my laptop, mouse, and power cord—no pens, paper, or other accoutrements are allowed inside the reading room. In fact, the person at the front desk had to buzz me inside that locked and hushed chamber.

"No other accoutrements" includes cameras, so I have no photos of the room, the attendants, or the McManus holdings to share with you here (you'll see examples of the latter, at least, in our upcoming Bringing Up Father: Of Cabbages and Kings volume). Being able to use a camera would have been an immense help, since it would have allowed me to snap photos of whole newspaper or magazine articles instead of transcribing them on the spot - at times smoke was flying off my laptop keyboard! But when a good host lays down the rules, a good guest seeks to comply, so transcribe it was, and transcribe I did.

Another rule was that the McManus papers could be brought forth box by box, and I could take only one artifact at a time from each available box. That was how I made my way through the collection—one scrapbook, one set of bound proofs, one Cupples & Leon paperback collection at a time.

One thing UCLA does differently than, say, Boston University or the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State: no cotton gloves! I touched each McManus artifact with my own two hands - and what artifacts I saw…

…The "How to Draw Comics Like Mine" series of newspaper features McManus prepared…

…Bringing Up Father strips in their Japanese, Spanish, and Scandanavian publications. In Argentina, you might be interested to know, Jiggs was referred to as Don Trifón, Maggie as Dona Sisebuta, and Nora as Dorita…

…Advertisements galore! For the Gus Hill stage shows—for products being endorsed by McManus himself—for businesses that spun off from or were somehow connected to the strip (such as Jiggs-brand corned beef and cabbage)…

…And page after page after page of news articles. George's fifty-year career attracted a lot of coverage! Like Milton Caniff, McManus did a great deal of publicity work and joined a large number of clubs and organizations—and like Caniff, he kept copies of every newspaper or magazine article in which he was featured, plus mementos commemorating many of his clubs and their activities. Unlike Caniff, George's career bloomed during the heyday of the American newspaper, in the days before radio had settled into homes everywhere, before motion pictures, before the idea of television was even the stuff of science fiction. He was serving an America that was a nation of readers, in the days when everybody like the comics (even if only as a guilty pleasure). In those days, cartoonists like McManus were the equivalent of the TV stars of contemporary times.

In order to make my way through all the material I had asked UCLA to pull for me, I had two days of constant work in the Special Collections Reading Room. And I mean constant—Tuesday the 14th from roughly 10:45AM to 4:45PM and Wednesday the 15th from 10:00AM to 4:45PM, with no food, water, or bathroom breaks. All I did was open one artifact, examine its contents, making notes as I went through, then exchanging it for another artifact and repeating the process. Time was of the essence; I knew I had to make maximum use out of every tick of the clock.

It was considerable work, but considerable fun, too. I have seen the exterior view of what was labeled, "The beautiful ocean view home of Mr. and Mrs. George McManus at Rancho Malibu la Costa (Ray J. Kieffer, architect)" and the McManuses inhabited quite a spread. I can tell you that King Features passed this news snippet around the newsroom in the form of an internal memo:  "George W. McManus, internationally famous as the creator of 'Jiggs' and the many characters associated with him in the comic strip Bringing Up Father was reported a patient at Santa Monica Hospital today. Under treatment of Dr. Carl Williams for the nerve irritation commonly known as 'shingles,' McManus was said by hospital attendants to have passed a good night and to have shown considerable improvement today." I have held in my hands a Sunday original and full-color Sunday proofs of both BUF and its Rosie's Beau topper, looked at syndicate print ads that span the period from the 1910s to the 1940s, and seen what must have been over a hundred newspaper articles dealing with George being served corned beef and cabbage. The university was unable to locate one box I had requested, but what they did find immersed me in McManus's life, capturing a career that spanned from the heydays of his fellows - Herriman and TAD from one generation, Raymond and Chic Young from another - and the early years of Schulz's and Mort Walker's long and distinguished runs on Peanuts and Beetle Bailey. Talents waxed and waned, strips came and went, and through it all George McManus and Zeke Zekley kept audiences smiling at the domestic antics of Maggie and Jiggs.

Some "briefly noted" items to round out this travelogue:

Ø  Thursday night, as I was walking back to UCLA "Parking Structure 4," I saw the start of a rally being staged Wilson Plaza to pump up the studentry in advance of Saturday's big UCLA/USC gridiron contest. On a spire filled with handmade posters, a brightly-colored "$C BLOWS!" caught my eye. How nice for the poster-maker's parents, I told myself—their UCLA tuition money is being spent so their offspring can learn to express himself so eloquently ...

Ø  In a less snarky vein, Wednesday evening I had the please to talk shop and break bread with old friend Brian Nelson, whose screenplays have been the bedrock behind such films as 30 Days of Night and the cringe-inducing (well, for guys, anyway) psychological thriller Hard Candy. These days he's working with David Goyer of the Dark Knight movies and a rollicking band of talent on a new TV series, DaVinci's Demons. A trailer for the series is on-line. Watch for it on STARZ in the spring of 2013.

Ø  Down through the years, from my Boston-area home, I have literally flown north, south, east, and west, but never until my return flight from L.A. have I had a plane's steward staff open up the audio system and request a medical professional to come to the front of the cabin. Yes, we had a passenger in ill health (apparently, from a snippet of talk I overheard, losing consciousness briefly) - and she was seated in the row directly across the aisle from me, in my window seat! A doctor and nurse worked with the flight attendants…the fellow in the aisle seat in my row was asked to trade places with the doctor so he could more easily work on the passenger while the emergency was going on…the woman was brought back to stable health, which was good for all involved…yet what amazed me most was that the person next to me, in the middle seat, had brought aboard a hot meal from an airport restaurant, and he could not be bothered to look at what was happening just feet away, as he was intent upon slurping up teriyaki beef and noodles!

It's a mad, mad, mad world, indeed!

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Wednesday, Jan 9th, 2013

That Was Then, This Is Now

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

From the "What Has Gone Before" Department…

Long-time readers in this space may recall that Dean and I first crossed paths in the 1970s, within the letters pages of Marvel Comics. We never directly communicated with one another at that time, but I read his letters of comment, he read mine—and there were times, as in this letter column reprinted from Luke Cage #32, when we were the only two letterhacks whose notes were published.

Powerman

Our letters address the first Cage story written by then-incoming writer Don McGregor, who has since become a fast friend to both Dean and me.

 

Time and tide took us both away from letterhacking, and for quite some time the major comic book companies stopped running letters pages in their titles, often claiming the Internet had made such features obsolete (as if the ephemeral Web could ever replace reliable paper-and-ink print. Pshaw! Pshaw!).

In recent years, it's been heartening to see letters pages make a comeback, though Dean and I have been a little too busy putting out Library of American Comics books to do any letterhacking of our own. Nevertheless, as a few friends and loyal readers pointed out to us, our names were once again joined on a Marvel Comics letters page.

DDcover

In "Letters Without Fear" from the issue above, readers Taylor Bowne and Timothy Markin offered their reactions to DD # 16, with Mr. Markin discussing the work of artist Chris Samnee and noting he had been a loyal Daredevil reader since 1975. Check out Mr. Markin's concluding two sentences (the ones before his name), and editor Steve Wacker's response.

DDLetters

Pretty cool, we thought! We appreciate Steve's kind words, and congratulate him and the rest of the Daredevil creative team on their well-deserved Eisner wins. And if we can do a bit of plugola here, we'll suggest fans of ol' Hornhead be on the lookout this spring for a special Daredevil story written, drawn, and inked by my decades-long friend, Lee Weeks. I've seen previews; it'll be special, believe me!

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Thursday, Jan 3rd, 2013

New neighbors for the new year

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Essentials2

In the second decade of the 20th Century Sidney Smith created a formula of melodrama, adventure, mystery, and comedy that made The Gumps one of the country's most popular comics and himself perhaps its richest cartoonist. So devoted were his readers that they regularly wrote in to offer advice for his characters' love lives and business decisions and generally treated the characters as friends and family members. When he launched what would be his most famous story—"The Saga of Mary Gold"—in 1928-29, Smith's relationship with his readers would be tested as never before. Its heartbreaking conclusion would change comics forever. For the first time since the story made headlines across America in the spring of 1929 we reprint the saga that Hogan's Alley magazine called "One of the Ten Biggest Events in Comics History"—a tale that has lost none of its power to captivate readers in the 21st Century. These two dailies introduce the Gumps's new neighbors and kick off LOAC Essentials Volume 2, on sale around March 1st. (Click on the strips for larger versions.)

GumpsMay1

GumpsMay2

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Tuesday, Dec 25th, 2012

A Happy LOAC Holiday part four of four

We wish you and your family a healthy, happy holiday season. Here's LOAC Creative Director Dean Mullaney celebrating the holidays in 1957, followed by some classic newspaper strips from December 25ths of years past.

Dean_christmas

Terry_christmas

Terry and the Pirates 1937

Archie_christmas

Archie 1947

Tracy_christmas

Dick Tracy 1941

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Monday, Dec 24th, 2012

A Happy LOAC Holiday part three of four

We wish you and your family a healthy, happy holiday season. Here's LOAC Associate Editor Bruce Canwell celebrating the holidays circa 1973, followed by some classic newspaper strips from December 25ths of years past.

Canwell_christmas

Scorchy_christmas

Scorchy Smith 1935

Abner_christmas

Li'l Abner 1936

Canyon_christmas

Steve Canyon 1947

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Sunday, Dec 23rd, 2012

A Happy LOAC Holiday part two of four

We wish you and your family a healthy, happy holiday season. Here's LOAC Art Director Lorraine Turner (bottom right) celebrating the holidays in 1960, followed by some classic newspaper strips from December 25ths of years past.

Lorraine_christmas

Polly_christmas

Polly and Her Pals 1933

Family_christmas

Family Circus 1962

Aroo_christmas

King Aroo 1950

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Saturday, Dec 22nd, 2012

A Happy LOAC Holiday part one of four

We wish you and your family a healthy, happy holiday season. Here's LOAC Sales Manager Beau Smith celebrating the holidays in 1958, followed by some classic newspaper strips from December 25ths of years past.

Beau1958

LOA_christmas

Little Orphan Annie 1934

Rip_christmas

Rip Kirby 1947

\bloom_christmas

Bloom County 1981

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Thursday, Dec 20th, 2012

King Aroo is Here! Long Live the Queen!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Jack Kent created so many great bits in King Aroo that we could fill this blog daily…but we've got to leave SOME for the print book. Here's a tease of the King's departure from Myopia to witness Queen Elizabeth's coronation in London. How does one travel from Myopia to the "Real-For-Sure World?" Read on…

Myopia

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Sunday, Dec 16th, 2012

Myopia is a Country, and Patience is a Virtue

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Before we get to the good news, let's talk a bit about something that's never a favorite topic: late books.

We don't like late books, and we know you don't like late books. Many of you plunk down dollars-and-cents on advance orders, based on our projected release date; when that date comes and goes and you don't get your book, your money is being tied up for a longer period. We don't want to put you in that situation, but sometimes it's simply unavoidable (and you'll notice it isn't just our concern —our friendly competitors can and do face the same issue, and even Marvel and DC often have later-than-advertised releases in their Masterworks and Archives programs.

Sometimes, quality simply takes more time than any of us might like.

As you know from recent posts in this space, our long-awaited second Alex Toth volume is at the printers now. Hard on its heels is the book we've had to delay longest, but we're now pleased and proud to announce that King Aroo, Volume 2 is on its way.

Aroo2

This coming March we'll return to Jack Kent's winsome kingdom of Myopia for more fun and puns with kindly King Aroo, Yupyop the Faithful Retainer, forgetful Mr. Elephant, crack-brained Professor Yorgle, and the miscast Wanda Witch. It's as endearing a cast as any comic strip has ever assembled, and our Volume 2 will take you from late 1952 through much of 1954, featuring both daily and Sunday strips, several of which will be available for the first time since their original publication.

     If you bought Volume 1 of this series, or if you've searched the archives on this site, you know we here at LOAC-Central are great fans of Jack Kent, King Aroo's creator, and we hope to convince as many readers as possible to jump on the bandwagon with us.

You may ask what took so long getting Aroo Volume 2 into print. The first problem was locating all the strips needed for the book. The artist's son, Jack Kent Jr., owns his father's collection of original artwork, proofs, and tearsheets, but it's in no particular order, and Jack Jr. has a full-time job of his own that has nothing to do with comics, so sifting the specific material out of the whole turned out to be no simple task. Once he turned his findings over to us, we had to double-check it to insure there were no holes, and to make sure (for example) that a May 15, 1956 strip had not crept in where a May 15, 1954 strip belonged. After that, we then had to shoehorn production of the book into our existing schedule - we hadn't exactly been sitting around watching the dust settle in the interim, after all!

I did my copy edits on King Aroo Volume 2 late at night, after a particularly hectic day in what had already been a loooooong week ... but I love King Aroo so much, doing that work into the wee small hours of the morning was a pleasure. No lie, it actually lifted my spirits, giving me my second wind, and that time spent with Jack Kent and his fanciful menagerie let me finish the day with a smile on my face - a BIG smile!

Last year I had the opportunity to buy a handful of randomly-selected King Aroo Sunday tearsheets from a European collector and I jumped at the chance. Here for your enjoyment is a small sampling of those comics:

1954

1957

Some have suggested LOAC should move into doing more contemporary strips with a humorous, gag-a-day bent. We hope those folks especially will give King Aroo a try, if they haven't already. Though the strips are over sixty years old, they are as fresh and inventive today as they were back then, and the structure and pacing will be familiar to those who love the other series launched in the early 1950s (you know what they are!).

Finally, if you have young family members, you can be sure they will fall under the spell of Jack Kent's delightful work. In my own family I have a not-yet-three-year-old nephew. I recognize that King Aroo is a trifle above him at this point, but I've made sure some Jack Kent childrens' books are in his library, and his mother and father have King Aroo Volume 1 (and will have Volume 2) on their own bookshelves, ready for him when he's reached the proper age. From eight to eighty, it's impossible not to be charmed by Jack Kent's gentle wit and by the citizens of Myopia, including the one and only King Aroo.

Here are seven sequential dailies from the second book:

dailies

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Tuesday, Nov 27th, 2012

Measure for Measure

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Teen_Toth

Alex Toth drawing James Bond, Dick Tracy, the men from U.N.C.L.E., Li'l Abner…and more!!!

This spring I promised that my Job One was producing the text for Genius, Illustrated, the concluding installment in our comprehensive examination of Alex Toth's life and art. My summer was devoted almost exclusively to this pursuit, with the writing concluded very close to the last day of summer. After that, it passed inspection by many sets of eyes, my own first of all-when you produce a work of this length and complexity, you want to step back, read it stem-to-stern, and make sure the whole hangs together they way you envisioned while you were working on the individual parts!

Screenshot

Once I was satisfied, Dean read the manuscript and gave it his approval, then we passed it into the hands of Alex's four children: Dana, Carrie, Eric, and Damon. We also asked a couple folks to read portions of the text in order to confirm we were correctly conveying the information they had provided.

One can ask how it could possibly take more than four months to write a manuscript; the answer is a tapestry made up of three major threads, which together resulted in me amassing this tsunami of paper, DVDs, CD-ROMs, books, magazines, and audio cassettes not just over the past four months, but over the past two years:

Birdseye

The first thread is the sheer volume of topics that needed to be addressed. Genius, Illustrated's manuscript is thirty-five percent longer than its predecessor's, covering the last forty-five years of Toth's life, the second half of his eclectic career in comics, and the bulk of his career in animation (Genius, Isolated discusses his days with Cambria Studios, but Illustrated takes Alex through his many stints at Hanna-Barbera [H-B] and his other assignments on cartoon series such as Thundarr the Barbarian and The Bionic 6). When you consider that he was often producing new comics material while also working at H-B, the strands of this thread have a tendency to weave in and out, wrapping around one another in sometimes-unexpected ways. Correlating this amount of information and organizing it in a coherent way that doesn't confuse the reader is a challenge best met by careful forethought and planning, before the writing ever begins.

The second thread is the number of persons who had something to say about Alex. We conducted interviews for this project-many of them lengthy and far-reaching-with roughly two dozen of Toth's family, compeers, and fellow professionals. We certainly could not reach out to every one of the "Friends of Alex" without the manuscript growing so dense reviewers would begin casting about their favorite H-word ("hagiography"). Still, I believe you'll find the sizable cross-section of participants speak with authority and emotion about the major aspects of Alex the Fabulous Talent and Alex the Curmudgeonly Man. To give you a sense of exactly how much interview wordage we're talking about, I stacked up all of the transcripts of phone interviews I had at hand-I made no effort to add printed copies of the conducted-by-e-mail interviews we did with folks like Bill Chadbourne-and measured them. As you can see, the stack stands roughly two and a half inches high!

transcripts

That's a honkin' lot of material, and we could hardly use every last scrap of it. You may be able to spot my hen-scratching at top of the first page of the David Armstrong transcript visible in the picture - those are notes about which quotes within the "xscript" I wanted to include in my text, each note flagging the quote, the topic to which it pertains, and the page of the document upon which it resides. I did that with every interview in this stack after reading each multiple times.

A third thread is the amount of correspondence Alex himself wrote throughout the years. We must have read close to five hundred of Alex's letters-written-for-publication and letters-written-to-friends that were donated to us from various sources. At times it was necessary to go back and do some rewriting on a section already completed, because a new letter would fall in our hands containing information too fascinating to exclude (Alex's letter to Milton Caniff that appears near the end of chapter seven is one such example).

Bill Peckmann's decade-plus of correspondence with Toth alone was a treasure trove of insights and opinions, and we're forever indebted to Bill for his generosity. Notice that the stack of correspondence we received from Peckmann stands almost exactly two inches tall.

peckmann

I used up more than one full packet of Post-It Notes flagging select letters for use out of this stack of Bill's contributions, writing the date and topic on a Post-It, then attaching it every time I found a letter I planned to use (and sometimes pointing out, for longer letters, the page and paragraph containing the quote to be used).

So: Alex's comics career, his personal life, and his cartoon career, sometimes stopping-and-restarting, sometimes overlapping each on top of the other. Digesting, organizing, and excerpting not only the words of others, but also what Alex himself had to say about a variety of other subjects (wait'll you read his classic rant against American auto manufacturers!). Reading articles about Toth or interviews with him from a variety of magazines and websites. Watching episodes of several of Alex's cartoons, reading a variety of his comics stories, examining his artwork (more than fifty pages of doodles alone!) ... then tossing all those puzzle pieces onto the table and laboring to construct a narrative that informs, entertains, and does justice to all the many facets of its subject. All while, for a significant portion of the time, new material was regularly being added to the mix.

That's how it can take more than four months to write a manuscript! And that's why the Genius series has had a total gestation period of longer than two years...

...Yet Dean and I feel it's been worth it and we trust you will, too, when you have the book in your hands. We didn't like the delays any more than you did, but they were necessary to create what we believe is a quality product worthy of your valuable money and equally valuable leisure reading time.

Finally, yes, there is one more book to come in our Alex Toth: Genius series. The artbook Genius, Animated will zoom in for a close-up on Alex's days working for the Hollywood cartoon factories. It will feature some artwork familiar to many, and quite a bit of artwork that has heretofore been seen only by a select few. It's being produced with permission of the various rights-holders, so we won't be repeating the issues that plagued earlier attempts at such a project (though yes, it's certainly possible we'll make plenty of other mistakes!). In getting such permission, we're able to bring you a sizeable amount of unseen Alex Toth artwork that been safely sitting in the Hanna-Barbera archives. Be looking for it later in 2013—after you've immersed yourself in the Life and Art of Alex Toth and savored the fabulous art that infuses Genius, Illustrated.

Here's a sampling of what you can look forward to.

Rare early 1960s Toth art for UK-based Fleetway:

Toth_Schoolfriend

More rare Toth art for Fleetway!

Toth_Rally

One of a series of title cards for "How To Succeed With Sex!"

Toth_sex

Presentation pieces for unproduced Hanna-Barbera series:

HB_promo

The complete "How to Murder Your Wife" strips—with the original Ben Day tones!

How to murder

Plus the complete original art to "White Devil…Yellow Devil," which he re-reworked after the art was returned to him from DC. Compare this printed version with the re-inked version below.

Toth_Devil_print

Toth_Devil_art

And in case you forgot what the cover will look like:

Illustrated

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Saturday, Nov 17th, 2012

My Favorite L.O.A.F.er

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Not to slight Bill Peckmann and Bill Chadbourne, the two inaugural recipients of our Library Owes A Favor (L.O.A.F.) citation—I hope you can tell from our prior entries in this series that Bill and Bill have provided invaluable resources and terrific, pleasant personal contact as well—but of course I have to use the "My Favorite" title on our next designee. After all, he's my oldest friend, for nigh unto *mumble-mumble* years.

I'm talking about Mike Dudley, our third L.O.A.F. recipient, and the best way to explain why he's being fitted for a L.O.A.F. crown is to tell you a little bit about him, and me, and the two of us.

Mike was born a "military brat" in the greater New York area, though his father eventually retired from the service and settled in northern New England. Mike lived "in town," as it was known within the very tiny rural community where I spent my teenaged years. My family went "in town" to each week to buy groceries; I double-timed it down the main street from the supermarket to the newsstand, general store, and statewide-chain drugstore to buy the new comics while my parents and sibling shopped for vittles. Mike was buying his comics in many of the same venues I was, though I didn't know it at the time.

Mike located me through the letters pages in 1970s-era Marvel Comics, where (like Dean himself) I was a "letterhack." My name and address appeared under my commentaries in many a Marvel title, and when Mike spotted them he pulled out the phone book, found my dad's name—the only "Canwell" listed, so it wasn't a difficult search—and one day he dialed the phone and asked to speak with me.

The rest, as they say, is personal history.

Even in our earliest phone conversations, Mike displayed the inquisitive nature that has been his lifelong hallmark. He was delving into the fan experience of the day far more deeply than I was—he subscribed to Alan Light's Buyer's Guide, he had contact with fans who had bought original art, and his own orientation was directed at the artistic side of comics, where I came at them as a story-focused guy. Mike read war comics (war comics? To me, those were what you bought only if none of the "good" books had come in on a given week, and you had to feed your new-comics jones…) and sang the praises of Joe Kubert and Russ Heath before I'd seen a line of either of those gentlemen's work.

Kubert

Joe Kubert's unmistakable treatment of Tarzan, Jane, and a regal La of Opar. The Kubert treatment of ERB's ape-man is easily as distinctive as Foster's, Hogarth's, or Russ Manning's.

Mike also had a variety of personal projects in mind, as well. He was working on his own artwork (Monster Joe, Mike's early attempt at creating comics, was the time I'd seen artwork in black-&-white, done on Bristol board); additionally, he had found a number of comics fans based in our area and was organizing a state-wide comics club. I attended that first meeting, in the latter 1970s, and Mike's club flourished throughout the 1980s, as the comics industry itself moved from newsstand to direct sales retailing and "independent" publishers began popping up throughout the nation. The club continued without Mike for over a year when he moved to New Jersey and attended the Joe Kubert School within the first handful of years of its existence. Financial considerations prevented him from completing the School's full curriculum, but Mike's first-hand knowledge of the Kubert School allowed him to play a valuable role in convincing another young man of our acquaintance to follow Mike's footsteps to the School. Today that "young man" is Marvel Comics artist Lee Weeks (who gut his first start doing artwork for Dean's Eclipse Comics—it really is a small world!).

Weeks

My old friend Lee and I have always shared a love of The Fantastic Four—I was on hand the day Lee showed this piece to FF inker extraordinaire Joe Sinnott.

Life has a way of taking us in directions we could never imagine in our youth, so Mike never got the comics job he wanted, and in many ways deserved. In some ways, I suspect Mike wishes it had turned out differently; in other ways, I suspect he feels it all worked out for the best. No matter what, I've never heard him grouse about What Might Have Been—I'm not sure he could always say the same about me.

From time to time life put Mike and me on different paths, causing us to fall out of touch for a year or two at a stretch, but one way or another we end up getting back together. On one hand it's as if no time has passed and we pick up right where we left off; on the other hand I'm always amazed at the new interests Mike has developed along the way. Whether he's studying up on NASCAR or exploring the history of film noir, Mike always maintains his interest in the worlds of comics and illustration; his library of comics reference books and "journalistic/historical" periodicals is both extensive and impressive.

That's why, whenever I start on a new project, I ask Mike what he may have in his library on the artist or work in question. Mike provided me with the source material that informed much of the first chapter in my Noel Sickles biography; he found a person who had rare perspective to offer on Alex Toth while also delivering more than a half-dozen magazines and articles that benefitted our Genius series; he's performed similar yeoman service to the betterment of a handful of our other efforts, some of which are already on your bookshelves, some of which are still "under construction."

Mike's natural modesty prevents him from seeing how important his contributions are, and have been all along. It was his efforts that created a statewide network of comics fans in the pre-cyber days of yore, creating a web of friendships and acquaintanceships that have literally stood for decades—it was his willingness to leave home for New Jersey that made a contribution to establishing the Kubert School during its earlier years, before it became an institution within the industry—it was his thirst for knowledge and willingness to share the sources he's accumulated that have played a role in the overall success of The Library of American Comics.

And he's one helluva friend, besides. He agreed to join me on the trek down to NYCC in 2010, the last year I attended that convention. Since we were going to be immersed in comics during the show, I wanted to spend our pre-con hours doing some of the touristy things I'd never done on all my prior trips to Manhattan and Mike agreed to indulge my whims. So off we went to see the Statue of Liberty, to head to Little Italy for a meal, and to go inside the Empire State Building. You'll see a picture below of Mike on the observation platform at the 86th floor of the ESB. It was a big deal to me—any pulp-hero fan can put two-and-two together to realize author Lester Dent designated the 86th floor as the headquarters of Doc Savage and his five iron assistants - but it was only after we were up high, looking down on the New York cityscape, that Mike admitted, "I really don't like heights, you know!"

Duds

Thanks, Mike—for coming along on that New York adventure, for your help on past/current/future Library of American Comics projects, and for being my friend through good times and bad. You join distinguished company with Messrs. Peckmann and Chadbourne in the L.O.A.F. inner circle, old buddy!

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Monday, Nov 5th, 2012

Bruised Hearts & Trampled Flowers

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

From time to time we like to imagine what some newspapers would look like on a given date in history - it's a different view of comic strip history in this current environment, where so many strips are getting the "extensive reprint" treatment.

In this slice of newspaper strip history from February 15, 1946, we see that sentimentality is in short supply on this day-after-Valentine's-Day. The finger of suspicion points at Roy Crane's square-shooting hero in Buz Sawyer, following the surprising death of a major character…poor Brilliant is being duped as his Atom Light, developed to help the infirm, is used as a super-weapon that attracts the attention of Dick Tracy and his fellow officers…Archie Andrews takes drastic action when Betty tricks him into double-booking dates for his junior prom…in Terry and the Pirates, battered Fob Cobb finds her path back to Terry involves Connie and the one-and-only Big Stoop, as lame-duck creator Milton Caniff conducts his year-long farewell tour that brings back old friends and mixes them with new characters ... And is it any surprise that Daisy Mae Scragg offers a touch of wistful romance as she moons over Li'l Abner (and his "fiery feet")? Of course, the object of her affection is far away and getting into all sorts of trouble as he seeks to save the citizens of Dogpatch from starvation after an infestation of turnip termites by bringing home six thousand ham sangwidges!

Click on any strip to see a larger version.

 

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Want a bizarre thought? Given sixty-six years separate us from the citizens of 1946 who read these strips and others, think what the people of 2078 will say when they look back sixty-six years at our 2012 comics!

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Thursday, Nov 1st, 2012

Flash—AHHhh-h-h-h!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Flasharticle

It's a long way to Tipperary, and it ain't exactly a trip across the street from my home in the greater Boston metro area to Stamford, Connecticut…but at 11:00 AM on Saturday, October 20th, I saddled up and embarked on a ten-hour round trip down the length of The Constitution State to visit the Flash Gordon and the Heroes of the Universe exhibit at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center. The venue was easy to find, though an outdoor fall festival made parking a bit problematic (though certainly it meant great foot traffic for the Museum/Center, which is, after all, the name of their game). The Museum was formerly a mansion belonging to Henri Willis Bendel (1868-1936), a fashion designer and successful retailer; it's quite the imposing pile, as you can probably tell.

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Inside, I spent about ten minutes on my own, sizing up the exhibit. The first exhibition hall was exclusively devoted to Flash (and Jungle Jim), the walls filled with Alex Raymond originals ranging from the "Lion Men" page from April 15, 1934 (see page 29 of our first Flash/Jungle Jim volume) to the War-years Sunday of February 21, 1943 (which you can look forward to seeing in our fourth book in this series). Many, including yr hmbl svnt, have written about the change in size the World War II paper shortage brought to the comics—the originals on these two walls hammers home that point. The dramatic difference in size between Raymond's pre-War and War-years originals is startling, and it's a testament to talents like Raymond and his fellows that they adapted to such significant changes in their "canvases" while the quality of their work never wavered. One wishes one could say the same about the quality of my photography, but if you'll forgive the small reflections from the exhibit lamps on the frames' glass, I'll give you at least a taste of what I saw:

Jim

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CAP: Raymond originals: Flash Gordon from March 13, 1938 and Jungle Jim from two weeks later, March 27th. Compare with pages 107 and 109 of our Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim, Volume 2.

Down the center of the hall are glass display cases featuring Flash Gordon tear sheets from various Sunday newspapers, in some cases allowing visitors to compare the original on the wall to the published work. Other cases focus on Flash merchandizing and ephemera.

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Did you know there's a 1935 Tournament of Doom pop-up book? The page open for public viewing features a banquet scene and a scantily-clad Dale Arden, which must have surely helped further the education of more than one Depression-era youngster…

A small room adjoining the two main halls is filled with Buck Rogers materials. As predecessor to Flash and the grandpappy of all such space-faring superheroes, it's fitting that Buck has such a strong representation as a "Hero of the Universe."

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CAP: A real rarity - Buck Rogers in the 25th Century daily original art! And like Flash, Buck had his own pop-up book. His female sidekick is wearing considerably more than Dale, of course.

The inner exhibition hall features post-Raymond Flash work, including a wall devoted to Al Williamson, surely Flash's number one all-time fan; the other major Flash artists - from Austin Briggs to Mac Raboy to Jim Keefe - also have original art on display. Again, display cases running down the center of the hall present merchandizing products and tear sheets for Sundays pre- and post-dating Flash's arrival, like a sample of Jack Williamson and Lee Elias's Beyond Mars and this November 15, 1908 John Bray Little Johnny & The Teddy Bears loaned by Sunday Press's Peter Maresca. Note its "homage" to Georges Méliès and his 1902 silent film classic, A Trip to the Moon.

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In an alcove at the far right of the second hall Star Wars receives attention, with a display case of action figures, plus poster art and examples of Al Williamson's originals from the daily Star Wars comic strip. A TV monitor also plays an A&E/Biography program devoted to Flash Gordon, with the volume low but audible.

As I say, I did a fast tour of the exhibit by myself before being joined by the co-curator of the show, Brian Walker, whose scholarship work most recently enhanced the pages of our Rip Kirby Volume 5 and Blondie Volume 2. Brian graciously gave up a chunk of his Saturday afternoon to give me the "curator's tour." He also used his pull with the Museum to get them to allow me to take the photos of the exhibit that accompany this piece, since photography is typically not allowed.

After we spent time ooohing and aaahing over Raymond's fabulous, delicate brushstrokes and the amazing leaps his talent took over what amounts to a very short period in terms of staging and storytelling - OK, we also indulged in a bit of shop talk - Brian spoke warmly of Cori Williamson, Al's widow, and her invaluable help in staging the show (many of the originals on display came from the collection Al amassed during his prolific career). Mark Schultz of Xenozoic Tales and Prince Valiant fame escorted Cori to the late-September exhibit opening, and a Schultz original is also on display inside. Brian noted that the A&E/Biography documentary continually refers to "Alec Raymond," which is not the gaffe it sounds like - the Raymond family, Brian said, routinely referred to the creator of Flash, Jim, and Rip as "Alec."

Brian also had words of high praise for the Stamford Museum staff, who were extremely enthusiastic about this show in particular and pop culture shows in general. The Museum's maintenance and carpentry crews hand-crafted all the display cases used; as one of the staff members with whom I spoke put it, "We never say, "No,' we ask, 'How are we going to do that?'"

Finishing my tour just a few minutes before the 5:00PM closing time, I sighed, "You are now leaving Mongo—please fly safely!" when I saw this image above the entranceway to the main exhibition hall:

leaving

Before parting company with Brian I grabbed a last few pictures of the Museum's main entrance and the surrounding grounds. A long drive home was waiting for me - and it means I'll be staying up extra late a few nights to catch up on the Steve Canyon Volume 3 writing time I lost! — but it was worth the time and energy. My sincere thanks go out to Brian Walker and the Stamford Museum and Nature Center staff for allowing me this truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

For those of you in the Northeast, the Flash Gordon and the Heroes of the Universe exhibit runs through Sunday, November 4th - so hurry if you plan to attend! You'll find a great selection of Flash Gordon original artwork on the Museum walls, but if you like comics in general, the work of Alex Raymond in particular, or Flash Gordon and his space-faring ilk, this is a presentation you'll surely enjoy.

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Monday, Oct 29th, 2012

Annie and Sandy in the Digital Domain

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

I have to admit that in 2004-2005 I didn't read the then-current Annie newspaper strip by Jay Maeder and Ted Slampyak so when I learned that Tribune Media Services (the modern name of the ol' Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate) was going to issue an e-book containing some of the strips, I was happy to get the chance to sample the series. And, after reading them, happily agreed to write a Foreword to the book.

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The best thing I can say about a continuity strip is that I can't wait to read the next installment. That's what happened here—Jay's stories are that good.

Taking over a well-known comic strip is not an easy task. In fact, my knee-jerk reaction is "why bother?" But then I remember the joy I had reading Leonard Starr's Annie back around 1979-80. It wasn't a bad copy of Harold Gray's Annie but something totally new—and exciting. Jay and Ted have accomplished something similar—staying true to the characters but placing them in fresh, interesting adventures. Just when you think you know where the story's going, it takes a surprising turn. Martian devil-worshippers? Superhero costume-wearing patriotic gardeners? It's pretty wild stuff.

Since Jay's also one of our premier comics historians, he couldn't help but throw in a few in-jokes for us old-timers. In the top strip, Annie cracks a joke about her age; in the bottom strip, Jay references Annie's World War II-era "Junior Commandos" outfit. Click on the images for larger viewing.

The book will be available on iTunes in November. You can stay abreast of TMS's digital plans at their website: rabbitholecomics.com.

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© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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Wednesday, Oct 24th, 2012

A George Herriman first edition

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

As newspaper comic strips continue to lose presence because of their host organism's decline in readership, we've decided to ramp up our efforts to preserve the classics of the form. We previously announced LOAC Essentials, our new series that will reprint, in yearly volumes, the rare early daily newspaper strips that are essential to comics history, seminal strips that are unique creations in their own right, while also significantly contributing to the advancement of the medium.

Advance copies of the first volume—Baron Bean 1916 by George Herriman—arrived today and we're thrilled with how it printed. Here's Art Director Lorraine Turner holding the book in front of the shelves where it will eventually sit.

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We're happy with the book for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it has the "feel" we were shooting for. One of the inspirations for the format (11.5" wide by 4..25" high) was seeing Harold Gray's personal set of proofbooks for Little Orphan Annie. Instead of the strips being 6-up on a sheet (the entire week of dailies), as is so often the case with syndicate proofs, Gray had his dailies bound in yearly volumes—one strip per page. It's an enticing format that helps us at least in some small way to have an experience similar to what newspaper buyers had when the strips were new and part of their daily routine.

We chose a high-quality newsprint for LOAC Essentials so that the book has the"feel" and "look" of reading a bound collection of comics that were clipped from actual newspapers. It's a sensory thing. If this is indeed the Golden Age of Newspaper Strip reprints then we're going to have as much fun with it as we can.

We think you will, too, when this first Essentials is on sale in about a month.

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Tuesday, Oct 23rd, 2012

Down to Gasoline Alley, where I was born

Over at the Comics Journal, Dan Nadel starts his review of our first volume of Dick Moores's Gasoline Alley with: "Seeing this artist’s work for the first time in 25 or so years has been delightful."

It only gets better from there. Read the entire review here.

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Saturday, Oct 20th, 2012

Newlyweds -- Are They Game for Anything?

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

In collating material for the second volume in our Bringing Up Father series, I went to the Library's stacks and pulled down two piles of early McManus strips to use in the background introduction. The strips, which appeared simultaneously in Pulitzer's New York World in the 1910s were The Newlyweds (a prototype Bringing Up Father) and Spareribs and Gravy (starring a pair of nudnicks who made Mutt and Jeff look smart),

We'll tell you more about these two strips in an upcomig blog—along with reprinting an extended sequence of Spareribs and Gravy, but this entry is about something else—specifically, about what we found on the back of the McManus strips. Among the rotating features were what is believed to be Percy Crosby's first color cartoons: Sandy—He's Game for Anything. According to comics scholar Cole Johnson, this feature ran sporadically in late 1912 and possibly in early 1913.

Here are three rare examples of this early feature by the creator of Skippy

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Wednesday, Oct 17th, 2012

Our Second L.O.A.F.er

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Earlier this year, in August, we introduced the title of L.O.A.F.—Library Owes A Favor—for those select individuals who not only support our efforts, but also dip into their storehouses of memories, artwork, correspondence, or memorabilia, sharing those with us in order to make our books as good as they can be. We bestowed our first LOAF citation on the inimitable Bill Peckmann, who still occasionally refers to himself as "LOAFer # 1."

Today we open up with a pair of Bills, because it's a pleasure to reveal our second L.O.A.F. recipient: Bill Chadbourne, hereafter referred to as "Chad" (by his own preference, mind!). You've briefly been introduced to Chad at the end of the essay in Steve Canyon Volume 1, and you'll not only encounter him again in future Canyons, he plays a key role in Genius, Illustrated, our concluding chapter examining the life and art of Alex Toth. You'll have to read the book to learn the hows and whys of Chad's dealings with Alex, but Tothfans will hardly be surprised to learn Alex's artistic hero, Noel Sickles, is involved. Meanwhile, here is Chad talking about Chad, in a little autobiography I surreptitiously wormed out of him while we were communicating on other matters:

"Even in the so-called Golden Age of costumed comic book heroes of the 1940s, I was more interested in reading about men in jodhpurs than men in tights," Chad said about his boyhood comics preferences. "I wanted the booted heroes of Crack Comics, Blackhawks, and Airboy, not the guys wearing masks and capes. I guess that's why Pat Ryan became my favorite from the first time I discovered him in a comic book reprint of Terry and the Pirates, sometime in the World War II years. There were several comic books repackaging newspaper strips then, with titles like Sparkler, Tip Top, and at least one other. Terry appeared in one of our local newspapers, but my family subscribed to a rival rag. I also had a few Big Little Books of Terry."

Dragonlady

Like so many fans of adventure comics, Chad delighted in Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates.

The artists of his boyhood were as much of an inspiration as the heroes they drew, and Chad developed his own fledgling talents, to the delight of his fellow classmates.

"In grammar school, copying the funnies for my pals was a breeze for me if I stuck to characters like Snuffy Smith. By high school I began stealing from Terry in earnest. I lifted an early sequence of villain [Tony] Sandhurst, tied to a post and being threatened by an Asian pirate with a machete. In my version, it was a daydream of a student torturing a teacher. It didn't work."

Chad's artistic skills served him well in the military - well, eventually, that is. "I enlisted in the Air Force in 1952. After twenty months on Cape Cod, chasing vacationing Boston girls, I was on a troopship headed to the Korean Conflict. With the peace talks about to be resolved, I was diverted to Tokyo and eventually found a job on the base newspaper. My cartoon gag panels won a few awards and I thought I was simply wonderful." Chad was serving in the same city as Alex Toth during the latter's enlisted days. Both worked on their outfits' respective newspapers, but neither encountered the other. As he tells it, Chad left the country, only to eventually return:

"Married to my Japanese sweetheart by then, with one son and another on the way, I returned briefly to civilian life, to work for an award-winning independent newspaper in the Los Angeles area. Being squeezed by major dailies, it became a 'shopper paper' and I was out. My future as a reporter seemed bleak, and with our second child born I re-enlisted, returned to Japan and another base newspaper. Immediately I begged to do a weekly comic strip. 'OK,' the commander said, 'but it will be a travelogue,' with Captain Comet—USAF officer, not a superhero—and his Japanese guide, Goto-san, showing the troops what they were missing by squandering their yen on bar girls instead of exploring a perfectly beautiful country. Yeah, like they were going to listen to the brass lecturing them on morals!"

Captain_Comet

This two-shot, featuring Steve Canyon meeting Chad's Captain Comet, resulted from a Far East meeting between Chad and Milt. Another meeting between the pair, more than a decade later, was a factor in Chad meeting Alex Toth.

Chad eventually mustered out for the final time and—after a memorable Far East encounter with the Rembrandt of the Comic Strips—returned Stateside, this time going to work for the Department of Defense in a civilian capacity, working on a variety of military publications. Not content to work strictly for Uncle Sugar, Chad connected with Woody Gelman and became part of Woody's Nostalgia Press. The Nostalgia books notably included newspaper strip collections, introducing Caniff's Terry and the Pirates, Raymond's Flash Gordon, Lee Falk and Phil Davis's Mandrake the Magician, and others to a new generation of fans. Dean has told Chad and others how influential Nostalgia Press was among he and his friends, so it's hardly a stretch to say that without Woody and Chad's Nostalgia offerings, the Library of American Comics as we know it might not exist today. Perhaps this taste of Chad's wry candor gives you a hint at why we believe Genius, Illustrated would be a lesser work without the insights and artwork he is contributing to that book.

After providing his biographical notes, Chad came back to me with a Caniff-related addendum that may make you smile.

"I nearly forgot the big influence provided by the hardbound 1945 volume, Cartoon Cavalcade, edited by Thomas Craven. Pages 422-423 ran an enlarged Terry from 1943 (Terry's first flying lesson)—it made me want to see lots more. By the time I was in high school, Harvey Publications began reprinting Terry and the Pirates dailies in full color. Later, they began doing Steve Canyon. I still have those issues, but they are in bad shape. So glad you folks are giving the world handsome, hardbound albums!

"The Cavalcade book was published as a premium, either for an encyclopedia or some major magazine that my uncle subscribed to. While I was always allowed to view it, I was never allowed to borrow it. Decades later, I found a copy, complete with its apology about the cheap paper used to print it. After all, there was a war on!"

There was no conflict when it came time to name our second L.O.A.F. recipient. Take a bow, Bill Chadbourne!

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Monday, Oct 15th, 2012

A Very Terry Breakfast

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Terry_Pirates_glass

There's something about pancakes and pure maple syrup for breakfast. Add some fresh-squeezed OJ in a 1976 Terry and the Pirates glass and coffee in an early 1950s Dick Tracy mug…ah, it doesn't get any better.

S'funny how in 1976 the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate was still using Milton Caniff promo art when Caniff hadn't drawn the strip in thirty years. Classics are classics, however, so who can blame them?

It's a Caniff kind of day: once the breakfast is finished, today's agenda includes starting design work on Steve Canyon volume 3, featuring Milton''s 1951-1952 strips that find him at the top of his game. The book will be winging its way to you next February.

Until then…what's for lunch?

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Friday, Sep 28th, 2012

Skipping down Gasoline Alley

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

In case anyone had any doubts that we take our preservation work seriously at the Library of American Comics, we have two MORE new releases hitting stores this week (our 62nd and 63rd publication overall!).

First up is the long-awaited start of our series rescuing Percy Crosby's Skippy—the spiritual ancestor to Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, and just about every other kid strip ever created. The book contains part one of an exhaustive and profusely illustrated Crosby biography by co-editor Jared Gardner and is designed by Lorraine Turner.

Skippy1

Then…it’s 1964 and Frank King hands the inkpot to Dick Moores, who creates his masterpiece in Gasoline Alley. Forty-plus years earlier, Walt Wallet found baby Skeezix in a basket on his doorstep and in these 1964-1966 strips Skeezix is now middle-aged and has a family of his own. Including an intro by Rick Norwood and with another winning design by Lorraine Turner, it's the perfect complement to the sensational Walt & Skeezix series from our friends at Drawn & Quarterly.

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Tuesday, Sep 25th, 2012

Christmas in September

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Three new LOAC books are now in stores, prompting several people to email me that it's "Christmas in September!"

Leading off is the first all-John Prentice volume of Rip Kirby. As Tom DeHaven, author of the Derby Dugan trilogy, says, “John Prentice’s work is superb. He's one of the few cartoonists who took an important strip by a great cartoonist and did it not only justice, but in some ways, was as good as—and in some cases better than—the originator."

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And there's Steve Canyon as we've never seen it before—with the Sundays in color reproduced from Caniff's own proofs.

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Finally -- holy shemoley -- Alex Raymond hits his stride in the second Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim in our gigunda Champagne Edition size.

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Friday, Sep 21st, 2012

Happy Birthday! Chuck Jones at 100!!!

posted by Kurtis Findlay

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One of my many obligations as a cartoon fan who is also a parent is to make sure my children are introduced to the classics and the nostalgic. My son, Peter, is three years old and it should come as no surprise that he loves Looney Tunes, though not every Looney Tune. As we poured through the first two volumes of the DVD sets, I became aware that he would only laugh out loud for specific cartoons. I started keeping track of which ones: Water, Water Every Hare; One Froggy Evening; Feed the Kitty; Bully for Bugs.

What do all of these cartoons have in common? They are all directed by Chuck Jones. Even little Peter's toddler mind could recognize, albeit subconsciously, the specific humour found in Chuck Jones's direction—and most importantly, he found it funny.

Chuck ended his autobiography, Chuck Amuck, with a story about Ray Bradbury's fifty-fifth birthday party. One smartalec partygoer asked Ray, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Ray replied, "I want to be fourteen years old like Chuck Jones."

I would say that Chuck not only thought like a fourteen year old, but like a three year old and an eighty year old as well.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of a legend whose gift to the world was creating entertainment that could be enjoyed by any age from any generation. We miss you, Chuck, but at least we get to enjoy your spirit through the legacy you've left behind.

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Sunday, Sep 9th, 2012

And the winner is…

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney and canwell Bruce Canwell

Alex Toth: Genius, Illustrated received the Harvey Award for "Best Biographical, Historical or Journalistic Presentation" last night at the Baltimore Comic-Con. We'd like to thank everyone for honoring our tribute to Alex. This wasn't the first recognition Alex received, of course. That honor likely happened in 1942 when he was one of the winners (of a crisp $1 bill!) of a contest in Captain America #18 in which readers had to spot all the intentional errors in a drawing. Here's a rare item which even the most ardent Toth fans have probably not seen! Many thanks to Cory Sedlmeier, Marvel Masterworks Editor, for sending this to us. Art © Marvel Entertainment LLC.

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Thursday, Aug 30th, 2012

Dick Moores, Master Cartoonist

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

I can't think of anyone who doesn't love Dick Moores's delightful and charming art and stories in Gasoline Alley. His long run on the strip is one of those few cases in which the cartoonist taking over from the original creator actually improves the creation.

Frank King first met Dick Moores in Chicago in the 1930s, when Moores was Chester Gould's assistant (and letterer); the two then shared a studio while Moores was drawing the adventure strip Jim Hardy. By the early 1940s Moores was in Southern California drawing exclusively for Disney. His much-admired work at that company includes inks on Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse, art on the Brer Rabbit and Scamp Sunday pages, and many, many great efforts in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, some of which he was allowed to write as well as illustrate.

By the mid-50s, Frank King was looking for an assistant who could eventually take over the daily strip (Bill Perry had been doing the Sundays since 1951) and remembered his old colleague from Chicago. Moores left Disney and moved to Florida in 1956 to assist on Gasoline Alley.

There's no hard evidence that indicates when Moores took over full responsibility of the Gasoline Alley daily, but our friend Jeet Heer, who co-edits the magnificent Walt & Skeezix series reprinting the early Frank King dailies, tells me that it was most likely in 1960, although King may have continued suggesting story ideas until 1964 when Moores was given a byline, sharing it with King until the elder cartoonist's death in 1969.

This is all a preamble to announcing that we're very happy to bring Dick Moores's fantastic Gasoline Alley strips from 1964-66 back to print. Both we and our friends at Drawn & Quarterly think it makes a nice bookend to the early Frank King dailies.

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Frank King in a 1964 interview announcing Dick Moores's byline.

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A promo piece to celebrate Skeezix's 40th birthday!

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Three strips from the beginning of 1964 that feature lamps designed by Clovia and Slim. (Click for larger view.)

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A publicity photo of King and Moores holding the self-same custom-made lamps!

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Above: A later Moores promo drawing (note Nina at left). Below: a past-over head for the final version.

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And a wonderful piece of art by Dick Moores, which we've used for our cover.

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Thursday, Aug 23rd, 2012

Our First-Ever L.O.A.F. Citation

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

If, as some reviewers have claimed, there is a noticeable degree of depth to the standard LOAC book, that is a testament to the variety of hands who strive—against all the pressures of marketplace, deadlines, and competition—to turn every release into a labor of love. That includes Dean (at the top of the LOAC pyramid) and Lorraine (as Art Director), presiding over the painstaking restoration of the strips and setting a high level of quality control. It includes essayists like Jeet Heer, whose dedication and wide breadth of scholarship bring insights that help illuminate the artform, as well as Brian Walker, who literally grew up inside the business and whose range of contacts has brought first-hand accounts to titles like Rip Kirby and Blondie from friends and family members of the creators that would have been difficult, if not impossible, for others to come by. (And yes, as regular readers of this space and our books can tell, I'm more than willing to interview subjects and sift through the archives in preparation for writing my own text features. Of course, I admit I'm also still fan enough to have refused to erase the voice mail Howard Chaykin left me several months ago…)

Any praise for the depth of the LOAC line should also include those persons who have kept the torch burning during the lean times between the two Grand Waves of comic strip reprints, one taking place in the 1980s and the other occurring right now. The accessibility created by the Web has given those stalwarts easier avenues to reach out and share their treasures first with us, and through us with you. In getting to know these folks we learn that many of them have fascinating life-stories and have never been given their due…which brings us to this occasional series, which I've labeled L.O.A.F., for Library Owes A Favor. Without the contributions from the L.O.A.F.ers, our work would be less robust and your reading experience would be significantly diminished. This inaugural L.O.A.F. installment, then, is dedicated to a John Steed-esque tip of the cap to the one and only Bill Peckmann.

Bill has been not only a key contributor to our Alex Toth Genius series, he's befriended the great and the near-great while also having a hand in a surprising number of pop culture highlights. Where Toth is concerned, the paths of the two men first crossed at the end of the 1970s; they remained close for almost fifteen years. Since they lived at opposite ends of the country—Alex in Hollywood, Bill in New York—much of their friendship was conducted by mail, and Bill graciously provided us with copies of all his Tothian postcards, letters, doodles, essays, and screeds, a stack of correspondence that stands almost two inches tall. Peckmann shared enough of Alex's tastes in cartooning and illustration to receive many of the genius's ruminations about such little-known talents as Roland Coe ("one of our best post-WWII gagsters") and Leslie Ragan (one of Alex's shorter paeans to Ragan states, "Did over 100 NYCS RR posters in the mid-'40s - also did ads for NYC's Moran Towing Co., 'Budd' RR coach-builders, 'Norfolk and Western' RR Systems, etc.etc - this man's work is akin to that of Ludwig Hohlwein - lovely watercolors of great subtlety/simplicity/skill!"). Bill kept an eye peeled in Manhattan's many used bookstores of the day for items of interest, which he would buy and send to Alex as gifts.

Bill's background in art production also made him one of Alex's sources for specialized materials and supplies, as well as a sounding board for various issues about same (thanks to Bill, we know Alex agonized for more than twelve months over the idea of buying a photocopier—he received and painstakingly studied manufacture specs and brochures, weighing the advantages and drawbacks between one manufacturer and another, and between the models produced by any given manufacturer. Only Alex could have turned such a monumental effort!).

Bill was professionally involved in advertising and animation. When Toth did his Underoos work featuring various DC and Marvel superheroes, his primary contact at the agency was Bill. Some of the Underoos art has been previously published, but thanks to the redoubtable Peckmann, you'll see new examples of this assignment in the forthcoming Genius, Illustrated.

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This Alex Toth UNDEROOS graphic has run in several other places - thanks to Bill Peckmann, you'll be seeing never-before-released Toth UNDEROOS images in the upcoming GENIUS, ILLUSTRATED.

The primary home for Bill's work was at Phil Kimmelman & Associates (PK&A), though the relationship between Kimmelman and Peckmann began earlier, at a studio known as Focus Design. Phil Kimmelman began his career long before that, initially working for the Famous studios, the one-time popular animation house that produced Casper the Friendly Ghost and Baby Huey shorts, along with inheriting control of the Popeye and Superman cartoon series when the Fleischer Studios dissolved. At Focus, Bill was an animator and designer on a variety of advertising efforts for companies such as Flying "A" Gasoline; it was at this time Bill forged his friendship with a multi-talented cartoonist/illustrator, the late, oh-so-great Rowland B. Wilson; I haven't inquired of Bill directly, but surely he must have one of the most comprehensive collections of Wilson's work in existence today.

Not long before the founding of PK&A, Kimmelman and Peckmann animated the short subject, "Three is a Lucky Number," which became one of the earliest installments of ABC's much-beloved Schoolhouse Rock series. "We did [Schoolhouse] to fill the time between good-paying commercial jobs - now it turns out that's the work we're most remembered for," Bill told me in June of this year (unaware that my nosing about was to gather material for this L.O.A.F. tribute). "Conjunction Junction" and "I'm Just a Bill" are only two of the many Schoolhouse Rock pieces that came out of the PK&A shop.

grammar

Grammar Rock was a subset of Schoolhouse Rock that served up such favorites as, "I'm Just a Verb" and "Conjunction Junction (What's Your Function?)". The capture below is a spill from the Hill that's designed to thrill: the very popular segment called "I'm Just a Bill."

bill

In addition to Schoolhouse Rock, Bill Peckmann also had his hand in some of the animated pieces that appeared on Sesame Street. He's credited with that show's "Car Imagination" segment, and he and PK&A were involved in such Harvey Kurtzman-led Sesame features as "Count Off" and "Boat."

Still, PK&A's bread-and-butter came from advertising work. "We had a great run in the animated commercial business," Bill told me. "We did TV spots - all in a Seventh Heaven mode - with print cartoonists Rowland Wilson, Gahan Wilson, Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Alex Toth, Harvey Kurtzman, Arnold Roth, Herb Trimpe, Stan Mack, and probably a few named I'm forgetting now." The first commercial featuring the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee is just one of the enduring ad images to emerge from the PK&A studio.

BPHoney

Later named "Buzz," the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee has appeared in countless TV and print ads, was featured in a commercial "spelling bee" game, and appears on a number of licensed products, such as this T-shirt.

All good things, of course, come to an end. Eventually PK&A shut its doors and by the 1990s Bill Peckmann got involved ("on a very limited basis") with two more icons of the MTV Generation—Beavis & Butt-Head and its spin-off series, Daria. It was, perhaps, a bittersweet experience for Bill. "I was happy to have the work," he said, "but the times, they were a'changin'. You really can't teach an ol' hound new tricks." Still and all, Beavis & Butt-Head is one of my friend Tom Field's all-time favorite TV series (he even wrote some B&B continuity for Marvel when they were publishing a comic book based on the boys' misadventures), and Daria was high on my younger sister's list during her high school years, so some piece of their enjoyment is owed to Bill, whether or not the appeal of that work "speaks" to him in the same way his earlier successes do.

These days Bill Peckmann is comfortably retired in New York State; though they've never met, he shares a doctor or two with inker extraordinaire Joe Sinnott ("one of my favorite cartoonists," says Bill—one of ours, too!). Bill joins me in rooting for the Boston Red Sox, though they've given us mighty little to cheer for this season, alas. Most important, he shares with the world at large the wide range of artistic treasures he's accumulated, not just in our Alex Toth books, but also on the pages of Michael Sporn's animation blog - where you can feast your eyes on calendars by Fritz Baumgarten, illustrations by Keith Ward, the comics art of Jesse Marsh (yes, and Alex Toth), an astounding array of work from Rowland Wilson, and photos of many of the luminaries with whom Bill rubbed professional elbows during a most remarkable career. The "splog" is truly a must-visit-often site, well worth supporting.

This small L.O.A.F. plug doesn't begin to even the scales for all the help and support you've given us, Bill—but heck, we gotta start somewhere…!

(P.S.: For those who may think "L.O.A.F." is an awkward acronym to bestow upon those heretofore-unsung heroes who have done so much to help us, all I can say is: thank your lucky stars! My initial thought was to riff on the old Marvel Comics fan organization, Friends Of Ol' Marvel, and call this effort Friends Of Ol' Library. F.O.O.M. may have worked fine for the House that Jack/Stan/Steve Built, but somehow it didn't seem right to honor folks by using the acronym F.O.O.L.…)

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Monday, Aug 20th, 2012

A Herculean Effort

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Holtz

Everyone who's interested in old newspaper comic knows Allan Holtz as the go-to-guy when it comes to even the most obscure strip. No matter if the strip only appeared for one day in a single newspaper in 1908…if anyone knows about it, Allan will. Not only does he most likely have the strip in his personal collection but he's willing—and eager—to share the information with the rest of us.

His Stripper's Guide blog is a must-read for all sorts of esoterica.

He's also been working for many years on an exhaustive academic list of every newspaper strip ever published…or at least the ones he's been able to find and verify. Will there eventually be addendums to this list? Invariably yes. But this information—now published in a humongous book from the University of Michigan Press—is the latest tome on our Library's shelves. It's not for the casual fan but it is the definitive word from the definitive researcher in the field.

Congrats to Allan…and lucky us that he took the time to produce such an invaluable resource! Click here for the University of Michigan's page, and here for the discounted price at Amazon.

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Wednesday, Aug 15th, 2012

A Tribute to Joe Kubert

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

By now you've surely heard the sad news of Joe Kubert's passing at age eighty-five. To say Joe was a giant of the industry still does not capture the magnitude of his influence on the comics industry throughout almost its entire existence.

Joe Kubert was the original teenage wunderkind, inking the work of artists such as Mort Meskin and making an early mark as penciller of features such as the Golden Age Hawkman. Perhaps his most remarkable achievement was the combination of quality and longevity he enjoyed—last year he released his graphic novel Dong Xoai: Vietnam 1965, and in he was providing inks over one of his sons pencils on another DC project while also fronting the new six-issue anthology series, Joe Kubert Presents.

The "tree of talent" Joe unleashed on the comics industry is also unequalled by anyone else—not just his sons, Andy and Adam, but the many, many, many artists who entered the business after attending the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Even those who didn't complete The Kubert School curriculum—like my friend, Marvel artist Lee Weeks—or those who attended the school but chose not to pursue a career in comics (like Lee's and my good friend, Mike Dudley) had their sensibilities shaped an influenced by what they learned at The Kubert School.

I spoke with Joe by phone a handful of times, most recently in 2011, after speaking with him face-to-face in April of that year at the Boston Comic Convention (and six months before that, at the New York Comic-Con). He was always considerate, professional and personable, willing to share his time and insights. We'll share more of those insights with you in our upcoming Genius, Illustrated and the next few volumes of our Definitive Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim. Joe was an Alex Raymond fanboy, as you'll learn in our third volume of that series.

Kubert1

And while I occupy a sliver of a niche in the industry, I remain a fanboy for select talents; Joe Kubert was definitely among them. At the '10 NY Comic-Con, I got Joe to autograph my hardcover copy of his superb 2003 graphic novel, Yossel–April 19, 1943. And in April of '11, in Boston, I imposed on him again, this time to sign my copy of Fax from Sarajevo. My plan is to keep those books on my own shelves until I, too, am called up yonder.

Dean, Lorraine, Beau, and I extend our most sincere sympathies to the Kubert family—and we salute Joe's monumental contributions to the comics artform.

Kubert2

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Thursday, Jul 26th, 2012

Connections and Interconnections

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

On May 8th in this space I ran a spider-like diagram showing how a whole batch of connections tied Milton Caniff to many others in the comics universe, spanning a period from the 1910s (through folks like George McManus) to today (in the person of John Romita). Here's another story about interconnectedness, this one involving little ol' moi ...

HERE'S THE BACKGROUND OF IT: I grew up a huge baseball fan, even though I was never much of a player, stuck in the outfield, where near-sightedness and astigmatisms played hob with me on high fly balls. Still, I loved the game, and I avidly followed the major leagues—that meant Ned Martin and Jim Woods on the radio, broadcasting Red Sox games and telling us stories if the Atlanta Crackers and other baseball historical ephemera during rain delays—the NBC Game of the Week on many Saturday afternoons—the All-Star Game, playoffs, and World Series. I'd see 'em all and read The Sporting News religiously each week.

No surprise, then, that in 1978 I bought a copy of the seamhead's original Bible, the Baseball Encyclopedia. I kept that enormous hardcover on my reference shelf for decades, until last year. That's when a used bookstore opened in my town of residence and in their sports section was a nice, hardcover 1993 copy of the Encyclopedia. Fifteen extra years of baseball, captured between two covers and available for less than a ten-spot! Like a cold-blooded general manager trading a beloved old superstar for a flashier, younger player, in July of 2011 I sold that bookstore my '78 Encyclopedia and brought home the '93 edition. 

HERE'S THE MEAT OF IT: As I prepared to write the biographical/historical text feature for Steve Canyon Volume 2, I knew I would need some information on the St. Louis Browns, since the oft-hapless Brownies feature in one of Steverino's adventures.

Brownies

The St. Louis Browns owner, irrepressible Bill Veeck (rhymes with "heck") loved outlandish promotions. This photo was taken on August 24, 1951 during "Grandstand Managers Day," when the paying customers were allowed to call for steals, bunts, or pitching changes by holding up their NO/YES cards.

I did early research on-line, then pulled a couple different books off the shelves before going to the new copy of the Encyclopedia to look up a few specific players who were notable in the Browns' storied history; inside the book I found something extra that was quite a surprise. Aside from that little bonus, all the research was pleasing and very helpful and I'm both pleased and proud of the Canyon Volume 2 essay, which features some never-before-discussed tidbits of Caniffana I hope readers will enjoy discovering as much as I enjoyed finding and writing about them.

As I worked on Canyon I was reading the strips that would make up Li'l Abner Volume 5, since that was the deadline next looming on my schedule. By the time I reached the August 25, 1944 daily I burst out laughing, struck once again by the interconnectedness of it all.

Abner44

The last panel of the 08/25/44 Li'l Abner. Our hero clearly has major troubles - so why was I laughing?

HERE'S THE PUNCHLINE OF IT: Remember that little bonus I found in my baseball Encyclopedia? Take a look at what it was:

2front

2rear

Yes, as I was paging through the book on my way to an entry about Eddie Gaedel (you'll read about him in my Steve Canyon feature), I found a 1995 two dollar bill, still crisp as new after almost two decades being pressed between two pages. And the sequence of events greatly amused me. After all, what are the odds that…

- I would need to use my recently-purchased Baseball Encyclopedia to research facts for a Library of American Comics project?

- That in doing so, I would find a two dollar bill sandwiched somewhere in the Encyclopedia's 2,857 pages?

- That my next project after Canyon would be the 1943-'44 Li'l Abner?

- And that shortly after my discovery inside the Encyclopedia, I would read an Abner continuity that hinged on a two dollar bill?

You can't make this stuff up…

By the way, in case you were wondering, two dollar bills were first issued by the American government in 1862, fell out of circulation in 1966, but were brought back with the look shown above as part of the country's Bi-Centennial celebration (that would be 1976, for those of you who weren't around for all the hoopla). Believe it or not, they're still in circulation today, though that's far from a well-known fact. Those in the know tell me less than one percent of all U.S. bank notes printed in any given year are two dollar bills. Too bad—I don't collect money for its aesthetics, but I think that's a pretty sharp-looking piece of lucre.

Between its current scarcity and the years when the bill was unavailable, the phrase "phony as a two dollar bill" is still with us. In my case, however, a more appropriate phrase would be "more improbable than a two dollar bill!"

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Tuesday, Jul 17th, 2012

More Buttholes

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

The April 2, 1947 Archie daily featuring Riverdale's favorite teenager using the word "butthole" continues to generate interest. We promised you a follow-up on this subject, and here it is.

Our late-May feature on the American Dialect Society (ADS) and their investigations into Archie's usage of "butthole" prompted Friend of LOAC Mike Fontanelli to send us the following:

Hi Bruce,

Still laughing over your recent LOAC blog post re: ARCHIE and his anachronistic potty-mouth! I have a wild guess - based purely on conjecture - that the term was short for "buttonhole," (i.e., something that's stamped out, assembly-line fashion.)

I admit I've found no usage of "buttonhole" as an adjective. (It's only usage seems to be as a noun or a verb: meaning to detain someone against their will. That usage almost fits, albeit awkwardly.)

Also too, notice that the letterer, whether or not it was Montana himself, ran out of room in that speech balloon. Shortening words is sort of a colloquial/teenage slangy motif, (as in "What's the dif?", etc.) Perhaps he just shortened it for practical reasons, assuming the meaning would be clear from the context.

Well, I admit this is a stretch, but at least it's kinda feasible. I only offer it as food for thought. I predict thousands of letters and emails to follow! This mystery will boggle linguists and dialecticians and for years to come...

Best, Mike Fontanelli

Mike is a leading authority on Al Capp/Li'l Abner, by the way - you can read his invaluable essays on Al and his Dogpatchian hijinx.

Shortly after receiving Mike's ruminations, we again heard from Bonnie Taylor-Blake of the ADS. One of their members had discovered something of interest:

[Here's] something that Ben Zimmer [of ADS] noted during the discussion of Archie's use of "butthole" ... I've attached a full-page PDF of the comics page from that day from The Zanesville (OH) Times-Recorder.  As Ben notes, "butthole" is indeed seemingly (and partially) obliterated.  Looks to me that this is the only word on the page that is pretty illegible.  Even the teeny tiny print elsewhere on the page looks pretty good.

I'm guessing that Ben's right:  someone, perhaps at the paper itself, was offended. Click anywhere on the page to see an enlargement of the strip.

Zanesville

The folks at Archie Comics have recently taken steps to make their stories more topical or edgy (with the introduction of a gay character, and the twin "What If-?" Archie Marries Veronica and Archie Marries Betty story-tracks. Did they suspect that, sixty-five years ago, Archie would be generating so much additional interest over his casual use of the word "butthole"?

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Friday, Jul 6th, 2012

Harvey Award Nominations

We're proud to announce that the Harvey Awards Committee has given us two nominations this year:

Flash1

The Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim is up for the "Best Domestic Reprint" and Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth is nominated for "Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation."

Thanks to the Harveys for the acknowledgments!

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Tuesday, Jun 26th, 2012

Extending Our Knowledge

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

When we made the decision to reprint Polly and Her Pals to kick-off our oversized Champagne Edition format, some persons of our acquaintance wondered what we could possibly learn about Polly's creator, Cliff Sterrett. I've adored Polly ever since I first saw a sample of it in the first issue of Nemo magazine, from the 1980s, I had read the biographical information contained there and in a handful of other reprintings, but I knew there had to be more. Jeet Heer and Lorraine Turner were of a similar mind. We each began calling upon our resources and started digging. The result was Jeet's exceptional essay in our Eisner-nominated Polly Volume 1, easily the most detailed and comprehensive look at Sterrett's life and career yet to see print.

When we decided to reprint Polly's 1933 dailies as the second in our Library of American Comics Essentials series, I was eager to get the assignment to write text for that release, and I did. That led to an important question: What could I possibly do for an encore?

The answer? I hit the road…

As Jeet discussed in his essay (see page sixteen of our first Polly and Her Pals book), Sterrett had become part of an artists colony located in the seaside town of Ogunquit, Maine. A bit of on-line looking put me in contact with Jane Edgecomb, the administrator of the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit. Jane informed me her Society did indeed have information about the artists colony, so we made the appropriate arrangements and on a bright and summery day, a'researchin' I did go.

Ogunquit1

The Historical Society of Wells & Ogunquit (Wells being Ogunquit's geographical neighbor) is located on Maine's busy Route 1, in a quaint old white church.

Ogunquit2

A modern-looking CVS pharmacy is located next door to the Society; a shopping center featuring a cinema and supermarket is located across the road. Still, the message board next to the Society's driveway serves as a reminder of small-town, unfranchised America.

Ogunquit3

The walkway in front of the Society also caught my attention: the bricks had been inscribed. The Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals have created similar exhibits in Fenway Park and Kauffman Stadium, and as I do when I see those baseball-related bricks, I paused to wonder about the story contained in each brick, each inscription in front of this fine structure.

Ogunquit4

One enters the Historical Society not from the doorway you've just seen, but from the rear entrance. The library is located on the second floor —long tables for researchers to spread out their books and notes, large bookcases, filing cabinets, framed maps mounted on walls, plus attractive displays that harken back to Maine's maritime past.

Ogunquit5

Ogunquit6

Ogunquit7

Jane Edgecomb was on hand to welcome me and set me up with materials related to the artists colony and to Sterrett. For the next three hours I was buried in Ogunquit life during the 1930s through the '50s. Polly fans are well aware that the strip follows the misadventures of the Perkins Clan, but how many are aware, in an amazing bit of serendipity, that the artists colony grew up around Ogunquit's Perkins Cove? Or that, in addition to attracting artists, Ogunquit had a lively theater program that brought many "name recognition" actors and actresses to The Pine Street State? In a book on the venerable Ogunquit Playhouse I found an unlikely connection between Polly and Little Orphan Annie in the person of Mitzi Greene. As a youngster, Mitzi was the first to portray Annie on the silver screen; as a young woman, she performed on stage in Ogunquit.

MITZI

After I finished my work, I chatted for over a half-hour with Jane, who was a delightful conversationalist as well as a gracious host. We broke off our discussion when opportunity came knocking for the Society: a young college student majoring in history approached Jane to inquire about summer volunteer opportunities.

Ogunquit8

The Society was not about to pass up willing help!

Before leaving, I went downstairs and took a tour of the Historical Society exhibits opened to the general public. As Jane had mentioned to me, the front part of the building was still used as a function area; a wedding had recently been performed there.

Ogunquit9

Ogunquit10

Between the function area and the rear entrance, historical artifacts of all sorts were on display: some in cases, some on the walls, some large enough to rest on the floor.

Ogunquit11

Ogunquit12

Ogunquit13

I drove away from Route 1, bound for the turnpike and the two-hour drive home having enjoyed a pleasant day of research, conversation, and Vacationland courtesy. I knew the fine material I had gathered for this on-line travelogue was only the preamble for the fascinating new information and imagery I had collected for use in our upcoming Essential volume.

If, when you read my text feature that will accompany Cliff Sterrett's fantastic 1933 Polly and Her Pals daily strips, you're enthusiastic about the new information we'll be presenting, please remember to extend a mental vote of thanks to Jane Edgecomb and our new friends at the historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit.

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Monday, Jun 18th, 2012

Universal Popularity

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

I have a very small immediate family—my father has been gone almost fourteen years now, but my mother is still active and strong. My brother and his family remain in the New England state where we were all born and reared. My younger sister and her family are located about forty minutes from me; we live at different edges of greater-metro Boston. Long ago the older of my two sisters decided she had had enough of northeastern winters. She packed up, moved to Florida, and has been there for more than two decades. During that time she married, she and her husband moved to the Orlando area, and they had a daughter who's now high school age. Until recently I would see my Florida-based family members once or twice a year. They would come north for a summer vacation or I'd go south in the spring, during baseball's spring training season, when winter is often reluctant to relinquish its grip on New England.

Nothing stays constant, however, and since 2010 the Floridians have been unable to come north, while circumstances have prevented me from going south. When I realized it had been almost two years since I had seen my sister and her family, I knew I had to take a trip to The Sunshine State. With her birthday coming up in late May, that seemed a good time to schedule a junket.

Because they live in the Orlando area, my sister's family enjoys the many theme parks in the area and are intimately familiar with all of them. We spent my Saturday with them on the grounds at Disneyworld. Sunday we were off to the land of Harry Potter - Universal's theme park (with my niece's boyfriend, Ben, along for the trip).

Hogwarts

If you remember the pictures of me from previous entries, you'll remember I wear glasses and am very near-sighted. That's just one of the reasons the "interactive" rides and roller coasters don't hold much appeal for me—if I go without my glasses I'm as good as blind for the duration of the ride; if I go with them, the odds seem good they'll go sailing off some time during the course of the ride, in which case I'll be blind for the rest of my visit (which is potentially disastrous when one has to drive or eventually navigate through the airport). So my brother-in-law and I camped out at various locales—the Hogshead Tavern, the Fantastic Four Café—while my sister and the kids rode the Potter ride, the Spider-Man and Hulk attractions, or "the Rock-it," a roller coaster that turned me green just watching others ride it.

As we roamed the park we came upon a section of Universal that will be of interest to LOACers everywhere. As we walked from the Jurassic Park area to the Marvel section, the last thing I expected to see was an image of Walt Wallet on a gigantic sign:

Flash_Walt

We walked down a thoroughfare of shops and eateries, the exteriors of which were devoted to classic King Features comic strips, some we are in the process of reprinting…

BUF

…Some being reprinted by our distinguished-and-friendly competitors.

Valiant

What a pleasure to see the King strips we all know and love being exposed to the theme-park-going population! I was especially taken with the Flash Gordon display, and it made me recall recalled that our second Champagne Edition of Flash/Jungle Jim comics had just been delivered to the printers before I flew southward.

FlashFood

As eye-catching as that is, check out the giant rocket ship that is also prominently featured!

Flash_Pogo

If you look at the background of this photo, you'll see Pogo and old favorite Shoe also on display.

I realize families aren't going to carry five-pound hardcover books with them across the width and breadth of Universal in the Florida heat, but it's a shame there isn't a way to get samples of the comics into the hands of those folks, or at least to let them know the strips are still available in collections from LOAC and Fantagraphics and Classic Comics Library and others. It may be impossible—or at least highly improbable—to do that, but y'can't blame a guy for dreaming…

The main reason for my Florida trip was to see my sister and her family after far too long apart—the comic strip sighting at Universal were a cherry on that sundae. Still, it was a mighty pleasant surprise, as well as another sign of how deeply the comic strip is embedded in American popular culture.

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Tuesday, Jun 5th, 2012

On Writing

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

LOAC's intrepid Art Director, Lorraine Turner, says we should occasionally use this space to talk about what we do and how we do it. My knee-jerk reaction is to agree with her…to a point. If we do research in some far-flung clime or attend a convention, I fully believe those "behind the scenes" activities are of interest to our readers. But do you really care about the mechanics of how text features get written? To me it's a fun process, but heck, I grew up loving the written word (as a boy I read Harlan Ellison saying, "Writing is the holiest of chores," and I nodded my head in agreement…); in these days of text messaging and "LOL"s and video gamers I'm part of an increasingly-shrinking minority. That leaves me wondering if Lorraine is barking up the wrong tree.

Still 'n' all, I've been wrong before. Given the chance Lorraine is right and that you're out there eager for my two cents on creating LOAC text, I offer these few observations…

• • • • •

When Dean and I began planning the launch of LOAC with Terry and the Pirates Volume One, we talked about what we wanted in our text material. We were in total agreement that our goal was to echo the William Shawn-era New Yorker essays we both admired so much, works that smoothly flowed from topic to topic, stitching together a web of ideas that allowed a fully-rounded picture of the subject to emerge. The classic New Yorker work entertained while informing (becoming smarter doesn't have to be dull, after all). They made you look forward to finding out more on that particular subject, or reading more from that particular author. Compare our efforts to some of those great, thickly-packed issues of Shawn's magazine and perhaps you'll decide we fall short of the mark—I readily admit I'll never be the writer, say, Roger Angell is—but I hope you can see us striving for such heights even if we have a ways to go in order to attain the summit.

Kent_Herriman

The kind of research that goes into our essays. A young Jack (King Aroo) Kent holding the
August 8, 1936
Krazy Kat Sunday page sent to him by George Herriman!

• • • • •

The need to entertain is always in the forefront of my mind while I'm writing or editing text for LOAC volumes. No matter how informative a feature may be, if it feels like you're wading through the prose to extract information, we're not doing our job—I don't want to read the equivalent of a dull-as-dishwater high school term paper and I don't believe you want to, either.

Doing research and conducting interviews is fun, building upon and adding to What Was Known Before is greatly rewarding, but I am not an academician, I am a working writer. My job is to diligently amass data and artifacts, then just as diligently meld the accumulated details into a historical-biographical story that makes my readers eager to turn the pages and allows them to better appreciate the comics themselves. I strive to produce text that is lively and vibrant enough to do justice to the lively, vibrant comic strips we all immensely enjoy.

• • • • •

The matter of tone is also important to me. Dean can tell you one thing I try to avoid is personalized constructions, what I refer to as "I/me/you/we-isms". The "relaxed" tone of the Web is being adopted by increasing numbers of writers and in its proper place (such as an informal "discussion" like this), there's nothing wrong with it ... but I believe it needs to be used sparingly in the essays we produce for our books. Shawn's New Yorker knew when "I/me/you/we"s were effective—typically in autobiographies or travelogues—but otherwise it ignored them. A wise approach.

McManus_Zeke

An example of when "I/me/you/we" is appropriate!

• • • • •

The use of "I" and "me" is often an act of hubris—it pulls the reader's attention toward the writer and away from the information being imparted. In the material I write for LOAC books I am not the star of the show, Milt Caniff and Al Capp and Alex Raymond and George McManus and Cliff Sterrett are. It wouldn't be right for me to try to shift the spotlight away from them.

Sentences that rely on "we"—"When we compare the two comics, we can understand…"—sound stuffy and lecturing. They also tiptoe across the tightrope over Triteness, sometimes toppling over into that baleful abyss. How many stories set in academia feature a self-important, pontificating professor saying things like, "When we apply simply logic, we can see that…"? Our text shouldn't sound like those pompous windbags, because again, that detracts from the information we're presenting.

"You" constructions are typically even worse than the "we"s: "Read this story and you will be struck by…"; "You will find a variety of themes repeated throughout these pages…" This is the language of advertising, where pitches such as "You'll love our fresh-baked scrod!" or "You'll want to come back again and again" create a sense of immediate personalization and familiarity that is handy for selling soap, but are out of place in a serious essay.

The good news? Sentences containing "I/me/you/we-isms" are easy to recast, and in eliminating the undesirable elements it's amazing how often the sentence improves as a result. While these constructions do have an occasionally valid place in our books—Max Allan Collins is often writing out of personal experience in his Dick Tracy text features, for example—as a rule I find they're best avoided.

• • • • •

Another precept I keep in mind during the writing process is: "No one likes a know-it-all, because no one knows it all." I try to insure readers are aware of where I am sure of my facts and where I am speculating based on best-available knowledge—"None of us were there, none of us can really know" is a phrase I developed that is as accurate as it is handy. In cases where differing schools of thought exists (most recently, the subject of Don Moore's contributions that we featured in Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim Volume One) my goal is to present the differing viewpoints without favoring one over the other, although I do reserve the right to point out what I perceive as the strengths and weaknesses of each.

We also try to do our homework and we stand behind our research. A few years ago a writer challenged a topic within one of my essays because that writer had never found those facts (therefore, apparently, they must surely be false); we sent him scans of the newspaper articles that provided the information I had used in my piece. That was the end of that. We make the occasional slip-up—Roy Thomas pointed out a goof I made in King Aroo Volume 1 that still makes me hang my head in embarrassment—but we ain't makin' this stuff up, y'know.

• • • • •

Finally, Dean and I recognize that we now know more about these comic strips and their creators than ever before because we stand on the shoulders of giants, the men and women who first cared enough to learn about the strips and their writers and artists. Those persons—Bill Blackbeard foremost among them—preserved their knowledge and it became the worthy starting point for us and those like us.

We harbor no illusions that we will have the last word on these subjects, we just hope the enthusiasts and scholars who follow will look at our body of work as a solid foundation upon which they can continue to build. And if our efforts teach them to avoid "I/me/you/we-isms" in their formal writing, so much the better!

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Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The Missing Link

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

It happens. You don't like it. We don't like it. But it happens. There's a missing strip in the netherzone between Dick Tracy vols. 12 and 13. Reader Brian Snyder correctly brought to our attention that Tracy 12 ends with Saturday, March 25, 1950, while Tracy 13 (on sale this week) begins with Monday, the 27th. Where's the missing Sunday? Here it is, folks, with our sincere apologies. We'll also include this March 26, 1950 Sunday in vol. 14 so all of we completists can have it in print.

Tracy500326

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Friday, May 25th, 2012

Betty and Butthole

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

No, those aren't the female counterparts of Beavis & Butt-Head—they're the featured aspects of Bob Montana's April 2, 1947 Archie daily strip, the one in which Archie tells Betty his ushering job at the Riverdale cinema "gets kind of butthole at times."

Archie_butthole

This strip created a stir in some circles when it first appeared in our Eisner-winning 2010 Archie: 1946-1948. A book reviewer for one of the newspapers in my town of residence called special attention to this particular strip in her coverage of the book, noting that, "Googling 'Archie + butthole' generates literally dozens of hits." We ran the strip again in this space in a February "travel back in time" piece showing the contents of a number of strips on the day-after-April-Fool's-Day in 1947…and that appearance generated even more notice.

American Dialect Society

The American Dialect Society was founded in 1889 and continues strong today, more than a century later. The Society is "dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other languages, influencing it or influenced by it. [Their] members include academics and amateurs, professors and students, professionals and dilettantes, teachers and writers, undergraduates and graduates. Anyone can join the society!"

On May 9th, Society representative Bonnie Taylor-Blake sent me this note:

Hi, Bruce.

As you may have heard, there's quite a bit of interest in the language contained in that Archie strip published on 2 April 1947 ... The appearance of "butthole" in a 1947 comic strip is currently a big topic of conversation among members of the American Dialect Society's email discussion list (ADS-L).  Linguists and lexicographers there are puzzled, mostly because (so far) we don't have evidence that "butthole" was being used by Americans in the sense of boring or dull. It's even debatable whether it was being used as a synonym for "dead-end." It may have been used in the sense we're accustomed to (blush), but evidence for that usage in the 1940s is difficult to find given that off-color connotation. Some have speculated that the appearance of "butthole" must have been the work of Montana's letterer (if he had one) or possibly vandalism elsewhere in the production line. In the end, though, the question is whether "butthole" had a common meaning that was an alternative to how we now understand the word (blush).

Would you mind my asking you for your thoughts on this?  I'm particularly interested in whether you know if Montana's use of "butthole" and its appearance in family newspapers raised eyebrows soon after the 2 April strip was published. How did Archie readers of the time react to Archie's observation? Or did it pass without comment? I assume, based on your observation, that Archie aficionados have been aware of the appearance of "butthole" in that issue of the strip.  What's the reaction among fans of the strip?  Did Montana ever say anything about his use of "butthole"?

In my May 11th response, I told Bonnie we've seen no reaction to Montana's strip from the '40s, and speculated on a few reasons why that might be possible. I was able to speak with more certainty on the matter of "vandalism" of the strip by other hands:

Based on what we know, Bob Montana did all his own work in the 1940s, including doing the lettering. By the 1960s, when he was in his forties, Montana had an assistant who likely shouldered the bulk of the lettering responsibilities, but Montana was only 27 years old when the strip in question appears—he likely wasn't making enough money to afford an assistant. And even if Montana did employ a letterer, there is zero chance the use of "butthole" could have passed by him unnoticed. The process of producing strips is: writing/penciling/lettering/inking…There is absolutely no doubt Montana penciled and inked his Archie comic strips, which means even if he passed the penciled art to someone else so a written script could be lettered onto the art, the results would have passed back to him so he could finish the piece by inking it. And if a letterer took the finished artboard after it was inked and inserted "butthole" for a prank just before it was shipped to the syndicate, the letterer would have been out of a job so fast the air would have crackled.

The concept of a syndicate wag changing the text to insert "butthole" before the strip was printed is not a billion to none, but it is a billion to one shot. Syndicates don't want controversy because it can lead to newspapers dropping features, which takes money out of syndicate pockets; if "butthole" was potentially offensive, an employee changing the original word to the more controversial term would be cruising for a firing. Even if "butthole" was not yet a common term, changing Montana's text without his knowledge or approval would also be a great way to lose one's job (syndicate managers don't want to placate irate cartoonists any more than they want to deal with irate editors and their readerships!).

So—"vandalism" by a Montana letterer or syndicate employee is the remotest of remote possibilities. Does this indicate "butthole" did not have the same meaning we attach to it today? Alternately, could it have been regional slang at the time (Montana visited all then-forty-eight states during his parents' Vaudeville days and spent his teen years in New England, specifically New Hampshire and Massachusetts)? If that's the case, Montana may have included it knowing it had meaning—whatever that meaning might be—only in a specific geographical area and would pass essentially unnoticed by a national audience.

Bonnie replied to me later that day, saying:

I really appreciate your insight on this.  (There's great stuff in what you've shared!)  I think the general consensus, given dozens of e-mails passed around the listserv, was that "butthole" must've been pretty innocent/innocuous, and not a reference to an anatomical feature. (But how weird it is to see that word on the funny pages in 1947!) But then the question for linguists/lexicographers has been 1) what did Archie mean? (the job was boring? dead-end?), and 2) how come we've not run across this before?  It's pretty clear that this bit of slang has gone unnoticed by those who collect bits of slang. (If it has gone unnoticed, it's a great find!  Maybe it existed in Vaudeville circles or in New England, as you've suggested, or perhaps in the military?)

ADS continues to ruminate on and research this matter, and it's certainly a pleasure and an honor to have helped prompt this line of inquiry among such a distinguished group. If further insight emerges, we'll be sure to let you know! Meanwhile, you can learn more about the American Dialect Society—and keep watching, because the first Archie Sundays collection has just been published.

ArchieSundays

What could be better than a collection Bob Montana artwork? How about a companion collection presenting his pulchritudinous pencils (and inks) in full color? And who knows what sensational bits of slang will be revealed in this volume ...?

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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Flash and the Seven Dwarfs

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Seein_Stars

One of the fun parts of doing research (in this case for the forthcoming Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim Volume Two), is seeing the contemporaneous connections of pop culture icons from the past. Bruce Canwell uncovered this 1938 Seein' Stars by Feg Murray, in which the cartoonist  presents three then-current Hollywood stories, each of which has a comics tie-in: Buster Crabbe in the second Flash Gordon serial, Disney's famous first animated feature, and Jackie Coogan suing his parents over squandered earnings (Coogan's brother, Robert, co-starred with Jackie Cooper in the Academy Award-nominated film version of Percy Crosby's Skippy in 1931).


Like many cartoonists of the time (such as Will Gould), Murray was a sports cartoonist before creating a nationally syndicate comic. Murray was also a Hollywood reporter and radio host.  Seein' Stars was initially printed in the entertainment section of newspapers, but moved to the comics section in 1938. Drawn in the format of Robert Ripley's Believe It or Not, Seein' Stars was a popular feature that lasted into the 1950s.

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Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

A Vote of Approval from Joltin' Joe

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Now the truth can be told. Dean and I weren't always the suave and debonair comics sophisticates you've come to know through this space (and Twitter and Facebook and the LOAC Forum). In our youths—before we knew Will Gould from Chester Gould, and when a mention of "EC Comics" could be interpreted as a mispronunciation of "DC Comics"—we were both Marvel Madmen. In the 1970s we each made regular appearances in letter columns throughout the line. What we would later find out (because while we read all the letters in those lettercols and were aware of one another's by-lines, our first direct contact didn't occur until the 21st Century) is that our preferences spanned the "core" of the Marvel creative spectrum.

Dean, you see, while appreciative of what Jack Kirby was laying down month after month, was most intrigued by the contributions of Steve Ditko—you know, a few characters with names like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. I, on the other hand, really liked Doc Strange and the wall-crawler, but was first and foremost a fan of Kirby-Lee's magnum opus, The Fantastic Four.

FF100

The cover of the first-ever Silver Age Marvel Comic to reach a 100th issue.

I wasn't with the FF from the beginning—in fact, I jumped on the bandwagon just in time for the last two years of Kirby's fabulous run—but I was there from issue #77 until well into the # 200s, through the stellar work of Johns Romita and Buscema, through solid art provided by Rich Buckler and George Perez, through yeoman efforts from Keith Pollard and John Byrne during his first (penciling-only) stint, through the curious choice of Bill Sienkiewicz and the handful of occasional guest pencilers who stepped in to leave an imprint, however briefly, on "The World's Greatest Comics Magazine." Through all those years, one person was a mainstay: inker extraordinaire Joe Sinnott.

FF51

Sinnott inking Jack Kirby, less than a year into their collaboration, on the splendid "This Man, This Monster."

Joe's wonderful linework brought a fluid consistency to the pages of Fantastic Four and to this day I remain convinced that no one but no one can render The Thing better than the man Stan Lee called "Joltin' Joe." My brother and the comics-loving friends I met in my early twenties all agreed: no matter who was penciling FF, as long as Joe Sinnott was laying down the inks, our eyes were happy.

The only constant is change, of course, and eventually Joe left Fantastic Four—and by then I was grudgingly OK with it, because my Marvel Madman days were on the wane, with more of my comics-reading time devoted to independently-published titles such as Cerebus and smaller, more eclectic companies with names like Kitchen Sink, Fantagraphics, First, Pacific, NBM, and yes, Eclipse. (The output from several of those companies began my love affair with newspaper comic strips and their creators—but that, as they say, is another story.) Still, it was a mighty big deal to me in 1999 when I attended a major comics show in White Plains, New York and met Joe Sinnott for the first time.

Until recently, that sentence would have ended,"...for the only time," but in April of this year Joe was one of the guests at the Boston Comic Con held at the Hynes Convention Center, and I had the good pleasure to be at that show and make his acquaintance once again.

 

Sinnott sketch

Here's a picture of the Thing head-shot I bought from Joe at the 1999 White Plains convention. It hangs on my office wall to this day.

Joe is in his mid-eighties now, yet he continues to work, inking the long-running Spider-Man newspaper strip. As I watched him draw a Thor-in-profile head shot in my friend Dave Peabody's unique sketchbook, I realized I was seeing first-hand that his hand is still rock-steady, his line still as graceful as ever. As much as it was a treat to see Joe at work, the time I spent speaking with him was an even greater pleasure.

For a few moments I was a kid again, the guy for whom each new issue of the FF was at best a regular high point and rarely less than a familiar and comfortable entertainment. Just as I'm sure I did in White Plains, I told Joe that for me, he always was and always will be "Mister Fantastic Four."

It was also a pleasure to discuss a shared interest outside of comics—both Joe and I are seam-heads. I am a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, last visiting that hardball Mecca in 2009, and I was able to tell him I had seen one of the three pieces he has contributed to the Cooperstown museum. The previous day I had attended the "100th Anniversary of Fenway Park" gala; I learned that from high atop their Boston hotel, the Sinnotts had been able to look down and see the Red Sox playing the New York Yankees, just as they had when the park first opened a century ago ("It wasn't like we could see the catcher's signs," Joe joked, "but we could tell a game was going on"). With my allegiance to the Red Sox and Joe a lifelong Giants fan, we were both able to agree we could never, ever root for the Yankees.

bookmark

But what I treasured most about the time I spent speak with Joe was handing him my business card and one of our limited-run Caniff bookmarks and telling him what we're doing these days at The Library of American Comics, watching his eyes light up at the mention of names like Alex Raymond, Cliff Sterrett, and especially Milton Caniff. I asked him if he'd like a copy of our Eisner-nominated Caniff: A Visual Biography and he said he most certainly would. It wasn't many days later that the good folks at IDW sent him a Caniff with all of our compliments, but if need be I'd have paid money out of pocket to make good my promise and insure we got this book into Joe's hands.

And now, if you've stayed with me through this backstory, you get the payoff: Joe's reaction, sent to us in a May e-mail:

Dean and Bruce,

I can't thank you enough for the great Caniff book—it's a masterpiece! I'm amazed that he did so much newspaper work before starting Dickie Dare in '33 and Terry in '34.

 I was 8 years old in 1934—can you imagine how excited we kids were to follow these strips every day—it was all new to us! The 30's were a great time to grow up for a young kid what with the newspaper strips. Terry, Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, the Saturday serials like Flash, The Lone Ranger and then '38 with Superman, etc.—just great!

 Again guys, thanks—

Joe Sinnott

The moral of this story, my friends? Giving back at least a little pleasure to the talented folks who brought so much enjoyment into my life is one of the best aspects of doing LOAC work.

And Joe Sinnott? One word sums up both the man and his talents—FANTASTIC!

(P.S.: You can find out more about Joe at his website.

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Friday, May 11th, 2012

Alex Raymond's Guided Tour

 

lorraineposted by Lorraine Turner

I am in the process of restoring Sunday strips for Flash Gordon Volume Two. Alex Raymond's art is such a treasure—it's like I am working on pieces that belong in a museum. That's how I feel about these books...they are all little museums and I get to help guide the reader through the rooms. The Jungle Jim renderings have definitely taken a new turn. In Volume One all the plain-faced babes were in jodhpur pants and pith helmets—now we see them in low-cut dresses and bare legs, topped off with lipstick and eye shadow. I can't help but grin at the obvious sexy styles of the heroine and villainesses.

In Flash Gordon the faraway overview scenes familiar in Volume One now switch to tight close-ups, revealing Raymond's exquisite detailing of facial anatomy. He captures the characters' expressions in tight renderings and excellent line work. This new focus draws us into the drama, showing how the characters are "feeling" during the adventure. As a woman I am sensitive to the storyline of the 1930s in which the females seem unable to fend for themselves and have nothing in their wardrobe except high heels and skimpy outfits that reveal lots of cleavage. But it is Raymond's brilliant ability to create a futuristic world of laser guns and rockets that continues to enthrall me. His art has clearly inspired others. I love coming across panels like this. Who knew Stormtrooper uniforms were all the rage in the mid-30s?

Stormtroopers

It is with gratitude that I write this little blog. I wake every day and have the pleasure of visiting art museums inside the world of LOAC. On any given day, I find myself in the galleries of some of the best artists who have ever walked this planet such as Alex Toth, Cliff Sterrett, Percy Crosby, George McManus, and Alex Raymond. I often wonder if the fans of comics today have ever even heard of these wonderful artists. If they haven't then tell them—spread the word and maybe those costumes you see at the next Comic-Con will reflect a different attitude. Perhaps instead of Chewbacca, Wonder Woman, and Spiderman you'll find Polly, Dagwood, or even an original Stormtrooper—now that would be something to see!

Badguy

drama

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Thursday, May 10th, 2012

It Makes All the Difference in the World

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

After we posted some of Percy Crosby's pre-Skippy single panel cartoons a few days ago, we were deluged with emails asking for more. So here are a few more from the early 1920s: two from his "It Makes All the Difference in the World" series and two from "When There's a Boy in the Family."

Crosby5

Crosby6

Crosby7

Crosby8

All artwork copyright Skippy, Inc.

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Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Making the Connections

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

After five years doing Library of American Comics work I've learned many things, but what impresses me most is the interconnectedness of it all. The world of the comic strips was once a tapestry with far more interwoven threads than loose ones; the ties between cartoonists often spanned decades and ranged across any number of comic strips. I'm not talking about "seven degrees of separation" ties (you know —"Artists X & Y were connected because they met at the three NCS meetings at which they were simultaneous attendees over the span of fifteen years"), I'm focused on the way so many of these immense talents built personal/professional bonds or provided advice to up-and-comers who eventually took their own places in the nation's newspapers or were challenged by the work of other artists working for the same syndicate. For a bunch of folks who were shackled to their drawing boards, these guys sure did get around!

Since I recently finished the text for Steve Canyon Volume 2 (due out this summer and filled with fun and exciting stories), I roughed out the following diagram based around Milton Caniff. Start in the center with the Rembrandt of the Comic Strips, then follow each set of spokes outward—I came up with all these links in a handful of minutes, representing not only to the majority of talents represented in The Library of American Comics, but also several cartoonists whose work is currently being reprinted by other fine publishers. Of course there are myriad ways to draw this picture using any of the other cartoonists shown as the hub of the wheel. The ripples of influence certainly spread even further than this—think how many artists point to John Romita Sr. as an influence!

For the version of my diagram shown below, I mixed in photos and artwork to add some extra flair and perhaps to make you cogitate just a little bit about who is being referenced where (click on the image for a larger size):

 

Center

You'll notice I didn't find strong ties between Caniff and everyone we've published at LOAC—there are likely connections between Milton and Bil (Family Circus) Keane, Cliff (Polly & Her Pals) Sterrett, Tarpe (Miss Fury) Mills, and Bob (Archie) Montana, but I didn't figure them out before deadline. Let us know if you can find them…we'll add them to the picture!

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Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Puzzle Me, Jiggs

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Some time back we showed you the custom Polly and Her Pals jigsaw puzzle we had made and promised to show other goodies from our collection. We like taking them out of their boxes every so often. Here's a sweet four-in-one puzzle set featuring Maggie and Jiggs. Ah, for the simpler life…

Jiggs_Puzzle1

Jiggs_Puzzle2

Jiggs_Puzzle3

Jiggs_Puzzle4

Jiggs_Puzzle5

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Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

So How Long Have You Been Beating Your Wife?

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Percy Crosby was a successful cartoonist long before he began Skippy. In the early 1920s he produced many single-panel series with names such as Back o' the Flats, Three Rooms and Bath, Honeydale—Fifty Minutes Ago (hilarious train commuting gags), Pictures the Weekly Movies Never Got, and so on. His daughter Joan recenty sent us a stack of about one hundred and fifty of these, some of which will be included in our upcoming Skippy series. There's no way we can print them all, so here are a few samples of Back o' the Flats to give you a Crosby fix in the meantime.

Crosby1

Crosby2

Crosby3

Crosby4

All artwork © Skippy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Monday, Apr 30th, 2012

When Is Bloom County NOT Bloom County?

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

When it's Outland.

Outland

Soon after Berkeley Breathed decided to end Bloom County in 1989, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist launched Outland. And while there were certain…penguin-ish similarities…in the Sunday-only comic strip, Breathed broke new ground with Outland that made it every bit as fresh and unique as Bloom County was before it.

We're collecting the entire run from 1989-1995 in a single book—more than 300 Sundays. The proofs just came in from the printer and we should be okaying it for press by tomorrow. From this point, it generally takes about two months until the book will be on sale in stores and online.

Here's a sneak peak. You might recognize a few of the characters…

Outland1

Outland2

Outland3

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Friday, Apr 27th, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bill Blackbeard

Blackbeard


The Bllly Ireland Cartoon Library has a wonderful tribute to our old friend Bill Blackbeard, commemorating what would have been Bill's 86th birthday. We urge you to take a read. Happy birthday to Bill from all of us.

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Wednesday, Apr 18th, 2012

One Day at a Time

While we're always excited about launching a new series, here's one that has us revved up even more than usual. We've been planning it for quite some time and and it's actually a bunch of series within a series. The first volume has just been put on the schedule for September.

Baron_cover

LOAC ESSENTIALS will reprint early daily newspaper strips that are essential to the history of comics presented in a novel format: 11" wide by 4.25" high, each page containing a single daily strip. It's different from our other books which generally contain two or three years of strips printed three to a page. By reproducing the strips one per page in an oblong format, it allows us to have an experience similar to what newspaper buyers had fifty to a hundred years ago—reading the comics one day at a time. Each page will also showcase the title given to that daily by the cartoonist, plus the weekday and date.

Every volume in the series contains a year's worth of dailies bound in hardcover, retailing for $19.99.

Polly_cover

In addition to wanting to recreate the feeling of reading sequential comics one at a time, the idea sprang in part from seeing Harold Gray's set of bound Little Orphan Annie proofbooks. Syndicate proofs come in differing varieties, but dailies are often bound annually, in a thick one-strip-per-page book. When Bruce Canwell was reading a year's worth at Boston University, he turned to me and commented that "the proofbook format creates an irresistible urge to flip the page and see what happens in the next day's strip."

Couldn't say it better myself!

Gumps_cover

Another inspiration was the Hyperion line of classic strips edited by Bill Blackbeard in the 1970s. These books were an eye-opening education to many of us thirty-five years ago. They're long out-of-print and command ridiculous prices on the collector's market. With LOAC ESSENTIALS, we take the baton from Bill so we can preserve many more classic daily strips that are essential to the history of comics.

The first three titles give you a taste of what's to come:

Volume 1
Baron Bean by George Herriman. The first of a three-book sub-set by the creator of Krazy Kat that will reprint for the first time the complete series from 1916-1919 starring the character Gilbert Seldes called "half Micawber, half Charlie Chapin." Edited by Dean Mullaney with an introduction by Jared Gardner. September 2012.

BaronBean_page

Volume 2
Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett. A complete year (1933) of surrealistic hilarity featuring Polly, Maw and Paw Perkins, cousin Ashur, Neewah, and the rest of the outrageous Perkins household. Edited by Dean Mullaney with an introduction by Bruce Canwell. January 2013.

Polly_page

Volume 3
The Gumps: The Saga of Mary Gold by Sidney Smith. In the early 1920s Sidney Smith augmented his gag-a-day style in The Gumps with suspense and soap opera continuity, creating what was arguably the most popular strip of its time. With "The Saga of Mary Gold" in 1928 and 1929 he cemented his reputation by creating a storyline that changed the comics forever, a saga that was called "one of the ten biggest events in comics history" by Hogan's Alley magazine. Edited and with an introduction by Jared Gardner. March 2013.

Gumps_page

And there's lots more to come!

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Saturday, Apr 14th, 2012

The Great Montana

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Bob Montana was born into a showbiz family. His father, Ray, was a banjo player on the Keith vaudeville circuit—billed alternately as The Great Montana, the Beau Brummel of the West, and (more modestly) as Montana, the Cowboy Banjoist. Bob's mother, the former Roberta Pandolfini, was a Ziegfeld dancer.

As a young boy, the future cartoonist and his sister would sometimes put on their dancing shoes and join their dad in his finale.

Montana

It wasn't as a hoofer, however, that brought fame to Bob Montana—it was his talent at the drawing board. Our collection of Archie dailies won the Eisner Award last year; our newest book showcases Montana's Sunday pages. Archie's Sunday Finest will be on sale in early May. Here are a few examples from the book, including the very first Sunday from October 1946.

I think it's fair to say there was more than one Great Montana in the family.

Archie1

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Wednesday, Apr 4th, 2012

LOAC garners FIVE Eisner Award nominations

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

We're happy to report that our efforts at the Library of American Comics have been acknowledged with five nominations for this year's Eisner Awards—the most we've ever received in a single year. The 2012 nominees are:

"Best Archival Collection: Comic Strips"
FLASH GORDON/JUNGLE JIM. Edited by Dean Mullaney and designed by Lorraine Turner

Flash1

"Best Archival Collection: Comic Strips"
MISS FURY. Edited by Trina Robbins and designed by Lorraine Turner

MissFury1

"Best Comics-Related Book"
GENIUS, ISOLATED: THE LIFE AND ART OF ALEX TOTH by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell

Toth1

"Best Comics-Related Book"
CANIFF: A Visual Biography. Edited and designed by Dean Mullaney

Caniff

"Best Publication Design"
Dean Mullaney for GENIUS, ISOLATED: The Life and Art of Alex Toth

We'd like to thank the Eisner Awards nominating committee for these acknowledgments.

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Friday, Mar 30th, 2012

You Can't Go Home Again

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Joe Graziano opened his Casa Mia restaurant in 1969, bringing authentic Italian cuisine to rural northern New England. It started as one room at the intersection of the main street, right next door to a popular seafood place, The Channel Marker. Over the years, as word got out and the popularity of Graziano's grew, Joe doubled his floor space, naming his dining rooms "Round One" and "Round Two," because Joe loved pugilism. For a time he was state boxing commissioner, and he loaded his place with boxing memorabilia. Eventually autographed pictures of politicians and sports figures like John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics were added to the mix, but boxing was the motif—boxing, good food, and good fellowship. In its heyday—after Joe bought out The Channel Marker and took possession of the entire building, Graziano's contained three dining rooms, a function room, and a lounge. There was a parking valet and, eventually, an extra lot located across the street for overflow vehicles.

joe1

I started frequenting Graziano's in 1978, while working in radio broadcasting. Over the years I brought dates and steady girlfriends there, as well as every member of my family (my brother-in-law Paul, from Florida, was a devotee) and my comics-reading friends. For a handful of Friday evenings during the early 1980s, we "funnybook guys" would venture to an area comics shop, pick up the new books, then drive to Graziano's for a lengthy meal and some lively conversation.

Joe2

My good friend Tom Field and I were the regulars in those sessions. We were sometimes joined by others - most often by Howard Downs, Mike Dudley, Lee Weeks (in the days before he became a professional comics artist at Eclipse, Marvel, Dark Horse, and DC), Dave Peabody, Doug Thornsjo, Walter Orrall, or Peter Ferris—but Tom and I were there many, many Friday nights, talking sports and girls, comparing notes on the revelation that was Kitchen Sink's Steve Canyon or the contents of the latest Nemo magazine, discussing ways we could take the industry by storm. We joked with the older waitresses and flirted with the younger ones, all while consuming mass quantities of veal scaloppini, chicken kiev, pasta, white pizza, and deep-fried mozzarella (Joe's mozzarella fritta marinara remains the best deep-fried cheese I've ever tasted). We didn't conquer the comics business, but we made our mark on it—Tom has written comics ranging from Incredible Hulk to Beavis and Butt-Head before becoming the biographer of Gene Colan and the aforementioned Lee Weeks, and, well, here I am.

Tom moved out of our home state years before I did, but by the mid-1990s we both lived in the greater Boston area, though on those occasions when we crossed the state line to visit the old gang, we'd often find a way to get back to Graziano's. We'd find a way to get back to a place as welcoming as our own homes.

Joe3

How many packed Friday nights did we literally belly up to the bar in Round Two, waiting for Rosie the hostess to call our name for a newly-open table, leaning this way and that to allow waitresses lugging packed trays to squeeze by? I never minded the wait; our vantage point allowed me to keep an eye on Sharon, the tall, statuesque bartender with the long dark hair. Our friend Doug ran the first comics shop in the state, which attracted all of us like bears to honey; when he decided it was time to close his doors, it was Graziano's where we staged our farewell roast in his honor. Knowing I worked in radio, Rosie once approached me for a favor. One of the kitchen staff had a seriously-ill son who had an interest in 1930s and '40s music: could I help them get some cassettes of old music for him? A few weeks later I showed up with over eight hours of Andrews Sisters, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Cab Calloway tunes; the genuine gratitude of the staff was a heartwarming moment I'll always cherish.

We grew to know many of the staff members: Rosie and the other hostess, Florence—waitresses like Carolyn (who was one of Joe's three daughters), Angie, and Jeanine, a French-Canadian with a Norm Crosbyesque penchant for malapropism. One night we learned Jeanine was concerned about her high "cholesteroil," but her doctor had told her to take two "Tylenoids" each day to improve that condition. When we didn't know an employee by his true name, we christened him—Tom referred to the valet as "Peter Parker," for example.

By the time the lounge area had been created, Joe himself recognized us as regulars and began standing us to an occasional free round of drinks while we waited for our table. He would pull up a chair and talk to us, telling us about his early days in the restaurant business in western New York State. One night, he said, the proprietor of the place let him knock early off from tending bar to allow him to spend the rest of the evening in the back of the restaurant, playing games of chance with Moe Howard and Larry Fine. I remember my reaction so clearly: "My God, you knew The Stooges! You really are The Man!"

In 1997, my family called me back home - my sister and her husband and daughter were visiting from Florida. They took me to Graziano's and threw me a surprise pre-publication party for Batman: The Gauntlet. Joe stopped by, saw my nieces and nephew—still very young back then - briefly went away, then came back with big key chains shaped like boxing gloves to help occupy them for a time. Two days after Gauntlet was released, Lee Weeks and I were in the area doing a book signing. Following the event, fifty of us had a publication party—of course, there was only one place we could go to whoop it up. I'd included a reference to "the Graziano mob" on the first page of the book, after all

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Joe passed away in 2000; he was much-loved and is much-missed. His children continued to run the place. Carolyn often hostessed now, Andrea designed the menus, Mary Elizabeth and Joe Jr. ("Joey") ran the kitchen and kept the standards high. In the mid-1990s I'd learned Joey was a great comics fan, and during one visit I sent some of Lee's work back to Joey with my compliments. He came out of the kitchen to meet me, saying, "Lee Weeks? He's one of my favorites!" Joey and I have stayed buddies as the years have gone on; he has more than a few Library of American Comics releases in his home (which, by one of those twists of fate, is located not five miles from my parents' house, where I spent my teen years).

During a weekend in late March of this year, Tom and I had to return to our home state to visit one of our friends. As plans came together, we talked about having dinner at Graziano's on our way out of the state. Why not? So many things in life are temporary, but what has lasted through the three adult decades of our lives? Our comics-reading friends, and Graziano's.

But before the end of the week, Tom sent me this sad news, posted on Facebook:

THE GRAZIANO'S HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING. After 43 years of full bellies, friendly smiles, and impassioned dinner conversations, we have closed the doors to our…location for the final time.

We'd like to thank our wonderful employees, whose loyalty and companionship made "Casa Mia" more of a home than a workplace, and of course, all of our customers and friends to which we've been privileged to cook for and serve all these years. We literally couldn't have done it without you.

We leave with our heads held high, full of memories and garlic, a little worse for the wear, but proud nonetheless. We know that the spirit of Joe will remain within us for having been a part of this establishment, and we thank him for allowing us to live his dream for all these years.

Joe5

 

By the time we finished visiting our friend and had driven about forty-five minutes to that familiar intersection, night had fallen. It was Saturday night and the building was dark, silent, the parking spaces devoid of cars. It was sad to see, sad to know that the passage of time, the encroachment of cookie-cutter chain restaurants, the sagging economy and rising gasoline prices had laid low a place that played such a major role in our lives.

Tom and I walked around the building; I took these pictures and a handful of others. We went up the hill beyond the eastern wall of the structure, crossing the lot Peter Parker patrolled during other, more robust Saturday nights. This sign, on both the front and back entrances, summed up all the evidence we had been taking in.

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As we prepared to leave, I reached inside the window box planters, grabbed up a small handful of the soil inside, and wrapped in plastic—it's not the memento of Graziano's I expected to have, but I'm glad to have it.

And naturally, it's not my only memento, as you can tell from this account. Locked inside my head are the countless hours, the family and close friends, the milestone events, the good times we wanted to go on forever, the warm and welcoming staff, and Joe Graziano - forever the quintessential restrateur, forever the gracious host, forever The Man Who Knew The Stooges.

Stepping around to the rear of the restaurant, I took this photo of the back entrance…

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…This topmost sign drew my attention…

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…And its clear, direct optimism helped me pick my spirits up off the ground. Every day we're making memories, I told myself, and while we'll never make a new one in this place we loved, we will find new places, new ways to make the memories to come as good as the ones behind us.

You'll pardon me, however, if I pause this last time to raise a glass to all those grand times past. There will never—can never—be another Graziano's Casa Mia. Saluto, Joe!

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Monday, Mar 26th, 2012

Skoodely-Doo for King Aroo (The Kent-Kelly Letters, Part 3 of 3)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Concluding our look at recently-obtained correspondence between Jack (King Aroo) Kent and Walt (Pogo) Kelly that sheds new light on the genesis of Aroo while also showing off some full-color Aroo Sundays I obtained in early March of this year…

There appears to be at least one exchange of letters following the April 21, 1950 missive we examined in our last installment that is not contained in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum files. In the period between April 21st and May 25th, Kent seems to have shared his sample comic strips with Kelly, and Kelly wrote back with praise. This is almost certain because the next available letter in the sequence, dated May 25th, begins, "Oh, COME now!!!!—You're a damned liar…but oh, how I love that kind of lying—Altho [sic] I don't believe a word of the flattery you lavished upon me, I'm extremely grateful for the encouragement."

More important than simply critiquing Kent's sample strips, Kelly appears to have shared them with his syndicator, Robert M. Hall of the Post-Hall Syndicate. "Mr. Hall told me how you went to bat for me—I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you," Kent writes in this letter. What's even more intriguing is that Kelly's introduction of Kent to Robert Hall seems to have resulted in an invitation for a face-to-face meeting at the syndicate. Kent says to Kelly, "I told Mr. Hall I could be in NY in the early part of next month, if that fits in with his plans and yours—Maybe I'll have better success in my efforts to thank you in person than I'm having expressing my gratitude on paper." Ever the fan, he also can't help adding the aside, "(And maybe I'll be able to wrest that original drawing from you that I've pleaded for in vain.)"

 

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Kent's last letter to Kelly in this sequence is dated October 19, 1950. In the four-plus months between May 25th and October 19th, Jack Kent's life was transformed. His trip to New York brought him to Post-Hall and also to the McClure Syndicate, where he left his samples for a strip about the ruler of Myopia, a strip he titled Gizmo XXX. Kent begins his October 19th letter with an apology, but an apology for good and exciting reasons:

"I should have written long before this to express my thanks for everything you did for me and to tell you how much I enjoyed meeting you and talking to you—I was holding off, however, until I knew something definite on my comic strip…It looks like I'll have to go to work —The [McClure] syndicate informed me today that they're picking up the option -."

Kent tells Kelly that his comic has sold to the New York Mirror, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Bulletin, and Kansas City Star. "The mail promotion is about to start and the sales trip continues," he says, adding, "The title was changed to 'King Aroo'." He tells Kelly his Sunday debut is only a month away, on November 19th of the year, with the dailies scheduled to begin six days earlier, on the 13th. If you check your copy of our King Aroo release, you'll see the series debuted on schedule.

 

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"Needless to say, I'm in something of a dither," Kent reports before going on to say, "I want you to know I'm very, very grateful—I'm also inexpressably [sic] grateful to you for the opportunity you gave me to work in with Post-Hall—It's my own fault that I didn't make the most of those opportunities you engineered for me—I'll never forget your kindness in bringing them my way—You're a helluva swell guy —I sure am glad I got to meet you—I'm in hopes that we'll see each other again from time to time."

In his final paragraph, Kent extols the virtues of his arrangement with McClure. "I'm fast learning how to drag in even deep subtlety in such a way as to prevent anyone getting 'hurt'—I've got exactly the sort of set-up I dreamed about -"

This exchange spans the period of time when Jack Kent went from cartoonist-wannabee to creator of the newly-minted King Aroo. Nowhere does it confirm the long-held, long-repeated belief that Kent was offered the opportunity to work as an assistant on Pogo - of course, it does not definitively refute that belief, either. Such an offer could have been made and rejected any time during the spring and summer of 1950,

Walt Kelly gets the final word in this correspondence, as contained in the Billy Ireland Library. His handwritten note to Kent dated December 29, 1950 says, "I saw the first Sun[day] page and enjoyed it immensely," going on to advise, "You better start counting your money."

 

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King Aroo was never the cash cow Walt Kelly predicted, but it had a reasonably long and unfairly-neglected run. LOAC is doing its part to restore the King to his rightful place in the comic strip pantheon, and—with thanks to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum staff…and permission from Jack Kent Jr.—we hope you're as fascinated as we are by this illuminating series of letters between two unique comics creators.

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Saturday, Mar 24th, 2012

The Bridge Between the Okefenokee and Myopia (The Kent-Kelly Letters, Part 2 of 3)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Continuing our look at recently-obtained correspondence between Jack (King Aroo) Kent and Walt (Pogo) Kelly that sheds new light on the genesis of Aroo while also showing off some full-color Aroo Sundays I obtained in early March of this year…

Aroo1

The second Kent-to-Kelly letter is dated April 21, 1950 and is the longest of the set, running two pages. It includes a paragraph showing Kent read far more than just comic strips: "My favorite wits have always been Billy Shakespeare, Edmund Rostand (Cyrano and Chantecleer [sic]), W.S. Gilbert (Bab Ballads and the comic operas), Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows), and A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)." It contains three paragraphs of Kelly/Pogo flattery (sincere flattery, but flattery nonetheless), concluding this section by asking, "What's the secret? What manner of genius is he who can foal a comical that EVERY age and intelligence level votes tops? A Pogo is a Pogo is a Pogo is a Kelly and none other." It contains a follow-up to the request made in Kent's first letter to Kelly: "I must also ask your forgiveness for my audacity in reiterating, as I am about to, my request for an original drawing by you."

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The fascinating new angle in this letter is Kent describing his efforts to follow in the footsteps of Herriman and Kelly with a syndicated strip of his own. He tells Kelly, "I submitted samples to Mr. Harry Gilburt of United Features about a year ago - Wonderful person that he is, he took time to comply with my request for criticism… 'too subtle.'"

He goes on to discuss his local free-lancing and how he "toured the mag-gag mart" as he produced new samples and considered submitting them to Pogo's syndicate, Post-Hall ("for POGO is certainly subtle and P-H bought it," he reasoned), but instead opted to try United Features once again. He discusses the reaction to that second submission:

"In Mr. Gilburt's letter he expressed the fear that I was still over the heads of too many people," Kent tells Kelly. "He suggested I aim at a seven-year-old mentality - Both my contributions had been fantasies, so to illustrate his point he enclosed clippings of a fantasy that 'achieves a larger common denominator'—THE ENCLOSED CLIPPINGS WERE OF POGO! - You could have knocked me over with a rejection slip!—POGO aimed at seven-year-olds????" Kent also says this package from Gilburt was received on Monday, April 17th, so he wasted little time before relating this story to Walt Kelly.

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This story appears to have hooked Kelly, as we'll see when we look at the final three letters in this small-but-fascinating treasure trove of letters.

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Wednesday, Mar 21st, 2012

New Light on an Old Favorite (The Kent-Kelly Letters, Part 1 of 3)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

It's no secret we're big King Aroo fans here at LOAC—we reprinted the first two years of the strip in a 2010 collection that was translated into German by our friends at Bocola Verlag. While we wait to get the next brace of strips to do a follow-up volume, I was fortunate enough to acquire a handful of Sunday newspaper pages featuring the King in full color. We'll present a handful of them in this mini-series of articles so you can see the land of Myopia in its full, Technicrayon glory as you read on.

ArooSunday1

As chronicled in this space, late last year we were doing research at The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, sifting through their astounding range of holdings in support of a variety of projects. We hit upon a folder that contained letters involving the creator of King Aroo, Jack Kent, and Walt (Pogo) Kelly and we requested a closer look at that material. Susan Liberator and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum staff came through for us as they always do, and the contents of these letters shed some fascinating new light on the genesis of King Aroo.

ArooSunday2

The earliest of these letters from Kent to Kelly is undated, but based on the date of the next letter in the sequence it was likely penned very late in 1949 or early in '50, when Jack would have been twenty-nine years old. It was a fan letter of the type Kent had been writing to newspaper cartoonists since he was a teenager—if comics had had a First Fandom similar to science fiction's Jack Kent would certainly have been a member of that community, given how actively he sought out comic strip creators and amassed a collection of original art via request and trades with fellow fans. Jack skillfully works his bona-fides into this particular letter, mentioning that he has secured "the friendship of George Herriman," the guiding light behind Krazy Kat, and that this relationship with "Garge" makes it impossible for Kent to decide whether Krazy or Pogo is the superior strip. Surely Kent felt that making such a comparison would flatter the maestro of the Okefenokee.

Jack went on to extol the virtues of Pogo, citing "The delightful whimsy, the consistently high level of the humor, the marvelous characterizations, and the outstanding art work."

Jack also makes a passing reference to his artistic ambitions in his own unmistakable prose style: "I'm a limn lubber with the unrealized ambition to syndicate a comic strip," he confides to Kelly at one point.

The longest paragraph in this letter serves up the familiar request Kent likely made to every cartoonist with whom he sought correspondence: "I wish I had an original drawing by you." He begs forgiveness for making the request and says he knows Kelly is inundated with such requests. "I apologize ... I'm ashamed ... I can't help myself...," he writes, then says, "I repeat the request - A discarded strip, a hasty doodle or a sketch retrieved from the trash would be treasured more than I can tell you."

Based on this short series of letters, it appears Jack Kent never did get the original from Walt Kelly…but as you'll see in future installments, Kelly provided something much more valuable ...

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Tuesday, Mar 20th, 2012

Hooray for U-Ray!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Arnaud Wirschell from The Netherlands was kind enough to send a photo of his bookshelf. He writes, "In case you wondered how LOAC books look mixed with classic Franco-Belgian comics, here's an example. Herge (TinTin) and Edgar P. Jacobs (Blake & Mortimer) meet Chester Gould and Alex Raymond!

Netherlands
"A nice detail is the book "De U-straal" or "The U Ray" by Jacobs (you see the cover at the right), which started as a Flash Gordon substitute in a Belgian weekly because the Germans stopped the import of all American comic strips during the Second World War. Jacobs even drew five Flash Gordon pages to finish the Raymond story." Pretty good aping job, if you ask me!

Jacobs

Arnaud also asked when the first John Prentice Rip Kirby volume is coming out. The answer? August…so save your shekels 'cause you don't want to miss it.

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Saturday, Mar 17th, 2012

Me and Mea Culpa

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

We try to keep you informed with what's going on here at LOAC Central, even when the news isn't exactly what we want it to be. This is one of those times.

I'll give it to you straight, with no candy-coating: Genius, Illustrated, the second book in our series devoted to the brilliant artist Alex Toth, is going to be late. And I'm the hold-up, because I'm still writing the text.

Genius_Illustrated

You can bet I don't like this situation—I know this means I've let down Dean (who has a 2012 release schedule that we really do try to follow) and all the readers who are eagerly awaiting Illustrated. I bust a hump not to come up short often, but this time that is indeed what has happened.

Part of the reason I'm delayed has to do with some personal business. Not all of it was bad personal business—and you'll probably hear about bits and pieces of that as the months unfold - but I did lose a chunk of almost eight weeks last fall due to a loved one's illness. There are times when those you care about need you to step up for them, and while I regret that doing so has cost me in other areas (meeting my Illustrated schedule among them), I know in this instance I did the right thing. I was still able to keep up all my other LOAC duties, but some things in my life had to give, and my work on Illustrated was one of them.

Part of the reason also has to do with the devotion to Alex Toth and the interest in our work among his admirers, friends, and colleagues, because they have continued to come forward throughout 2011 and into 2012. They have offered to be interviewed and share their stories about and remembrances of this man who played such a key role in their own lives, or to provide us with one more stack of correspondence to be digested and correlated with the rest of our accumulated research, one more rare piece of artwork to sigh over, one more little-known fact or anecdote about Alex or his work to successfully incorporate into the narrative flow of the text. This is a mighty good issue to deal with, but it has affected my ability to "make the trains run on time."

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One of the treasures awaiting in Genius, Illustrated: Alex's original artwork for the complete "White Devil…Yellow Devil." In this sample, note how Alex re-inked the page after receiving the originals back from DC! From Star Spangled War Stories #164. Copyright 1972 DC Comics Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

 

And of course, not all the problems are tied to outside sources. Part of the reason was that I underestimated the sheer amount of work required to bring Toth's life and career into proper focus. Having produced our text feature for Scorchy Smith & The Art of Noel Sickles, I thought I had a good handle on the scope of an Alex Toth overview and my approach going into the Genius project was similar to my Sickles approach: gather the information, organize it into a timeline while looking for the common themes and finding the most compelling way to tell the person's "story," then do the actual writing. As Dean noted in his Preface to our first volume (Genius, Isolated), Alex's story is less a clear plotline than a mosaic from which clarity emerges as all the various pieces are drawn together. I definitely take responsibility for needing more time than I expected to deal with the sheer volume of information we've assembled, to understand what it was telling me, and to put myself in a position where I can - I hope! - do proper justice to Alex, his immense legacy, his family, and several of the friends who knew him so well and cared about him so much.

The silver lining in the cloud is that my other writing responsibilities for LOAC are being met - I'm turning in all my shorter pieces for Steve Canyon, Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim, and Li'l Abner on time. Now, that's a thin silver line, because time spent researching and writing for those series is time that can't be spent on Illustrated, but I suspect everyone will agree it's better to have the bulk of the titles flowing on time than to have one project (no matter how important) creating a "logjam" that delays three or four others.

I wish we could give you a hard-and-fast revised date for Illustrated's release, but my crystal ball isn't that clear right now. Let us get further down the line so we can see a good date, then we'll pass it along. The best thing I can tell you is: I feel the pressure to get Genius, Illustrated written as well as I can write it and as fast as I can write it so we can get the necessary approvals, then assemble the book, go through the proofing and correcting cycles, and be printer-ready. This is a powerful motivating force in my life right now.

There's the story—my immediate hope is that you'll understand the situation. If you have bouquets or brickbats you wish to toss, our contact info is just a couple clicks away.

My ultimate hope is that when you finally do see Genius, Illustrated, you'll agree it's been worth the extra wait. And as soon as we can possibly get this book up for sale, we will. After all, we're as anxious to hold a copy in our hands as you are!

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Thursday, Mar 15th, 2012

The Diminuitive Monarch

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Jared Gardner joins the Library of American Comics team, writing the lengthly introduction to our new Otto Soglow book. Here he is with his very own copy of Cartoon Monarch, hot off the presses.

Jared

Earlier this week, we posted some bonus Sundays that didn't make the final cut. Here are four that did!

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Wednesday, Mar 14th, 2012

Another Bookshelf to Admire

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

The photos keep on coming. This week, Jim Latimer sent us a picture of one of his extremely full bookcases chock full of LOAC and other goodies. He says, "I'm currently beginning to run short on space, but keep em' coming. There is always room for more great strip reprints! Incidentally,the Flash Gordon/jungle Jim, Blondie, and Bloom County books are on other shelves in my small library."

By the way, (even though it may make Red Sox fans like Bruce Canwell and me cringe) that's the 1929 New York Yankees on the top shelf with a 1930s Superman (sculpted by Tim Bruckner) to the right. Not that the late '20s Yankees needed a DH, but if they did, we can always imagine Supes stepping in…

Latimer

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Monday, Mar 12th, 2012

He's Here! He's Here! Love Live the King!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Only two days before CARTOON MONARCH: Otto Soglow and the Little King is on sale. As a bonus and to hold you over, here are some more Sundays that are NOT in the book. Enjoy!

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Saturday, Mar 10th, 2012

He's Coming! He's Coming! Long Live the King!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

In keeping with Otto Soglow's penchant for few words, I'll be brief --

CARTOON MONARCH: Otto Soglow and The Little King is on sale in comics shops this week (and online by the end of the month). Although the book is a staggering 432 pages, we obviously couldn't include every Sunday he ever drew, so here are some that are NOT in the book. More on Monday!

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Wednesday, Mar 7th, 2012

The Black Bag with the Million Bucks…Found!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Now, after more than fifty years, the solution to…Chester Gould's "Black Bag Mystery" featuring Dick Tracy!!!

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Tuesday, Mar 6th, 2012

Orthopedic Shoes Let You Stand Corrected

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

BlackBagSolution1

My dad's been gone more than thirteen years now, but when we get together, my siblings and I often fondly recall his many colorful sayings (some of them not proper for an all-ages website). One of his turns of phrase that I find myself using from time to time is the one he'd trot out when my sisters or brother or I started getting too big for our britches: "Smarty had a party, but nobody came."

Working on LOAC projects makes me think of that line on occasion, because it reminds me that no matter how much even the most diligent comics historians knows, he doesn't know it all. And acting like he does know it all is a good way to be set up for a fall. So we try to keep it properly humble here in LOAC-land, because occasionally things like this happen ...

When we began running Chester Gould's "Black Bag Mystery" strips, featuring Dick Tracy, during October of last year, we wrote, "The syndicate hoped to duplicate the ["Black Bag"] promotion in newspapers from other cities and so never published the solution to the mystery. It's still an open case, folks!" That's exactly what we thought based on the information we had at hand and, because despite the considerable resources we have available, no evidence to the contrary was available.

But Gould scholar extraordinaire Jeff Kersten can call on even more Tracy resources than we can as he digs deeper, ever deeper into the Master Detective's history and mythos. And Jeff recently unearthed the fact that the Chicago Tribune did indeed select a winning solution to "The Black Bag Mystery," with Gould bringing it to life in his own distinctive artistic style. Moreover, Jeff was able to drop the solution, as it appeared in the Trib, straight into our pulpy little palms!

We present the first three "solution" strips today and the final three tomorrow, with the hope you'll join us in a vote of thanks to Jeff Kersten, not only for playing such a major role in bringing forth a fully-rounded history of America's top crime newspaper strip, but also for reminding us not to get too sure of ourselves, because after all these years it's still true: Smarty had a party, but nobody came!

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BlackBagSolution3

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Come back tomorrow for the final three!

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Wednesday, Feb 29th, 2012

Forward—Into the Past

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Every so often we like to have a little fun in this space by "inverting the equation" —instead of looking at one series through time, the way most of our books are structured, we pick a moment in time and look at the various strips that were published on that date. Step into the time machine, if you will, and feast your eyes on these selections from April 2, 1947, when Dick Tracy was doing his proto-CSI number; Milton Caniff offered echoes of Raven Sherman as his first Steve Canyon continuity rocketed to its climax; Rip Kirby was comforting Pagan, who was caught in the amoral vice of sharpster "Fingers" Moray; Li'l Abner drops the name of Lena the Hyena as he bemoans the loss of his "ideel;" and Bob Montana serves up perhaps his most notorious Archie daily of all ...

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Abner_April

CanyonApril

RipApril

ArchieApril

This exercise always tickles us, making us wonder if some local paper with a name like the Times-Picayune or American-Register might have run a comics page like this and if so, what the citizens in that paper's hometown thought about such a line-up. For most, surely, it was merely a few minutes' respite from the day's tasks, but could any of them have imagined that they were reading work that would endure? They lined bird cages and trash cans with their dated newspapers, after all, so how could it have crossed their minds that their children and grandchildren would be able to read the same 1947 comic strips they were reading, preserved in hardcover editions? And while most Big Name Comics Creators have gladly expounded on the artists like Raymond and Caniff who inspired them or somehow influenced their work, we find ourselves wondering how many other readers went on to build their lives around careers in advertising art or drafting or as newspapermen, inspired at least in part by their daily exposure to Rip or Canyon or other strips.

The accumulated influence of comics must be greater than we typically stop to consider - and based on the number of would-be storytellers who show up at conventions each year, portfolios or samples at the ready, that influence goes on ... and on.

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Friday, Feb 17th, 2012

Puzzle Me, Polly

Dean Mullaneyposted by Dean Mullaney

puzzle

We're big jigsaw puzzle fans here at the Library. On any given day there's an unfinished puzzle on a spare table so anyone needing a break from work can get lost putting together anything from a snow scene in Central Park to a castle in Bavaria.

We also enjoy assembling old comic strip puzzles -- and in the coming weeks we'll post some examples from our collection. This week, though, we want to show off our one-of-a-kind Polly and Her Pals jigsaw. No, it's not an oldie, but it's certainly a goodie -- the August 8, 1926 Sunday page, complete with Dot and Dash topper. We sent our digital file used in our multiple Eisner-nominated Polly book to one of those custom puzzle-making companies. Putting it together was a lot more difficult than it looks -- those multiple Maws, Paws, and Pollys can get confoosin'!

Here's some snapshots:

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Saturday, Feb 11th, 2012

Who Stole the Million Dollars?

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

On this website and in Dick Tracy volume 12, we reprinted the 1949 "Black Bag Mystery," asking readers to send in your solutions to who stole the money and why. We've read through all the submissions and, as promised, present our two favorites.

John Gibson offers this detailed and inventive solution:
 
I think the key fact is that the police were suckered into believing that Currency Jones and The Lobe were the same person.  The Lobe had the money.  (The bag itself, or one of them, turned up in Homer Noble's torched shop as part of the attempt to frame him.)
 
Currency Jones must not have been much of a banker.  If, minus the million dollars, he could not send Honey enough money in Mexico to stave off her creditors, we can see that he must have been near broke, despite what everyone would expect.  I'd infer that he was making extra money as the accomplice of The Lobe, impersonating him (hence the artificial ears) and thus establishing alibis for him while he committed crimes. As he had disguises in his office closet, he must also have participated in other crimes. 
 
Jones and The Lobe plotted the million dollar robbery and were supposed to split the money.  The Lobe forced Widow Dubbs to sign the payment agreement and was then going to kill her. Honey Keyes was going to join the newly rich Jones in Mexico, throwing over Noble.
 
Both Jones and The Lobe had access to the hotel room: Jones through his office and The Lobe because he was the one renting it.  This enabled Jones to "become" The Lobe or other people without being seen exiting the bank or his home while disguised.  It also allowed The Lobe to meet and conspire with him without witnesses. 
 
When Tracy confirmed that The Lobe was an actor who frequently applied for parts, that was a strong hint that he and Currency Jones were two people and not one; Jones would have been at work and would not have been trying out for theater roles in any event. 
 
The text says that Honey was unaware that the bag she was carrying contained the million dollars.  But she had to know that something major was up.  Jones must have alerted her to be packed and ready to head to Mexico on short notice.  When he accidentally left his unsigned will, leaving everything to her, in the hotel's telegraph office, that led to Homer finding out some of what was going on; at the time Jones was disguised as The Lobe and may have been sending a telegram to establish an alibi for him.
 
Currency Jones left his office by way of the hotel room while Honey was carrying the bag of cash so he could meet with her before she left the country.  It had been arranged for her to hand over the bag to The Lobe, and Jones didn't yet know that he had been cut out.
 
Honey knew The Lobe and intentionally sat next to him on the bus when she ran into him while they were on their way to meet so that she could pass the bag to him.  Afterwards she met with Jones for a cocktail before flying to Mexico at his expense. 

bus


She bought the bag on Currency Jones's instructions (she was the unidentified female purchaser).  The Lobe bought a bag of the same kind so that they could switch bags in a public place without it being noticed that a bag had changed hands.
 
Jones threw Honey's pocketbook onto the frozen creek to make it seem she had been killed and thrown (or dropped from a plane) into the creek, her body going out to sea. 
 
Currency Jones told an underling that he had had to break into his desk drawer because he lost his key, but in fact The Lobe had broken into it, coming into his office from the hotel room, in order to steal Jones's passport and plane ticket.  These he put on Homer Noble's body after shooting him, leaving the suicide note, and burning his shop so everything would be blamed on him.  He lost a diamond ear stud while doing these things.

drawer


The Lobe meant it to be believed that Noble had stolen the passport and ticket from Jones to thwart his plan to run off with Honey.  Jones said his plan to get a passport was being "sabotaged", and that was right: The Lobe did that so that, if the cops didn't buy Noble as the guilty party, it would be Jones who would be the next major suspect. 
 
And The Lobe was not afraid to have Jones suspected because he figured that the cops would take himself for nothing more than a role played by Jones. 
 
Find The Lobe and you would find the missing million.  Or so it looks to me, anyway.

 

* * * * *

Allan Wright sends in this completely different solution:

I think Currency Jones' assistant, Charlie, has the $1,000,000 and his nail file is the big clue. Here's my solution -- Currency Jones planned the scheme to kill the Widow Dubbs and steal the money so he and Honey Keyes could run off to Mexico. Jones, as the Lobe, switched bags with Honey on the bus (remember that he bought an empty black bag?). Honey makes it to Mexico with enough money to get started and Jones was going to follow. But someone steals Jones' passport and airline ticket and the black bag with the $1,000,000 from his desk. The passport, ticket and bag are found in Homer's burned-down studio in an attempt to frame Homer for stealing the money.

aspirin

Two important things happen right after the fire: One, when Jones asks Charlie to back up his story about naming Honey as the sole beneficiary in his will, Charlie isn't very convincing. Two, while Jones claims he lost the key to his desk drawer and had to break into it, he actually didn't want it known that someone broke in and stole his passport and the money. Jones trusted Charlie so Charlie was in the perfect position to use the nail file that he carried around to break into the drawer to steal the money (remember that earlier in the story, he knew that Jones kept aspirin in his desk?). Charlie then planted the stolen goods in Homer's store to divert attention from himself. Since Jones didn't have the money to send Honey, she marries the count, Jones commits suicide, and Charlie is in the clear.

I can't figure out why Honey didn't take the $1,000,000 with her to Mexico, but who said criminals were smart? And maybe Currency Jones didn't trust her completely. He shouldn't have trusted Charlie, either!

* * * * *

So there we have two completely different explanations. How about yours?

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Wednesday, Feb 8th, 2012

More and MORE Books!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Diego Cordoba kindly sent photos of some of his bookshelves and says, "Since I have more than 100, 000 books (yeah I live almost inside a library), I can only show you portions of what I have."

Diego1

He continues, "Not to mention that now I've got to find some place where to put the new Steve Canyon collection. As you can see there's no particular order, as I keep adding new books every year, so I'm continually moving them back and forward and finding new spaces where to put them. Generally it's the amount of space left in the bookshelf and the size of the book that matters, so I might have a book about Leonardo next to the Primce Valiant collection or the newly added but not yet shelved Flash Gordon beside it. I also have books from five different countries, which explain all those different collections I have of Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon, Flash Gordon, etc. from different parts of the world."

Diego2

Keep sending those photos, folks. This is FUN!

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Tuesday, Jan 31st, 2012

Bookshelves Are Us

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Bruce Canwell started the "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" bookcase organization challenge and Jeff Dyer is first to join the game. It's fascinating how we each have our own collating principles. Here's what Jeff says:

Dyershelves

"I grouped Bloom County with my older Calvin & Hobbes books, as I think of those two as the finest strips of the 1980s. I put Dick Tracy with Rip Kirby, of course...two great detectives from two different eras. I do look forward to the day when I can (hopefully) replace Dick Tracy Vol 1-6 with larger editions to match the others. I have a Caniff Shelf...Terry, Caniff, Scorchy Smith (by honorable mention) and now, happily...Steve Canyon! I have Annie with Abner (probably because it sounds good when spoken together!) but also want to point out my old Li'l Abner metal toy. It's from my great aunt who passed away. She had this toy in her home for years and years. I never knew about the comic strip until many years later. But now the books and toy match nicely! Finally, I have my large shelf for the really big books! This of course includes Flash Gordon and Polly!!

Abner

"After taking these pics and seeing all the great books you have coming soon, I realize...I NEED MORE SPACE!!"

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Friday, Jan 27th, 2012

Show and Tell

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Once upon a time I used to keep my comics collection/graphic novel books separate from my prose books. Of course, sometimes the line would blur a bit—where would prose books about comics, like Gerard Jones's exceptional Men of Tomorrow, best be kept? Should something like Gil Kane's Blackmark be shelved with one group of books or the other? I found there were too many times when I was hunting for one specific volume or other, so I lost patience and did a big reorganization project that put all my books in simple alphabetical-by-author order. That means J.G. Ballard is next to James Bama, Paul Chadwick is next to Raymond Chandler, and Jack Kirby is next to Ernie Kovacs (a place neither of those fine men would have expected to occupy!). In the years since I made the switch-over, I've never had a problem finding any book.

In some cases, "author" equates to "imprint." Marvel and DC books are best grouped together…and yes, I decided it was easiest to shelve all Library of American Comics books together. Here's a look at how they look:

Panorama

The way things are currently grouped together, as you can see, the LOAC titles occupy the lower portion of one shelf and the top end of the neighboring shelf. They're organized by cartoonist within the LOAC grouping: Caniff currently leads the pack, with Blondie (by Chic Young) finishing off the run. (OK, the two "Champagne Edition" books, Polly and Her Pals and Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim Volume 1, are out of sequence—nuthin's perfect! But those books are jumbo-sized, meaning they aren't likely to get lost in the shuffle.)

LOACfirst

Some may wonder why Berkeley Breathed doesn't get the pole position in this display, ahead of Caniff; the eagle-eyed among you will notice our five Bloom County volumes are not present here. There's a simple reason for that: they're currently in my office, on my "To Be Read" shelf, because one of my goals is to re-read all of Bloom County during 2012. Once I've gone through the series, Bloom will take its proper place amongst our other books.

That's the view of my LOAC bookshelves, but we'd be curious to see what yours look like, too.

LOACsecond

If you send us pictures of your LOAC books—with some explanation of how you organize all your books, if you're so inclined—they may appear in this space in a future installment, and we might have a wee token we can send you as a way of saying thanks.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to go clear some space. Gotta make room for Blondie Volume 2, and Steve Canyon Volume 1, and Cartoon Monarch, and…

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Tuesday, Jan 17th, 2012

Serendipity

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

As I mentioned to Dean shortly before Christmas, 2012 marks the fifth anniversary of the existence of The Library of American Comics. It was summer of 2007 when advance copies of our first release went on sale at the San Diego Comic-Con—I was in San Diego that year, participating with such luminaries as Eric Reynolds, Steve Tippie, Charles Pelto, and R.J. Harvey in a panel discussion devoted to The Great American Comic Strip. Someone in the audience asked what was going to be forthcoming from the publishers represented on the panel that day—because we didn't want to take attention from our first book, so I could only promise that person, "Our plan is to surprise and delight our readers."

I like to think over the past five years, we've done just that.

We arranged with Mr. Tippie and Tribune Media Services to be the home for the three "crown jewels" of the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, and our Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie series continue to hold their devoted audiences. We've also become the home for Alex Raymond, following up his complete Rip Kirby with an oversized presentation of Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim. We've unearthed forgotten gems like King Aroo and Miss Fury, we've shed new light on old favorites like Blondie and helped breathe new life into the domestic hijinx of the Perkins (Polly and Her Pals), Yokum (Li'l Abner), and Jiggs (Bringing Up Father) clans. We've offered the 1960s chic and cheek of Williamson/Goodwin's Secret Agent X-9 while producing extensive biographies of Noel Sickles, Alex Toth, and Milton Caniff. We've won three Eisners, for Archie and Bloom County ... and for the book that started it all.

Exactly five years ago this month, Dean and I started work on Terry and the Pirates Volume 1, gearing up for that summertime debut. We had decided to produce Terry (the third of the Trib/News crown jewels) because we share a love for Caniff's timeless adventure saga, which remains an amazing work today, almost eighty years after its debut. We had no idea where it would take us—certainly not to an Eisner win!—but it's been a fun and sometimes wild ride, with lots of work and lots of laughs along the way.

And what will we be releasing this month but Steve Canyon Volume 1, and what could be more fitting than that? The truck below is bringing Steve Canyon to your favorite comics shop today; Amazon copies will be availble on the 31st.

Delivery

Canyon debuted in January sixty-five years ago—January 13, 1947, to be precise. Its first week of continuity is still hailed as a textbook example of comics storytelling. For us, it completes a circle of The Library of American Comics's first five years—we started the period producing Milton Caniff's Terry and we finish it by releasing our 50th book, Caniff's Canyon. That's the type of journey any comics fan would find incredibly satisfying, a journey the twentysomething version of me, reading Caniff for the first time thanks to publishers such as Kitchen Sink Press and NBM, could have never envisioned.

We don't intend to rest on our laurels, of course. As I type this, I literally just finished doing edits on Cartoon Monarch, presenting the brilliant Otto Soglow and The Little King, with an entertaining and illuminating essay by Ohio State University's Jared Gardner. Be on the lookout for this wonderful release in March

There are other big, innovative projects in development, as well. We aren't ready to discuss them just yet, but our plan hasn't changed in five years—we still plan to surprise and delight our readers.

In the meantime, it's a Happy 65th anniversary to Steve Canyon, and a Happy 50th book to the Library of American Comics.

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Sunday, Jan 8th, 2012

2011: The LOAC Year in Review (part two)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Welcome back to our curtain call for 2011. If you've forgotten how great the second half of the year was, at least in LOAC terms, read on and remember…

JULY

LOAC was in attendance at the San Diego Comic-Con and was humbled (but mightily pleased) to receive the Eisner Award for "Best Archival Project: Newspaper Strips" for Archie Volume One. It was our first back-to-back win (Bloom County won in this category during 2010), and we had three total Eisner nominations during '11, our most ever.

San Diego Comic-Com time is also time for major releases, and this year we turned out the last of our Alex Raymond Rip Kirby run (Volume 4, that is), as well as a book we were all especially pleased and proud to releaseCaniff: A Visual Biography.

Rip4

Caniff

There were somber moments amidst the euphoria: we said goodbye to our dear friend, Lew Sayre Schwartz, and while at the Comic-Con, Dean participated on panels honoring both Bill Blackbeard and "The Dean" of the classic Marvel Comics bullpen, Gene Colan.

AUGUST

Never mind M&Ms, Little Orphan Annie Volume 7 brought us A & A: Mister Am and The Asp!

LOA7

This was also the month when we let the world know horizons were unlimited, because Steve Canyon was coming to LOAC in 2012.

SEPTEMBER

While we took a pause in our publication schedule, Jeff Kersten's family expanded by two as his and his wife Keri's twins were born. Dean and Lorraine jetted off to Paris. On our blog space, I also accurately predicted the Texas Rangers emerging as American League champions. Did I foresee the epic collapse of my beloved Boston Red Sox? Hey, even the highest-profile seers didn't see that one coming!

OCTOBER

Things went pearshaped and folks felt wormy as Dick Tracy Volume 12 hit the stores. The fifth and final Bloom County Library book was released, but don't fret, Berkeley Breathed fans—Outland will be released in 2012..

Tracy12

Bloom5

On this very website, we premiered Tracy's "Black Bag Mystery." We also announced Cartoon Monarch, our upcoming reprinting of Otto Soglow's The Little King and The Ambassador.

NOVEMBER

We took a deep breath before diving into December, though we did announce a second Bringing Up Father book for 2012. We were sad to mark the passing of Bil Keane, the respected creator of The Family Circus. On October 29th, a sneak-attack snowstorm swept up the East Coast and struck New England, leaving my home without electricity or hot water for three days. Good thing I was too busy to have done a grocery shopping—all I lost was one pork chop and one small steak when my refrigerator and freezer inevitably reached room temperature ...

DECEMBER

And so we came to the twelfth month, and what a month it was!

Secret Agent X-9 Volume 3 rolled off the presses ...

corrigan3

... Then Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim Volume 1 came out, proving that, contrary to the old joke, size does matter.

Flash1

We announced that, thanks to popular demand, we were continuing to reissue Rip Kirby, with a volume featuring the work of John Prentice slated for 2012. We followed that with the very exciting news that we would be reprinting Percy Crosby's Skippy! Dean and I also began making appearances at the LOAC forum on IDW's website.

Finally, less than two weeks before Christmas, Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was hit the shelves and was a hit with fans of comics and animation.

Chuck

And that's the way it was—major releases, exciting announcements, a big industry award, new babies we were glad to welcome and passings we were sad to mark. It was quite a year!

If you enjoyed this website and the LOAC line of books in 2011, keep watching this space. We think you'll like what lies ahead in 2012! It all starts in a week or so with the release of Steve Canyon Volume One!

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Sunday, Jan 1st, 2012

2011: The LOAC Year in Review (part one)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

True, a "Year in Review" feature isn't the most original idea ever hatched, but hey, ‘tis the season! And certainly, during the past twelve months everyone at LOAC Central has been busier than Santa's elves, so what better time than now to take a deep breath and look back on The Year That Wuz?

JANUARY
We ended 2010 with a pretty fair one-two punch, publishing Rip Kirby Volume 3 and our first Champagne Edition release, the wonderful Eisner-nominated Polly and Her Pals. We began the new year with two new entries in our two longest-running series, Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie. Could there be a better way to usher in 2011 than by reading the introduction of Punjab and Mumbles?

Tracy11

LOA6


This month we also announced our second printings of other sold-out titles: Terry and the Pirates Volumes 2-6, Tracy Volume 8, Rip Kirby Volume 1, Bloom County Volumes 2 and 3, Archie, and Bringing Up Father. It was—and remains—very gratifying that enough folks have supported LOAC books enthusiastically enough to make new printings a necessity.


FEBRUARY & MARCH

Bloom County Volume 4 was published, while Volume 1 migrated to the iPad, and we released our second Secret Agent Corrigan, to the delight of fans of Al (Williamson) and Archie (Goodwin)…including ourselves, of course.

Bloom4

corrigan2

APRIL
We bid a heartfelt farewell to Bill Blackbeard while also welcoming Jeet Heer's daughter, Bella, into the world. We announced the Chuck Jones project and produced our first-ever paperback, The Very Best of Dick Tracy.

BestTracy


Still, the highlight of the month was the release of our much-anticipated Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth. This book, two years in the making, was a project near and dear to our hearts. Positive reactions from readers and critics, as well as Alex's family and friends, confirmed we had produced a fitting tribute to Alex's immense talent and fascinating life story.

Toth1


MAY & JUNE
We unveiled our plans for the oversized second LOAC "Champagne Edition" project, Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim. We then released Li'l Abner Volume 3 and a strip that was on our original 2007 list of projects we wanted to do—Miss Fury!

Abner3

MissFury1


Sleek Miss Fury and feisty Mammy Yokum - talk about two ends of the Heroine Spectrum!

I'm tired after recounting all that, and we're only halfway through the year! Watch this space for the concluding installment of this 2011 LOAC Year in Review…

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Sunday, Dec 25th, 2011

The Kind of Tree We Like…

Books

We're taking the week off and will be back with a Year in Review. Happy Holidays and Good Reading to all!

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Wednesday, Dec 21st, 2011

No Man is an Ireland…

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

You know the old gag: "I just flew back from Ohio State University, and boy, are my arms tired…"
I made a commando run to Columbus, Ohio, arriving at 11PM Sunday, December 18th so I could hit the beaches bright and early and make the walk across campus to the Wexler Center.

Pipecleaner

There, shortly after 9AM, I was stepping inside the cozy confines of The Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum for an intense day and a half of research work.

doorsign

rackcard


It was a pleasure to see and speak with old friends Susan Liberator and Marilyn Scott of the Library's staff, and to trade a smile and a wave during lunchtime with the very-busy Jenny Robb as she hustled from one appointment to the next. It was also something of a mini-LOAC summit, since the Imperial Grand Poobah himself, Dean Mullaney, was also on site, accompanied by Art Director Lorraine Turner. We were joined by Jared Gardner, who was so instrumental in putting together our upcoming-and-very-cool Cartoon Monarch, spotlighting the wonderful work and career of Otto Soglow. Jared was on hand, working on Skippy; Dean and Lorraine were looking at Sunday proofs and tear sheets on a yet-to-be-announced project.

Bunky1


Me? I was there to make my way through almost a dozen boxes from the Library's Milton Caniff collection, digging for gold to support of new series of Steve Canyon reprints.

bunky2

Were we all successful? Oh yeah, I'd say so! Lorraine found a very cool strip none of us had ever seen before, titled Girls—Dean was laughing and shaking his head in about equal measure as he made his way through the material he had asked to see—Jared was digging deeply, seeking to solve a mystery of Skippy's earliest days—and yes, I managed to find several new tidbits we can use in future Canyon volumes.

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passing1

I know, I know—Caniff's life and career have been thoroughly covered, in a nine hundred page biography and our own 2011 Caniff: A Visual Biography. It's easy to ask, "What else is there out there that we haven't seen?"
The answer is—a lot! The Library's Caniff Collection encompasses 696 cubic feet of storage space, and it contains everything from the sublime (wonderful artwork and photos) to the ephemeral (do you want to see every vote readers sent in while choosing the film Reed Kimberly would show "The Crag Hag" in order to best exemplify America? They're all in the Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum—votes cast in typewritten letters, in hand-written notes, in post-cards, in a crayon scrawl written across the bottom of Canyon dailies torn out of newspapers. We'll show you the tiniest cross-section of samples when we run the "Crag Hag" story in Steve Canyon Volume 2—and there will be plenty of other juicy tidbits featured in that and future volumes, as well.

Equally interesting to me were the things that are not germane to Canyon, but still of interest to any comics scholar. Joking notes from Bud Sickles to "Pappy" Caniff (in one missive, the latter is referred to as "Uncle Miltie," because Sickles also attached a newspaper clipping featuring an unflattering snapshot of a horse bearing that name!)—letters to Caniff from his old friend, Al Capp, and from Chester (Dick Tracy) Gould, congratulating his peer on making the leap from Terry to Canyon. Perhaps my favorite find was an hysterical letter from Ernie Bushmiller tinged with profanity and building to a scatological conclusion. I laughed out loud as I read it—who knew Nancy's guiding light knew those kinds of words?

While time spent at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is a comics lover's equivalent of a trip to Disneyworld, it is tense and tiring work sifting through the treasures. I went eight straight hours on Monday the 19th, never pausing for lunch or anything but the shortest of breaks. I was making my way through box after box, each filled with more than two-dozen file folders, each file folder packed with scores of artifacts, seeking to find items of sufficient interest to capture for our Canyon series. Which previously-unseen photos were worthy of use? Was one esoteric piece of artwork better than another? Were there letters or other written documents that should be copied for inclusion in the books, or should I simply summarize from them and make use of their information while writing future text pieces? That's a lot of skullsweat and eyestrain, believe me!

passing2

Of course, when teamed with Dean and Lorraine, it's not all hard work and no play. We were reasonably well behaved in Jared's presence, but while he was tending to his professorial duties at the University, we cut a few capers to make Susan and the Library crew either laugh or shake their heads in bemusement (or sometimes both at the same time). We were even willing to stoop to prop comedy—move over, Carrot Top!—doing our best Maurice Chevalier impersonations, using Lorraine's beret for inspiration.

Bruce_beret

 

Dean_beret

Sadly enough for Dean and me, Lorraine topped both of us!

Lorraine_beret

Monday evening we went to Marcella's—an Italian restaurant located between the university and the Columbus downtown district—for fine eats and to talk of the sweet mysteries of life (at last we've found them). Lorraine especially had a smashing good time, sending a water glass crashing to the floor, where it shattered into a bazillion pieces. Who hasn't done the same, somewhere along the line?

Tuesday the 20th was another full day of work for Dean and Lorraine, but a half-day for me: I had an afternoon flight back home to New England, so as Jared, Dean, and Lorraine broke for a slightly-late lunch, I said my goodbyes and beat feet back across campus. My hotel stands in the shadow of the university's mammoth football stadium and the OSU ROTC center.

Stadium

ROTC


I returned there, went back to my room to collect my luggage, completed my late check-out, and caught a lift out to the Port Columbus Airport, where I began the seven-hour journey back home.

So: a great, invigorating, tiring, fascinating, funny, illuminating trip; I am once again indebted to Susan, Marilyn, and everyone else at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum for being welcoming, helpful, and incredibly good sports. And yes, I just flew back from Ohio State University, and boy, are my arms (and eyes, and back, and shoulders…) tired—but it was worth it!

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Monday, Dec 19th, 2011

Walt Kelly on Percy Crosby

We just discovered a copy of this letter today and shared it with Joan Crosby Tibbetts, who had never seen it before. We reproduce it with her permission. Walt Kelly's words speak for themselves…

 

Kelly_on-Crosby

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Wednesday, Dec 7th, 2011

Skippy, at long last

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Skippy1cvr

Last year when I was preparing to head up to Ohio State to research the Milton Caniff artbook with Lorraine Turner and Matt Tauber, and Lorraine and I were continuing on to Michigan State to research Otto Soglow's career, Jeet Heer suggested I get in touch with Jared Gardner, a full-fledged perfessor at OSU who had written some phenomenal essays on comics history, including one on Soglow's pre-Little King strip, the Ambassador.

Little did I know when we met Jared that he would end up writing the biographical essay for Cartoon Monarch, our Soglow book, and that less than a year later he would introduce me to Joan Crosby Tibbetts, Percy Crosby's daughter and the keeper of the Skippy flame. Turns out she and Jared were engaged in a continuing discussion about Jared writing a biography of Joan's famous father.

Well, one thing led to another and as you can tell from the above cover, we at LOAC are extremely proud to start work on the complete reprinting of Percy Crosby's Skippy. Jared and I are co-editing, Lorraine is designing (judging from the cover, we've got a lot to look forward to!), and Joan is providing advice, suggestions, and full access to her father's files and artwork.

family

Percy Crosby sketching Skippy as his wife and children look on.

Long-time comics fans know of Skippy and his creator mainly from Jerry Robinson's 1978 book. In that book, Jules Feiffer gave us the memorable quote: "Percy Crosby caught lightning in a bottle and learned how to draw with it." Milton Caniff once marveled, "Boy, there's nothing faster than watching Skippy run the way Crosby drew him." Crosby was also heralded as "the greatest apostle of motion in the field of art" by Edward Alden Jewell, art critic of the New York Times. His artwork has hung in the Louvre in Paris, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, and the Tate Gallery in London, among other venues, but it's his work as a cartoonist, as the creator of Skippy—the philosopher man-child— for which he's best known.

Created in 1923 in Life magazine, Skippy moved to the comics pages in 1925 and soon became a sensation, published in 28 countries and 14 languages. In 1931 it became the first comic strip to see its film version win an Academy Award. Crosby continued writing and drawing the feature until 1945.

The strip, sadly, is not well known today, but we see in Skippy the spiritual ancestor to Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes, among many other kid strips. Percy Crosby influenced cartoonists from Charles Schulz to Walt Kelly to Garry Trudeau, and perhaps more than any other cartoonist before him brought philosophy and politics to the American newspaper comic strip. In the end, it would be his outspoken political and philosophical beliefs that would place him increasingly outside the mainstream of 1940s American culture, ultimately leading to his exile from comics and his forced incarceration in a mental institution for the last sixteen years of his life. As a result of his tragic end, Crosby's remarkable contributions to American culture have been largely eclipsed, until now.

Skippy1

skippy2

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We'll release the first book—all dailies from 1925-1927—next July. Dailies and Sundays will be in separate books. To whet your appetite, we'll run some Skippy strips every week until the book is published. Check out the dailies above. I think you'll find something familiar in Skippy pining for the "girl in the pink'n'red dress" (shades of Charlie Brown's little red-haired girl), and in Skippy's go-cart flying over the hill (what—no Calvin, no Hobbes?!)

I find the strip irresistable.

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Tuesday, Dec 6th, 2011

Just a month away

canyon ads

Next month we celebrate Steve Canyon's 65th anniversary by releasing the first volume in our new series. Just a few more weeks, folks…

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Thursday, Dec 1st, 2011

Because you asked for it!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

Even before the fourth volume of Rip Kirby (that completed Alex Raymond's brilliant work) hit the bookstores, we started receiving letters from readers who hoped that we'd continue with the incredible art by John Prentice, who picked up the pen and ink duties after Raymond's death and continued it for decades. Prentice received three Reuben Awards for the series, in 1966, 1967, and 1986.

It's not often we can precede the announcement of a book with "Because you asked for it!!!" (with the obligatory triple exclamation points, of course!!!), but in this case, we can. Our Rip Kirby series will keep going next summer with Volume Five. Fred Dickenson, who had been writing the strip with Raymond, keeps the continuity going for Prentice's exquisite art. I've created a new cover design for the Prentice years since the four Raymond covers were meant to be a finite set. For those who haven't seen much of Prentice's art, the cover and the photo below it, speak for themselves.

Rip5

Access to these original King Features Syndicate proofs insure that every daily will look even better than when they were first published in newspapers worldwide. Volume Five contains more than three years of strips, every one from October 22, 1956 to December 5, 1959, and sees the return of Rip's arch enemy, the Mangler.

prenticeart

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Saturday, Nov 26th, 2011

To Praise DOONES, Not to BURY Him

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Long before I established my toenail-hold in this business I was a comics fan, and to this day I still spend a portion of my hard-earned dough-re-mi money on comics and collections from other publishers. I thought I'd take a moment to offer an enthusiastic thumbs-up for a mammoth volume I recently finished reading.

 

D1

40: A Doonesbury Retrospective is even bigger and weightier than our books—those who have complained in the past that LOAC books are too bulky will want to stay away from this monster compendium of G.B. Trudeau's wry strip of sociopolitical commentary.

They're the only ones to whom I would give that advice.

I began reading Doonesbury in the early 1970s, probably in high school, which is when I first had regular access to the strip through the school's subscription to the daily Boston Globe. I know by 1975 I had plunked down $6.95 for the first "big" collection of the strip, The Doonesbury Chronicles. I was an avid Trudeau reader for several years and continued to buy the "big" collections through 1993's The Portable Doonesbury. And then I stopped, for any number of reasons—the strip had grown increasingly political at a time when I was becoming increasingly apolitical, I was no longer reading the Globe on a steady basis, demands on my time grew for many reasons, and it became easy to bid farewell to the whacky Walden crew. Then, earlier this year, I got the opportunity to score 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective at a bargain price. The time seemed right to renew old acquaintances, and I'm mighty glad I did.

D2

While it's not like 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective is devoid of political commentary, the folks behind this collection have (very wisely, I think) made a conscious decision to focus on the characters, and as a result readers get to appreciate Doonesbury as our generation's Gasoline Alley. It was great nostalgic fun for me to go back to those early strips and watch the Walden commune take shape around Mike Doonesbury, the perpetually stoned Zonker, right-wing simpleton/jock B.D., and leather-lunged activity Mark Slackmeyer—the arrival of runaway-housewife-turned-feminist kicked the strip in one direction—the fictionalized Hunter Thompson-refry, Duke, yanked the narrative onto an entirely different (and significantly more combustible!) path.

 

D3

What amazed me while reading 40 was how much I enjoyed the exploits of all the new characters Trudeau had introduced in the more than fifteen years I had been away from his work. He's reared an entire second generation of characters: Mike's daughter, Alex; Joanie and Rick Redfern's son, Jeff; Zipper Harris, that next-generation Zonker; B.D. and Boopsie's daughter, Sam; even Duke ended up with a junior version of himself, Earl (yes, that makes him "Earl Duke"). These characters either carry on the aspects of their elders while still clearly being separate and distinct personalities (a considerable bit of characterizational legerdemain, that) or they serve as a sort of walking alternate universe, allowing us to explore what it might have been like if one of the core characters had made different choices and grown along different paths.

A further hearty bravo is extended to 40 for capturing so many touching, emotionally honest milestones from the strip's long history. The deaths of first Dick Davenport, then his wife, former Congresswoman Lacey D.—Joanie's graduation from law school—J.J. leaving Mike, and then later, single-parent Mike finding happiness with younger, still-edgy-but-more-settled Kim—Rick's dismissal from the Washington Post, leaving him cut adrift in the rapidly-changing 21st Century, scrabbling establish himself as a political blogger. Call me a softie, but it all hit me where I lived, as did Trudeau's multi-year examination of the situation for wounded veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan. It's courageous storytelling starting in April, 2004, when original cast member B.D. faces a startling loss. Watching the life changes that stem from that one searing moment made for compelling, affecting reading. B.D.'s unfolding story was allowed to intertwine with a pair of new characters, two other returning vets—Melissa, who was sexually assaulted by her own fellow soldiers, and Toggle, the techno-wiz who keeps the tunes flowing until one day ...

I see Trudeau putting a human face (if a fictional one) on the cost of these "wars on terror" and it's to the mass media's shame that he seems to be the only one who was doing it. The "major" outlets were seemingly concerned with "embedding" journalists and getting sexy night-vision camera shots than with relating the real story to the folks at home.

By the end of this massive compilation, all three of those veterans have reached a good place again, and yes, I admit it, I brushed away a tear at the conversation between Toggle and Mike on the last page, reprinting the June 6, 2010 Sunday page.

Go ahead—call me a softie.

D4

40: A Doonesbury Retrospective isn't a Library of American Comics book, but we haven't shied away from recommending projects from other publishers that are worthy of your attention and I'm here to tell you, regardless of your political leanings (or lack of same), this is a book that repays the reading.

Unless, of course, you're one of those who don't like their books to weigh too much…

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Monday, Nov 21st, 2011

No Turkeys Here!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Thanksgiving doesn't fall on the same day each year, of course, but this year on November 24th, we celebrate the Pilgrims and the Indians breaking bread. This seems a good time, then, to check out which comics readers would find in their daily newspapers on that date in years past.

This time, we set the Wayback Machine for another Thanksgiving Thursday, this one November 24th, 1938. Here are some of the strips readers saw when they opened their daily newspapers seventy-three years ago ...

Turkey and stuffing were on no one's mind in far-off China, but a newly-affluent Connie and Big Stoop were having misadventures of their own, away from Terry and Pat, in Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates:

TurkeyTerry

The situation took a turn for the worse when they quickly crashed their new go-buggy into the limousine of the crafty Baron de Plexus. Our four heroic lads would match wits and fists with the Baron (and that ground-breaking villainess, Sanjak) well into the first four months of 1939.

Things were a bit grimmer in the American heartland. There, in a major Midwestern metropolis (Chet Gould's, not Clark Kent's), Dick Tracy was fighting for his life. Strapped into an iron lung, the relentless manhunter had been blinded and nearly killed by an explosive poison gas booby-trap set by the villainous Karpse:

TurkeyTracy

It would take another month to reach play out, but Karpse would come to no good end, while Tracy would recover both his vision and his health.

In different part of the selfsame heartland, Little Orphan Annie and Sandy are with another of their temporary families for Turkey Day. And it's a happy household indeed in 1938: the elderly Mrs. Alden's dastardly tormenter is in jail and Jack the Truck-Drivin' Man is ready to propose to Rose Chance:

TurkeyLOA

By week's end, however, some not-so-nice guys stop in for some doughnuts…but are baked goods and a cup of java really what's on the mind of their leader—the international criminal mastermind named Axel!

Events in Dogpatch offered a bit of a lighter touch, as Al Capp pauses his main story-line at a melodramatic point (Luke Scragg has just sold Salomey the pig to her worst enemy - a butcher! - for the princely sum of four dollars) to provide a stand-alone strip focusing on Pappy's holiday plight:

TurkeyAbner

Li'l Abner was no place for tragic turns of events, naturally, so Pappy's peripatetic progeny saved Salomey from - err-r-r - hamming it up in Friday's strip. And readers were only a few days away from another treat - Abner's encounter with "Bet-a-Million" Bashby!

Here at The Library of American Comics, we wish you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings—with no auto accidents, iron lungs, possible kidnappings, or atomized turkeys to mar your holidays!

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Sunday, Nov 20th, 2011

Soundtrack Now Available

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

Some folks like to spend time figuring out the best music by which to read a story; my brain isn’t wired that way. To me, books are books and albums are a musical version of novels—putting the two together is like mixing strawberries and hamburgers. Each is great separately, but you wouldn’t want to eat a strawberry-covered hamburger!

(And yes, I know the popular conception of music has migrated away from albums in favor of single songs mixed together into playlists…but you’ll pardon me if I’m not that much of a hip-hop-happening guy!)

Li’l Abner Volume 4 is one of those rare cases, however, where I can suggest some music you may want to listen to as you read the 1941-1942 hijinx of Al Capp’s cornpone creations.

Wreck

The early 1940s were a tremendous period of creativity for Capp and there are some great storylines to be found in Volume 4. In addition to the infamous Gone With the Wind parody pages, inside this book you’ll find Salomey (and her zoot snoot and drape shape) menaced by the malevolent J.P. Fangsby—Aunt Bessie, Moonbeam McSwine, and some curvaceous cuties menaced by a strange nocturnal curse—Mammy’s culinary exploits in both Manhattan and Hollywood—the extended hunt for “Cherry Blossom” that is an oblique take-off on Citizen Kane—and, as they say, much more.

Throughout 1941, Capp was also dropping titles of songs into his text and now, thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can go to the popular music download sites and find those songs for yourself. I went to the most popular of those sites in order to produce this mini-soundtrack I can recommend to you:

“Between 18th and 19th on Chestnut Street” is the address Mammy rushes to in order to save Li’l Abner, who is unknowingly being robbed of his “Type X” blood. It’s also a hit song by Charlie Barnet, available on his collection Swing Street Strut.

In Capp’s fertile mind, the Andrews Sisters’s “Rhumboogie” was perfect for the name of a remote country populated by headhunters. There are several versions of “Rhumboogie” available; I’m partial to the one on The Andrews Sisters: 50th Anniversary Collection.

Andrews

And The Flying Avenger’s encounter with Amapola is one of Capp’s sexiest sequences. “Amapola” was a hit for Jimmy Dorsey that had an extended run at the top of the charts – it was getting major play while Capp was creating the comic strips and it was still being bought and getting airplay when the finished cartoons appeared in the newspaper, many weeks later. Jimmy’s version is available on The Dorsey Brothers, but you’ll find many other interesting renditions by artists such as Xavier Cugat (The Best of) and Glenn Miller (50 Finest). I’m partial to the Tex-Mex version recorded by the singing cowboy himself, Gene Autry; if you’re curious, you’ll find that on his collection, The Last Round-Up.

Dorseys

And just in case you’re not inclined to spend your hard-earned dollars on 1940s music (not when you can be buying 1940s comics instead!), the major download sites typically offer you a chance to sample a portion of the songs so you can get a flavor of the sounds that helped shape some of the funniest strips to grace the newspaper page in the last months before America went to War.

Abner4

And while the comics in Li’l Abner Volume 4 are plenty funny on their own, you may find this extra “You Are There” flavor will make them seem even funnier!

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Monday, Nov 14th, 2011

Of Cabbages and Kings

When our books hit the stores (and virtual stores, as the case may be), it's the final stage in a process that begins a year or two earlier. Here at LOAC, we sit down for weekly meetings to go over our production schedule and to brainstorm new projects. We all have a list a mile long that contains more strips than we have time to anthologize. For those strips that DO make the cut, it all starts with researching and reading.

BUF2d

In most of our books, we start at the beginning and present chronological, complete sets. Little Orphan Annie is a good example. In some cases—for non-continuity strips which use similar themes over the decades, we feel that a "Best of…" format is ideal. Think of the forthcoming Little King collection. With some strips—like Bringing Up Father—we decided that a hybrid approach is more appropriate: not a complete chronology, but also not a "Best of." It's kinda like a "Best of" chronology. The first volume presented what has been called one of the Ten Best Strip Stories of All Time: "From Sea to Shining Sea," which began on January 1, 1939 and continued through July 1940.

When the Powers That Be at IDW (namely our hero, Ted Adams) told us that the initial BUF volume sold well enough to continue the series, that's when we got down to some serious eye strain. Bruce Canwell, who edits BUF, started reading dailies in the mid-1930s, while I started in the late 1920s; Lorraine Turner got the choice job of reading the Sundays. Once we each finished, we traded strips. What do we actually read from? The first thing we do is scour the Library's stacks and see what tearsheets and clipped strips we have on hand; then we look through our collection of syndicate proofs; and finally, to fill in the gaps, we borrow what we can from collectors and spend considerable time at various universities and institutions.

BUF2a

BUF2b

BUF2c


To make a long story short, we came up with two chronological sequences that we particularly liked. One begins in 1935 when Jiggs tries to lose all his money so he can move back to the old neighborhood, ends up buying a movie studio, while Maggie runs for Mayor, and the saga continues through the end of 1936. The second starts in 1937 as Maggie and Jiggs make plans to attend the Coronation of King George VI (depicted in the recent film, The King's Speech…the coronation, that is, not Maggie and Jiggs's visit), follows along as Jiggs goes broke, and concludes at the end of 1938 when… Wait a minute, I can't give away the ending!

Which sequence will be in BUF 2? It was a close call. The cover says it all.

BUF2


The funny thing we realized is that unlike all of our other series in which we move forward chronologically, with BUF we're moving BACKWARDS. "Of Cabbages and Kings" ends where "From Sea to Shining Sea" begins. And if things continue to go well, the third book ("You Oughta Be In Pictures") will end where "Kings" starts.

To lesson in all this? To keep the strip in the correct reading order on your bookcase, place the first book published last, and the last book published first.

Make sense?

I hope not.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Nov 13th, 2011

Grab the popcorn and find a comfortable chair…

On Friday, November 11, our very own Bruce Canwell sat down with Scott Katz of US Townhall in a freewheeling interview that runs almost three hours. According to the Townhall website, "highlights include what promises to be the definitive version of Alex Raymond's classic comic strip Flash Gordon as well as Milton Caniff's masterpiece Steve Canyon.  And what's this about a book featuring Chuck Jones' little-seen brief foray into the world of comic strips?  Listen in and find out."

During the chat, they discuss the current status of each of LOAC's major book series and when you can expect the next volumes to arrive in stores.  Since Bruce is also a long-time comic book fan, the interview take a few detours to reminisce about some of his favorites from his formative years.

 

 

 

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Friday, Nov 11th, 2011

Steve Canyon, December 25, 1948

Veterans

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Thursday, Nov 10th, 2011

The Proof is in the…

Canyon_proof

The only thing more exciting than seeing the proof for a new book from the printer is receiving the actual book a month later. This week is proof-time for Steve Canyon. It arrived late yesterday; this morning I was proofing it overlooking the dock and palm trees (life can be tough sometimes) before heading into the office. As I've mentioned at other times, we still check everything by hand. Depending on which book it is, here at LOAC the proofing is done by me, Art Director Lorraine Turner, or Associate Editor Bruce Canwell. On the other coast, Justin Eisinger and Alonzo Simon proof their own copy at IDW headquarters. We'd like to think that between all of us, we catch mistakes before the books are printed. Usually. Fingers crossed and all that.

Time to grab that cup and finish my coffee.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Nov 9th, 2011

Bil Keane (1922-2011)

Keane

The sad news today from Arizona is that cartoonist Bil Keane, whose Family Circus has delighted us for fifty years, died of congestive heart failure. He was 89.

Keane debuted The Family Circus in February 1960 and drew endless inspiration from his real-life family. Those endlessly curious, often too clever children and their loving, long-suffering parents captured the essence of the typical American family.

All of us at the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing join his family in celebrating Bil Keane's life.

Silly

Family

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Nov 7th, 2011

Those Midnight Munchies

Blondie2

We just sent the second Blondie book to the printer. It concludes our two-volume collection that reprints, for the very first time, the earliest Blondie comic strips. Our first volume detailed Blondie and Dagwood’s courtship and ended with their momentous wedding. The comics in this book pick up the story with the young couple on their madcap honeymoon, followed by their attempts to settle in to a middle class life of married bliss.

In these strips, Chic Young introduced many of the strip’s supporting players: next-door neighbors Tootsie and Herb Woodley, the attractive Miss Teasley, Dagwood’s boss Mr. Dithers…and most important of all… Blondie and Dagwood’s first child, Baby Dumpling (later named Alexander) and their ever-loving dog, Daisy.

Young also debuts the familiar set-pieces that became visual reference points in the strip: Dagwood in the bathtub, Dagwood taking a nap on the couch, Blondie and Dagwood sleeping together in their double bed, Dagwood running to catch the bus, Blondie and Dagwood sitting in opposing chairs, Dagwood reading the newspaper at the breakfast table, Dagwood talking to Herb over the backyard fence, Dagwood running into the mailman, Dagwood getting berated by Mr. Dithers…and most importantly, Dagwood making a sandwich in the middle of the night.

Here it is, folks, the first midnight raid on the refrigerator, from August 14, 1934.

Sandwich

Needless to say, there's a lot more to discover in this indispensable look at America’s favorite married couple.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Nov 7th, 2011

Stuff Happens

Here's one of those subjects no publisher likes to talk about, but every audience member wants to hear about…

There isn't a single publisher in existence who wants to be late delivering their books—yet inevitably, every publisher ends up shipping something after its promise-date. The reasons for being late are many and varied. I'll let other companies speak for themselves, but here are the two major reasons some Library of American Comics projects are delayed: [1] we run into unexpected difficulties finding key material, meaning we have to go to secondary sources to search out missing strips and [2] paraphrasing Sparky Schulz's far-famed beagle, "Good grief, we're only human!"

In short, sometimes Stuff Happens.

storm1

The most recent Stuff that Happened to me was the rare October nor'easter that struck the East Coast on Saturday the 29th. As late as the 11:00 PM local weather forecasts on the Friday before the storm, we were told to expect the snow to start falling around 8:00 PM Saturday—au contraire! Around here the pasty, heavy white flakes started falling just after 3:30 in the afternoon; by 4:30 PM the roads and sidewalks were white and greasy (a friend, driving home with her family around this time, got into a moderately serious car accident as another driver was traveling much too fast, skidded through a stop sign, into the intersection, and then zonked—whammo!—into her car. No major injuries, but both cars were totaled).

By 7:30 PM, electricity went out in my home…and didn't come back for about three days.

It was an interesting experience, but not one I'd care to repeat anytime soon. No heat, no hot water, no way to cook food, the only illumination coming from sunlight during the day, flashlights or my Coleman lantern at night. That was the situation inside - outside was even freakier.

When I stepped outside Sunday morning, it was like a bomb had gone off in the neighborhood. The thick snow had landed on tree branches that often had not finished shedding their leaves, adding pounds of extra weight. Add to that increasingly-high winds as the storm wound down, and it meant many trees simply couldn't stand the burden. Huge branches had crashed to earth - or smashed down onto power lines, either getting tangled in them or causing them to snap altogether. A thin white pine in my front yard had cracked in two roughly sixty percent of the way up its trunk; I could see the individual interior wood fibers at the point of the break, looking almost like sheaves of paper.

Taking to the streets revealed an even more chaotic situation. Whole malls and shopping centers—normally bustling on a Sunday—were without power, doors locked, parking lots empty. Traffic lights were dark, making certain intersections an adventure to navigate. In each instance, the few gas stations open for business had cars backed up for more than a quarter-mile, drivers waiting to fill not just their vehicles, but also containers they would use to fuel snow blowers or generators. The other places that appeared to be jam-packed were fast food outlets - the ones that were open had no available parking spots, with cars snaking around the block, impatiently waiting to reach the drive-thrus.

storm2

I stopped at a local supermarket. The interior of the building appeared dark, but its doors were open, cars were in the parking lot, and customers were trickling in and out. I entered and found minimal lighting, but the scanners and cash registers functioning. The frozen food and deli sections had been blocked off—no power meant establishments like this one would be taking a sizeable loss, since thawing frozen food would be a total loss. "Eerie" is not too strong a word to describe the scene…and I'm told this was one of the lucky supermarkets. Some reportedly could not power their check-out stations, but opened for business on a cash-only basis, with extra employees on hand to manually record the SKU numbers of purchases in the hope (likely a vain one) of maintaining inventory control.

All in all it was almost the way Sherwood Schwartz wrote it, fifty years ago: "No phone, no lights, no motor car/Not a single lux-ur-ee…"

And of course, for me, the storm and its aftermath meant I lost a whole batch of time during which I expected to be able to work on LOAC projects. Will any of our books ship late as a result of my storm-tossed adventure? This time we dodged the bullet, in part because I worked at warp-speed to try to catch up once my electricity was restored in the middle of the following week. (Well, I worked at warp-speed after I grabbed my first shave and hot shower in far too long!)

But in a small outfit like LOAC, sometimes we have to accept the limitations imposed on our staff that are beyond anyone's control, and hope that our loyal readers will understand that, sometimes, Stuff Happens.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Thursday, Nov 3rd, 2011

The launch date is approaching…

Canyon and Copper

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Nov 1st, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 36: The End!

Here's the thirty-sixth and final installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them. It's still an open case, folks! Here's your chance to match wits with Dick Tracy: we encourage you to write your own solutions in fifty words or less. Please send YOUR solution by November 20th to info@loacomics.com. Don't look for any part of that twenty-five grand—the Trib gave that away more than sixty years ago! Instead, we'll print our favorite solutions here by the end of November.

bb36

 

50words

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Oct 31st, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 35

Here's the thirty-fifth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end! Don't miss the final chapter tomorrow!!!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Oct 30th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 34

Here's the thirty-fourth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

Blackbag34

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Saturday, Oct 29th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 33

Here's the thirty-third installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Oct 28th, 2011

Size DOES Matter

BigFlash

If anyone had any doubts that our Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim series was going to be big, this picture of Lorraine Turner— the book's designer holding her handiwork—will dispel them. We just received our advance copy from the printer, which means it should be in stores in about four weeks. Time to break out the champagne!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Oct 28th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 32

Here's the thirty-second installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Thursday, Oct 27th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 31

Here's the thirty-first installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Oct 26th, 2011

LOAC interviewed at Comic Book Resources

Chuckdrawing

Kurtis Findlay (co-editor of Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was) and I talk at length with Alex Deuben of Comic Book Resources about Chuck Jones, Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim, Milton Caniff, and much more. Read it here!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Oct 26th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 30

Here's the thirtieth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Oct 25th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 29

Here's the twenty-ninth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Oct 24th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 28

Here's the twenty-eighth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

bb28

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Oct 23rd, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 27

Here's the twenty-seventh installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Saturday, Oct 22nd, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 26

Here's the twenty-sixth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Oct 21st, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 25

Here's the twenty-fifth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Thursday, Oct 20th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 24

Here's the twenty-fourth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Oct 19th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 23

Here's the twenty-third installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Oct 18th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 22

Here's the twenty-second installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Oct 17th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 21

Here's the twenty-first installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Oct 16th, 2011

"Macon" Something Of It

Friends know I've been a Doc Savage fan since I was about ten years old, when I stood amidst the paperback racks at Day's Variety and decided to take a sixty-cent flyer on Bantam's fifty-fifth Doc reprint, The Golden Peril. That was no small gamble for my youthful self—after all, sixty cents bought four comic books back in those days! —but it turned out to be an excellent bet, since that particular adventure not only featured all of Doc's five intrepid aides, it also took them back to the country of Hidalgo and on to the hidden Valley of the Vanished for the first time since The Man of Bronze, the inaugural installment of the series.

It was, as we like to say today, a great jumping-on point, and I was along for the full ride: the ten-year-old in me remained sold on the bronze man and his friends through Bantam's ninety-six single-novel reprints, their fifteen "Doc double" collections, and their final thirteen multi-story "Omnibus" releases. The reprinting all 182 Doc Savage supersagas spanned four decades, from the 1960s to the 1990s, and I still think kindly of Bantam Books for seeing the project through to completion. Would any major publisher in the 21st Century show such dedication?

We'll likely never know the answer to that question, though a smaller publisher is busy once again reprinting Doc Savage, as well as the pulp exploits of The Shadow, The Avenger, and The Whisperer. For the past five years Anthony Tollin's Sanctum Books imprint has regularly released two, sometimes three, of Doc's exploits in "quality paperback-sized" editions that feature the pulps' original two-column format, as well as original interior illustrations by the likes of Paul Orban and the fantastic Edd Cartier; for the past five years, the ten-year-old in me has regularly seized control of my wallet.

Yes, once again I am buying Doc Savage reprints—it's worth supporting Sanctum Books as they keep the hero-pulp legacy alive, and even if I rarely find time to re-read one of the novels—"Someday," I always promise myself, "someday…"—I always find the "extras" in each volume of great interest.

Yes, like The Library of American Comics, Sanctum Books includes text features in each of their books. (They also occasionally run radio scripts from the title character's various broadcast incarnations, or pieces on their translations into comics format, or non-series short stories the authors placed in other outlets, but for today, my focus is on Sanctum's non-fiction text features.) Pulp historian Will Murray does the honors, and his work reflects his years of detailed research into the genesis and evolution of the hero pulps, as well as his unique position as executor of the estate of Lester Dent, the primary author of the Doc Savage series.

Imagine my surprise, while reading Will's July 2011 "Intermission" article in the forty-ninth Sanctum Doc Savage paperback, at realizing his work and mine had crossed paths!

That July release contained reprints of The Terror in the Navy and Waves of Death. Terror, Will informed us in his piece, was written in December, 1935 (though originally published sixteen months later, in April of '37). The story deals with a mysterious force that threatens to wreck America's naval forces, and Will points out that Lester Dent based this plot on the then-famous Honda Point accident of 1923, when seven American destroyers ran aground. Will gives an informative summary of the event, "the largest peacetime naval disaster in U.S. history," then goes on to describe three famous military air incidents spanning the years 1923 through 1935, during the period when America's military was making use of lighter-than-air dirigibles. Reading about the first two, the Shenandoah and the Akron, was intriguing enough, but I really sat up and took notice when I reached Will's description of the third wreck, the airship Macon. That was the disaster the Associated Press assigned their hotshot young artist, Noel Sickles, to illustrate for release across the news wire! We reprinted the image on page twenty-eight of our Scorchy Smith & The Art of Noel Sickles, and the artist himself remained proud of that particular piece, saying:

[The A.P. piece] I think most memorable was when the dirigible Macon went down in a storm in the Pacific Ocean. The word came in and I had two hours to do the drawing. A storm had forced it into the ocean and the impact had broken it in two. I had to figure out where it would break and what sort of rescue ships would be looming over the horizon. I picked cruisers. Interestingly enough, this did prove to be the right choice. The picture was the first drawing ever transmitted over wirephoto to papers around the country. At first the wirephoto people didn't want to send it, because it wasn't a picture, but it was sent and published on Page One of most newspapers.

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The Murray article provides additional information about what forced Macon down on February 12, 1935; he goes on to say, "To this day, both the Akron and the Macon hold the record for the largest helium-filled dirigibles ever constructed. Only the equally ill-fated, hydrogen-filled Hindenburg dwarfed them." He also notes that "reverberations from the Macon disaster were still echoing when Lester Dent penned The Terror in the Navy." Could it be that Dent saw the Sickles depiction of the crashed and sinking Macon? We will never know for sure, but it's fun to conjecture…

I recommend Will's piece to anyone with an interest in the final voyages of the Macon, her sister ship, the Akron, or the earlier Shenandoah‚—and of course, I recommend the Sanctum Books hero-pulp reprints if, like me, you have an irrepressible ten-year-old inside you who would enjoy a little indulging!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Sunday, Oct 16th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 20

Here's the twentieth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Saturday, Oct 15th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 19

Here's the nineteenth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Oct 14th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 18

Here's the eighteenth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Thursday, Oct 13th, 2011

A Big Book for a Little King

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Otto Soglow wrote and drew The Little King for more than forty years. In preparation for the upcoming release of our Otto Soglow book, we had to read upwards of 2,000 Little King Sunday pages in order to choose which strips we felt were the most representative of his minimalistic genius. Think about it: we had to read more than 2,000 Sunday pages. Sometimes I have to kick myself in the pants: Does anyone really have a better job than this?

Sheesh!

The book, though, is more than just The Little King. It also presents every installment of The Ambassador, the strip Soglow created for King Features as a stand-in for the King until such time as his contract with The New Yorker (where Soglow created his diminuative monarch) ended. Soglow's career, of course, began before The Little King. As Jared Gardner notes in his lengthy introduction, Soglow was a man whose origins and political sensibilities were always with the working man on the street—and even the angry mob—but whose career brought him into the loving embrace of the most powerful men and corporations in the country, including most importantly William Randolph Hearst. Out of this tension is born everything we love about this cartoon monarch.

Here's some examples of what the book has to offer:

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A 1933 ad, one of a series for Standard Oil.

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An book illustration from 1930's Through the Alimentary Canal.

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A King Features promo sheet for the strip.

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A 1942 ad for Fleischmann's Yeast.

 

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An early Little King strip from the New Yorker days.

 

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A 1951 Sunday page.

 

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Above: A 1958 Sunday—Soglow was still fresh and funny after doing the strip for twenty-four years.

Below: samples from 1962 and 1963 that show Soglow as a true master of the form.

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And on that note…adieu.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Thursday, Oct 13th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 17

Here's the seventeenth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Oct 12th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 16

Here's the sixteenth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Oct 11th, 2011

Author! Author! (in the future, perhaps?!)

Bruce Canwell's been keeping you up to date on the great team of writers who contribute to our books. He also told you about the recent birth announcements of a Baby Heer and a Baby Findlay. Not to be outdone, over in Illinois on September 2nd, TWO -- count 'em, TWO -- more babies decided to say hello to this world:

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Please join us and their parents Keri and Jeff (Dick Tracy) Kersten in welcoming Norah Grace Kersten and Halas Parker Kersten.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Oct 11th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 15

Here's the fifteenth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Oct 10th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 14

Here's the fourteenth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Oct 9th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 13

Here's the thirteenth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Saturday, Oct 8th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 12

Here's the twelfth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Oct 7th, 2011

Author! Author! (again!)

Like most publishers of classic newspaper comics strips, we here at LOAC run short Introductions to many of our books. Sometimes they are informed observations penned by talented contemporaries—Jim Steranko's brilliant intro to Scorchy Smith & The Art of Noel Sickles stands as a shining example. Other times they are personal reminiscences from those who knew or loved the talented person in question, such as Mark Chiarello's heartfelt tribute to Alex Toth in Genius, Isolated, which earned high praise from Toth's children.

In addition to these introductions, Library of American Comics volumes typically feature long-form essays that seek to place the strip in question into biographical and historical context. Last time I inhabited this space, I tipped my cap to Jeff Kersten and Max Allan Collins, Kurtis Findlay, and Jeet Heer for producing the informative essays that help LOAC remain among the leaders of our field. But more than those four fine gents have contributed to our success, so this time around I'll continue to proceed alphabetically through this clutch of kudos for LOAC's wordsmiths…

Trina Robbins (Miss Fury) - Who better to provide a biographical overview of the woman cartoonist who created her own female superhero than Trina, who co-founded both the underground anthology Wimmen's Comix and the Friends of Lulu organization? Trina's career also includes a Wonder Woman one-shot (produced with respected artist Colleen Doran) focusing on the issue of spousal abuse—such erudite tomes as Women and the Comics, A Century of Women Cartoonists, and The Great Women Cartoonists—the further comic-book adventures of ground-breaking TV lady gumshoe Honey West—and other credits too numerous to mention in this short space. Trina has contributed to past Miss Fury reprintings, but in our case she served as both editor and writer, giving her the opportunity to not only share her insights into the life and career of Tarpé Mills, but also her available pages from Mills's never-published Albino Jo graphic novel.

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Trina and Dean go way back. A 30-year-old blast from the past: the Eclipse Comics panel at an early 1980s NY Comic Con. Left to right: Trina Robbins, Marshall Rogers, Dean Mullaney, and P. Craig Russell. Off-camera on the left are Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty.

Maggie Thompson (Archie) - The story of Archie and his parent publisher is unique in comics history, a tale that spans from the pulps to comic books to the comic strip (and, later, beyond into television, music, and other storytelling and merchandizing outlets). Maggie Thompson is more than just the guiding light of the Comics Buyer's Guide—she is an important voice in the industry who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of all three of the worlds that helped spawn Riverdale and let it grow roots until it became an enduring part of Americana. Maggie's work helped many new readers become conversant with "Archie's secret origin," and helped our Archie volume earn the coveted Eisner Award at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.

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A page from the forthcoming Archie's Sunday Best, a compilation of selected Sundays by Bob Montana from the late 1940s and early 1950s. Look for it in March.

Brian Walker (Rip Kirby, Bringing Up Father, Blondie) - Comics may literally be encoded in Brian's DNA, since he's the son of fabled cartoonist Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey and other memorable strips. Brian has followed in his father's footsteps, helping to continue Beetle and Hi & Lois in the 21st Century, while also producing literally dozens of books. 2010's popular Doonesbury & The Art of G.B. Trudeau is still earning praise, while perhaps Brian's most indispensible release is The Comics: The Complete Collection (a compendium of the previous two-volume set, The Comics Before 1945 and The Comics After 1945). Brian also founded The Museum of Cartoon Art and has served as curator for scores of exhibitions devoted to comics and cartooning, including a recent showing focused on Flash Gordon. Clearly, Brian takes a back seat to no one in terms of enthusiasm for the comics artform.

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Dagwood and Blondie visit the Chicago World's Fair!

A roll call like this wouldn't be complete without mentioning Berkeley Breathed and his entertaining "commentary tracks" for our Bloom County reprints…and oh yes, I've been known to write a feature article or two for the line. I'm influenced at least in part by the great New Yorker essayists of my youth (can you call yourself a baseball fan without having read Roger Angell's Summer Game and Late Innings?), and I hope it's apparent that I try hard to entertain as well as inform on every project I tackle. It's a constant challenge, striving to equal the quality of material produced by this talented line-up of writers—but we all strive to produce text worthy of the creators and strips we're covering!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Friday, Oct 7th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 11

Here's the eleventh installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Thursday, Oct 6th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 10

Here's the tenth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2011

Author! Author!

There are no dummies here at LOAC Central (though I suppose some might argue that point, ho-ho). We know it's the immense talents of cartoonists such as Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Cliff Sterrett, and Alex Toth and the iconic series like Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, Little Orphan Annie, and Blondie that attract people to Library of American Comics releases. Still 'n' all, we're proud of the introductory material we produce on a regular basis. While almost every publisher involved in the strip-reprint business offers some sort of text feature in the front or the back of their products, we consistently hear from diverse sources that our historical/biographical articles tend to go above and beyond the industry's baseline, adding real value and lending our books a distinctive identity.

We obviously enjoy hearing such praise, though on that score each individual reader comes to his or her own conclusion. What we do know is: the quality of our essays is a reflection of the quality of our writers. Here, then, is the first in a two-part salute to the talented instructors at the LOAC College of Comic Strip Knowledge—in alphabetical order, no less!—with a sprinkling of fun facts for good measure ...

Max Allan Collins (Dick Tracy) - Max has been offering his keen insights into Tracy's sprawling cast of characters and morally ambivalent world since the outset, pointing out how no one depicted weather better than Chester Gould and cautioning us that Chet paced his stories with readers of the daily newspaper in mind. Who better to provide such observations, since Max took over writing Dick Tracy from Gould, enjoying a run of more than fifteen years on the series. Writing is a family affair in the Collins household, since Max and his wife collaborate on a series of mystery novels under the nom de plume Barbara Allan.

Kurtis Findlay (Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was) - Kurtis is the newest member of LOAC's brigade of wordsmiths. A Chuck Jones fan extraordinaire, he found one passing reference to Jones's obscure short-lived comic strip, Crawford, and grew it into a jumbo-sized book that will delight comics mavens and animation buffs alike. I learned a tremendous amount about Chuck Jones from Kurtis's Dream essay, and this is my first chance to public thank him for his fine work - and to congratulate his wife and him on their brand-new (as of September 19th) baby boy—Milo Crawford Findlay!

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Kurtis uncovered so much material that the book has swelled from 228 to 288 pages. Even with all that extra space, these two items didn't make the final cut. Some Chuck Jones extras for y'all.

Jeet Heer (Little Orphan Annie, Polly & Her Pals) - As you may remember from one of our earlier entries in this space, Jeet also welcomed a new addition (daughter Bella Elinor) into his family earlier this spring. Jeet sets the gold standard for comics scholarship—his work much in demand and appearing in not just LOAC's books, but in other strip releases from Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics as well—and he is unquestionably the world's foremost authority on Harold Gray and Little Orphan Annie. Did you catch him on CBS's Sunday Morning TV program last year, in the wake of the announcement of Annie's cancellation in the nation's newspapers?

Tommygun

Jeff Kersten (Dick Tracy) - Since Volume 7 of the LOAC Dick Tracy, Jeff has been augmenting Max Allan Collins's essays with separate entries of his own that serve up a wealth of historical/biographical information about Chet Gould and his sharp-eyed sleuth. Jeff has long-standing connections to the Gould family, since he helped found the Chester Gould/Dick Tracy Museum and publishes the limited-edition Sunday Project that reprints Tracy Sunday pages in full color. On more than one occasion since Jeff joined our Dick Tracy mix, Chet's daughter, Jean Gould O'Connell, has contacted Dean to tell him how happy she is that her father's beliefs regarding storytelling, religion, politics, crime-fighting, and the business of comics are being accurately documented, sometimes for the very first time. There is no greater joy for Dean, Lorraine, and I than to satisfy the families and descendents of the fine cartoonists of yesteryear, and it pleases us no end that Jean offers Jeff her vote of confidence for the work he is turning in on Tracy.

letter

Here's a great example of of what Jeff and Chet's daughter Jean add to series: Chester Gould's thoughts in his own words.

Believe it or not, we've only reached the halfway point of the LOAC writer roster! I'll be back soon with a tip of the John Steed-like bowler in the direction of our remaining purveyors of auctorial acumen.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 9

Here's the ninth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Oct 4th, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 8

Here's the eighth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Oct 3rd, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 7

Here's the seventh installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! We're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Oct 2nd, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Part 6

Here's the sixth installment of "The Black Bag Mystery" by Chester Gould! The first five appeared yesterday; we're keeping all previous installments uploaded so you can refer back to them to help solve the mystery at the end!

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Saturday, Oct 1st, 2011

The Black Bag Mystery Parts 1-5

This month marks Dick Tracy's 80th anniversary! Chester Gould began the story of his intrepid policeman on October 4, 1931 and established him as the foremost comics detective—often copied and parodied, but never equalled.

The strip was so popular that in late 1948 the Chicago Tribune's publisher, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, asked Gould to create a serialized mystery case for Dick Tracy to investigate that could be used to boost the paper's circulation. Gould came up with "The Black Bag Mystery," in which readers were encouraged to submit solutions for cash. The Colonel staked the promotion with $25,000 in prizes. Gould wrote and penciled the strips and the syndicate hired another artist to ink and color.

The contest ran for thirty-six consecutive color weekday strips in January and February 1949—the only Tracy "dailies" ever to appear in color. It was a great success, netting the Trib 50,000 new subscribers and Chester Gould a brand new black Cadillac as a "thank you" from his boss.

The complete color strips and full details of the story are in The Complete Dick Tracy volume 12, which will be on sale this month. We're very grateful to Jean Gould O'Connell, Chet's daughter, for loaning us her father's personal scrapbook of these strips so we could scan them.

The syndicate hoped to duplicate the promotion in newspapers from other cities and so never published the solution to the mystery. It's still an open case, folks! Here's your chance to match wits with Dick Tracy: we'll run one strip per day every day this month right here! To kick things off, we'll start you with the first five today!

Check back every day to get the latest clue. After the final strip appears on November 1st, we encourage you to write your own solutions in fifty words or less. Please send YOUR solution by November 20th. Don't look for any part of that twenty-five grand—the Trib gave that away more than sixty years ago! Instead, we'll print our favorite solutions here by the end of November.

Have fun!

 

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Sep 27th, 2011

Ooh-la-la

We recently received the second volume of the French edition of the Complete Milton Caniff Terry and the Pirates published by BdArtist(e) in Paris. While we were in France during the summer, we also had the pleasure of meeting Nicolas Forsans, the editor of the series, as well as the publishers (and art gallery owners) Jean-Baptiste Barbier and Antoine Mathon. It was well worth taking the metro to Montmartre to meet them and to attend the gallery's opening of a new show by the phenomenal artist Floc'h.

monmartre

The iconic entry to the Montmartre metro station.

Nicolas

Laughing with editor Nicolas Forsans.

 

BdArtiste

In front of BdArtist(e) Gallerie with Jean-Baptiste Barbier and Nicolas

Each volume in the French edition includes a delightful homage section in which artists pay their respects to Milton Caniff and his classic creations. Here are just four of these amazing drawings (if you want to see the rest, you'll have to buy the books!):

Serge

Serge Clerc

avril

Françoise Avril

Berberian

Charles Berberian

Floch

Floc'h

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Sep 14th, 2011

From Am to Ming, with a detour to the Emperor of Acme

The seventh volume of Little Orphan Annie has just hit stores. It brings us into the fifteenth year of the strip and introduces two of Harold Gray's most famous stories, each on different ends of the spectrum. In the cover feature, we meet the supernatural Mr. Am, who claims to be millions of years old and can bring people back from the dead.

Mr_Am

The last story in the book is perhaps the most human, down-to-earth drama Gray ever wrote. It begins the saga of Rose Chance, her ne'er do well husband Ace, the truck-drivin' Jack who's in love with Rose, and Shanghai Peg, a man of mystery. The tale is Gray's longest to date and continues in volume eight. But for now, pick up LOA #7—you won't be disappointed.

• • • • •

Meanwhile, over on Mongo…it took us a little longer than we hoped to put the finishing touches on the first volume of the definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim by Alex Raymond and Don Moore. But it's now at the printer, scheduled for an early November on sale date. Take a look at this Sunday: I think you'll agree it's worth the wait!

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• • • • •

Returning squarely back to Earth—or perhaps the version created by the Emperor of Acme, Chuck Jones—my co-editor of the upcoming book Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was was interviewed on the Westfield Comics site, so check it out. The book is slated to be in stores late November.

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Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Sep 7th, 2011

Autumnal Musings

Random thoughts offered up while taking a deep early-September breath…

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From the "Go Westfield, Young Man" Department: We're all mighty thrilled with our upcoming Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was, and if you've seen the previews in this space (archived in the "Blog" section of this site) or Kurtis Findlay's site, you're doubtless thrilled, too. Add the folks at Westfield Comics to the "thrilled" list—they're preparing a feature about the book right now. Westfield's content editor, the estimable Roger Ash, is a self-described "huge Chuck Jones fan," and if you've read his coverage on some of our past releases such as Terry, Scorchy Smith, and Bringing Up Father, you're well aware that he knows how to conduct a great interview and put together a snappy hunk o' reading.

We'll let you know when Westfield's Dream That Never Was piece goes live. Meanwhile, check out Westfield, one of the many places LOAC's own Beau Smith hangs his auctorial shingle. Tell 'im I sent you!

* * * * *

From the "Seamheads Unite" Department: It's no secret I'm a lifelong Red Sox supporter, and I've been to Fenway Park for at least one game a month each season since 2001. Unless the injury bugaboo hits big-time, there seems little doubt this year's edition of the Olde Towne Team will be playing in the October postseason, and of course I hope they go deep into the playoffs and on to the World Series. Still, I must admit, I've had a sinking feeling all season long that the scary-good Texas Rangers may end up repeating as American League champions.

ted williams seat

Yours truly during one loooong 2006 rain delay. I'm pointing to the red seat high up in the bleachers marking the spot where Red Sox legend Ted Williams hit the longest home run ever at Fenway Park. A fascinating man, Ted—Leigh Montville's Ted Williams and David Halberstam's The Teammates convinced me of the many personality traits "The Kid" shared with Alex Toth, and those parallels shaped a portion of my thinking as I wrote Genius, Isolated text.

* * * * *

 From the "Using Your Restorative Powers for Good" Department: Closer to home, I've been observing with interest various discussions/debates over whether hardcover reprint volumes should feature color restoration or fill their pages with scans of the originally-printed comics. What follows is strictly my opinion, arrived at based both on my work here at LOAC and from shelling out hard-earned dough-re-mi for many reprint series from our friendly competition (I have extensive runs of both Marvel Masterworks and DC Archives on my bookshelves as well as all the major and several of the secondary comic strip reprint volumes, plus a number of black-&-white reprint projects such as the current Creepy and Eerie Archives).

Simply put: I vote for restored color, every time.

My reasoning is two-fold. First, there's nothing sacred about as-originally-printed coloring and there never was. Too many comics back in the day were sloppily colored, or occasionally suffered from off-register printing problems, or simple snafus somewhere in the coloring process (which was much different in the pre-digital age than it is today, remember). Do I want to pay premium prices to see those glaring errors repeated in books that should be the definitive presentation of these classic works? No—no, I do not.

Second, since many of the works in question are decades old—and in several cases, as you know so well, we're talking material that is sometimes more than seventy-five years old—the condition of the source material being scanned "as is" can be questionable at best. A fifty-year-old newspaper section or comic book is not the same thing as that newspaper or comic when it was freshly minted and selling at the neighborhood newsstand or drug store. Further (yes, I admit this is a selfish issue), my constantly-tired eyes quickly get even more fatigued trying to extract the visual/textual information I've paid good money to acquire out of the muddy and decayed pages repro'ed in "scanned as-is" publications.

I'm a great believer in "different strokes for different folks," and I also acknowledge that a great number of factors go into the look of any book, meaning it's certainly possible for a "restored" volume to miss the mark, leaving it to some future publisher to present the "definitive" version of a given work. All I'm saying is that my preference is for restored material versus straight-scanned material, and if every archival edition produced by every publisher had to be all one way or all the other I'd opt for restoration, every day and twice on Sunday.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

* * * * *

From the "Spirit of Independence" Department: The bankruptcy and liquidation of Borders was certainly not welcome news for any lover of books and periodicals (and to a lesser extent, video and music). My town's Borders was located very close to my home, so it was easy for me to take a half-hour or so each Sunday and swing by to browse the magazine stands and the New Arrivals sections.

Despite that convenience, my preference has always been to frequent and support independent bookshops; as the years have passed I've been saddened to see one independent after another pulled down by the various market forces at play. Those doughty independent stores that continue to enrich their communities deserve all the recognition—and business!—they can get. If you have a particular favorite home-grown bookstore, please drop me a note at info@loacomics.com with store's name and address. If we get enough responses, I'll do a follow-up feature—if nothing else, it could serve as a handy directory of good places to visit if you're traveling for pleasure or for business, since roaming the stacks of a good independent bookstore is a mighty relaxing way to spend an afternoon!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Thursday, Sep 1st, 2011

Coming soon…

Soon

The lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer are just about over. As we stumbled into the Library this fine September morning, the cappuccino machine is making like a steam plant. This has been a good week for acquisitions. The early morning light has created delightful highlights on the stack of strips waiting to be scanned. I had hoped that Darby O'Gill would have taken charge of the Little People last night and done the scanning, but alas…they, too slept away the wee hours. So I guess it's up to us to start scanning these treasures so they can be assembled into books and brought to you in early 2012. As they say, it's all coming soon…

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Aug 31st, 2011

Keeping Your Head Above Water

Schulz

 

While the media focussed its Hurricane Irene coverage on the coastal areas of the Northeast, Vermont—land of covered bridges, the country's most independent Senator (Bernie Sanders), the home of our greatest journalist of the 20th Century (George Seldes), and White River's Center for Cartoon Studies and Schulz Library—got whacked with severe rain and flooding.

CCS's books were saved thanks to the heroic efforts of staff, cartoonists, and alumni, but the building that housed the library itself was severly damaged, leaving the Schulz Library in need of a new home. CCS's Jen Vaughn gives the details at The Beat. We urge our friends and fans to help support this important comics institution.

Looking at the photos of the book rescue and clean-up reminds me of a time—twenty-seven years ago—when the small town of Guerneville, California, where I—and Eclipse Comics—lived and worked, succumbed to a devastating flood that ravaged the entire town and destroyed everyone's homes and personal belongings. We also lost the company's entire inventory of books and film negatives. Comics folk stick together, though, and just like the volunteers working through the night in Vermont last week, we gladly welcomed members of the northern California comics community who showed up in work clothes and waders. Here's twenty-seven-year-later shout out of thanks to Tom Yeates, Lela Dowling, Ken Macklin, and everyone else—especially Mark Evanier, who kept the deadlines from being missed—who helped save Eclipse that fateful February in 1984.

Back to the future, let's all rally around the fine folks at the Center for Cartoon Studies!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Aug 21st, 2011

The High Renaissance of Classic Comics Reprinting

Back in the 1980s and early '90s, those of us who were involved in reprinting classic newspaper strips thought we had entered the "Golden Age" of such collections. After all, that wave of reprint collections brought many classics such as Krazy Kat, Terry and the Pirates, and Pogo back into print for the very first time. All of us—me at Eclipse, Fantagraphics, Kitchen Sink, and NBM—took advantage of the healthy Direct Market comics stores pipeline to produce a plethora of titles. But cycles play their course and times change. That "Golden Age" came to an end with the subsequent comic book bust.

Canyon1

So here we are at the beginnings of the 21st Century. What's happening now makes that previous "Golden Age" seem like a false start. There's no doubt that we are truly in the best period of classic comics preservation ever. As Tom DeHaven notes in an article in the current online edition of The Comics Journal, we're in a true Renaissance in that endeavor. "It’s as if a hive decision was arrived at among publishers," he writes, "to produce, once and for all, a comprehensive national comics library in print." DeHaven offers a fantastic overview of the field, concentrating on something we spend a tremendous amount of time researching: the introductory essays that place the comics in their proper context. It's a don't miss read.

Toth Genius

Meanwhile, Genius, Isolated—the first book in our three-volume biography of Alex Toth—is featured in the Arts & Leisure section of today's New York Times. The online version is available here. Dana Jennings writes, "what’s most shocking is that the book’s cover shrieks Matisse—not vintage comics artist." I'm not sure what Alex would think of his image from "Taps" being compared to Matisse, but I'd like to think he'd be pleased. Bravo for Alex, I say!

Caniff

Over at Scoop, this week's reviews include our latest five-pounder: Caniff: A Visual Biography. They write that we have "produced yet another spectacular, essential book for the shelves or coffee tables of enthusiasts of comics at their best."

So it's been a good week overall…a nice pause before the next deadline looms.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Thursday, Aug 18th, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

As Van Morrison has been known to say: "Take me back. Take me way, way, way back…"


I took a few days off from Library of American Comics business in order to return to the state of my birth, a hectic agenda in front of me as I drove up the highway. Some of my planned activities were very good indeed, such as spending an evening at my brother's home and the next day gathering with most of my oldest, closest friends…but I definitely set myself a brisk pace.

One planned stop was in my boyhood town of residence. I drove past the noted liberal arts college that resides in my former hometown, then parked and made a point of walking through the small mall on the town's main street, a mall populated by local, independent businesses rather than impersonal chain stores. It was like stepping back decades in time: the flower shop—the candy store—the bakery—and especially the repertory cinema were all still there, looking almost exactly as they did while I lived in town. I sat on the wooden bench outside the cinema, recalling the many foreign films (The Tree of Wooden Clogs and Kurosawa's Ran, among others), cult favorites (everything from The Producers to The Stunt Man), and classic movies (almost all the major Hitchcocks, Maltese Falcon, Korda's Thief of Bagdad…) I saw on the big screen thanks to this doughty little motion picture house.

maine1


Suffused in the golden glow of nostalgia, I stepped back onto the main street, walked around the corner…and promptly had the slats knocked out from beneath me.

I had planned to visit the local newsstand, which in many ways was the center of my universe while growing up. The awning still proclaimed DAY'S NEWS, and as I walked up to the entrance I contemplated spending a few minutes browsing, maybe even buying a magazine or two for old time's sake.

Instead it was dark inside and the front door bore a simple piece of paper thanking the loyal clientele as it also that the doors had closed for the final time on July 1, 2011.

maine2


I dumbly stared through the windows, looking at the loose fixturing lumped into piles on the floor. I stepped back, looking up at the familiar awning, then back through the windows at a very different reality, struggling to process what I was seeing.

A woman came walking up the sidewalk and I did something I almost never do—I pestered a stranger, asking if the newsstand was really, truly closed. "Yes, and it's very sad," she said, "but when the big bookstores are having trouble selling books, how can anyone make a living selling newspapers and magazines?" It turned out she was a librarian at the town's college, and we had a pleasant-if-wistful conversation. I gave her one of my cards and told her I likely wouldn't be doing the work I do today if it weren't for Day's News.

There was more than hyperbole behind that statement. In the pre-comic-store days of my youth there were four outlets in my hometown where one bought comics: a LaVerdiere's Super Drug (the place, as Steve Englehart wrote in Captain America #156, "that never takes its old comics off sale"), a mom-&-pop grocery store, a local branch of a statewide bookstore chain, and Day's News, which sported two—count ‘em, two—comics spinners and kept the Warren and Marvel magazines shelved immediately inside the door. Over time I bought literally thousands of comics there, and I thumbed through a lot of others I didn't buy.

More, the newsstand helped me become a better-rounded reader. Eventually I was buying The Sporting News there every week, Billboard or Cashbox when a story caught my eye, and eventually the daily Boston Globe. I plucked my first Conan and Doc Savage books from the paperback shelves that lined the back wall; I procured my first digest-sized science fiction magazines there (I now have over three decades of Analog and F&SF issues in my home).

I was befriended by the original owner of Day's News, Pete Ouelette. Pete sold the newsstand to other persons after I had graduated high school and was living in a different town; he passed away before 1990. Nowadays I recognize the ways his business dominated his life—he had one part-time employee to pick up the last three hours of operation Monday through Friday as well as the Sunday shift, though other than that he was in the store, working the till, rotating the stock, dealing with the distributors, sweeping the floors and washing the windows. No easy row to hoe. Yet for a number of years starting at age seven—yes, in the days before helicopter parenting, kids like me were allowed to walk or ride their bikes around town by ourselves—I pushed my quarters and nickels and pennies up onto the counter in order to claim my weekly comics, and I thought Pete Ouelette had an absolutely splendid job.

maine3


I've gone on at greater length than I intended when I started writing this piece—and I understand the wired, hustling, bustling 21st Century world is long removed from the period when I was growing up. But we should remember our debts to the persons and places that shaped our lives, because those debts are never fully paid.

So while Pete Ouelette and Day's News may have given up their place on main street, they'll always have their place in my heart.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Tuesday, Aug 16th, 2011

Welcome to Our World!

Bella

Please join us in welcoming Bella Elinor Heer, the latest citizen of Canada and the world. She joined us on Wednesday, April 20th at 1:22 pm, weighing six pounds, three ounces.

The proud parents are our friends, comics historian and writer Jeet Heer and Robin Ganev. In this photo, the lovely dress Bella's wearing is a gift from Françoise Mouly and art spiegelman.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Aug 10th, 2011

Like You've Never Seen It Before!

I initially created the Library of American Comics in 2007 to publish my favorite comic strip of all time—Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates—in a definitive hardcover archival edition, with the uncropped dailies and the Sundays in color. Our six-volume series won the Eisner Award and reviewers have kindly stated that we set the standard for all future archival collections.

As everyone knows, Milton Caniff quit Terry in 1946 in order to create Steve Canyon, a strip which he owned completely. While valiant efforts have been made by others to collect the complete Canyon, none of them were complete. Equally important, each used the cropped dailies and reproduced the Sundays in black-and-white.

We're going to set the record straight by presenting Milton Caniff's biggest-selling strip in the definitive edition—complete uncropped dailies and Sundays in color, using Caniff's personal files of syndicate proofs (and in the few cases where proofs aren't available, his tearsheets). We're producing the series in a hardcover set to match Terry and the Pirates. As with Terry, Bruce Canwell is writing the historical essays, while I handle the edits and design. Each volume will contain two complete years. Everyone who enjoyed Terry won't want to miss this sequel—in some ways, Terry volume seven—in which the horizons are truly unlimited. The first volume will be on sale January 16, 2012.

Canyon1

Here are a few examples of the dailies as presented in previous collections—and what you'll see in our new series. I think you'll agree that the uncropped dailies best display Caniff's compositional talents. This really is Canyon like you've never seen it before!

cropped1

Cropped version

complete1

Library of American Comics complete version

cropped2

Cropped version

complete2

Library of American Comics complete version

cropped3

Cropped version

complete3

Library of American Comics complete version

And if that's not enough to make you reserve your copy today, here are two 1947 Sundays, reproduced from Caniff's personal files of syndicate proofs.

Sunday1

Sunday2

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Saturday, Aug 6th, 2011

The Hall of Fame

Included in the new Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide are pages honoring each of the 2011 inductees in The Overstreet Hall of Fame presented by Geppi's Entertainment Museum. I'm truly humbled to be among this year's inductees, along with Jack Davis, Martin Goodman, Marie Severin, Water Simonson, and Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson.

The official press release states, "The Overstreet Hall of Fame was conceived to single out individuals who have made great contributions to the comic book arts. This includes writers, artists, editors, publishers and others who have plied their craft in insightful and meaningful ways."

overstreet1

Overstreet2

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Aug 5th, 2011

Horizons Unlimited!

Canyon2

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Wednesday, Aug 3rd, 2011

Coming January 2012!

Steve_Canyon

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Monday, Aug 1st, 2011

"Nothing Short of Wonderful…"

 

Toth Genius

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth continues to garner rave reviews. Here are three more we'd like to share. The first, from Barnes & Noble Review by Paul Di Filippo. The second, in the Los Angeles Review of Books, by Howard Chaykin. The third, by Jeff Vaughn in Fandom Advisory Network.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Jul 27th, 2011

The Distinctive Taste of Champagne

Polly

Our Champagne Edition releases are bubbling up all sorts of interesting results.

The first of these oversized releases—Polly and Her Pals, Volume 1—is clearly the biggest, brightest reprint showcase ever to contain the antics of the Perkins clan. Jeet Heer and the crack Library of American Comics research team dug deeper than anyone has previously dug and the result was Jeet's lengthy biographical essay, presenting the most comprehensive look ever at Polly and the strip's creator, cartoonist Cliff Sterrett. Jeet's text presents readers with more information about Sterrett—his boyhood, interests, family, friendships, and background—than has ever been available before. The book's introduction, by artistic luminary P. Craig Russell, is the cherry atop the sundae.

The combination of Sterrett's brilliant Sunday pages, Jeet's prose, and Craig's insightful intro helped Polly and Her Pals earn two Eisner Award nominations this year…and our next Champagne Edition release looks to be equally special.

We're deep into the preparation of our inaugural Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim release, running Jim as the "topper" to Flash, just as King Features designed them to appear when the syndicate launched both in January 1934. The two strips have never been reprinted together in this manner for the span of their Raymond-era run, and they also benefit from the 12" x 16" Champagne size and the detailed color restoration work LOAC production personnel are currently doing.

Flash 1

In addition, we have once again succeeded in uncovering new, heretofore unreported information about the men behind the imagery. I've written seven thousand words for Flash/Jim Vol. 1, including the first-ever detailed biography of Don Moore, who provided the text that accompanied Alex Raymond's often-breathtaking visuals.

My features don't answer all the questions, as you'll see when you read them. We have, however, reached out to the pulp-fan community and been fortunate to receive invaluable research assistance from historian John Locke. Together, John and I pieced together a portrait that includes a U.S. Marshall in Iowa; a boyhood trip to London; the Sells-Floto Circus; a rebellion in the quaint little town of Cooperstown, New York; the befriending of Navy SEALS; and unfortunately, a tragic suicide. If a mix like that doesn't whet your appetite, you might want to check your pulse…

The first in our four-volume Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim series will be on sale this fall. Like Polly and Her Pals, it offers that distinctive taste of Champagne to LOAC readers.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Tuesday, Jul 26th, 2011

Where there's a Will…

achie

As usual at the Will Eisner Awards, there was intense competition in the "Best Archival Comic Strip Collection" category; in fact, we were even competing against ourselves—both Bob Montana's Archie and Cliff Sterrett's Polly and Her Pals earned nominations. As you can tell by the above cover, Archie took home the honors. It's the third win in four years for the Library of American Comics, and we appreciate the continued support from you, our loyal readers.

With the busy San Diego Comicon over, it's back to our drawing boards and computers. Deadlines loom ahead!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Jul 19th, 2011

San Diego Comicon

Polly

It's that time of year again so we're off to San Diego and four days of non-stop action. Whoo-boy, hold on to your hats.

I'll be at the IDW booth (2643) most of the time, so stop by and say hello. We'll have advance copies of our latest artbook: CANIFF. I also have a busy schedule of panels. Join Chester Brown and me on the Little Orphan Annie panel, 5:30-6:30pm, room 8. I'll also be on the IDW Special Projects and Imprints panel (11:00am-noon, room 24 ABC) talking about some of our upcoming books (Flash Gordon, Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was, and more!).

I'm also privileged to participate in two panels very dear and important to me.

On Friday, I will help pay tribute to the beloved Gene Colan (noon-1:00pm, room 24ABC), joining Marv Wolfman, Roy Thomas, Glen David Gold, Andrew Farago, and Mark Evanier. Gene and I first worked together way back in 1979 when he pencilled (and Tom Palmer inked) Steve Gerber's Stewart the Rat graphic novel.

On Saturday I have the pleasure to get together with Jenny Robb, Gary Groth, Trina Robbins, and Andrew Farago to commemorate our great friend, Bill Blackbeard (11:30am-12:30pm, room 24ABC).

I'll also be at the Eisner Awards among friends, including the ever lovely Diana Schutz, and Ted Adams and the IDW gang. LOAC's s nominated for three awards: Polly and Her Pals and Archie are pitted against each other in the Best Archival Comic Strip category, and Lorraine Turner and yours truly are nominated for Best Publication Design for Polly.

See you there, folks!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Jul 8th, 2011

Cat Fights Now in Color

Our new Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays release represents not only a benchmark in The Library of American Comics's history, but proof of why this is the golden age of comic strip reprints.

Back in 2007, when Dean and I were launching LOAC, we kicked around a number of titles we'd like to reprint, and Miss Fury was on that list. The first female costumed hero created by a female cartoonist? That seemed worth re-introducing to modern-day audiences. Personally, I was intrigued by Tarpé Mills's story, and charmed by the work I had already seen—earlier that year, a company had released black-&-white reprinting of the comic book reprints of the divine Miss F., informing us that "each panel has been slightly altered to fingerprint this [2007] edition."

Missedited

A page from the 2007 reprinting of Miss Fury# 3, formatted for comic books in the 1940s, then further "fingerprinted" for the 2007 collection.

Now, four years later, here we are, with Miss Fury almost always in full "living color" (as the major TV networks used to love bragging during my boyhood), just as she appeared in the newspapers of the 1940s. No messy fingerprints, no re-edited versions…the pure strip—with all its adventure, gentle kinkiness, and high fashion intact—just the way Tarpé Mills created it.

Misscolor

The same page as it originally appeared in the newspapers—you'll find it on page 15 of our Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays.

That LOAC and its friendly competitors are able to release such material, and that you continue to enthusiastically support it, helps prove that together, we're forging that strip reprint Golden Age I mentioned earlier.

Here's hoping you enjoy Miss Fury as much as I did!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Tuesday, Jul 5th, 2011

Remembering Lew Sayre Schwartz

Lew

There are tears in my eyes as I begin this, a notice I would wish never to write.

Lew Sayre Schwartz has passed away at age eighty-four.

I read the headline; it took me several moments to realize the loud, sorrowful cry filling the room was my own. As I type this sentence, I am three hours away from a week-long trip abroad, and I had a long list of things to do before driving to the airport. A key item on my list was to call Lew and arrange a time when we could next get together.

We had spoken in May and I was rushing against a deadline, and Lew said he needed one of our Rip Kirby volumes, so I told him I would get that for him, then come out for a visit as soon as I got the book and delivered the piece I was writing.

I have the book and I met the deadline, but it hurts me so, so much to know I'm too late for the visit.

* * * * *

Lew_Batton

Lew with Batton Lash at the San Diego Comicon

Lew found us through the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State. He had acquired our first Terry and the Pirates releases and contacted Jenny Robb at the Cartoon Library, asking her if she had contact information for us. Jenny passed his message along to Dean and after a few exchanges of e-mails and phone calls, in the process learning that Lew resided in a town slightly more than an hour's drive from where I live, Dean and I got together to make our first trip to Lew's.

Moby

He and his wife Barbara were welcoming and gracious, the perfect hosts in every way. Lew showed us the adaptation of Moby Dick he had created with Dick Giordano, and was generous in praising our efforts on Terry, and delighted to hear about our then-upcoming Scorchy Smith and The Art of Noel Sickles. He shared with us his own collection of Sickles material, accumulated through the years, and he loaned us a copy of his 1981 film tribute to Milton Caniff, Reflections of an Armchair Marco Polo, which is must-viewing for any Caniff devotee. It had Dean and me babbling excitedly to one another after we had each had the opportunity to view it. More than a year later, while writing the final essay for Terry Volume 6, the closing narration from Reflections, which Lew had written for Walter Cronkite to deliver, seemed the perfect coda. After he saw the book in early 2009, Lew never failed to tell me how much enjoyment he took in having the final word, as it were, in our series. It was my great pleasure to give it to him.

After that initial visit, I phoned Lew often and visited his and Barbara's home close to a half-dozen times, breaking bread with them on two occasions. Whenever I walked through their door I was treated with kindness and I learned a great deal, as Lew told stories from his days at King Features and his later work in film. He passed along anecdotes from his face-to-face encounters with the Caniffs, Raymonds, and Sickleses of the comic strip firmament; he showed me the works he had collected by the likes of Roy Crane. I would bring him our latest releases, and he was always unfailing in his praise of our work. During another visit, either in fall of 2009 or springtime of 2010, Lew surprised me with a gift of his own—a copy of DC's hardcover Batman Annuals reprints, which included stories he had drawn in his days as the first of Bob Kane's ghost artists. A connection to Batman is another thread Lew and I shared, since I wrote a handful of Bat-stories in the late 1990s. He was always proud of the fact no less a talent than Eddie Campbell publicly praised his Batman work, and it is fitting that Eddie produced the industry's tribute to Lew, which can be found here.

Lew Sayre Schwartz was a fine artist and writer, an award-winning filmmaker, and an enthusiastic ambassador for the comics. But first and foremost, I think of Lew Sayre Schwartz as the warm and funny and thoroughly delightful man I have been proud to call my friend.

And now I feel the tears coming again, so before my view of the screen becomes a total blur, I'll say, "Safe passage, Lew—I know Bud and Pappy and Roy are mighty glad to see you again."

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Friday, Jul 1st, 2011

Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was

We all harbor a secret wish that we could find a previously unseen project by one of the greatest figures in animation history.

Well, wish no more—celebrating the 2012 centennial of Chuck Jones's birth, we at the Library of American Comics will unveil Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was.

Chuckcover

The Academy Award-winning director of "Duck Amuck,"  "What's Opera, Doc," "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," and other timeless classics, created dozens of cartoon characters throughout his decades-long career: Pepé Le Pew, Marvin the Martian, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote...and Crawford, an accident prone, nine-year-old boy whose daily routine includes surviving his own boyhood.

ChuckJones

Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was follows the twenty-seven year journey it took Jones to bring "Crawford" to the public, from conception to storyboard to newspaper strip. This incredible volume is loaded with never-before-seen sketches, drawings, storyboards and production notes, and the six-month run of the Crawford newspaper comic strip from 1978. Accompanying the artwork is a biography of Chuck Jones's career in the sixties and seventies and how it influenced the creation of Chuck's only foray into the world of comic strips.

The book will reproduce twenty-six pages of rare storyboards, such as these!

storyboards

Produced with the full coöperation of the Chuck Jones family, the book was conceived by Kurtis Finday, who says, "My first surprise when I started researching the Crawford comic strip was how little people knew about it. My second surprise was the treasure trove of Chuck Jones art we would find. Crawford just kept popping up in places I didn't expect, making the history of this little-known character incredibly rich." The book is edited by Findlay and Dean Mullaney, and designed by Lorraine Turner.

Here are several of Chuck Jones's sketches:

sketch1

sketch2

 

sketch3

The original artwork for two of his daily strips:

dailies

And one of his Sunday color guides for the engravers:

Sunday_guide

And these are just a handful of samples of what's in the book. Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was is a dream come true in that almost all the art is being reproduced from Chuck Jones's originals! It is a gold mine of previously unknown artwork that is a must for all fans of animation and comics. This hardcover archival edition will be released in November.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Thursday, Jun 23rd, 2011

Can Never Get Enough

Canifff: A Visual Biography will be on sale in about a month. To hold you over, here are a few more goodies we uncovered. The Dragon Lady color piece is an online extra that didn't make it in the printed book. This is one of the specialty drawings that Caniff had printed one hundred or so at a time. He would then watercolor them for fans who requested drawings.

DL_feeding

Here's a party we all wish we could time-travel to: a 1948 comic strip costume ball.

costume_ball

Here's a Sunday page that's not only a classic, but shows how Caniff created the half-page format. He drew the Sundays in tabloid format, then had the panels photostatted and pasted on a horizontal board. Then, either he or one of his assistants would fill in the art to the left and right. The paste-up lines on this original artwork have darkened over the years, giving us a clearer view of the process.

Terry_half

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Saturday, Jun 18th, 2011

Utilitarian? Maybe. Hooded? No Longer!” (part three of three)

The Hooded Utilitarian website is gathering votes to name the top ten favorite comics of all time. I've narrowed the focus of their request for ten-best lists to this concept:

Which works would I select as the top representatives of the artform, works that resonate with seasoned readers within the medium yet can also serve "hook" a comics neophyte?

Feel free to use our archives to see the first seven selections on my list, which I'm rolling out alphabetically by creator—or, if you're the devil-may-care type, simply dive in to see my final three choices…

8) Hadashi no Gen, by Keiji Nakazawa

Better known here in America as Barefoot Gen, this "cartoon story of Hiroshima" portrays Japanese life before, during, and after the atomic bombing of that city, which helped end the Second World War. Nakazawa lived through that event as a seven-year-old boy, and his anti-war message still rings true today, while Japan's contemporary nuclear trouble in the wake of earthquake and tsunami destruction, remind us that though circumstances differ, history's mistakes Are endlessly repeated by those who fail to learn from them.

Gen

9) Maus, by Art Spiegelman

What can I say about Spiegelman's masterwork that has not been better said before? Like Gen, Maus is an account of the harrowing nature of war (this time, the Nazi pogroms of WW II); it is also the story of the often-strained relationship between a father and his son. It's a powerful work, one that has subsequently been taught in high school and university curricula and won numerous awards, most prestigious among them the Pulitzer Prize.

It seems impossible to fathom a "Best Comics" list of any sort that does not include Maus on it.

Maus

10) Calvin & Hobbes, 1985 - 1995, by Bill Watterston  

Newspapers had shrunk the comic strips to postage-stamp size, and the common complaint was that there was no room left for sufficient lettering to tell a nuanced story, or to provide artwork that was much more advanced than stick figures.

Then Bill Watterson gave us Calvin and Hobbes and showed us all that the daily comic strip was still breathing, though it took an uncommon talent like his to sustain it.

The storytelling in Calvin is so deftly assured, the characters so believable and endearing, the situations so inspired, it is impossible for me to conceive of the person who does not love Calvin and Hobbes. What I'm now hoping is that enough voters will remember this outstanding strip when they make their selections ...

Watterson

If you haven't already visited The Hooded Utilitarian, you'll find full details about their Top Ten project here.

It'll be interesting to see the contents of the final list, won't it? As the old saying goes: time will tell…

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Wednesday, Jun 15th, 2011

R.I.P., Rip

We're both thrilled and saddened that Rip Kirby Volume 4 will be on sale soon. Thrilled because…well, who isn't thrilled to see more than two-and-a-half years of Alex Raymond art! Saddened because it's the final volume collecting Raymond's post-war modernist classic. In the course of producing the series, we borrowed photos from the daughter of Ray Burns, Raymond's assistant. We didn't have room for them all in the printed series so offer a couple here as an online bonus—two staged publicity shots of Raymond and Burns listening to the baseball game on the radio.

baseball1

baseball2

Raymond's tragic death in 1956 left his final story unfinished. It was completed by John Prentice, who continued the strip for decades to come. Here's a sample of Prentice's work from October 1956.

Prentice

And because we're especially proud of our sequential cover designs, here they are—all four together, starting with the titular character all by his lonesome—then joined by one new character per cover.

Rip1

rip2

rip3

Rip4

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

 

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Saturday, Jun 11th, 2011

Utilitarian? Maybe. Hooded? No Longer! (part two of three)

The Hooded Utilitarian website is gathering votes to name the top ten favorite comics of all time. I've narrowed the focus of their request for ten-best lists to this concept:

Which works would I select as the top representatives of the artform, works that resonate with seasoned readers within the medium yet can also serve "hook" a comics neophyte?

Feel free to plunge headlong into the middle four choices on my "alphabetical-by-creator list…"

 

4) The Dreamer, by Will Eisner

If Eisner gets his deserved spot on the H.U. list, it will likely be for his most popular creation, The Spirit, or his ground-breaking first graphic novel, A Contract with God. I yield to no one in my admiration for both, and I admit The Dreamer is a dark horse (as opposed to a Dark Horse) candidate for inclusion. Still, I view it as an underappreciated part of Eisner's body of work, one deserving of more attention. Fiction tinged with autobiography, The Dreamer is, as Eisner said in his foreword, "an examination of hope and ambition. The events take place during a time when cartoonists found themselves on fallow ground, the dawn of the modern comic book industry during the mid-1930s." By extension, this story is our story, and who better to tell it than Eisner?

Eisner

5) Tintin in Tibet, by Hergé

Of all the various comics-based movies, the one that genuinely interests me is the upcoming Tintin motion picture. Though more popular in Europe than Stateside, Hergé and his intrepid boy reporter have a broad-based appeal that puts them on my Top list.

Of the many delightful Tintin exploits, I selected In Tibet because it features Tintin propelling himself, Snowy, and Captain Haddock to the most remote place on earth on the most noble of quests: to aid a friend in trouble. Along the way there are hardships imposed by the environment, a touch of Eastern mysticism, and even a Yeti. Like Barks, Hergé's work has kept its appeal across the generations; may the movie point a new audience to his work!

Herge

6) The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley

Superheroes got me reading comics (The Fantastic Four still hold a special place in my heart), Dean and I used to letterhack in the pages of the same 1970s Marvel Comics, and I've even written some superhero comics; some of 'em, like The Gauntlet, (with artist Lee Weeks) were even published.

 The Dark Knight Returns is hardly a perfect superhero comic, but it is perhaps Frank Miller's most fully-realized work. The extensive coverage it received during its initial publication is pointed to as a key milestone in changing the media's portrayal of the art form from "biff-pow-bam" to "comics have grown up." Its sensibilities have touched every major Batman project to follow, in every medium—comics, animation, film.

All of that is well and good, but I'll offer up Dark Knight Returns for another reason, one I've yet to see bandied about in all the discussion it has generated - endings are the toughest thing to get right, and Miller has misfired in the denouement of more than one of his stories. Yet in Dark Knight Returns, Miller gets the ending Exactly Right, both within the confines of his story and under the umbrella of the overarching, decades-spanning Batman mythos. It's practically impossible to envision a better ending for Bruce Wayne than Miller provides here. No small achievement, that.

Miller

7) From Hell, by Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell

Everyone has a favorite Alan Moore-penned tale, and it would have been easy to select Swamp Thing or Watchmen or V for Vendetta or any of another half-dozen works for my contributions to the H.U. balloting. I selected From Hell in part because it asks its audience to be smart in their reading, in part because it's been so assiduously researched and developed, in part because Eddie Campbell's work is one of comics' special treasures. Once one has read From Hell, does one need to read any other tale of Jack the Ripper?

Eddie

If you haven't already visited The Hooded Utilitarian, you'll find full details about their Top Ten project here.

Next installment: my final three picks.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Wednesday, Jun 8th, 2011

Hmmm, these guys look familiar

Al Williamson enjoyed using friends and fellow artists as models for specific characters in X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan. But nowhere in the strip does the in-joke get better than in this sequence from September 1974. Corrigan is, of course, Al. Enrique is writer Archie Goodwin, Al's co-conspirator on the strip. The guys were having fun with this one!

ArchieAl

This story, as well as many others, will be in X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan volume 3, to be released later this year.

corrigan3

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Saturday, Jun 4th, 2011

Utilitarian? Maybe. Hooded? No Longer!

Rob Martin refers to The Hooded Utilitarian as, "…a website devoted to cultural criticism with an emphasis on comics." Right now, H.U. is in the process of gathering lists which will turn into votes which will turn into an early-August countdown of the top vote-getters in H.U.'s effort to name the top ten favorite comics of all time. The invitation to vote puts it this way (emphasis mine):

The specific question of the poll is this: What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant? …Your list may include any newspaper strips, comic-book series, graphic novels, manga features, web comics, editorial cartoons, and single-panel magazine cartoons. These works can be from any country of origin. Please do not include an entry that has yet to be published.

Now, those are a pretty wide-open set of criteria; that is perhaps a good thing for this type of effort, which wants to be as inclusive as possible. In compiling my list, I narrowed the focus a bit, arriving at this concept:

Which works would I select as the top representatives of the artform, works that resonate with seasoned readers within the medium yet can also serve "hook" a comics neophyte?

I'll take the rest of this message and my next two to show you my list and the thinking behind each selection. Since Rob isn't asking for the list to be ranked, I'm rolling out my selections alphabetically by creator. May I have the envelopes, please…?

1) The single-panel magazine cartoons of Charles Addams (The New Yorker)

He's creepy, he's spooky, he's positively ooky—but Chas. Addams gave us far more than The Addams Family, though of course they are, of themselves, quite a deliciously wicked creative accomplishment. His spot cartoons were sometimes bittersweet (two unicorns, stranded on a rock, the ocean waves lapping ever higher as Noah's Ark sails away), sometimes wistful (the lonely lighthouse keeper who finds a valentine washed up on shore), yet consistently entertaining. Here's a typically nefarious Addams cartoon…

addams

2) "Back to the Klondike," featuring Uncle $crooge, by Carl Barks (from Four Color # 456)

Will the Thelma & Louise effect strike again? Barks told so many fine stories, it will be interesting to see if his votes become so diluted across his oeuvre that he ends up omitted from the final H.U. list. I hope that turns out to be not the case, because certainly The Duck Man has charmed generations of readers with his well-wrought, thoroughly-researched tales.

I selected "Back to the Klondike" because its Alaska gold rush setting shows Barks's attention to historical detail and also offers real character growth, plus an ill-fated love gone wrong, hinting that $crooge is a deeper, more complex personality than we're used to seeing within Disney stable.

Barks

3) Terry and the Pirates, 1934 - 1946, by Milton Caniff (distributed by the Chicago Tribune New York Daily News Syndicate)

Accuse me of tooting the LOAC horn if you must, but who can dispute that Caniff's sprawling saga meets the criteria I used to compile my list? Many a seasoned comics reader agrees that Terry represents the pinnacle of daily adventure strips; Dean and I both know persons with no ties to the medium who've started reading the exploits of Terry Lee and his many cohorts, look up long enough to remark, "Saa-a-ay…his is pretty good!", then eagerly dive back in for more. Terry is a glorious achievement, and it will be a grave disappointment—not necessarily a surprise, but a disappointment—if it fails to make the H.U. list.

Terry

If you haven't already visited The Hooded Utilitarian, you'll find full details about their Top Ten project here.

Next installment: my next four picks.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Wednesday, Jun 1st, 2011

Out of the Box

After thirty-four years in the publishing business, there's still no greater thrill than opening that first box from the printer containing advance copies of new books. Here's what our friendly FedEx delivery guy brought us today: Miss Fury and Li'l Abner 3. Both will be in stores by the end of the month.

Excuse me for now—I've got some fun reading to do!

MissFury

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, May 30th, 2011

A Memorial Day Observance

In honor of Memorial Day and all that it stands for, we offer Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates Sunday from October 17, 1943, popularly known as "The Pilot's Creed," that was read into the Congressional Record the following day. This is Caniff's hand-watercolored guide for the engravers.

PilotsCreed

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

lorraineposted by Lorraine Turner

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Saturday, May 21st, 2011

STILL Talkin' Toth

Bruce Canwell sat down with Alex Dueben at Comic Book Resources for a fascinating in-depth discussion about Alex Toth and our process of researching and assembling Genius, Isolated, as well as the next two books in the set.

Meanwhile, over at Scoop, both X9: Secret Agent Corrigan and Genius, Isolated have received great reviews.

Happy reading!

But before you go, many of you have probably never seen Alex Toth's "Battle Flag of the Foreign Legion" from 1950's Danger Trail #3. It's one of the rarest and most expensive early '50s DCs. We print the complete story in Genius, Isolated (© DC Comics Inc, used with permission, thank you very much!). Here's a sample page that gives you an idea of how modern and sophisticated Alex's design was that early in his career. Remember, this was 1950!

BattleFlag

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Steve Canyon…on Slide and Screen

TruVuesketch

When the Steve Canyon TV show starring Dean Fredericks hit the airwaves in 1958, Caniff's agent Toni Mendez got busy. She lined up scores of licensees, producing everything from lunch boxes to jet helmets to puzzles. As part of our research for the artbook—Caniff…A Visual Biography—we uncovered some fascinating art connected with the Canyon Tru-Vue slides. Tru-Vue was manufactured by the same company that produced the better-known View-Master slides. Each "slide" contained seven pairs of stereoscopic images that were slid in a hand-held viewer, a modern version of the stereoscopic photographs that were produced at the turn of the 19th century.

Above is an example of the pencil rough for one of the Canyon slides. Below is the inked version.

truvueink

Harry Guyton, Milton and Esther Caniff's nephew, and John Ellis have been diligently overseeing the digital transfers of the TV episodes so we can all enjoy the show in the comfort of our homes. Check out the official Steve Canyon website to read about—and order—the DVDs. And look for Caniff…A Visual Biography in July.

CanyonDVD

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, May 13th, 2011

The Nation's Capital Loves Annie

In a full-page article in the print (and online) version of the Washington Times on May 6th, reviewer Michael Taube opined that LOAC's “Complete Little Orphan Annie series is one of the most impressive comic-strip collections ever produced."

LOA7

Harold Gray's forty-plus years writing and drawing the strip has long engendered strong praise from across the political landscape—from rave reviews such as this in the decidedly conservative Washington Times to huzzahs from libertarians to wildly enthusiastic essays by liberals such as Art Spiegelman and me. Politics be damned, Harold Gray was a phenomenal and compelling storyteller.

In Volume Seven, to be released in August, real politics exist side by side with the fantastic. Gray offers the story of Ginger the flower lady which is a thinly-disguised rant about the Roosevelt Administration, followed by the introduction of the apparently immortal Mr. Am. It just doesn't get much better than this!

The politics of the strip are covered by Jeet Heer in his introductory essay, and as a bonus, we look at Gray's work on the much-neglected Little Joe.

LittleJoe

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

In the pre-digital world…

rev2

Some of you may be old enough to remember the pre-Photoshop days when we actually used paste-ups, rubber cement, waxers, rubylith film, and Graumbacher opaquing paints! (Dates me, doesn't it?!).

It's been brought to our attention that in Bloom County Volume Four, the "Meet Deathtongue" Sunday page from December 7, 1986 (which we also used on the back cover) was missing a few words in the last two lines of the final panel. One reader speculated that we exercised "crude censorship" in deleting a reference to the singer Lionel Richie.

Well, I like a conspiracy theory as well as anyone, but in this case, the explanation for the missing words in the "Deathtongue" Sunday is pretty mundane. When Berkeley packed up the original art for us to print the book, the paste-up lettering simply fell off. Neither he nor we noticed it. No censorship, no conspiracy, just old rubber cement!

Sheesh—and you thought there was a deep dark secret! Thanks to the reader who pointed it out.

Here's the Sunday with the lost lettering re-created in all its original glory.

panel

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, May 6th, 2011

They Don't Wear White in Foxholes

As Lucy Shelton Caswell writes in her Introduction to our forthcoming art book—CANIFF: "Milton Caniff came from a family of pack rats and he was married to one for more than fifty years. As a result, his personal and business papers are unusually complete and intact."

It's from these comprehensive files at the library that Lucy was instrumental in establishing at The Ohio State University that we've culled an incredible array of Caniff's art, from his childhood through the 1980s. It's an unprecedented resource to study the career of a major cartoonist. It also presents a challenge—which of the cool artwork and memorabilia will make the cut! It's a "problem" I wish we had every day.

This is another way of saying that we're running a little late on deivering the book to the printer. No too late—just a few weeks—but for you Amazon-release-date watchers, be patient. It'll be printed and in your hands in July instead of June.

To hold you over, here are three more goodies that have never been reprinted:

1. The original art to one of the travel headers Caniff illustrated and lettered as part of his staff job on the Columbus Dispatch in the late '20s and early '30s.

travel_headers

2. The original art to one of the many illustrations he made to accompany serialized stories while working at the Associated Press in the early '30s.

story_art

3. A syndicate promo piece that introduces Taffy Tucker, everyone's favorite nurse in Terry and the Pirates.

Taffy

And if THAT doesn't leave you salivating for more, I give up!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

P.S. For you baseball fans, please join me in wishing Willie Mays a happy birthday today! Say Hey!!!

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Thursday, May 5th, 2011

It's the Golden Age…

I'd like to think that we're playing a large part in making this the Golden Age of Comic Strip Reprints, but we're certainly not alone. I recently thrilled to the first volume of John Cullen Murphy's Big Ben Bolt published by our pal Charles Pelto at Classic Comics Press. If you're not familiar with the strip, I urge you to take a look. In the next few months, Charles has plans to begin José Luis Salinas's Cisco Kid, which rivals Alex's Raymond's Rip Kirby as the best drawn strip of the '50s. My mouth's watering already!

cisco

Another book that's available now is an absolutely stunning Robert Fawcett art book from another old pal of ours—Manuel Auad. It's not comics, but if you like art—especially mid-Century illustration work—Fawcett is THE MAN. This book—along with LOAC's own Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles—belongs on the shelves of all serious art fans.

Fawcett

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

We Just Got Back from Bahstawn!

That was the cry when my friends and I were still wet behind the ears and returning to our homes in rural New England after making the three-hour drive home following a weekend in Boston. We typically found driving into the city was no big problem - but for whatever reason, driving out of town often confounded us. Somehow, we didn't mind making a few wrong turns before getting untracked, because invariably we'd had such a good time we weren't eager for our adventures to end.

Annie

Many of my friends have remained in the state of our births, but fifteen years ago I moved into the greater Boston area. Though I've never had cause to regret that change of venue, at times I do wish that many of my closest friends lived closer than a hundred miles away.

When three of those friends announced they were coming to The Hub of the Universe on April 30th and May 1st for the Boston Comiccon, there was no doubt I'd be there, too. For the first time since October at NYCC, I found myself on a convention floor.

The Boston show wasn't as big or as loud or as crowded as New York, but there was still plenty of activity. Dealers aplenty were hawking Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age comics, plus all sorts of paperback and hardcover collections(I saw Terrys and Annies and Bloom Countys displayed on several tables). There was no shortage of costumed fans (kudos to the guy in a barbarian-style loincloth and the gal who wore a Power Girl outfit - it's no small achievement to be able to sell costumes like that!). And the lineup of professional guests was first rate - there were more Big Names on hand than I had time to visit (I tried to look up Mark Chiarello twice; alas, he was away from his table each time.)

Still, it was a thrill to at last meet Gahan Wilson. I've followed Mr. Wilson's career since his days with The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and I've read all his prose fiction, as well. He was more than generous with his time, telling me how a boyhood visit to Chester Gould's home helped him decide he wanted a career as a cartoonist. And what a delight to meet Stephanie Buscema! The granddaughter of the late, great John Buscema, she is carving her own niche in the comics business. I encountered John at a 1999 show in White Plains and was in the DC Comics offices the same day as John's brother, Sal, a few years before that. Meeting Stephanie allowed me to score a trifecta when it comes to speaking with The Drawing Buscemas.

Kubert

It was a delight to spend a few minutes with Joe Kubert. Since he gave us a terrific interview about Alex Toth in support of our Genius series, I was pleased to be able to tell him Genius, Isolated is now on sale. I also had a wonderful visit with Howard Chaykin and I admit it—I fanboyed out, asking for an autograph in my copy of his sassy and spritied 1986 graphic album, Time2: The Epiphany. And Darwyn Cooke is not just a tremendous talent, he's one helluva nice guy who roots for exactly the right NBA team (we're both big Boston Celtics fans). I had great fun talking both comics and Celtics Pride with him.

Darwyn

I'm not just idly dropping names - those three talented gentlemen all agreed to let me interview them in the weeks ahead to support upcoming text pieces I'll be writing. Keep watching future LOAC volumes and when you see their quotes appear, you'll know the way it all began.

Time2

Best of all for me, the fun did not end each day as the convention wound down. That meant it was time for my friends and I to leave the Hynes Convention Center, and head off for a tasty meal, and enjoy plenty of good conversation. Coming home from the city is now commonplace for me, but as I said goodbye to my friends, I wondered if they'd get home ready to say, "I just got back from Bahstawn…"

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Sometimes Size DOES Matter

Polly and Her Pals, our first release in the massive 12" x 16" Champagne Edition size, has—as we noted—garnered two Eisner nominations this year.

Our second series in that oversized format will premiere in September. Although Flash Gordon has been previously reprinted, this—finally—is the first meticulously restored edition that prints the strip in a large size, and in Alex Raymond's original format that includes the Jungle Jim topper! Look for the complete Alex Raymond Flash/Jim in four deluxe volumes.

Flash 1

The books are designed by LOAC's own Lorraine Turner, two-time Emmy winner (and now Eisner nominee—for Polly and Her Pals), with historical essays by Bruce Canwell—LOAC's Man About Town, and edits by Yours Truly.

We'll have more details about the series in coming months.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Apr 27th, 2011

T Minus 0: It's Toth Time

Toth Genius

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth goes on sale today. Two years in the making, we're mighty proud of our efforts. Bruce Canwell and I recently sat down for a stimulating interview with Dan Nadel over at the Comics Journal.

Dan also offers the first review of the book, calling it "an astounding achievement. Through thoroughly researched text and a gob-smackingly great selection of visuals, Mullaney and Canwell have done what the best biographers should: Both illuminate their subjects life and decisively show what, precisely, made him worthy of their (and our) attention…

"This book is, for me, a game-changer: The first (literally) expansive visual biography of a classic comic book artist that manages to show and tell just what made the man and the work…

"As a fellow historian, I’m still, weeks later, in awe of it. Anyone with an interest in the medium should own and study this book. It’s one of those."

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Apr 26th, 2011

Bill Blackbeard—our friend and mentor

When I created the Library of American Comics in 2007, our first release carried the following heartfelt words:

Dedicated to Bill Blackbeard,
who almost singlehandedly rescued
the American newspaper comic
strip from oblivion

Bill Blackbeard, who died recently at age 84, did all that and mentored at least two generations of comics historians and archivists. It's safe to say that without him, today's readers would not be able to enjoy the complete Terry and the Pirates, Krazy Kat, Flash Gordon, Bringing Up Father, and dozens upon dozens of other series that make today the Golden Age of Comic Strip Reprints.

We owe it all to Bill.

blackbeard

photo by R.C. Harvey

Bill's and Martin Sheridan's Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics and Bill's line of Hyperion strip reprints introduced many of us to the classics for the first time. I met him 25 years ago when he gave me my start in reprinting newspaper strips, first with Jiggs is Back by George McManus, and then beginning the complete Krazy & Ignatz. Spending hours upon hours with Bill over the years was better than 100 years of "media studies" at any university. He just about knew it all, and what he didn't know was located somewhere on the over-burdened shelves at his house, which doubled as The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art.

He was a gentle friend and a generous mentor. And while we'll all miss him, he lives on in each and every one of us who knew him, and in the books you read that we produce.

tribute

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Apr 20th, 2011

Talkin' Toth—and Toths Talkin' Back

April 27, 2011 marks the official on-sale date for Genius, Isolated, the first volume in our massive three-book examination of the life and career of the great Alex Toth.  We know this book has been eagerly awaited by Toth's fans, many of whom are some of the most popular and prestigious names in comics, animation, and motion pictures. We hope, as our readers make their way through the thirty thousand words of biography and twenty complete comics stories—many of them printed from the original art—contained in this 325-page, 9.5" x 13" tome, they will recognize it as a true labor of love, and will feel it has been worth the wait.

Certainly we were encouraged by the reactions to the book expressed by Alex's four children. They received a pre-publication edition for their review and approval and what they had to say was an affirmation that we had successfully achieved our goals.

1970

Three generations of Toths. Alex in 1970 with (from left to right) his mother,
daughters Dana and Carrie, and (in front) Eric and Damon.

Eric Toth read his copy of the book while traveling (in China, if memory serves). "The work looks great," he sent via his Blackberry from halfway around the world. "This is very exciting. Thanks for all of your hard work."

Eric's sister, Carrie Morash, was in her home when she wrote to us, saying, "I couldn't go very far without feeling emotional and missing my dad while reading your book. From the preface, which was thoughtful and kind, to the introduction by Mark Chiarello, I think my dad is being given a very fair biography. I loved the story of Mark's where he asked my dad for a drawing—the words and description of how dad responded were so him—"OK, pest..." A picture popped in my head of him sitting there and saying those words with one eyebrow raised as he often did. And, the quote of his—"See kiddo it's simple"—is all dad. Endearing. Heartwarming to me. The art work was a joy to read and view. So much has been gathered—it's hard to comment on all that went through my head as I read the story of my father. I don't think that I will ever stop discovering new things about him and his life now."

Like his brother, youngest son Damon also had to pass along his thoughts to Dean while on the run. "I want to thank you and Bruce for such a wonderful job you did on Genius, Isolated. I enjoyed reading every page and learned a great deal about dad. I look so forward to Genius, Illustrated and Genius, Animated."

Alex's first child, Dana Palmer, had this to say in two separate e-mails: "As I sit here in tears with a lump in my throat - this, this is a beautiful body of work. The layout/graphics/scans - done so impeccably. What a tribute. This was my father—Alex Toth. Wow. It sort of hit me in a new way during this process, and this book will be my bible when it comes to his legacy. My father would have loved this. I wish he were here to read it, and it makes me miss him even more. I wished I'd known some of the things discovered in this body of work. It explains a lot."

Toth Genius Isolated

This is, in some ways, The Year of Toth. Several publications dedicated to the work of this unique talent are being released during 2011, but Genius, Isolated is the only project undertaken with the approval of and in cöoperation with Alex's estate, and the only project returning money to that estate. We went into this project enthusiastic about presenting Alex's life story and artwork to modern audiences, but the relationship we've built with Dana, Carrie, Eric, and Damon over the past two years has made the Genius series even more special.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Monday, Apr 18th, 2011

April is Magyar Month

We have enough ongoing news and information about The Library of American Comics to prevent us from using this space to recommend noteworthy items from other genres…but Dean's letting me make an exception this time (mostly because he's in sync with every word that follows). I'll still bring it around at the end and connect it to LOAC, because, as a friend of mine likes to say, "It all comes back to comics."

Beginning April 19th, The Ernie Kovacs Collection goes on sale nationwide. This is glad news for humor fans in general and Kovacsphiles in particular. I am not big on the "pre-order" concept, yet I've had my copy of this six-disc DVD set pre-ordered since the end of March, which is an indication of how excited I am at the prospect of renewing my acquaintance with some of my favorite comedic characters and seeing some new-to-me Ernie material.

Kovacs

Ernie Kovacs (1919-1962) was a pioneer of television comedy, a genial Hungarian who combined a classicist's tastes with a street-level sense of humor. Ernie saw the fledgling television medium of the 1950s as a playground of infinite possibilities. To the best of my knowledge, Kovacs invented the music video - admittedly, he did it with classical music, setting an urban street scene to Bartok, an exaggerated poker game to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, and creating other quirky combinations, but there is no doubt he was incorporating music with video imagery a quarter-century before the debut of MTV.

Ernie was a master of the blackout sketch (also often set against a musical backdrop, most famously a German rendition of Mack the Knife). His lineup of recurring characters? Can't be beat. Wolfgang von Saurbraten, German disc chockey ("Brushen de getoofens mit Schnitzeldent") - the "old country" Hungarian, Miklos Molnar - kiddie show hosts Auntie Gruesome and Uncle Buddy - French arteest Pierre Ragout - tipsy magician Matzoh Heppelwhite - and flamboyant poet Percy Dovetonsils, whose classic Ode to Stanley's Pussycat includes such inspired lines as:

That pussy's personality

Slowly began to change

He hissed and arched his back so much

He looked like a camel with mange

Even Ernie's end-credits were interspersed with terrific gags. "Bless me, Tom Swift, is this your electric fiancé?" - "Sure, it's easy for you, Bernice, because you're a girl ... but for Doberman pinchers, it's a sometimes thing."

Kovacs2

Ernie's desire to push the envelope and explore the boundaries of TV's capabilities meant he had a hard time finding a permanent home: his programs started locally in Philadelphia, then bounced to NBC, CBS, the DuMont Network, and ABC. He starred in daytime series, nighttime series, late-night comedy, and even hosted the Take a Good Look quiz show.

Incredibly, he did some of his best work while his personal life was haunted by emptiness and uncertainty. In 1953 his first wife kidnapped their two daughters, Elizabeth and Kippie, successfully hiding them from their father for over two years. Ernie spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on private detectives and traced seemingly as many false leads. "To tell you the truth, I sit here crying for hours sometimes," he confessed during one print interview from this period.

Kovacskids

Photos of young Kippie and Elizabeth Kovacs, distributed to the wire services during the two years they were the kidnap victims of their mother.


In the book Kovacsland, Kippie discussed with biographer Diana Rico the 1955 day her father and grandfather tracked the girls and their wayward mother to a dingy house in central Florida:

I wanted to go with him, because I was living a life of misery, a total nightmare ... [Finally] I got in the car with him and he turned and said, "I see you still suck your thumb." So I said, "I see you still smoke cigars." And right away, it was right.

If the poignancy of Ernie's personal life and the hints of Ernie's genius aren't enough to sway you, here are four connections between Ernie and the world of comics, with three of them tied directly to The Library of American Comics:

1. Ernie made a handful of appearances in the early Mad magazine. Wally Wood illustrated the Kovacs take-off on Ripley's Believe It or Not titled Strangely Believe It, which featured items such as: "The strangest SCIENTIFIC PHENOMENON of all time was recorded on May 18, 1956, when Elizabeth Donohue Forsney was born in a commercial airliner while traveling over Grand Canyon, Colorado ... A telegram was immediately dispatched to Elizabeth's mother, who had missed the plane in Denver." Will Elder provided the artwork for Ernie's madcap board game, "Gringo!" (later brought to both the TV screen and long-playing vinyl album as "Droongo!").

2. Ernie's second wife was Edie Adams, the blonde bombshell famous for bringing Daisy Mae Scragg to life on stage in the 1950s Broadway production of Al Capp's popular Li'l Abner. Edie also appeared on several of Ernie's TV broadcasts and is sure to be well represented in the new DVD set.

3. Another member of Ernie's band of TV players was the ravishing Jolene Brand, who later played the role of Anna Maria in several episodes of the late-'50s TV adaptation of Zorro. The first Zorro comics based on the TV series were, of course, drawn by Alex Toth ...

4. …And Alex, like Ernie, was of Hungarian extraction.

In fact, with both The Ernie Kovacs Collection and our own Genius, Isolated being released so closely together, it seems fitting to declare April as Magyar Month, featuring hours of Hungarian-created comics biography/artwork and TV hijinx!

See? It really does all come back to comics…

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Wednesday, Apr 6th, 2011

Three More Eisner Nominations!

The Eisner Award nominations have been announced. In the first three years since we created the Library of American Comics, we received six nominations and took home the award twice.

This year, we up it by one, with three nominations. The massive Polly and Her Pals has two: one for Best Archival Collection—Comic Strips. and one for Best Publication Design.

Polly

Also nominated in the Best Archival Collection category is our tribute to Bob Montana's early Archie newspaper strips.

Archie

It's gratifying to see the incredible cartooning of Cliff Sterrett and Bob Montana continue to be recognized. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of "Polly and Her Pals." What better way to celebrate the strip!

Thanks to the Eisner judges for recognizing our efforts! Vote early and vote often!!!

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Apr 3rd, 2011

Ehhh—Crawford's Up, Doc!

In case you missed Dean's announcement in his interview at Previewsworld.com, Crawford is a one-shot due for release later in 2011, a book I'm especially thrilled to have in our lineup. If you're asking, "What is it, a Crawford?", a better question would be, "Whose brainchild is Crawford?" Because the answer to that is, "Chuck Jones," and if you're like me, that's sure to make you smile.

Crawford1

Though in my twenties I grew to enjoy Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks's Donald Duck and Uncle $crooge, as a boy I pooh-poohed all things Disney - I was strictly a Looney Tunes kinda guy. Not for me The Wonderful World of Disney with its airings Herbie the Love Bug, Professor Ludwig von Drake, and Charlie, the Ding-a-ling Lynx. I was all about The Bugs Bunny Show and the Warner Brothers characters, led by the wascawwy wabbit himself. It was guaranteed laughs whenever Bugs appeared in shorts like "Long-Haired Hare," "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!", "Beanstalk Bunny," or "Bully for Bugs." As I grew older and began reading the material on hand in the 1970s about Warners animation, I learned all the cartoons named were directed by the same talented individual, one Charles M. "Chuck" Jones.

Crawford2

 Jones's earliest work as a director was considered "cute" and slow-moving by his peers at the studio; his pacing quickly improved, but in his artwork there was always a rounded, curvy cuteness to the line. Long before manga and anime entrenched itself on American shores, Chuck Jones was drawing big-eyed kid characters in everything from his aborted Road Runner TV pilot to Cindy Lou Who from 1966's How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The trademark Jones cuteness is on display in Crawford, as well - and that's hardly a bad thing. Jones filters his stories through a kid's perspective, which includes flights of both whimsy and fancy while running an emotional gamut that will resonate to everyone who grew up as the neighborhood maverick, running against the herd.

Crawford_sunday

Dean's co-editor on Crawford is Kurtis Findlay, who conceived the project and has been researching this "Unknown Chuck Jones" project for the past couple of years. We're working with Marian Jones, Chuck's widow, on the project, and all art is © the Chuck Jones Estate. We'll have more on Crawford for you as its publication date draws near. In the meantime, why do I have a sudden urge to watch "The Rabbit of Seville" again ... ?

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Wednesday, Mar 30th, 2011

"Preserving American literature, humor, and history"

Dean_Bruce

I sat down with the folks at Previews recently to talk about newspaper strips, preservation, and LOAC's philosophy about both…plus a few other sidelines that you might find interesting. Check it out at Previewsworld.com.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Mar 23rd, 2011

The Caniff View of the LOAC Lineup

In writing about classic comics, I'm always on the lookout for connections—how the events of the day influenced strips (and vice versa), how a cartoonist's personal life made its way into storylines or inspired certain characters. And of course, how the life of one cartoonist crossed paths with others in various social or professional ways.

That made me look at the list of talent represented by the Library of American Comics line of books and consider the list of connections between them that we have documented since Terry and the Pirates Volume 1 went on sale in the summer of 2007. Because Terry was our first release, because this summer we'll release our big artbook, Caniff, and because Milton—"Mee-yul-tun," as his wife, Bunny, used to pronounce his name—was always a social, "clubby" sort, I considered Caniff as we have reprinted him, through the 1946 end of Terry. I wrote his name in the center of a piece of paper, grouped the names of our other artists around him, then started making connections between them.

Here is the picture I drew:

Crazy

Yes, the details are not perfect—Gray, Capp, Gould, and Jack Kent were all also NCS members, for example, and the post-Terry Caniff has syndicate relationships with other cartoonists that aren't depicted here—but this struck me as an interesting and useful set of groupings. The version above is also cleaner than my original; here I've used simple letters to replace the detailed notes I scribbled next to the arrows and boxes I sketched in amidst my cloud of names. This list describes those connections:

A: Young "Texas" Jack Kent appeared in the Li'l Abner "Advice fo' Chillun" Sunday gag-panel feature, as shown on page 130 of our Li'l Abner, Volume 2.

B: The two artists swapped occasional letters (with Toth the more eager of the two correspondents), as we'll discuss in Genius, Illustrated, the companion volume to Genius, Isolated, which will be on sale in a matter of weeks. 

C: Kent's King Aroo and Mills's Miss Fury were both Bell Syndicate strips.

D: The guiding lights behind Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy were correspondents, sometimes gossipy ones, as revealed starting on page 11 of Little Orphan Annie, Volume 5: "The One-Way Road to Justice."

E:  Blondie, Bringing Up Father, Family Circus, Polly & Her Pals, Secret Agent Corrigan, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, and Rip Kirby were all Hearst strips released under the King Features Syndicate banner.

F: Raymond and Williamson were both lauded for their work on Flash Gordon.

Do you see other connections among this group of artists? Drop a line to info@loacomics.com and let us know how you'd revise this picture of the LOAC lineup of talent. It will also be intriguing to watch how the picture grows and changes as we add new releases, including ...

Whoops—out of time! Keep watching this space for future announcements!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Sunday, Mar 20th, 2011

Fast and FURY-ous!

I grew up in a small New England town with a five-days-a-week newspaper, meaning my first exposure to comics was surely that paper's stable of strips: Peanuts, Juliet Jones, The Phantom, Beetle Bailey, and Red Eye. To a seven-year-old, the newspaper comics were just there, part of the fabric of daily living. What caught my youthful eye was comic books, often seen at the local barber shops, with a few of them even coming into my possession when my parents had a few extra coins to divert my way, or when a lengthy car ride was coming up and they knew a couple comics would keep me quiet for the duration, there in the back seat of the station wagon.

Two of the earliest comics to come my way were issues #163 and 165 of Marvel's Strange Tales, containing chapters of Steranko's high-octane "Nick Fury vs. The Yellow Claw" story-cycle. I was not exactly sure who these characters were or what was going on, but I knew it was exciting. Those two comics made me a lifelong Steranko fan, and decades later, the great Marvel Bankruptcy/Implosion of 1998 scuttled my chances of continuing in Steranko's footprints (I still have stats of Lee Weeks's pencils from my plot for what was supposed to be our opening Nick Fury salvo).

Thirteen years later, I'm resigned to the likelihood I'll never get a shot at writing Nick Fury…but over the space of just a few months, I've been involved with shepherding two other Furys back into print, both of them well worth your attention.

You'll find that rare wartime adventure comic, Jon Fury, featured in our very-soon-to-be-released Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth.

JonFury

Jon Fury was created especially for Toth's camp newspaper during his military service in Tokyo, and was produced for reproduction on an Army "multigraph" machine, which was hand-cranked in order to generate press runs. Since it was designed to reproduce text, Jon Fury presented a number of production challenges for Private First Class Toth.

multigraph

Like Toth's original run of Jon Fury, our reprinting is presented in its authentic inked version and, as with everything in Genius: Isolated, has been approved by and presented in coöperation with the Toth family. Reading Alex's first ongoing effort at producing plot, script, and art is one of the highlights of the book.

Before Alex Toth began producing Jon Fury, New York cartoonist Tarpé Mills was telling tales of Marla Drake, the costumed adventurer known as Miss Fury.

Miss Fury

Mills's series debuted in 1941 and struck a unique chord, especially compared to the testosterone-filled adventure strips created by Tarpé's male peers. Miss Fury is a mix of action and romance, Nazis and science fiction, fashion and gangsters.

Double

Trina Robbins, the acknowledged authority on all things Miss Fury, is your guide to this, the most extensive collection of this strip ever assembled, including the only surviving pages of Tarpé Mills's final comics work—a 1980s graphic novel!

Things eventually work out for the best. Though my Nick Fury work never got published, it's been fun and informative to be involved with the production of both Jon Fury and Miss Fury…and hey, two out of three ain't bad.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Monday, Mar 14th, 2011

Caniff Rarities

As we're organizing material for the forthcoming visual biography entitled CANIFF, we'd like to share some choice items that reside in Milton Caniff's personal collection at The Ohio State University.

Talk about historical artifcats, here the proud cartoonist telegrams his wife: he's got a strip of his own!

DickieDare

In addition to the weekly Male Cale strip that Caniff created for the military newspapers during the Second World War, he also provided insignias for dozens upon dozens of American fighting forces units. Here's one of his comps, circa 1944:

Boxing

Never one to miss out on an opportunity for publicity, here we see Caniff drawing the va-va-voom girl, Jayne Mansfield, who was then starring in the film "The Girl Can't Help It." Mansfield's co-star was the nebbishy Tom Ewell, who, the year before, had co-starred in "The Seven-Year Itch" with Marilyn Monroe.

Mansfield

More Caniff rarities to come, so stay tuned…

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Mar 7th, 2011

The Flowering of Talent

I've been spending time of late in Dogpatch, preparing material for Li'l Abner Volume 3, where 1939 and 1940 bring us what I consider to be the first truly great storylines of Al Capp's comedic masterwork. Does that mean the stories that came before, say, The Grapes of Wrath parody are somehow second-stringers?

Hardly. That first Gat Garson continuity in April '36 or the Sunday trip into Africa two years later, with Sir Cecil Cesspool leading an expedition to the land of the Mukoy ("eht dnal fo eht Mukoy," in their primitive tongue) can provide a lift on almost any down day. Funny is funny, after all.

A cartoonist's earliest efforts are seeds planted in the fertile soil of the nation's newspapers, sprouting into more daring and audacious future material, and ultimately being harvested into collected editions. Part of the fun of working on (and reading) Library of American Comics material is watching Al Capp's talent and confidence grow from the straightforward "City Mouse/Country Mouse" content of Abner's earliest visit to New York to Fearless Fosdick's increasingly-sophisticated strip-within-a-strip or the layered spoofery of Abner's first trip to Lower Slobbovia in 1946. Long before superhero "universes" were de rigueur, creators like Al Capp were building complex, self-contained worlds of their own, four panels at a time, day by day by day.

Abner1940

Al Capp loved to introduce catchphrases into Li'l Abner. Here he uses the return of that Dogpatch Don Juan,
Adam Lazonga, to try out "Yo' big fat sloppy beast!!"

Nor, of course, is Capp the only talent we've seen bloom as we look across LOAC's editions. Neither Poppy Joe nor The Skull cracks anyone's top ten list of great Terry and the Pirates villains but they serve an important purpose, allowing the youthful Caniff to determine what worked and what didn't, to refine his level of melodrama, to fine-tune the mixture of comedy to adventure. By the end of his first year on the job Caniff has Pat Ryan embroiled in his romance with Normandie Drake in the dailies, while introducing the wonderful Captain Blaze to give the increasingly-sophisticated Dragon Lady a run for her money in his Sunday sequences. The rest, to borrow the cliché, is history.

Pat_Burma

Eighteen months after debuting Terry, Milton Caniff amped up the strip's romance and menace with the introduction
of both Burma and the nefarious Captain Judas.

And later this year, when our first Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim volume debuts, it will be great fun to contrast the efforts of the fledgling Alex Raymond to the work of the fully-polished professional who launched Rip Kirby in 1946.

JungleJim

Rip1956

Compare the composition and figure work on display in these two examples
from Alex Raymond's
Jungle Jim and Rip Kirby.

It can be argued that the explosion of modern media and the intense competition for the public's entertainment dollar has raised the median talent line in the marketplace and lifted the overall level of craftsmanship on display. Yet reading series like Li'l Abner, Terry, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, and Rip Kirby in collected editions shows us that we lost something when the heyday of comic strips disappeared, while reminding us that the material being plucked from that long ago garden of newspapers stands the test of time and repays reading, so many decades after its initial publication.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Tuesday, Mar 1st, 2011

Will the Real Archie Goodwin Please Stand Up

"What's the real Archie Goodwin really like?" is the title of a fascinating behind-the-scenes essay by Anne T. Murphy, Archie's widow, in the second volume of X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson that will be on sale soon.

Anne writes, "Every comics family hears questions like these from fans and interviewers alike, yet new fallacies constantly spring up and get spread online. We know the facts, but are rarely asked; and when asked, if our facts don’t fit the preconception, we’re tuned out and the fan defaults to his own mental image."

Corrigan2

Anne sets the record straight about Archie's early career: "Following his studies at the School of Visual Arts, Archie worked at Redbook as a junior graphic artist in a large art department, spent two years as an Army draftee, and returned to paste-ups and layouts at Redbook. Contrary to wikipedia and other self-appointed experts, he was never chief editor of Redbook [Lembiek], and didn’t start his cartooning career there, never joined the Harvey Comics staff in 1962—he was stuck in Virginia on an Army post—and never edited in the sense of selecting or editing content at Redbook…. Fans unable to fit Redbook into his later career created this grandiose resume.

Redbook, however, is very important and does matter: it was a learning ground for everything about how professional magazines are put together, and this—not anything learned in comics—equipped him to be editor-in-chief of the Warren magazines. Archie and I met at Redbook, where we both had day jobs. He wrote at night—often two full free-lance stories on the nights I attended NYU graduate school classes—and had just sold a prose story written as a New School assignment to Ellery Queen Magazine…"

There's more, of course. Lots more. But you don't think we're going to print it all here, do you? We've got to leave some surprises for the book.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Feb 18th, 2011

Talkin' Toth: Part Four

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot—more than we can comfortably fit into our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist. But we can share some of that additional material with you in this space, so—here is our latest in a series of Talkin' Toth:


ALEX ON SWORDFIGHTING ON THE ZORRO TV SHOW from a 1958 letter -
This week's TV Guide—Guy Williams Catalano tells of his dad teaching him the art of foil and saber from Guy's seventh summer. What hokey tripe…he's a clumsy ox afoot…and admitted to our editor that he'd fenced not a stroke prior to Freddie Cavens' first lesson at the Disney lot gym… [Fred Cavens was Errol Flynn’s old fencing master at Warner Brothers.]

Britt Lomond (Monastario) was always the better blade…

The above, Guy and Britt, costumed, will fence in person at Disneyland this weekend…restaging their TV duels for the hot dog crowd.

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in early April.

Zorro

A page from "Zorro's Secret Passage" (© 2011 Zorro Productions Inc.)

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Wednesday, Feb 16th, 2011

Polly is Everyone's Pal

The rave reviews continue coming in for our first volume of Cliff Sterrett's Polly and Her Pals. It's also the first book in our gigantic "champagne edition" size—a glorious 12" x 16" that allows the art to truly shine, and caused J. Caleb Mozzocco at newsarama to note that it's "a perfect coffee table book—not one that you would put on your coffee table...but one big enough to be used as a coffee table."

You also gotta like a review that begins, "This extraordinary volume...", and that's exactly how Johanna Draper Carlson's review starts on Comics Worth Reading.

Polly

Greg Barbrick at blogcritics calls it "the most gorgeous book I've ever seen." Not to be outdone, Scott Katz at ustownhall.com writes, "Reading Polly and Her Pals gives one the same thrill that an archeologist must feel as he or she dusts off an antiquity: the thrill of discovery—the sense of origin—the knowledge that one is witnessing the birth of new artistic techniques rather than the tenth generation knockoffs of those techniques."

One of the most rewarding reviews comes from Gordon Flagg at Booklist, who writes, "The early years of newspaper comics produced a handful of widely acknowledged masterworks, such as Little Nemo and Krazy Kat; this impressive [Polly and Her Pals] collection makes a convincing case that Sterrett's creation should be added to that honor roll."

THIS is why we do what we do, why we spent 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week researching and restoring classic newspaper strips—so the unique visions of such incredible cartoonists as Cliff Sterrett and Jack Kent can be rescued from obscurity and preserved in long-lasting archival editions.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Feb 13th, 2011

Sunday Funnies Are Like a Box of Chocolates…

…At least, they are on February 14th. To mark Valentine's Day, 2011, The Library of American Comics offers you this Whitman's Sampler of classic comics from Sunday, February 14th, 1937:

Flash

Terry Valentine

Valentine LOA

Valentine Tracy

Abner Valentine

Is it possible Sunday funnies are better than a box of chocolates? Just as sweet - with zero calories!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Friday, Feb 4th, 2011

Harrowing Heroines

I've put a lot of Alex Toth talk into this space recently—and there'll be more of that chatter to come, you can be sure. Many have told us they're eager to see Genius, Isolated, and I like to think their patience will be rewarded. Meanwhile, we have two other books featuring two very different female lead characters that will repay your time and attention.

The year got off to a fine start with the release of Little Orphan Annie Volume 6. One of our staunch supporters works as the Trade Book Coordinator for Maine's Colby College Bookstore (Sopranos fans might remember the first season episode in which Tony and his daughter Meadow visited the Colby campus). In his blog, our friend described Annie as, "a sprawling Depression-era fable about a kid with nothing but spunk, grit, determination, and a great dog. These beautiful volumes belong on the shelves of anyone who takes ‘graphic novels' (I still call 'em comics) seriously." Who am I to argue with an assessment like that?

LOA6


Our sixth volume features the quasi-mystical Punjab and the story of Eli Eon and the miracle substance Eonite, a story treasured by Annie fans everywhere. My sentimental favorite in this book, however, is the "Annie in Hollywood" segment featuring the return of Pee Wee the Elephant. Some complain that Harold Gray didn't draw convincing dogs, but he sure knew how to depict an elephant! I am utterly charmed and utterly convinced every time Pee Wee steps into a scene.

Little Orphan Annie is unique in the LOAC stable: we started with the rarely-seen original strips from the 1924 debut of the series, then moved in chronological order through the early 1930s strips that were collected by other publishers in decades past. Now we once again move into largely-unreprinted territory, so those Annieologists who have been feeling déjà vu should enjoy the fresh material at the end of Volume 6, and will want to join us again later this year for the debut of The Asp in Volume 7!


• • • • •


While Orphan Annie is arguable comics' premier kid headliner, there's no doubt the star of our coming springtime release is all grown up...


MissFury


We're pleased to add Miss Fury to the Library of American Comics lineup—her provocative exploits were released by the Bell Syndicate and carried by newspapers nationwide for a dozen years during the 1940s and '50s. Miss Fury's unique place in comics history was cemented by her creator, Tarpé Mills. There were other women cartoonists, but only Mills was interested in mixing it up with the boys in the realm of costumed adventure. Her work blended derring-do with a dash of fashion, and melodrama with a modicum of romance. Oh yes, there's a certain kink factor as well—Miss Fury's world comes complete with its share of whips, lingerie, bondage (of a sort), and spike heels.

FuryProof

The book has turned out to be an all-woman project. It's being assembled by the one and only Trina Robbins, who is of course a cartoonist, a comics historian, and an expert on the subject of Mills and her panther-suited star. The Sunday restoration and overall design is handled by LOAC's own, two-time Emmy winner  Lorraine Turner. Similar to our 2009 Bringing Up Father release, Trina is selecting prime cuts from the Miss Fury archives for your reading pleasure.

Sunday2proof

Meanwhile, over at comicsbeat.com, Heidi MacDonald gave Miss Fury a shout-out the other day, and printed four other Sundays you won't want to miss.

As I read and compare/contrast Annie from the 1930s and Miss Fury from the 1940s, I'm reminded that, here in the 21st Century, these crackling good stories help keep us all young at heart.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Tuesday, Feb 1st, 2011

Bloom County Goes Digital!

Bloom_iPad

In addition to keeping the entire set of the Bloom County Library on your bookshelves, you Berkeley Breathed fans can also take the strips with you when you're traveling…if you have an iPad. IDW has signed an exclusive digital distribution deal with Apple for the Eisner Award-winning Bloom County, and Darwyn Cooke's Eisner Award-winning The Hunter, as well as The Outfit, the second book in his series, and other titles.

We've been thinking a lot about how our classic comics can possibly translate to new digital formats. I'm all about readability. Jeff Webber is IDW's e-publishing guru. I talked to him about how his design team took the book format and ran with it. "It really translates nicely to the iPad screen," Jeff told me. "Our design team modified the digital format to present the strips on single screens while retaining the overall graphic integrity of the print series. We wanted to make sure this didn't come off as shoveling a print book into a digital format." The app features full screen strips covering the first year of Bloom County, from December 1980 through December 1981, along with an introduction by Berkley Breathed and comments about individual strips.

Bloom_digitaldaily

"Apple was excited to see that we've brought this classic material to the iPad," Jeff added. Bloom County Library Vol. 1 was selected by Apple for "New and Noteworthy" in the iPad App Store, and is in the top 10 books.

Bloom County: The Complete Library Volume One is now available from the App Store for $7.99. Click here to download.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Jan 28th, 2011

It's Always Lovelier the Second Time Around

Every day we receive emails from fans who want to know when we're going to release new editions of our books that are currently out-of-print. We don't blame anyone for not wanting to shell out $150-200 for a book on the secondary market. So, rest easy, friends. In March, all of our sold-out books will be available again.

They are: Terry and the Pirates 2-6 (Volume one has already been reprinted), Dick Tracy 8, Rip Kirby 1, Bloom County 2 and 3, Archie 1, and Bringing Up Father.

SecondPrint

In his introduction to the second volume of Terry and the Pirates, Pete Hamill—one of our favorite writers, author of North River; Downtown: My Manhattan; and the memoir, A Drinking Life—had this to say about the greatest of all adventure strips:

"Here, in this sequence of daily strips and Sunday pages from the first day of January 1937 to the last day of 1938, we see Milton Caniff emerging as one of the most gifted writers of narrative in the American 20th century. Week by week, his drawing takes on a growing power, at once bold and subtle, a display of draftsmanship that was seldom seen before in the comic strip form. But it was as a writer that Caniff excelled.

"We see more clearly now that he was engaged in writing and drawing a picaresque novel, as full of adventures as Don Quixote, Tom Jones or Huckleberry Finn. There is no single plot to be unraveled, no Maltese falcon to be revealed, no butler who confesses to a detective in a crowded drawing room that yes, he did it. In Terry and the Pirates, one sequence gathers momentum, the heroes are trapped, or imprisoned, or face overwhelming odds, and ends with a culminating eruption of action and release. When all is apparently resolved, they move on to another adventure. Day by day, the reader is often left tottering on the serial-writer's cliff, anxious to learn what happens next."

'Nuff said.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Jan 24th, 2011

Gutsy Broads, Unite

miss_fury

I have worked as a designer for most of my life. You learn a lot about people this way. Sometimes you work with high-maintenance clients with whom you roll your eyes and try to give them the logo or billboard or brochure that is in their little minds. I am the hands that create what they are envisioning.

It has its moments, though. I enjoy meeting interesting people and I have lots of great stories to tell my children and grandchildren. As I wake up each morning, I approach my computer with a sense of adventure...which comic will I be working on today? Will it bring a smile or will it cause me to interrupt Dean and say, "Oh, my gosh, get over here, you have to see this!"?

Today is one of those days. I'm now working on the restoration of Miss Fury and am becoming more acquainted with Tarpé Mills's style. She loves to show a lot of skin, and the babes are always in furs and hats that look fresh off the runways of Paris. Her art is drawn very traditionally—no surprises, no ah-ha moments. But her storytelling is drawing me in more and more. What a gutsy storyteller: women pulled through car windows by their hair, Nazi swastikas branded to their foreheads...young children being told if they don't stop whimpering they'll get their heads bashed in.

No wonder she passed herself off as a male artist...in those days people would run if they knew these stories came from a woman. I wonder now if my mom ever read these strips or ones like them. Did she pump her fist and say, "YES," as the female villain was knocked down a few pegs, or is this just wishful thinking on my part? I hope she did. I hope that, after the dishes were done and all eight of us kids were tucked in bed, she poured herself a cup a tea and sat with a newspaper and read about women in fancy duds attending fancy parties.

As I work each day bringing life back to this strip, I think of that generation and how this was a huge part of their entertainment. I hope by bringing this strip to the audience of today, they will appreciate what it must have been like to anxiously wait every day for the paper to arrive. This is my pleasure and this is the story I tell to my children: slow down and learn from the craftsmen—and women—of yesterday. Slowly turn the pages and when you come across something that makes you stop and take notice, share it with a friend.

* * * * *

This full-color collection featuring the best Miss Fury strips from the 1940s will be on sale in April, edited by and with a biographic introduction by the one-and-only Trina Robbins.

lorraineposted by Lorraine Turner

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Sunday, Jan 16th, 2011

Silence Is Golden

Lorraine_Toth

As I have stated before, I am new to the comic industry—but am very well aquainted with visual communication. Throughout my journey, I have been by surrounded by some of the finest teachers—some from this century and some from long ago. Yesterday, as I was browsing through the aisles in my local Borders (yes there is still one in Key West), I came across a small section entitled Graphic Novels. I picked up a few books and was quite honestly disappointed. I kept looking at one after another and they all said the same thing to me...noise.

Although the expertise used in rendering the work may have been quite superb, the overall content was crashing as if an orchestra's cymbal player had run amuk, instead of waiting for his cue. Louder is not better, and without the subtleties of a soft melody, the music is just a dull tone. Perhaps I am becoming spoiled working daily restoring strips by artists such as Cliff Sterrett, Milton Caniff, Al Capp, Alex Raymond, and Alex Toth. As I placed the graphic novels at Borders back upon their shelves, I was struck by the fact that their covers looked no different then their "inners." It was as if that special piece of work that used to adorn the outer covering was now all-encompassing.

I walked along the rows of other books and kept wondering why I had found this so disturbing; I guess I was still processing what I had just uncovered. I think storytelling can be muddied by over-embellishment, leaving your eye no place to rest. Many contemporary comics artists are doing a fine job of giving the reader absolutely beautiful work, but are they all beginning to look alike? This is what they need to ask themselves. I wish they would get out of the studio and wander down the aisles of the bookshops and see the work as it lines up like uniformed soldiers along the shelves—all standing at attention wearing identical attire, saying pick me, pick me—I'm really different, just give me a look!

I do not give this thought as a collector or even a person who has been in the publishing industry. I give you my thoughts as one who enjoys a good story, who likes to blend my mind within the pages and let it carry me away. I may not be an expert in this world of graphic novels, but I do know one thing. Artists of today should take time to pause, pick up a collection of any of the masters listed above, and study it. And if they are quiet and really look with intent, perhaps they will discover the secret that was known to the artists who walked before them—to learn to say more with less. Learn the art of silence.

lorraineposted by Lorraine Turner

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Thursday, Jan 13th, 2011

Talkin' Toth: Part Three

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot - more than we can comfortably fit into our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist. But we can share some of that additional material with you in this space, so - here is our latest in a series of Talkin' Toth:


ALEX ON ANIMATION, EXCERPTED FROM A 1981 LETTER -
I wonder why it is that the best of any artform is found at its very beginnings? Before the worst of organized commercialism throttles it of its originality, joy, freshness - Disney, the Fleischers, Harman-Ising, Chuck Jones/Friz Freling/Bob Clampett's WB Studios, Tex Avery, etc.—all refined and expanded the animation form (Hanna+Barbera at MGM, too)—true! WW II crimped most of 'em—I guess TV did the rest—the '50s left only Disney doing features, thriving to the '60s -

Bakshi's outrageous excursions, rotoscopy and all—banality, sheer shock, noise, insult and injury—still manage to pump fresh blood into the medium—where he goes from here is an unknown—but he'll always provoke interest—and box office!

I'm admiring of Winsor McCay's solo films (Lusitania/Flying House in particular—beautiful straight-ahead animation, self-taught, original, so well-drawn)—as I am of his Nemo Sunday page artistry—

And corny or not, I get a kick out of Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell live/cartoon combination films—as, too, Gulliver and Mr. Bugs/Hoppity Goes to Town—especially the rotoscope work! Still held charm and warmth—old-fashioned virtues, worthy…

Koko

A Koko the Clown model sheet from the Fleischer Studios

Despite exiting animation and its care-killing TV schedules, I love its storytelling medium (as I do adventure strips)—its ability to give life to any story form (and/or personal statements)—surprisingly, during our current space-film craze, it was overlooked as an alternative to $30-$40 million dollar live-action epics - but its many forms were tapped as SP/FX inserts in those films—All I've heard is that Canada's film board talents are at work on a Heavy Metal animation feature—a mix of fantasy/sci-fi, etc., and styles of art based on original strip art—Am curious to see the results…

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in March.

A new interview about the book with editor Dean Mullaney is on the Westfield Comics blog.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Sunday, Jan 9th, 2011

Talkin' Toth: Part Two

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot—more than we can comfortably fit into our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist. But we can share some of that additional material with you in this space, so—here is our latest in a series of Talkin' Toth:

Hohlwein

A Ludwig Hohlwein advertising poster from the 1920s for Leibniz-Keks biscuits.


FROM A 1981 LETTER - TOTH ON PAINTS AND FINISHES:

I've had my ups/downs, love/hate bits with acrylics—and, at present, am keen on the wonders of opaque tempera—forgiving as it is of brushes, very workable, paint-over capacity, nice texture when working, paints don't dry out/up in cakes (always semi-moist), etc.—I find school-grade brands as acceptable as the higher-priced "Liquitex."

Am collecting old books on the subject and re-reading my old tomes on its use by my hero illustrators/painters back in the old days of the '40s, etc.… I'm just doing an occasional small rough, no big deal finished paintings, as it's all I can do to meet b&w deadlines, the stuff that pays the rent! But I'm daydreaming painting, all the while—my question about tempera is, how and with what does one fix a painting - as the stuff does chip, dust, rub off, etc.—crack, too, I suppose… Do regular spray fixes, varnishes, etc. do the job? Acrylic clear varnish brushed on? I've got a C.C. Beck Captain Tootsie poster paint piece that I'm spooked to touch with a fix until I know I won't screw it up using the wrong stuff!

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in March.

Thanks to our (and Alex's) good pal Bill Peckmann for letting us scan some pages, including the above, from his rare 1920s collection of Ludvig Hohlwein's art. Hohlwein was THE great German poster artist in the modern school and had a huge influence on Alex's use of negative space and composition in general.

Meanwhile, over at SCOOP, Jeff Vaughn expressed his anticipation for the first book:

"With Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, IDW Publishing's Library of American Comics imprint redefined the standards for art retrospective books. Now it looks like they're out to do it again with Genius, Isolated: The Life And Art Of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell."

Aw, shucks. We just love talkin' Toth.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Tuesday, Jan 4th, 2011

2010: The LOAC Year in Review (part two)

Welcome back to our curtain call for 2010. While the weather outside is frightful (a blizzard is pounding New England as I type), in this feature it's so delightful, with summer in full swing as we look at…

JULY

LOAC was in attendance at the San Diego Comic-Con and was humbled (but mightily pleased) to receive the Eisner Award for "Best Archival Project—Newspaper Strips" for Bloom County, Volume One.  Bloom prevailed over another LOAC project, Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea, which I edited—but a win for one is a win for all, so I was cheering Bloom wildly through my tears.

 Bloom Eisner

LOAC Assembled celebrates the 2010 Eisner win: Dean Mullaney, Lorraine Turner, Berkeley Breathed, and Bloom County editor Scott Dunbier, displaying the award. Alas, I was back East, on monitor duty.


Hardly willing to rest on our laurels, as the month waned, our collection of Bob Montana's Archie dailies hit the shelves.

archie

AUGUST

We caught our collective breath in August, even as the rest of the world caught up to us, just a bit. It was highly gratifying to have noted reviewer Charles de Lint praise our inaugural volume of King Aroo in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; scroll to the bottom of his "Books to Look For" column and there they are. The San Diego Tribune also gave LOAC front page coverage as an outgrowth of Comic-Con.

SEPTEMBER

Things were popping on several front in LOAC-land during this month. Here's the rundown:

Beau Smith joined the LOAC family circus as our very own Director of Marketing. One of Beau's missions is to increase LOAC's visibility in school libraries and university bookstores.

Bill Griffith dropped a mention of King Aroo into the September 10th installment of his own strip, the immortal Zippy. Thanks, Bill!

Dean appeared as Chris Marshall's guest on a Collected Comics Library podcast. Through the magic of the Internet, you can listen to the entire program.

X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan Volume 1 went on sale.

corrigan1

Then, if that wasn't enough, things really got busy in…

OCTOBER

How to follow up the release of our first collection of Blondie, running from Blondie Boopadoop's very first strip to the wedding (and subsequent disinheritance) of Dagwood Bumstead?

Blondie

Dean and I swooped in on the New York Comic Con (NYCC) for three days, from October 8 - 10.

NYCC

Move over, Laurel & Hardy! The LOAC editorial braintrust were on hand to hawk their wares and steer hopeful artists to the IDW portfolio reviews at NYCC.


Our feet grew heavy, standing on a thinly-carpeted concrete floor for nine hours each day, but our spirits were light as we talked to hundreds of fans about comics in general and classic comic strips in particular.

And when the fans weren't visiting with us, we were chatting with the pros. Melissa Singer of Tor Books shared her childhood memories of the great comic strips. James Robinson, Ken Steacy, Glenn Whitmore, Andrew Farago of San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum, David Armstrong, Ryder Windham, and the one-and-only Don McGregor were some of our other visitors. Dean and I both took time to break away long enough to exchange pleasantries with the ever-amazing Jim Steranko. I was also lucky enough to catch Joe Kubert for a chat, and to meet irrepressible Nicky Brown (you can read her words of wisdom at her blog. My most devilish fun: stepping in amidst some of the IDW staff early Sunday morning to introduce myself to Darwyn Cooke after he arrived carrying a distinctive green briefcase bearing the shamrock logo of the NBA's most storied franchise. "Celtics, bay-bee!" was all I had to say to earn a grin from Darwyn.

Dean and I showed off several of the wonders we've accumulated as we prepare our Alex Toth biography, but few knew that we were also grabbing moments throughout the weekend to have serious discussions about the growth of the project, and the ultimate shape it might take…

Bloom County was one of the most popular items at NYCC—more than one fan was disappointed to learn Berkeley Breathed would not be at the show—but in the wake of the convention, Bloom Volume 3 went on sale.

bloom3

 

Across the Atlantic, Bdartist(e) was releasing its French edition of Terry and the Pirates, Volume 1.

French_Terry

Finally, not to be outdone by Dean's September podcast, near the end of the month I was delighted to appear as a guest on Scott Katz's Internet radio program at US Townhall. Yes, Virginia, you can still listen to the interview.

 

NOVEMBER

Berkeley Breathed joined the interview Parade with a Q&A conducted by Mike Russell at Ain't It Cool.

 Meanwhile, we took a second trip to Dogpatch to learn the origin of Sadie Hawkins Day in Li'l Abner Volume 2:

Abner2

For days, Dean and I tossed e-mails back and forth using the language of the Mukoy! Yeh, ti desuma su

Around Thanksgiving, Dean and Lorraine embarked on a junket that included visits with Beau and Beth Smith, as well as the hard-working caretakers of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University and Randy Scott at Michigan State University, plus Dana Palmer (Alex Toth's eldest daughter) and Eric Toth (Alex's eldest son).

Dean_Lorraine_Beau

Beau Smith displays his Svengali-like charm over women, to Dean's bemusement.

 

DECEMBER

The Great LOAC Road Trip paved the way for a pair of major announcements on our website. The visit to OSU was in preparation of 2011's Caniff, a visual biography of the creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon.

Caniff_cvr

With the endorsement of the Toth family, we also gave readers bad news and good news. The bad news: our original late-2010 solicitation for Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth was pushed back to the first quarter of 2011. The good news: because we have gathered so much excellent material, the Toth project has expanded to fill three books! Genius, Isolated will be part one of our retrospective on Toth, to be concluded in the follow-up volume, Genius, Illustrated. A third book (plus slipcase for the entire set) will follow, with Genius, Animated focusing on Toth's brilliant career in TV cartoons.

Genius_slipcase

Not only did we release information about some of our 2011 plans—yes, only some. We need to save a few tidbits for the new year, after all!—we stuffed readers' Christmas stockings with a fine pair of new releases: the third, penultimate volume in our reprinting of Alex Raymond's Rip Kirby…

Rip3

…And the wonderful, must-be-seen-to-be-believed oversize Polly and Her Pals, Volume 1. My heart skips a beat every time I take down a copy of this beautiful collection and start turning the pages. Author Paul Di Filippo calls it: "A monumental object of comic strip bookmaking glory. Phenomenal!" Over at Newsarama, J. Caleb Mozzocco cracked us up in his review of Polly when he dubbed it, "…a perfect coffee table book—not one that you would put on your coffee table...but one big enough to be used as a coffee table."

Polly and Her Pals

And that's the way it was—fourteen books, a Free Comic Book Day special, appearances at major conventions on both coasts, a passel of interviews, a truckload of work—and several truckloads of fun.

If you enjoyed this website and the LOAC line of books in 2010, keep watching. We think you'll like what lies ahead in 2011!

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Saturday, Jan 1st, 2011

2010: The LOAC Year in Review

While hardly an original idea, the thought of doing a "Year in Review" feature for this space struck me as time and effort well spent. After all, during the past twelve months Dean, Lorraine, Beau, and I have been busier than Santa's elves, ably abetted by Jeet Heer, Joseph Ketels, Brian Walker, and a long list of graphic artists, collectors, and writers who make such important contributions to our line of books.

As we greet the New Year, here's a look back over our collective shoulder at 2010, LOAC style:

JANUARY

The year began with a project near and dear to all our hearts: King Aroo, Volume 1.

aroo1

It was a great pleasure to bring this gentle, long-overlooked classic back into print, and to help shine the spotlight on the King's talented creator, Jack Kent. We look forward to offering more Myopean Misadventures in 2011!

 

FEBRUARY & MARCH

Dean's joke is that we were "Closed for Repairs" during these two months, when in reality we were girding our loins for all sorts of activity in ...

 

APRIL

We opened this month with a pair of aces and a pair of deuces. As the baseball season began anew (who dreamed it would result in a championship for the San Francisco Giants?), we emphasized the diversity of our line by releasing our second volumes of both Rip Kirby and Bloom County (the latter debuted at number four on the New York Times Best Seller list).

Rip2

 

Bloom2

Not only did we serve up thick slices of Berkeley Breathed's increasingly-topical absurdist comedy and Alex Raymond's 1950s New York detective chic, we also launched this very website; Dean's "Welcome to the Digital Library!" posting is dated April 9th. Before the month ended, we were able to announce in this space Eisner nominations for both Bloom Volume One and Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea, as well as listing our initial plans for Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth.

Last, though hardly least, we launched another series in April: our reprinting of Al Capp's satirical masterpiece, Li'l Abner. For the first time, full-color Sundays were included along with the dailies.

Abner1

There was a ripple of controversy surrounding our Abner reprint program as a segment of the readership expressed the wish for a series containing only Sunday pages, since they own the dailies in the earlier Kitchen Sink Press series. I'm sympathetic to that perspective - I have all twenty-seven KSP volumes on my bookshelves - and there was internal discussion about how to best reprint Abner. I campaigned long and loudly that we needed to re-publish the dailies with the Sundays; Capp's work is too important and too dang good not to be preserved for 21st Century audiences in comprehensive LOAC editions. We hope our inaugural Li'l Abner releases have changed the minds of any dissenters, but if not ... I still feel we made the right decision.

 

MAY

The first of May was Free Comic Book Day, and LOAC participated with a flipbook featuring our current and upcoming projects.

FCBD

Our website worked in tandem with the FCBD sampler in announcing our plans for the Williamson/Goodwin Secret Agent Corrigan, as well as Polly & Her Pals in our oversize "champagne edition" format. In bookstores and on-line, we brought Little Orphan Annie into the mid-1930s with Volume Five of her series, featuring a variety of nasties including Charles C. Chizzler, Phil O. Bluster, and the Ghost Gang.

LOA5

 

JUNE

We arrived at the halfway point of 2010 with one of our most popular series reaching its tenth edition, as Dick Tracy squared off against the likes of Itchy, Gargles, and Influence.

DT10

The Influence saga remains one of my favorite Tracy storylines, as Gould does a fabulous job emphasizing the sadistic creepiness of the villain's mind-control powers.

On a lighter note, Bil Keane brought another ring to the Family Circus as a new baby was added to the mix.

FC2

All that and we're only halfway through the year! Watch this space for the concluding installment of this 2010 LOAC Year in Review…

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Friday, Dec 31st, 2010

The Greatest New Year's Eve Sunday of All!

It doesn't get any better than this spectacular Sunday by George McManus and Zeke Zekley from December 31, 1939. Ahhh, back at a time when artists spent days—sometimes weeks—on a single Sunday comic strip, with no thought of posterity or future book collections such as those we are now producing. Masterworks such as this were created to read but once in an ephemeral newspaper on a relaxing Sunday morning. Incredible but true.

Happy New York to one and all!

BringingUpFather

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Tuesday, Dec 28th, 2010

Talkin' Toth: Part One

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot. Much of it will appear in our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist, and some we just couldn't comfortably fit. Over the next month, we will share some of that material with you in this space, so—here is the first in a series of "Talkin' Toth."

Toth_romance

The splash page from "I Struck it Rich," from Personal Love #11, published in September 1951 by Eastern Color.

 

TOTH REFLECTS ON HIS ROMANCE WORK IN A 1978 LETTER

As I recall, the whole scheme of these comics was to attract the pre-pubescent, if not adolescent, girl readership—those who were too old to read funny animal and hero comics, but still too young to read True Confessions-type "slicks"—so, the writers cut to the middle line, giving just enough, but not too much, story—load it with emotional scenes girls could relate to, and serve it up with credible artwork!

It worked very well, and for a good many years!

It affected my approach to every story I was to illustrate thereon—regardless of type—kinship was established with the writer, his motive, his copy, his delivery of dialogue, and his sequential breakdown of scenes to tell the story! I have had high regard for good writers, always! It's the hack writer, of low talent, sensitivity, who has come under my fire, of whose work I'd reject, out of hand, returning scripts to befuddled editors who'd never heard of such goings-on before—thus, my reputation as a renegade grew—I'd had the privilege of working from good, sane scripts—and it spoilt me for the hack tripe of other writers, often puffed-up sorts who'd howl to editors about my changes or comments, never acknowledging the obvious reason for them: that their work was mediocre, minus a factor of ten!

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in March.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Saturday, Dec 25th, 2010

Season's Greetings to All

An assortment of holiday strips from various books in the Library of American Comics…with our best wishes to all for the holiday season and the new year.

Dick Tracy

BloomCounty

Burma

LOA

Lil Abner

Scorchy

archie

FC

Raven

posted by Dean Mullaney Dean Mullaney  canwell Bruce Canwell    lorraine Lorraine Turner

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Wednesday, Dec 22nd, 2010

As Rouge Would say:

Though comics are one of the bare handful of born-in-America artforms, their appeal crosses all political and geographical borders. Submitted as proof of this hypothesis—as if proof be needed!…one of the first European editions of a Library of American Comics book. In October, 2010, Nicholas Forsans, Jean-Baptiste Barbier, Antonie Mathon, and their fine co-workers at Bdartist(e) released a lovely translated-into-the-French version of Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates, Volume 1. Here's a look at their familiar-yet-different front dustjacket for the book:

French_Terry

More than two decades after Caniff's passing and with almost sixty-five years gone by since he abandoned post-War China in favor of Horizons, Unlimited, Bdartist(e)'s release stands as testament to Milt's unmatched talent and the timeless appeal of Terry Lee and his vivid, unforgettable supporting cast.

Their book follows our own Terry Volume 1 closely, but not exactly. Howard Chaykin's introduction and my essay were retained; Dean's preface was not. Like us, Bdartist(e) chose to provide a ribbon bookmark, but Randy Scott's Index to Volume 1 has been replaced by eight pages of "Hommages:" interpretations of Terry in both color and black-&-white by Continental artists that served as a preview of a December 2010 exhibition on display at the publisher's gallery, located at 55 rue Condorcet in Paris.

Aside from the text on the front endpapers, the daily reprinted on the back flap of the dustjacket, and the "Character Key to Our Cover" feature, the entire book has been translated into French, all the strips re-lettered. This means our European friends are deprived of Frank Engli's beautiful lettering, but the work of Maximilien Chailleux is crisp and clean, and certainly it must be no easy task to place translated text within space defined for the "mother tongue." Well done, M'sieur Chailleux!

As I browsed Terry et les Pirates, I speculated on the considerable challenge one faces in translating Caniff's dialogue into another language. As the series unfolds, many of Milton's characters use an increasingly snappy and sometime esoteric American slang, and several of his secondary players routinely fracture the King's English as a reminder of their Asian or European origins (think of Singh-Singh's love of "Pappermeents," or Rouge, using one of her many aliases while confirming what Flippo Corkin has just wryly observed: "Preencess Rojo does have the prett-ee feegure!"). Is it possible to capture even the majority of the insouciance and humor contained in Milton's scripting? Michel Pagel, who adapted the text in tome 1, will surely handle that considerable task with professionalism, skill, and care.

Alas, I'll be a poor judge of his efforts—four years of school-years German left me ill-equipped to tackle a French translation!

 

Terry_French

The first page of my Terry Volume 1 essay: Did I really say all that?

 

Believe it or not, this is not the first time my work has been translated for European audiences. I own copies of both the French and German editions of Lee Weeks's and my graphic novel, Batman: The Gauntlet. (There's reportedly also a Spanish edition I've been unable to find - so if anyone knows where I can get a copy of Robin: Dia Un, I'd be greatly indebted ... )

Gauntlet_French

Cover to the French edition of Gauntlet, which also featured a James Robinson/Lee Weeks
short story reprinted from Legends of the
Dark Knight #100)

 

On this side of the Atlantic, each week we're bombarded with e-mails from readers requesting second printings of the LOAC Terry and the Pirates, since many volumes of the initial run are sold out, with copies commanding high prices on the secondary market ($200-300 for Volume Five!). While we have not yet completed our plans—there are scheduling, printing, and economic factors that have to be weighed and balanced—we will be offering second printings of Terry as we look to keep Milton Caniff's original masterpiece in print during the second decade of the 21st Century. Watch this space for notification when the presses start rolling.

Meanwhile (with a lot of help from Google-Translate): Un grand merci à Bdartist(e) de me donner une copie de leur merveilleuse Terry et les pirates, tome 1! Mes félicitations pour produire un beau livre!

You'll find the Amazon-France listing for Bdartist(e)'s Terry tome 1 here: http://www.amazon.fr/Terry-Pirates-T01-Milton-Caniff/dp/2919243004/ref=pd_sim_b_89 ...

... While the page on Bdartist(e)'s website devoted to Terry - complete with French press coverage - is located here: http://www.bdartiste.com/dotclear2/index.php?q=Terry+et+les+Pirates.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Saturday, Dec 18th, 2010

Master of the Motherload in Michigan

Randy_Scott

I've known Randy Scott and been familiar with Michigan State University's Comic Art Collection since the late 1970s. I recently found a carbon copy (remember those?) of the letter I sent him in 1978 that accompanied a copy of Sabre by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy, the inaugural book from my publishing company, Eclipse Comics. Sabre was the first graphic novel ever published for the comics specialty market, and at a time when graphic novels and comics were considered trash by most universities, I thought it pretty impressive that at least one Big Time College Library would collect what I published!

Sabre

MSU then became the home for the complete files of Eclipse Comics, from beginning to end. It's turned out to be a useful resource. For example, when Blake Bell was writing his excellent book on Steve Ditko, I was able to offer him nearly 100 pages of original research we did at Eclipse in the 1980s, including notes from an interview with Ditko's brother.

Randy and I were also early members of APA-I. What's that, you ask? Basically, a bunch of comics nuts producing indexes to different series, writers, and artists. Three other early APA-I members went on to form the Grand Comics Database.

MSU comics

Recent arrivals not yet catalogued

So here we are, thirty years later -- Randy is STILL the comics maven at Michigan State University, while I'm preserving and restoring classic comics as founder of The Library of American Comics. Many of our releases boast indexes by...you guessed it, Randy Scott.

randy_dean

randy_lorraine

Randy shows Lorraine Turner and me some of the hard-to-find European comics he's brought home from a recent buying trip..

stacks

Stacks of fun!

bandroom

Randy and fellow librarians on campus use his office for their weekly jazz improvs.

old_comics

Some uncatalogued tearsheets from the King Features collection.

On our recent research trip to East Lansing, the home of MSU's Special Collections Library, Lorraine Turner and I barely scratched the surface of the several hundred thousand (yes, several hundred thousand!) comics, graphic novels, and books about comics in the stacks. We were concentrating our research on—among other subjects—Alex Raymond's syndicate proofs for Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim; the cartoonists Otto Soglow, creator of The Little King; Frank Robbins, creator of Johnny Hazard; and Jimmy Hatlo, of They'll Do It Every Time and Little Iodine fame...

...and to look through my old Eclipse files relating to Alex Toth. Our forthcoming book—Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth—will be richer because the Eclipse files containing correspondence and stats of original artwork have been preserved and catalogued at Michigan State University.

gift_of_murder

Here's Alex's note to me expressing uncertainly over who drew this page originally published by Standard Comics. In the 1980s at Eclipse, I reprinted six issues worth of Standard stories in a series entitled Seduction of the Innocent. Alex's comment that "you won't have to pay any of us old crocks" refers to my policy of paying reprint rates to artists or their heirs, regardless of the fact that the comics were in the public domain. It's a policy I maintain today: Alex's family is sharing in royalties on our Genius books. It's a policy we encourage other publishers to adopt.

* * * * *

So here's a "Hear, Hear" for my old pal Randy Scott, Comic Art Bibliographer, Indexing Guru, and (with his wife Lynn) the best host north of Columbus, Ohio, and south of Cadillac, Michigan.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Dec 15th, 2010

Caniff…a Visual Biography

Two days ago, I wrote that there's no greater thrill than when the first box arrives from the printer with the latest book. A close second is discovering rare artwork or photographs and uncovering new biographical information about a cartoonist. In the case of Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett, our extensive research culminated in an 8,000-word introduction by Jeet Heer that alters the generally accepted view of Sterrett's life.

OSU

On our recent foray to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University (how's that for a mouthful o' monicker?!), we were primarily looking through the extensive Milton Caniff archives for original artwork and rarely seen items. If you want Caniff, you go to Ohio State; the justly-famous cartoon library was formed on the basis of Caniff depositing his lifetime of artwork and files to his dear alma mater (class of 1930).

Caniff_cvr

We're working on the first-ever Milton Caniff artbook, to be published next June. "First ever?" you may ask, with a tinge of doubt. It seems impossible that in a career as well-documented as Milton Caniff's, there has not been a coffee table artbook dedicated to his work. But there hasn't. There's our definitive six-volume Terry and the Pirates, editions of Steve Canyon, Male Call, and Dickie Dare, and R.C. Harvey's phonebook-sized biography—but no artbook.

Buckeye

Original logo color comps for "Buckeye Boys Ranch."

Lorraine Turner

Throughout his life, Caniff provided artwork for his college fraternity's magazine.

We think of this new project—simply titled Caniff—as not merely an artbook, but a visual biography that will include many examples of original artworks, promotional pieces, background material, and photographs. Some will be familiar to readers (such the "Pilot's Creed" Terry Sunday that was read into the Congressional Record), but presented in a new version (Caniff's original watercolor of that famous page, which I saw for the first time on this trip!). Other graphics have never or rarely been collected or reprinted.

And that's why we were in Columbus, Ohio—to find undiscovered and unreprinted gems by the most influential cartoonist of all time. And find them we did...with a little help from our friends. Last week Lorraine Turner told you about Matt Tauber donning the white gloves in the research room.

matt_art

Matt Tauber looking through Caniff original artwork

This week, we meet one of the unsung heroes in the field of comics research—OSU's own Susan Liberator, the Keeper of the White Gloves, the Guardian of the Great Works. Along with Lucy Caswell, Jenny Robb, and Marilyn Scott, the indefatigable Susan has been a tremendous help in all of our research at the Cartoon Library—wading through the Noel Sickles papers, the Shel Dorf, Toni Mendez, and Harold Bell collections, and the wide-ranging Caniff archives. Our much-lauded Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, as well as Bruce Canwell's introductions to the Eisner Award-winning Terry series, would have been much poorer without her assistance. And so, a tip of the archivist's hat to Susan Liberator.

Liberator

Who said librarian's don't smile?

As we were cataloguing artwork, in walked Jared Gardner, Associate Professor of English at Ohio State, who was looking up something for the history of comics course he teaches. We're big fans of Jared's writings about comics on guttergeek and elsewhere; it was a pleasure to meet him and talk a bit about comics criticism, Otto Soglow, and how his 21st-century students respond to such 1920s strips as The Gumps. Here we are admiring the original artwork for one of Caniff's early drawings for the Columbus Dispatch.

Jared_Gardner

In the months ahead, we'll share additional rarities from Caniff, like this one from Harry Guyton, Milton Caniff's nephew: an original watercolor from the 1940s that Caniff did on a standard number 10 envelope. The "bunny" is Milton's wife, Esther, and the great dane is Capt. Blaze, named after the red-headed rascal in Terry and the Pirates.

Bunny_blaze

For now, though, I've got a date with the Dragon Lady…

Dragon_Lady

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Dec 13th, 2010

I'm Positive, it's Polly!

Polly and Her Pals

After all these years of editing and publishing books, there's still no greater thrill than when the first box arrives from the printer with the latest book hot off the presses. Last week, the massive Polly and Her Pals arrived on our doorstep. When I say "massive," I'm not kidding. It's the first Library release in the "champagne edition" size of 12" wide by 16" high.

On newsarama, J. Caleb Mozzocco calls Polly "a perfect coffee table book—not one that you would put on your coffee table...but one big enough to be used as a coffee table."

Douglas Wolk at Comics Alliance was briefer in his assessment: "Don't Ask! Just Buy It!"

art spiegelman writes, "Polly and Her Pals is a glorious composition of melodious, well-crafted, hot-jazz lines for newsprint; panel after panel of graphic design with the clarity, wit, and grace of a Bix Beiderbecke cornet solo. Visually, it is a happy synthesis of Art Deco, Futurism, Surrealism, Dada, and Pure Cartoon. Your eyes can dance to it."

We're incredibly proud that Cliff Sterrett finally gets his due and that we can all experience his amazing and singular cartooning vision.

Polly and Her Pals volume 1: 1913-1927 is in stores and available online now.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Dec 10th, 2010

Unexpected Treasure

Lorraine Turner

Recently I had the privilege of doing research at the wonderful Cartoon Art Library at The Ohio State University. I have always loved history; it was my best subject in school…after recess and gym. I am a graphic artist and designer, but my hobby is genealogy, and I've become a pretty good researcher.

I say pretty good, because I am not and never will be a sleuth like some of my ancestry.com geeks (sorry, I mean "friends") who are far ahead of me in this field. But I have to tell you, the thought of leaving 88-degree temperatures and my home facing teal water for the double-sweatered university research room with sterile white tables and SILENCE…well, let's just say I had some mental adjusting to do. But I was anxious to begin the journey, and Dean had sweetened the deal with a promised Michigan family Thanksgiving. So naturally I was all ears.

I am a novice at comic history and here I was accompanying Dean, the bloodhound, on his mission. He instinctively knows what he's looking for and where to look. I was just following his lead and pulling out any tidbit I thought we could use in one of our upcoming archival books. I swear, he's like a hawk...nothing escapes his perception. Is he even human? I digress...

with matt

Prior to our trip, we had made contact with a wonderful young man named Matt Tauber, who lived in the area and offered his help. Matt has a wonderful blog on Milton Caniff. He arrived early and was waiting as we walked into the library. Thank goodness…someone who actually goes by non-Key West time (in Key West, an hour late is the same as being on time). Dean and I liked him immediately.

matt


He wore a million-dollar smile, emitted non-stop energy and a positive attitude that made the day sing. That's the best way  to describe it...like great harmony. The memory of this day was like listening to a great melody. As I was shuffling through the files, wearing my Ohio State University-issued white cotton gloves, I became aware of a dynamic in the room that became a sort of revelation.

Dean kept stopping, turning, and showing Matt precious gems—obscure articles, original art, letters, memos, pencil sketches, and the mementos of family and friends of the many artists and writers who comprised a historic comics generation that has since passed. Matt would become totally enthralled and the two of them would exchange silent looks of pure joy and understanding.

That's when it hit me. This was it—this was the reason for the endless hours, the long brainstorming sessions, the meetings, the interviews, the letter writing...all of it. For this...that pure joy. I thought we had embarked on this expedition to uncover facts and art that were useful in telling a story. This was and IS the story. By collecting all this art and information and placing it in a book, we can give others that smile when they see it for the first time and own it for themselves.

dean matt

As we continue to uncover more of these little jewels, we can pass them along, too. And it will be there for this generation and for all generations. Joy...pure joy. And here I was fretting over the weather, silly me. I was part of an expedition. Some go to the Arctics...I went to Paradise.

lorraineposted by Lorraine Turner

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Monday, Dec 6th, 2010

ALEX TOTH: Genius, Genius, Genius

Alex Toth is revered as one of the greatest of all comics artists. Others laud his pioneering work in animation, including his groundbreaking designs for Space Ghost and The Herculoids. His work influenced countless professionals in both fields. His biography and talents proved too big to be contained in a single volume. Therefore, we're releasing the much-anticipated Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth in March 2011 as the first in a three-book set that will be the definitive statement on the restless genius and timeless legacy of Alex Toth.

Toth Genius Isolated

Created by the Eisner Award-winning team of Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell—who produced the ground-breaking Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel SicklesGenius, Isolated is a lavishly illustrated book that includes the first biography of this giant figure. The book has been compiled with complete access to the family archives, and with the full cooperation of Toth's children.

Alex Toth

Alex Toth in a playful mood in 2005 with Dana (his eldest daughter) and Eric (his eldest son).

 

Associate Art Director Lorraine Turner and I met with Dana and Eric last week to discuss the expansive plans for the three-book set. To say that we're all excited with the larger scope of the project is an understatement!

In addition to art and photographs from the family, Toth fans and friends throughout the world have loaned original artwork reproduced in the entire series. Included are many examples of Alex's art, from complete stories to rare pages, as well as —incredibly—a previously unknown, unfinished, and unpublished penciled story from the early 1950s! The tome covers his earliest stories at DC in the 1940s, his defining work at Standard and his incomparable Zorro comics in the 1950s, and a special section collects—for the first time—the complete Jon Fury pages that Toth produced while in the army, a section that alone is worth the price of admission.

JonFury

Alex Toth was more than a unique and influential artist. He was a keenly insightful philosopher about comics, cartooning, and animation—with opinions on how they are created as opposed to how he felt they should be created. He wasn't shy about expressing those thoughts, whether in sometimes-scathing personal letters, essays for publication, or letters to the editor. To flesh out the complete story of his life and art, Mullaney and Canwell have spent more than a year conducting wide-ranging interviews with dozens of Toth's peers, friends, and family members. With a special introduction by Mark Chiarello, Genius, Isolated is the beginning of a comics biography everyone will be talking about for years to come.

Genius, Isolated details his life story and work through the early 1960s, when he began his sensational move into animated cartoons. The second book in the series, Genius, Illustrated, picks up the story as Toth becomes one of the leading character designers in television animation—continues through his renewed career in comics with Warren, DC, and his creator-owned properties of the 1970s and beyond—and includes an examination of the artist's poignant final years.

The third book, Genius, Animated, is a wide-ranging art book reproducing hundreds of Toth's model sheets and storyboards for such successful cartoons as Space Ghost and Dino Boy, Jonny Quest, Space Angel, Super Friends, The Fantastic Four, Hot Wheels, Thundarr, and Shazzan...and also includes many full-color presentation pieces designed to sell new series to the networks.

Toth slipcase

A slipcase for the three-book set will be available with the third book.

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Saturday, Dec 4th, 2010

Hunting(ton) Season

Beau_rocker

The fact that hunting season opened in the Middle West had nothing to do with why we were in Huntington, West Virginia last week. What could have drawn us nearly 1,200 miles away from the delightlfuly warm temperatures of Key West? Nothing less than a Library of American Comics confab with our marketing and sales guru, Beau Smith. Those who know Beau are aware of the fact that he rarely leaves his home town (the electronic shackles on his ankles may have something to do with it—only kidding!). Oh, he'll travel up to Mid-Ohio Con each year, but that's about as far afield as he likes to go.

Luckily for us, Huntington was a convenient first stop on our trip. Beau's been doing a great job expanding our sales to libraries and universities. Here, he and Associate Art Director (and marketing whiz herself) Lorraine Turner exchange ideas about spreading the word in the halls of academia.

Dean_Lorraine_Beau

For as many books as Beau and I have worked together on in the past twenty-five years, we still get a thrill opening that first box from the printer to see the latest release.

Beau_Dean

Beau also gave us a fun tour of the town, which included the stadium of the Marshall football team (his alma mater, and the subject of the movie, "We Are Marshall"). Before we hit the road, Beau's better half, Beth, joined us for a cracklin' good breakfast. And then we were off to our next stop: Columbus, Ohio. More about that in our next entry.

Beau_Beth

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Wednesday, Dec 1st, 2010

Treasure Hunting in the Stacks

tearsheets

We're very deep in the library's stacks researching upcoming books and will be coming up for air soon. Keep posted to see what amazing goodies we've uncovered.

oldpaper

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Sunday, Nov 21st, 2010

Overlapping strips

Dick Tracy

In working on the layout for The Complete Dick Tracy volume 11, I searched for a specific daily—July 10, 1948—to place in the page design. The search results came up with the requested Tracy daily, but also a Rip Kirby daily and an Archie daily from the same date.

I guess it should have dawned on me earlier because with more than thirty books published as part of the Library of American Comics, we're starting to see overlapping dates from strip to strip. We tend to look at each series as a distinct collection, but great cartoonists such as Chester Gould, Bob Montana, and Alex Raymond didn't work in a vacuum—their strips often appeared alongside one other's.

archie

So in the interest of imaging what it would have been like to read a daily comics page at the time, here are three dailies from July 10, 1948.

rip

And for more fun, imagine the thrill of reading Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates, Al Capp's Li'l Abner, and Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie all on the same day?! Here are those strips from May 21, 1937.

Enjoy!

Terry

Lil Abner

Annie

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Monday, Nov 8th, 2010

Berkeley Breathed Talks!

Opus Breathed

With the release of Bloom County Vol. 3, Berkeley Breathed answered every question thrown at him by Ain't It Cool's Mike Russell in a fascinating look into the warped mind of Opus's creator.

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/47326

Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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Friday, Nov 5th, 2010

Mike Esposito: In His Own Words - Part Three

Mike Esposito, the comic book artist and inker whose career spanned a half-century, has passed away at age eighty-three. In his memory, The Library of American Comics concludes our printing of the excerpted transcript of my interview with Mr. Esposito, who spoke with me in 2009 for our forthcoming Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth.

We begin this final installment with a discussion of work Alex did in the early 1950s for Esposito and his artistic partner and lifelong friend, Ross Andru, while they were publishing comics under the company name, "Mikeross Publications":

Espo7

LOAC: OK, I've seen Joe Yank, but let me ask you about one of your books that I haven't seen, a book called 3D Love.

ME: Oh yeah, we published that.

LOAC: And I heard that Alex did ...

ME: Yeah, yeah. He did two great covers!

LOAC: All of Toth's romance stuff is so fantastic. I spoke with John Romita about Toth - and you know how much romance work he did - and Romita said, "I learned how to do all the romance stuff just by looking at how Toth did it."

ME: Yeah, John was up at DC, Johnny was starting up there, he was very young. In fact, Ross and I wanted Johnny to come to us when we were doing romance, and when we were doing Wonder Woman. We wanted him to do the heads for us, and the figure of Wonder Woman only. But he didn't want to do it, he didn't want to get involved with the character, he wanted to do stuff where he'd draw the whole thing himself. And that worked for him - he's done very well!

LOAC: Oh, yeah! And he's such a nice guy, too ...

ME: Oh, sure! We're very close, still, he and I. We speak once or twice a week. He lives not too far from me.

Espo8

LOAC: You know, I think we've covered all the topics I had on my list. Thanks very much for your time. I still have a batch of people to talk to, but if somebody else tells me something and I want to run it past you, would it be all right to give you a quick call ... ?

ME: Oh, of course! Now, what is this going into?

LOAC: Well, here's a name you may remember - Dean Mullaney, who used to publish Eclipse Comics back in the '80s and '90s ...

ME: Yeah, yeah, Eclipse, I remember.

LOAC: These days Dean and I are producing hardcover collections of strip reprints. We've got all of Caniff's Terry and the Pirates back into print, and we're doing Dick Tracy. Last year we did a collection of Noel Sickles's Scorchy Smith ...  

ME: Oh, great!

LOAC: That's up for an Eisner Award this year ...

ME: Really?

LOAC: So we decided this Toth biography would be a great follow-up to the Sickles.

ME: Well, I wish you guys lots of luck. I think I'm gonna go now - my phone is still running, but my voice is leaving!

LOAC: I understand how that goes! Thanks very much for your time - I appreciate it.

ME: All right, pal. 'Bye now.

Espo9

Rest in peace, Mr. Esposito.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Thursday, Nov 4th, 2010

Mike Esposito: In His Own Words - Part Two

We continue to honor the late Mike Esposito, who passed away at the end of October, by publishing the second excerpt from my 2009 interview with him. Mr. Esposito and I spoke in support of our upcoming release, Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, and we return to the interview at the beginning of a wide-ranging conversation about Alex:

Espo4

ME: As far as Toth goes, he was good right to the end. I get the Alter Ego magazine - he did a lot of articles for Jim Amash.

LOAC: Yeah, he really kept his interest in the field down through the years ... and he definitely wasn't shy with his opinions!

ME: Yeah, but he had the right to 'em, he was a real veteran ...

LOAC: Sure.

ME: But you're right about that. And all his articles and notes, every little thing, he would letter it himself - he wouldn't write it, he would print it. And he had a way of lettering ... he would have been a great full-time letterer, he had that knack. When you see my lettering it's so sloppy, when I write a note to somebody or something. But he had control right to the end of his life. I used to see those little articles of his in Alter Ego - amazing! I couldn't help but admire him for it. But I didn't know he died so young. I never knew he was that sick.

LOAC: Well, the medical problems began, and they mounted up. And maybe he wasn't as quick to get help as he should have been. But years before that, his wife passed away before him and that affected him, as well.

ME: Sure. Did he have any children?

LOAC: Yes, he had four children, two girls, two boys.

ME: I didn't know that.

LOAC: Actually, we're working with the kids, we're doing the book with their approval, and we're working with them ...

ME: What about talent-wise? Are they art-interested?

LOAC: None of them have followed in his footsteps, obviously, but some of them work in design and photography, and there are grandchildren ...

ME: That's what I meant. Sometimes it steers toward music, sometimes it steers toward acting, but it all comes from the creative spark that gets passed along.

Espo5

LOAC: Let me ask you a quick question in another area. I saw some of the stuff that you and [lifelong artistic partner, penciler] Ross [Andru] had done at Standard, some pages from Joe Yank ...

ME: Oh, yeah . . .

LOAC: It seemed to me that in some of that work, the two of you were going for a Toth-like look.

ME: Oh, definitely! Ross realized that he would overwork too much, and he tried to get a more visually-readable look to his stuff. Like the way Toth would do it, with the faces, the layouts, the backgrounds, and the figures in the foregrounds.

LOAC: One of the guys who inked a lot of Toth's work, especially at Standard, was Mike Peppe. And Peppe was the art director there, too, right?

ME: Sure, sure. You know, he wanted to ink Ross. Ross had an argument with him. He said to Ross, "I want to do your inking," and Ross said to Peppe, "No, Mike's my partner for life." We were kids, Ross and I, we grew up together, all the way through high school, the Music and Art High School. He said, "Partners for life." Ross was young, and an up-and-comer, but he said, "No." Peppe was actually shocked.

LOAC: Sure. In most businesses, there's not a lot of that kind of loyalty.

ME: You're right. But sometimes loyalty is because of your own insecurity.

LOAC: That's true.

ME: Ross might have been more comfortable with me because he knew me from when we were kids - he trusted me.

LOAC: When you get a good working relationship together ... if it's not broke, why fix it?

ME: Especially if you're paranoid. And we were! [National/DC editor Bob] Kanigher called us, "The Paranoid Twins!"

espo6

The conclusion of my interview with Mike Esposito will appear tomorrow.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Wednesday, Nov 3rd, 2010

Mike Esposito: In His Own Words - Part One

We at The Library of American Comics were saddened by the news of Mike Esposito's passing on October 24th of this year, at the age of eighty-three. Mike was a mainstay of the comic book industry from the 1950s to the 1990s. During his career Mike produced material for companies including Fiction House, EC, National/DC (Metal Men, Wonder Woman, and a plethora of war stories), Standard (Joe Yank), Skywald, and Marvel (touching most of that company's Silver Age characters under a handful of pseudonyms, with notable runs on several Spider-Man titles), retiring at the end of the 20th Century following several years of steady work for Archie Comics.

Of course, Mike was best known for inking the work of his lifelong friend, Ross Andru. In addition to producing thousands of pages of comic book art, the "Mikeross" team packaged comics and dabbled in publishing during both the 1950s and early 1970s.

I conducted a telephone interview with Mr. Esposito in 2009 as part of our research work for the upcoming Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth. I found him personable and opinionated, very open and knowledgeable; it was my distinct pleasure to have spoken with him. I've extracted the quotes I need from the interview for my Genius, Isolated text, but that leaves a significant amount of our discussion "on the cutting room floor."

To pay our respects, The Library of American Comics will run the remainder of my interview with Mike Esposito in this space over three installments. We'll run the text in Q&A format (unusual for us) to allow you to "hear" Mike in his own words.

We hope you'll find what he has to say as entertaining and interesting as we did.

Espo1

LOAC: Mr. Esposito? My name is Bruce Canwell, and mutual friends tell me you might be interested in talking a little bit about Alex with me.

ME: Well, I don't have too much time I spent with Alex. I can only tell you what a great artist he was. Ross [Andru], my partner at the time, when we were young - Ross Andru loved Toth's stuff, because Toth developed that decorative look, that two-dimensional look, which Ross didn't understand when he was starting out.

Ross would overwork - when he saw the stuff up at Standard Comics, he realized the approach would be almost like props on a stage, the flat, decorative look. Two-dimensional - but it wasn't two-dimensional, it was - the design was two-dimensional, but the way Toth did it, he brought depth to it.

When he did stuff for Dell Comics, it was unbelievable. Stuff like Zorro ... I couldn't believe his stuff. And I remember him when I was a young feller, up at DC. I was a young inker with Ross, working for Bob Kanigher, and Toth's stuff was really unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

LOAC: Right, Alex did work with Kanigher.

ME: Oh, yeah. And he worked for Julius Schwartz ...

LOAC: And before him, Shelley Mayer.

ME: And I think [Murray] Boltinoff, he did some work for. He was good. Unfortunately, we didn't have too much to do with one another, but artistically, what he did ... as an artist myself, I couldn't help but appreciate what he did. He was really, really way ahead of any of the other guys.

LOAC: Right. He was a major reason DC moderated their very quiet, Dan Barry "look" from that period ...

Espo2

ME: At DC, Toth did some great stuff. The Westerns - I loved the way he handled horses, and he was almost Caniff-like in his design. That's before he got decorative. That's when he was doing complete drawings.

LOAC: Sure - he was a big fan of both Caniff and Noel Sickles.

ME: Right, right! That's where everybody stemmed from, that period. That's why guys like Frank Miller became so famous, later, in that psychedelic look up at Marvel. Ross, myself, Johnny Romita - we came from the schools of Sickles and Caniff when they drew differently. Now let's face it, Frank Miller is great, but it doesn't have the warmth ... it's not warm. It doesn't have the warmth of the '40s and '50s. But you can't knock the guy - big movie director . . .

LOAC: Exactly right. He's done pretty well for himself.

ME: I would say so. It's just that, you develop a taste from over the years, back when you were young, and you can't accept some of that psychedelic approach. Today, when I look at a comic book - I get 'em in the mail, I get 'em from Marvel and from DC, and when I see 'em, I say, "Gee, we didn't think this way!" It's so psychedelic -- I use the word "psychedelic," because ... I don't know if you know what I mean by "psychedelic" ...

LOAC: Yeah, I think so - there's such a sense of design in every page ...

ME: Right, right, right! It's hard to read! It's got noise. I should use the word "noise" over "psychedelic" - it's  screaming, it's not quiet. When you look at John Buscema when he did the ant and the giant-girl - I did a couple stories with him on that, The Avengers. It's so beautifully delineated on the page. Now, it's very graphically different. But hey - the whole world takes a different look!

espo3

More of my interview with Mike Esposito tomorrow.

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Friday, Oct 22nd, 2010

The Return of the King of the Tunes

My first job was in radio broadcasting. I started as a copywriter at the top-rated album-rock station in my home state, 100,000-watt WIGY-FM. Today - last I heard, anyway - WIGY is an all-religious station, but back in the day we played (and sometimes helped make) Top 40 hits, mixed with album cuts and plenty of standards. Jack O'Brien, our program director, would sing along in the studio every time he played Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and never stumbled over a syllable, even when he was doing Phil Rizutto's staccato play-by-play part. Believe it or not, our midday man was named Steve Rogers. Our morning drive jock, Bob Anderson, was a thorough-going professional and one of the funniest persons it has ever been my pleasure to know.

We did some fantastic promotions at WIGY. I caught for the station softball team and coached the basketball team (it was a great chance to do my Tommy Heinsohn impersonation, tossing my clipboard and jawing at the refs). We staged a "fantasy day parade" in the studio that sounded so realistic, police officials in the towns we had announced on our route were calling the station to ask if they should put officers at key intersections to handle traffic control. The jocks took over the station on July 4th, declaring their independence and playing whatever music they wanted to play. For years, I never watched the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati - I was living WKRP in Cincinnati.

Like everything else, radio has changed a lot since those days. I'll get a small taste of how it's changed starting at 3PM Friday, October 29, 2010, when I'm Scott Katz's guest on his Internet radio show at www.ustownhall.com.

WIGY's evening jock, wild-man Willie Mitchell, won't be on hand to do two-man shtick with me, but Scott and I will be talking classic comics in general and The Library of American Comics in particular. The odds are mighty good we'll discuss "coming soon" attractions such as Polly and Her Pals, popular favorites like Bloom County, eagerly-anticipated upcoming projects (including our Alex Toth biography, Genius Isolated), plus a sneak-peek at what to look for from LOAC as 2011 unfolds.

If you haven't been to www.ustownhall.com, why not zip over and take a look? Extensive coverage of the New York Comic Con is available on-site, including a photo gallery containing a snapshot of Dean Mullaney and me manning the LOAC section of the IDW booth. And our resident expert on all things Dick Tracy, Max Allan Collins, has already appeared on Scott's radio program; you'll find a link to their interview, so be sure to listen to that informative and entertaining segment.

In my WIGY days, a lot of us talked about being, "The king of the tunes, the duke of the doo-wahs, the man with the stacks of hot wax." Though I still have my FCC license, I won't be playing any Warren Zevon or Rolling Stones, but I'm definitely looking forward to my return to radio!

I'm dialing in to talk with Scott Katz of www.ustownhall.com at 3PM on Friday, October 29th. Check the site to hear the show ... 

canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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Wednesday, Oct 13th, 2010

I Just Flew in From New York, and Boy…

…You know the rest. Rather than regale you with warmed-over Henny Youngman shtick (go ahead -- Google him), here are my rapid-fire recollections of the whirlwind that was the New York Comic Con:

• Greatly enjoyed my first face-to-face meeting with fellow LOAC scribe Brian Walker and his father, the legendary Mort Walker of Beetle Bailey fame. Brian's brand-new book on Doonesbury (done for another worthy publisher) looks mahvelous.

• Here's the graphic IDW prepared so passing fans would recognize Dean:

    standee

    Note his extra-curly hair and pupil-less eyes. I warned him not to eat that bagel leftover from Friday morning, but would he listen to me? Noooo-o-o-o ...

    • Guess which ultra-talented, ultra-cool, ultra-popular artist walked into the IDW booth on Sunday carrying a green satchel bearing the shamrocked logo of the winningest team in NBA history? Though we'd never previously met, that satchel prompted me to immediately approach him, introduce myself, and say, "Celtics, bay-bee!" To which he affirmed: "Celtics rule!"

    • Memo to Lorraine Turner: no special apple juice in evidence all weekend long. Boo! Hiss! Boo!

    • Very gratifying that Jim Steranko remembered we had once talked about the possibility of my working for him on his media magazine, Prevue. Some team-ups are meant to be: we combined efforts on 2008's Scorchy Smith and The Art of Noel Sickles. Made my day when Jim grinned and said, "We finally gave Scorchy the treatment it deserves!"

    • Biggest surprise: getting the opportunity to meet Nicky Brown, granddaughter of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson (see our Monday, October 4th entry, "Two Birds, One Blog"). Nicky is, as the old saying goes, a real pistol, and I had such fun getting to know her. You can read more about her famous grandfather at: http://majormalcolmwheelernicholson.com/wordpress/.

    • Biggest disappointment: I failed to meet up with pals-via-keyboard Jeff Vaughn and Joey Cavalieri. Sorry to have missed you, gents!

    • Because so many industry giants are helping us with Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, the project grows bigger and grander every day. Once again, Jim Steranko has provided invaluable assistance; I also got to spend time with Irwin Hasen -- who was among the first persons I interviewed for the project -- and Joe Kubert, who spoke with me about Alex scarcely a week before the convention. With contributions from titans like this (and Ruben Procopio, and James Robinson, and so many others), Genius, Isolated is on track to be the most ambitious project ever published under The Library of American Comics banner.

    • Cracked up to learn IDW Chief Executive Officer Ted Adams thinks my caricature on this site makes me look like Captain Marvel's arch-enemy, Dr. Sivana. How can you say that, Ted (you big red cheese!) ...

    • What a deee-light to catch up with Dauntless Don McGregor on Saturday! They broke the mold when they made Don, and I was pleased to be able to tell him I'd recently finished re-reading his groundbreaking Black Panther issues, collected by editor Cory Sedlmeier in a lovely Marvel Masterworks edition. As a boy I read those stories when they were first published; if memory serves, both Dean and my by-lines appeared in the Jungle Action letters column during that run.

    • Finally, I was happy to meet for the first time: Melissa Singer of Tor Books - Glenn Whitmore - Tim Ogline - Ryder Windham - Larry Shell - Ken Steacy (after a steady diet of Annie's mutt Sandy, Dean was glad to hear about different puppies, Ken!) - Andrew Farago of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco - and ...

      …And you! If you stopped by the Library of American Comics area and talked to us about our line of books in particular or the great comic strips of the past in general, it was a pleasure to speak with you. My voice is still raspy as a result, but it was well worth it!

      Here's hoping your NYCC was as good as mine --

      canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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      Saturday, Oct 9th, 2010

      It's a Gorgeous Weekend

      Dean_Bruce

      The weather couldn't be better in New York City for this year's Comicon—comfortable temperatures in the mid-70s outside, and all 70,000+ of us are having a grand time inside the Javits Center. Here's the Library's "Mutt and Jeff" (a.k.a. Dean and Bruce) at the IDW booth (#2115). We spent most of Friday talking classic strips and Alex Toth with fans, bloggers, reporters, librarians, retailers, and fellow professionals. "Talking Toth" is one of the big topics -- we had a blast chatting with superscribe James Robinson and super-everything Jim Steranko about the upcoming GENIUS, ISOLATED: The Life and Art of Alex Toth tome we're preparing. And, naturally, we're looking forward to another two full days of the same. So don't forget to come see us if you're in the neighborhood.

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Thursday, Oct 7th, 2010

      NYCC is Upon Us!

      Toth

      Here's but one example of the literally hundreds of pieces of Alex Toth original art that you'll find in the upcoming GENIUS, ISOLATED: The Life and Art of Alex Toth. The bonanza ranges from complete stories to unpublished works to his justly-famous doodles. If you're at NYCC this weekend, stop by the IDW Booth #2115 and talk to Bruce Canwell and me about the amazing treasures we've uncovered for what will be the ultimate Alex Toth collection.

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Monday, Oct 4th, 2010

      Two Birds, One Blog

       

      During the recent LOAC mini-summit in Boston's Back Bay, Lorraine Turner suggested that a good topic for this space would be a discussion of the questions readers might ask about my job.

      I admit, I'm still mulling over how to address that topic - writing is a solitary pursuit, after all. In addition, years ago a close friend said, "People don't want to read about writers." I recalled my high school freshman English class rebelling halfway through John Steinbeck's autobiographical Travels with Charley: hmmm-m-m - maybe my friend was on to something. I don't entirely agree with him, but I've come to believe it takes a writer as dynamic and entertaining as, say, Harlan Ellison to successfully fracture my friend's rule of thumb. I have enough ego to think I do a pretty decent job of putting words into print, but let's be honest: an Ellison I ain't.

      Recently, however, I finished reading a slender volume worth recommending to you that will also allow me to reflect a bit about how I approach my text features for LOAC titles. Submitted for your approval: Our Hero - Superman on Earth, by Tom DeHaven.

      DeHaven

      Our Hero examines Superman's history, his growth and evolution as a cultural icon, and his major appearances in media outside the comics (the movie serials and feature films, the live-action and animated TV series, the Broadway musical). It offers an insightful look at many of the key creators behind the Big Red S's comics adventures - with emphasis, of course, on the amazing saga of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

      I'm a long-time DeHaven reader - his novel Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies is an outstanding recreation of the Golden Age of Comic Strips and is also well worth reading - but my efforts for LOAC would put me on the side of Our Hero even if I had never previously read anything by this fine writer. The sheer volume of information DeHaven researched, read, distilled, and organized into a cohesive whole is staggering. I have a first-hand appreciation for this sort of thing, of course, and my reaction as I made my way through the book was consistently the same: "Wow!" DeHaven provides significant new information about pulp-era impresario Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, provided by the Major's granddaughter, Nicky Brown - fascinating, not-to-be-missed stuff. And there are photos and illustrations sprinkled throughout the essay's 206 pages.

      Superman

      The book is hardly all facts 'n' figures. Rather, it's a fast-paced, engaging, thoughtful assessment of the Man of Tomorrow, sprinkled with personal reflections that are insightful or humorous, sometimes both at the same time. Here is DeHaven on the gestation of the Broadway play, It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman:

      The songwriting team of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, who'd been successful with Bye Bye Birdie in 1960 and the musical adaptation of Clifford Odets's Golden Boy in 1964, were looking for a next project when they asked magazine writers David Newman and Robert Benton ... did they have any good ideas? It was Newman's wife, Leslie, who suggested Superman after picking up a bunch of Action Comics from their kid's bedroom floor. Newman and Benton thought it an inspired recommendation - this was, after all, the Pop Art era of Warhol lithographs and Lichtenstein paintings - and so did Strouse and Adams. Although usually it had taken the composers at least two years to write a score, It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman was finished in just thirteen months.

      After listening half a dozen times to the original cast recording, available again on CD, I think maybe they should've taken those extra eleven months ...

      • • • • •

      Another reason Our Hero resonates with me? DeHaven does something I continually strive to do in my LOAC work: he has found the story that makes the information compelling, and he does his usual excellent job of telling that story. No matter how impressive the research and how revelatory the new information brought to light, when an essay is written in the manner of an eighth grade social studies paper, my interest quickly wanes and I start asking myself why I'm spending my all-too-precious reading time on a snoozefest when I could be reading one of the John D. MacDonald paperback originals beckoning me from my To Be Read shelves.

      Fortunately, LOAC books don't put me in that frame of mind: our writing staff consistently delivers the goods. Jeet Heer knows how to entertain readers while he makes us all smarter about Harold Gray, Orphan Annie, and the worlds in which they both inhabit; you'll soon enjoy the distinctive Heer touch in our first Polly and Her Pals volume, as well. Meanwhile, over in Rip Kirby, a lifetime spent inside the comics industry allows Brian Walker to write about Alex Raymond and Der Ripper with great confidence, while his work in Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea helped that book earn its Eisner nomination.

      And me? I do my thing, striving to make readers want to keep turning the pages. I don't want a future high school freshman English class to rebel against one of my essays the way my English class rebelled against Travels with Charley…

      Read more about Our Hero here. And about Derby Dugan here. 

      canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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      Sunday, Oct 3rd, 2010

      Al Williamson, Master Artist

      Corrigan2

      Alex Deuben has written a loving tribute to Al Williamson at Comic Book Resources. Definitely worth checking out. Our first volume of Al's amazing collaboration with Archie Goodwin on X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan is now on sale. This not-be-be-missed collection is the first comprehensive edition of the series, reproduced from Al's personal syndicate proofs. Above is the cover for the second volume, which will be published next February.

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Friday, Oct 1st, 2010

      Dean Mullaney Interviewed

      Chris Marshall at the Collected Comics Library is one of the most articulate and well-read interviewers around. On his latest podcast, he turns his attention to The Library of American Comics. Check it out, as we discuss the whys and wherefores of our books, our general philosophy about archival work, and what new projects are on the horizon!

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Friday, Oct 1st, 2010

      New York or Bust!

      NYCC_Abner

       

      The Library of American Comics is leavin' Dogpatch and headin' for Noo Yawk Comic Con, October 8-10 at the Javits Center. Come to IDW's Booth 2115 and meet Creative Director Dean Mullaney, Associate Editor (and author of the forthcoming Alex Toth biography!) Bruce Canwell, plus assorted friends and sundry acquaintances. We look forward to talking to you about our favorite classic comic strips, and to show off our new releases. Get the exclusive first looks at Li'l Abner 2, Blondie, and the amazing Polly and Her Pals.

      See you there!

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Wednesday, Sep 29th, 2010

      Podcasts R Us

      Chris Marshall at the Collected Comics Library is one of the most articulate and well-read interviewers around. This week on his podcast, he turns his attention to The Library of American Comics. Check it out, as we discuss the whys and wherefores of our books, our general philosophy about archival work, and what new projects are on the horizon!

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Tuesday, Sep 28th, 2010

      It's a LOAC Invasion!

      NYCC

      The Library of American Comics is headin' for New York Comic Con, October 8-10 at the Javits Center. Come to IDW's Booth 2115 and meet Creative Director Dean Mullaney, Associate Editor (and author of the forthcoming Alex Toth biography!) Bruce Canwell, plus assorted friends and sundry acquaintances. We look forward to talking to you about our favorite classic comic strips, and to show off our new releases. Get the exclusive first looks at Blondie and Polly and Her Pals.

      See you there!

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Sunday, Sep 26th, 2010

      Eat more strawberries

      Punjab

       

      orphan

      Once upon a time, about twenty-six years ago, I had a little girl who was fascinated with Annie. She saw the movie with Carol Burnett and, at the age of three, memorized every dang song from it. We still refer to this as her "Annie Phase." My father bought every scruffy stuffed Sandy and Annie doll he could get his hands on at local flea markets and yard sales. He even told her if she ate enough strawberries, her hair would turn red.

      And so it is with great joy and fondness that I now find myself restoring this fantastic work of Harold Gray. This spunky little girl reminds me of my own tough scrappy kid, the one who is now all grown up, the one who has organized and composed all of the music for her own band named after her childhood hero..."Orphan." Perhaps destiny led me to this remastering work, perhaps fate…or perhaps a calling to be near someone I love and admire.

      Comics reflecting moments captured in time…a kid teaching an adult. The story continues :)

      lorraineposted by Lorraine Turner

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      Friday, Sep 24th, 2010

      Check…and re-check

      Lil Abner

      Although all restoration and design for our books are done digitally using Macs and Cintiq interactive pen displays, we still receive hard-copy proofs for every book from the printer. Mornings seem to be when the ol' eyeballs work best, so with coffee and pen in hand, we check the proofs and make corrections the old-fashioned way. There's nothing like seeing the pages on paper in order to make those final corrections. Here are the proofs for Li'l Abner volume 2, which is being approved for print today. It will be on sale in stores in November.

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Sunday, Sep 19th, 2010

      On My Walls

      I never set out to collect original art, but over the years I've amassed a couple dozen pieces, all of which I've had matted and framed for display. I have my share of other, mass-produced items hanging, as well. The Graffiti Designs poster of James Bama's cover for the Doc Savage supersaga The Monsters was a must-have, as was the Mike Kaluta poster, "The Shadow Ablaze." And how could I pass up this classic shot of The Kid, smacking a home run in his first at-bat of the 1947 season:

      ted

      (Sorry, all you fans of Barry Bonds, Josh Hamilton, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, or any other masher you can list - four decades after he hung up his cleats, the incomparable Ted Williams remains the greatest hitter who ever lived.)

      First-time visitors to my humble abode acknowledge the posters and photos, yet they linger over the originals. Some sketches were bought strictly out of fan appreciation - a Gil Kane Green Lantern; a color head shot of The Thing from "Mr. FF," Joe Sinnott; a magical, mystical Doctor Strange by that painter with a pencil, Gene Colan.

      Two big frames in my living room contain mementos from my own comic stories. In the late 1990s, some might recall, I spent several months writing freelance for DC Comics, arriving on the scene just in time for the business to take a major nosedive (the speculator bubble popped; Marvel Comics filed for bankruptcy protection), but before the work dried up underneath me I teamed with my old friend, Lee Weeks, on the graphic novel Batman: The Gauntlet and had my "Huntress" short story for the Batman Chronicles anthology title illustrated by Jim Aparo. I'm pleased to own two pages from each of those stories and am proud to have worked with both those talented gentlemen.

      Some too-generous friends have given me several originals, including a very wonderful Olive Oyl profile shot rescued from a waste paper basket at the Fleischer Studios by a member of the production staff and later sold at an Atlanta Fantasy Fair. Color notations around the edge of the piece lend one to believe this was put together for one of the three Fleischer two-reelers, the only color Popeye work they produced.

      As LOAC was building up its head of steam, I decided to keep my eyes open for select originals from some of our books. I wasn't about to break the bank (my prudent Scots heritage at work again), but for the right price I was willing to dabble in the original market.

      The few Scorchy Smiths I found were priced well beyond the amount I was willing to pay, meaning I still have no original Noel Sickles piece. Yet I was lucky enough to snag a daily from his artistic stable-mate's greatest creation:

      terry

      Yes, that's the March 11, '39 Terry and the Pirates, as the "Indo-China" sequence rushes to its climax. Milton Caniff had been hospitalized at the start of this storyline; many believe Sickles assisted his close friend throughout, to help him get back on schedule. Look at the foliage in the background of that last panel and judge for yourself, but some of my friends believe I own both Caniff and Sickles work in this one strip ...

      Not long after acquiring the Terry, lightning struck again and I procured this, the February 23, 1953 Rip Kirby daily.

      rip

      While Rip is nowhere to be seen, I'm a Honey Dorian fan, so owning a daily featuring Honey is fine by me. Raymond's exacting, confident rendering continues to delight.

      If you've read my text in King Aroo Volume 1, you've likely figured out I'm a big fan of the strip (and you are, too - right?). It was a red-letter day when I was able to land this January 30, 1960 Aroo original:

      aroo

      The seller told me he was a Jack Kent fan, parting with the strip only reluctantly in order to raise money that would help him in a financial pinch. I sent him a copy of King Aroo when it went on sale - perhaps the seller having Kent strips in quantity at least partially counterbalanced his having parted with this original? I can only hope so.

      Bringing Up Father led me a merry chase indeed. Four or five times I chased a McManus/Zekley BUF only to come up short. In mid-summer, however, opportunity knocked and I opened the door . . .

      BUF

      I'm mighty happy to have added this to my handful of original art. There's Jiggs - there's Maggie - there's the Deco motif - there's the surreal little background figure cutting capers. A neat, representative sampling of the best elements of this long-running strip.

      As you might expect, I've become a familiar figure at my local framers over the fifteen years I've lived at my current residence. Here's a heads-up, Brian and Sally, if you're reading this - I'll soon be coming through the door to ask you to work your magic so I can add Bringing Up Father to the other pieces of art on my walls!

      canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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      Sunday, Sep 19th, 2010

      Secret Agent Corrigan Hits Stores!

      Corrigan

      The first volume of our multi-volume series reprising Al Williamson and Archie Goodwin's X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan has officially hit the bookstores. The strips are reproduced from Al Williamson's personal proofs. To provide context, Mark Schultz wrote a touching tribute to Al, and Bruce Canwell offers up a detailed look at the history of X-9, going back to its creation in 1934 by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond.

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Saturday, Sep 18th, 2010

      On the Town with George and Zeke

      It was a great honor to have our Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea nominated for a 2010 Eisner Award. There can be only one winner in each category, and BUF did not take home the trophy (Bloom County, our other entry in the awards, did win—yay!) but we gained a lot of satisfaction from the Eisner committee's recognition of the fabulous work of George McManus and his long-time assistant, Zeke Zekley.

      As usual, our research into the history of the strip and its creators blended details from well-known sources with newly-uncovered information and rare photographs. In studying the life of George McManus for BUF: FStSS, I bought all three issues of the early 1950s Collier's Magazine that featured the artist's autobiographical musings. My research also uncovered birth records from the City of St. Louis that provided, for the first time, clear-cut proof of the date McManus came into this world (Geo. McM. himself often played fast and loose with that information). I was also fascinated to find McManus remained in the news after his passing - wire services and several newspapers followed the story Zeke Zekley going to court to contest McManus's will. This was fresh information to even some of the art form's most erudite scholars.

      From Sea to Shining Sea also brought what is, to my knowledge, unprecedented (but much deserved) attention to the accomplishments of Zeke Zekley. It was the cooperation of comics historian and Zekley acquaintance Chris Jenson, as well as interviews with Zekley's descendants, that made possible this coverage.

      Now, presented for your viewing pleasure, here are a half-dozen additional photographs of George and Zeke. They came to us courtesy of David Folkman, of Hogan's Alley fame, who was very close to Zeke for many years.

      First up, McManus and the Zekleys chow down Hollywood-style, accompanied by actress Renie Riano, who played Maggie in five Bringing Up Father motion pictures:

      Dinner_McManus

      If this next photo is any indication, McManus gravitated toward the lovely ladies as much as did his strip's hero, Jiggs. Though surrounded by fellow cartoonists, notice George is chatting with Zeke's wife, Anita Zekley.

      McManus_Anita

      Cartoonists have a long and notable history of doing their bit for Uncle Sam. Here's Zeke (third from left) standing next to Dennis the Menace's Hank Ketcham at a U.S. Savings Bond event that included cartoonists Chic (Blondie) Young, Gus Edson (Dondi), Milt Gross, Ferd Johnson, Dan (Hopalong Cassidy) Spiegle, and several others.

      ArmyHosp49

      McManus moved in the same circles with artist Jimmy Swinnerton, another favorite of William Randolph Hearst (the newspaper mogul who was the prime mover and shaker behind King Features Syndicate). Here, George and Swinny share a laugh:

      Swinnerton

      And here they participate in a U.S. Treasury event. Two things to call to your attention: [1] at far-right is George's brother, Leo McManus, who worked for many years at King Features. [2] Notice with whom George is shaking hands - none other than Walt Disney, himself!

      Disney

      Finally - my lifelong love of Popeye is well known amongst my social circle, but have you ever seen a sorrier version of that spinach-eating gazookas than the one in this 1949 photo?

      Soglow_Popeye

      Zeke and Otto (The Little King) Soglow appear to be massaging Popeye's flaccid right arm muscles while McManus gives the squinky-eyed sailor a pep talk. Fred Lasswell (Barney Google and Snuffy Smith) may be wondering if even a can of spinach would be enough to help this guy whip Bluto.

      You may also want to take a look at Popeye's pants. Could it be that E.C. Segar's inspired creation invented the "low-riders" so prominently worn around today's schools and malls?

      One of the absolute truisms of studying comics history: no matter how much we uncover, there is always more to be learned!

      canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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      Wednesday, Sep 15th, 2010

      Beau Smith joins the Library

      Beau Smith

      Beau Smith, self-styled raconteur and manly man about town, has joined the Library of American Comics as our new Director of Marketing.

      We're thrilled to have Beau onboard. He and I go way back to the 1980s and Eclipse Comics, where I was the publisher and Beau the Marketing Director.

      A graduate of Marshall University in his native West Virginia, Beau's done it all in comics. In addition to Eclipse, where he got his start, Beau was the VP of Marketing and Publishing for Image Comics, Todd McFarlane Productions and McFarlane Toys, was with IDW Publishing for many years, and is the former Director of Product Information for toy maker JUN Planning USA.

      As a comics writer, Beau's written Batman, Superman, and Wolverine, and his stories have appeared at DC, Image, IDW, Eclipse, Dreamwave, Moonstone, Dark Horse, and many other publishers. He created several well-received series, including Wynonna Earp, Parts Unknown, Maximum Jack, Courting Fate, and Cobb.

      If that wasn't enough, he offers his pearls of wisdom in regular columns: "Busted Knuckles" at Comics Bulletin, and "From the Ranch" for Sketch Magazine.

      Beau's going to be focussing on retailers, libraries, and universities, so all retailers, librarians, professors, and teachers are encouraged to give him a shout: beau@loacomics.com

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Monday, Sep 13th, 2010

      Of Kings, Newsboys, and Pinheads…

       

      Zippy

      Bill Griffith always keep us laughing, and this "Zippy" daily from Friday, September 10th, is no exception. What makes this daily different from all others? Check out his hilarious reference to Jack Kent's King Aroo in the first panel. "Big words" is another reason for you to give the Myopian King a try, if you haven't already.

      Thanks to Bill for letting us post the daily (©2010 Bill Griffith). His -- and Zippy's -- own site should be on your list of regularly-viewed sites.

       

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Wednesday, Sep 8th, 2010

      Happy Birthday, BLONDIE!

      first_blondie

      Today is Blondie's 80th Anniversary! Here's the very first daily. Chic Young's classic creation premiered on September 8, 1930 in only two newspapers, and grew to become to world's most popular strip. Congrats to the entire Young family, as well as King Features! And don't miss our first volume of Blondie dailies -- from the beginning -- which will be on sale soon!

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Sunday, Sep 5th, 2010

      The Next Generation?

      And now for something completely different:

      If you'll allow me this brief diversion, I'd like to introduce you to my new nephew, Henry. He's the first for my younger sister and her husband, born in April at nine pounds and twenty-one inches long. In the weeks since, he's been thriving, having developed a ready smile and as sunny a disposition as an infant can display.

      nephew

      I'd like to say I played some role in making him that happy, but his mom and dad deserve all the credit.

      One of the things I do hope I can give the not-so-little guy in the years ahead is an introduction to the classic comic strips we all know and love. Certainly there are Library of American Comics volumes to capture his interest as he grows up. The funny animals of King Aroo might make him laugh in his early school years—in his "tween" years, he may get swept away by the exotic adventure of Terry and the Pirates and our upcoming Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim—and by the time he's a teenager, the sophisticated sleuthing of Rip Kirby or outrageous comedy of Bloom County could catch his fancy.

      Of course, his interests may develop along entirely different lines…and that's OK. We all get to pick our own path, which is how it's supposed to be. I won't push anything on him—but if he expresses interest in any of the LOAC books on his parents' shelves, he'll know who to talk to in order to learn more about them!

      canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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      Thursday, Sep 2nd, 2010

      If My Dad Could See Me Now

      Lorraine Turner

      If you can imagine yourself slipping into the ink pot and flowing out the end of a cartoonist's pen, this is how I felt when I worked restoring the raw talent in Cliff Sterrett's Polly and Her Pals Sunday pages.  We just approved the color proofs and the book, all 12" x 16" of it, is now in the printer's hands.

      My profession of graphic design has taught me more about people than the artwork itself; I've worked on tight deadlines and sometimes felt like I was running up the courts along with the NBA players I helped market. You get to know the subject well and you either love it or survive the stress.

      Polly and her Pals put me in touch with this amazing creator, Samuel Clifford Sterrett. I closely studied each swoosh and brush stroke as his linework danced and dipped. His characters felt like members of my own family. I stumbled along every unfolding gag with Sterrett's bizarre unpredictable checkered pathways leading me to Paw with twinkling eyes, and the purring Kitty. Kitty—heart of a lion and the strength of a Dane. Her attitude came alive as she added her two cents in every upturned-nosed-strut. I love Sterrett's extra little touches—the curl at the end of Paw's beard and the crink of Kitty's tail as it mocked the direction of the staircase. His use of patterns and inexplicable objects that appear like unexpected hail kept my interest peaked and the laughter flowing. This was not a job-this was playing with one of the kids that created sheer FUN for my parents' generation. How awesome to be able to bring this to future generations. Sterrett was an artist some thought daffy, but in reality, of course, he was a visionary pioneer.

      I am thrilled to have been a part of presenting this work. I feel as if I have met Sterrett, wish I had...perhaps in my next lifetime. Gazing through Paw's iron-sashed windows with smiling crescent moons, I will happily dream on.

      Polly26

      lorraine posted by Lorraine Turner

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      Sunday, Aug 29th, 2010

      Noel Sickles, 1925!

      Sometimes we receive more artwork than we can comfortably fit into our books and are forced to offer only a representative sampling from a given period in an artist's career. That was the case with Scorchy Smith and The Art of Noel Sickles - though readers and reviewers told us we provided enough treasures so they didn't exactly feel short-changed!

      Still, while sifting through one of my file cabinets earlier this month, I happened to find a batch of spot drawings Sickles did as part of his first regular paying gig as a cartoonist. In 1925, while in his mid-teens, Sickles created artwork for the Mead Co-operation, the house organ for the Mead Corporation's paper plant in his native Chillicothe, Ohio. In Scorchy we ran examples of "Bud's" regular features for the newsletter - "Bud's Meaco Comics" and "What's Wrong?". Here are a half-dozen non-series, standalone drawings Sickles produced for the Co-operation. First up, from February of 1925 - the first known Sickles illustration for Mead, a comedic rendering of one of the company's employees who was a radio buff in his off-hours:

      meadnco1

      In April, Sickles produced the "Bet Your Money on Mead" cartoon to illustrate an article chronicling the safety competition being staged between Mead and another area manufacturer. He also did a small illo to accompany an article about an employee's victory in the local pool hall, and the comedic consequences of his win.

      meadco2

      meadco3

      Humorous anecdotes about Mead employees were a standing feature in the Co-operation - it was easier for people to laugh at themselves in the '20s than it is today. May saw Sickles generating chuckles about a first-class auto aficionado.

      meadco4

      Workplace safety was a key theme in Bud's cartoons for Mead. This "split screen" piece conveys that message as it illustrates two possible meanings of the same phrase. One wonders if Sickles realized both the Mead worker and the barber need to exercise caution on their respective jobs?

      meadco6

      The end of the year brought both the holidays and rabbit hunting season to Ohio. The Sickles "panoramic bird's-eye view" cartoon below pokes fun at Chillicothe's seemingly-plentiful supply of Elmer Fudds . . .

      meadco7

      Looking at these very early Sickles pieces, one sees little sign of the skilled artist who would revolutionize comics storytelling in Scorchy Smith, create such spectacular illustrations as "The Old Man's Bride" or the "Crete Invasion" series, and finish his career by producing a series of wonderful Western paintings. Still, they remind us of three truths:

      [1] Everyone has to start somewhere.

      [2] We learn by doing.

      [3] Stay true to your dreams and mastery and success are likely to come your way…

      canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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      Monday, Aug 23rd, 2010

      Dateline: Myopia

      We were mighty pleased to discover that King Aroo Volume 1 got a positive review from noted fantasist and critic Charles de Lint. Mr. de Lint writes a regular review column in the mighty Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and he closes the May/June 2010 installment of his "Books to Look For" by telling his readers that Jack Kent's King Aroo is "just so darn good." And who are we to disagree?

      You can read the review at: http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/2010/cdl1005.htm. If you're looking for some prose reading, the full column contains looks at recent releases by Stephen King, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Cory Doctorow, and Peter Straub. Or if you're the impatient type, scroll to the bottom of the page to read Mr. de Lint's delightful words about Aroo.

      In Sergio Aragones's introduction to the first Aroo book, he wrote about his love for the strip. Here's Sergio and me catching up for a chat at the San Diego Comicon this year. (He's the handsome one on the right)

      Dean and Sergio

      We're currently putting together the finishing touches on King Aroo volume 2, which collects November 1952 through November 1954. Jack Kent Jr. has again provided all the original art in his family's collection, and Bubbly Bruce Canwell has written another incredible biographical essay. Here's one of my all-time favorite Aroo dailies (from December 25, 1952) that fully captures Kent's amazing talent for wordplay.

      Aroo Christmas

      Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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      Sunday, Aug 22nd, 2010

      A Rollicking Roster of Riotous Ramblings

      Blondie poster

      Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer? The perfect time to pull a few items out of the Library Of American Comics "Odds & Ends" file:

      From the "As Others See Us" Dept: A few weeks ago, a reporter from my local New England arts and entertainment weekly contacted me to do an interview about LOAC and other things comics-related. Liltin' Lisa Parsons admitted she knew very little about comics, and in addition to discussing about our line of books, here are some of the questions she tossed my way:

      Any comments on the "Sunday Funnies" stamps the U.S. Postal Service plans to release in July? (I had forgotten all about them - but I wasn't telling Lisa that!)

      What strip(s) should I plunk down in front of my ten-year-old to hook him on the wonderful world of comics? ("It depends on what he likes," I began, before recommending Terry and the Pirates, Popeye, and Dick Tracy if he's the action-adventure sort, Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes to tickle his funny bone.)

      Is it just me, or has there been a surge in the reprinting of old comic strips lately? (I couldn't resist - I said, "It's just you!" Of course, then I gave her a more serious answer ...)

        Since so many of the interviews we do here at LOAC run "inside" the comics community, it was both entertaining and educational to do one for the "mainstream" media. Thanks for thinking of us, Lisa - I'll give you a shout when Archie Volume 1 goes on sale!

        #

        From the "Boopadoop" Dept:  You've likely seen us refer to our upcoming Blondie Volume 1 with the catchphrase "Blondie like you've never seen her before!" That's not an idle boast - by going back to the very beginning of the strip, you'll be seeing Blondie as a flighty single girl, modeled after real-life "boop-boop-a-doop" girl Helen Kane. You'll also see Dagwood as the pampered scion of wealth, meet Blondie's mother and both of Dagwood's parents, and discover there were plenty of rivals for the affections of our two star-crossed lovers.

        If that doesn't sufficiently whet your reading appetite, I'm pleased to report that Chic Young's granddaughter has shared with us the family's collection of Blondie memorabilia from this period, including several items you'll have to see to believe. Is the term "unprecedented access" an overstatement? I think not! Boisterous Brian Walker is writing a fact-filled text feature to glue the whole package together. Keep your eyes open for Blondie Volume 1 - it just might turn into the sleeper hit of 2010 . . .

        #

        From the "Miami Beach Audiences Are the Greatest Audiences in the World!" Dept: Little Orphan Annie Volume 5 and Dick Tracy Volume 10 are both on sale. Even though we've now reprinted the first decade of Annie and the first seventeen years of Tracy, each series continues to remain popular. Given the sales pattern in the pamphlet-based segment of comics often begin a sharp drop after issue # 1 hits the stands, the loyalty of our audience is something we greatly value and never take for granted.

        Everyone here at LOAC salutes you rambunctious readers, whether you're supporting the entire LOAC line, following one of the extended series like Annie or Tracy or our launched-in-2010 Li'l Abner, buying one of our short series (Rip Rirby, Bloom County), or eagerly awaiting coming attractions like Polly and Her Pals and X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan. May you enjoy perusing our offerings as much as we enjoy putting 'em together!

        canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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        Saturday, Aug 21st, 2010

        Sir MixaLot

        Many of us remember when the idea of alternate universes was strictly the province of science fiction and comics enthusiasts. SF writers like Robert Silverberg, using their personal interest in history, have dabbled with the concept in short stories and novels for decades (most recently in Roma Eterna). "Mirror, Mirror," one of Star Trek's most popular episodes, dropped Captain Kirk and three of his officers into an "evil twin" reality. And DC Comics has maintained a decades-long love affair with alternates, beginning with the Gardiner Fox/Carmine Infantino "Flash of Two Worlds" story from 1961's Flash # 123.

        Today we live in a science fictional world, and the phrase "alternate universe" is part of the common cultural coin, to the point where even crusty Republicans like Newt Gingrich are making money off the idea.

        Recently I found myself pondering possible alternate universe comic strips. If there truly are an infinite number of Earths in the multiverse, these four comics must exist out there somewhere:

        #

        Little Orphan Terry: Taken in as a seven-year-old by Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, Terry Lee grows up finding adventure in the four corners of the globe. Terry proves he'll not be separated from his adoptive guardian when he stows away the first time "Daddy" sails to deal with business interests in the Far East: even today, the "Wun Wey Battles Captain Blaze" storyline remains a classic. Many are especially fond of later stories, after Terry has grown into young manhood and helps "Daddy" get girls.

        Scorch Kirby: Alex Raymond's ex-aviator private eye has a straight nose and never wears glasses or plays the piano; Honey Dorian finds him crude but irresistible, especially after he feeds Pagan Lee to the law for her involvement with The Mangler. Scorch's butlers never seem to last long. Short-timers like Tex and Gus have their supporters, though the majority of fans divide equally between the droll reserve of Desmond and the thick German accent of Himmelstoss.

        Bringing Up Family: The George McManus/Zeke Zekley "diagrammatic" Sundays remain must-see material, as Maggie and her brood criss-cross the city in search of Jiggs and his carousing buddies.

        Li'l Annie: The red-headed waif is the smartest (and best spoken) person in Dogpatch; her bemused comments about the zany antics going on around her built a daily readership that numbered in the tens of millions. She was beloved for her annual consultations with Old Man Mose in order to help deserving bachelorettes land a "dream-boat" on Sadie Hawkins Day. After Annie and the Dogpatch kids brought Gat Garson to justice, a pop culture catch phrase was born in 1939 with Garson's last words on his way to the electric chair: " ... And I'd have gotten away with it, too - if it hadn't been for those KIDS!"

        #

        Got an alternate universe comic strip you'd like to see in this space? Send your ideas to info@loacomics.com ; we'll run a follow-up in a future installment!

        canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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        Friday, Aug 20th, 2010

        Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (or Brunettes)

        RipKirby3

        Forget the decades-old question, "Ginger or Mary Ann?" - our reprinting of Alex Raymond's Rip Kirby has spurred a new matter submitted for consideration. To put it simply:

        "Pagan or Honey?"

        This deeply philosophical discussion was energized by a reader named Jim Davis, who resides in Maryland Heights, Missouri. He posted was a review of Rip Volume 2 at Amazon.com in which he said, "Pagan Lee has it all over girl next door Honey Dorian, who continues to be a weak point of the strip, in my opinion."  Jim went on to say he sees Honey as primarily filling the role of deus ex machina, on hand simply to help launch new cases for Rip Kirby to solve.

        Jim's review was thoughtful, balanced, honest, and direct, all qualities I admire. Yet when it comes to the "Honey or Pagan?" question, he and I are on opposite sides of the fence.

        Yes, I'll admit it: I'm a Honey Dorian fan. That said, I'll confess I wish Raymond and Rip's co-writer, Ward Greene, had continued to characterize Honey as she was depicted in the first two storylines (which we reprinted in Volume One under the titles "The Chip Faraday Murder" and "The Hicks Formula"). In those stories Honey is especially spritely and sassy, bringing a unique sparkly to Rip's somewhat straight-arrow lifestyle. But even as the strip matures and Honey becomes more serious and far less fun-loving, I find myself siding with her over Pagan. Maybe that's because I'm really big on loyalty and no matter the occasional spats and separations, there's never really a doubt that Honey is devoted to Rip.

        Pagan, by contrast, has already changed allegiances once, throwing over The Mangler for a chance at life on the straight and narrow. Though redemption after sin is nothing to be sneezed at, the vibe I get from Pagan says, "It's only a matter of time before I cross the line once again and end up either in jail or on the run . . . "

        How fortunate that Raymond and Greene gave us both characters, since they so nicely counter-point one another and they present Rip with the possibility of a conflict of the heart. Conflict is hell on our heroes, but fun for us readers!

        "Pagan or Honey?" It's a matter of preference, of course, with no right or wrong answer. So I send a friendly wave to Jim Davis and all the other Pagan Lee fans out there -- I'll be easy to spot when you return the wave, because I'm in the forefront of the Honey Dorian camp.

        canwellposted by Bruce Canwell

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        Tuesday, Aug 3rd, 2010

        Noel Sickles 1935!

        Noel Sickles 1935

         

        It's not often that we get to see previously unknown art from seventy-five years ago by one of the greatest cartoonists of all time. The above specialty drawing by Noel Sickles came to us from Everett Slaughter, via our pal Leif Peng. It is only the second color Scorchy Smith piece by Sickles that I've ever seen (the other we reproduced in Scorchy Smith and The Art of Noel Sickles). Everett writes, "My late wife, Virginia, was a neighbor to Noel Sickles in Chillicothe, Ohio.  Attached is a cartoon Noel did for her in July, 1935 when she was 10 years of age."

        Sickles had an obvious fondness for his young neighbor. The cartoonist was living in New York in 1935, sharing studio space with Milton Caniff, but made regular trips back to Chillicothe to visit with his family. The watercolor is of Scorchy and his pal, the German pilot Himmelstoss, and references a Western storyline from the strip.

        Thanks so much to Everett for sharing this treasure with us.

        The Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles is available at your favorite comics shop, online bookseller, or IDW's webstore.

        And in case you aren't familiar with Leif Peng's fantastic blog about 20th Century illustrators, take a look. It's on my "must-read" list every week.

         

        Dean Mullaney

        posted by Dean Mullaney

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        Monday, Aug 2nd, 2010

        "No publisher is more dedicated…

        …to archival collections than IDW," writes Peter Rowe in the San Diego Tribune. "The Library runs the gamut from familiar titles to obscure works that haven’t been seen in decades: “Polly and Her Pals” debuted in 1912; detective “Rip Kirby” was on the case in the 1940s and ’50s; and fanciful “King Aroo” is another ’50s revival."

         

        Dean Mullaney

         

        Here's yours truly in the IDW booth at the San Diego Comicon. Check out the complete link. It's great to see such positive mainstream coverage for the Library of American Comics and classic newspaper strips in general.

        The Library and IDW were triple winners at the Eisners this year. In addition to Bloom County taking home the Archival Newspaper Strip award, The Rocketeer won as Best Archival Project—Comic Books, and Darwyn Cooke's amazing adapation of Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunted was feted for Best Adaptation from Another Work. A big round of applause for all, especially Scott Dunbier, who edited all three winners!

        Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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        Monday, Aug 2nd, 2010

        Bloom County Wins 2010 Eisner Award

        Bloom Eisner

        The Library of American Comics again won the Eisner Award for Best Archival Project—Newspaper Strips given at the San Diego Comicon, as Bloom County took home the honors. LOAC's Bringing Up Father was also nominated.

        Above are (left to right) Creative Director Dean Mullaney, Associate Art Director (and Sunday colorist) Lorraine Turner, Berkeley Breathed himself, and series editor Scott Dunbier (proudly holding the award).

        It was the first Comicon appearance for Berkeley, who also received the Inkpot Award. He was a real trooper, signing books and talking with fans for three straight days. He also created a Comicon-exclusive t-shirt. Needless to say, a fun time was had by all.

        Dean Mullaney posted by Dean Mullaney

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        Sunday, Jul 18th, 2010

        Dogpatch by Way of Amesbury

        From the highway, Amesbury's major distinguishing characteristic is a family sports center visible at the foot on an enormous hill. In the wintertime that snow-covered slope is home to what looks like the finest sledding in all of New England. One drives past on a sunny January day and sees a steady stream of brightly-colored plastic saucer-sleds blasting down multiple paths at top speed; one can practically hear the laughter and shrieks and squeals of delight, even from the highway, even through the closed car windows. On this weekend, however, snow was a distant memory. This was the first weekend of summer, pleasantly warm and sunny, and personal business put me on the highway, driving north for the pleasure of seeing my brother and his family before the sadness of a Sunday that required the saying of a final goodbye.

        And on this sunny summery Saturday, I was about to do something I had never done before - I was taking Exit 54 off Interstate 495 in order to pay a visit to Amesbury, one of the towns Li'l Abner's creator, Al Capp, called home. From the highway one follows Route 150 through a few miles of nondescript residences before reaching the outskirts of the downtown area, where Route 150 gives way to Main Street.

        To two of them, actually.

        As I waited at the intersection for the light to change, I did a double-take. No, my eyes were not deceiving me - the two perpendicular streets were both named Main Street! The road sign marked the corner of Main and Main. I shook my head: only in New England . . .

        Following Mapquest directions to a lot on Water Street, I parked and prepared to explore the downtown area. At one end of the parking lot: a pub known (for obvious reasons) as The Barn, its façade showcasing quintessential New England kitsch. The building certainly appeared old enough to have been around during Al Capp's day, though I wondered back then if "The Barn" was simply "a barn."

        On the town's major thoroughfares, another New England staple - a street fair - was in full swing. Pastel-topped tents dotted both sides of the street. Some offered for sale a variety of crafts - hand-made clothes, jewelry, puzzle boxes, woodwork, and more - while others served up a variety of snacks and drinks designed to help beat the summer heat. Buskers inhabited every second or third street corner, playing a guitar or a banjo, softly singing their tunes. Wandering from display to display were new parents pushing prams - teenagers in t-shirts and jeans, clutching skateboards beneath their arms - young lovers strolling arm in arm - senior citizens, out to enjoy the splendor of an early-summer day.




        Making a turn off Market Street, passing under an extended brick archway, I found the item that had sparked this trip, something originally reported in the Boston Globe and also covered here in this space as "Favored Son" (you'll find it by clicking here, then scrolling down http://www.libraryofamericancomics.com/blog/2010-06/).

        Anchored to the wall of the archway was the four-panel painting that serves as Amesbury's new tribute to Al Capp. Created by local artist Jon Mooers, the work was inspired by the autobiographical feature from the June 24, 1946 issue of Life Magazine. You can see the Life piece on pages 21 - 24 of our Li'l Abner Volume 1; you can see the Mooers version right here:

        I stepped in to examine the work up close, mentally comparing and contrasting it to Capp's Life feature. I heard other voices behind me, but paid no attention to them - until I turned around and saw a couple, perhaps mid-to-late fifties, telling their teenaged grandson about how funny Li'l Abner was, how it was once one of the most popular comics in the world.

        "And best of all, it's back again," I said, stepping in and offering the man one of my business cards. He could see The Library of American Comics logo on my card as I explained how we are reprinting Abner in a series of hardcovered books, with the first one now available and the second coming later on this year. Not a hard sell ... rather, a random encounter that might give the family something extra to talk about and perhaps help increase everyone's level of interest. That's the hope, anyway ...

        Back on Main Street I continued my walkabout, snapping pictures, trying to capture more of the Amesbury ambiance. Al Capp is not the town's only literary luminary; Li'l Abner is not its only claim to fame. Amesbury was also home to 19th Century poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, who returned to the town after 1845, when ill health ended his involvement in the anti-slavery movement.

        The Boston Globe article on Capp included a rather snooty-sounding quote from a member of the J.G. Whittier Home Association that makes it sound as if the Greenleafers are not entirely comfortable with the town's attempt to attract Cappites. (The exact line was, "My son or anybody younger wouldn't really know about him [Capp]. A lot of people don't make the connection at all" - why do I hear that being said with a Lovey Howell-style intonation?)

        One side of a prominent multi-storey building is given over to a mural honoring Whittier. The artwork is clearly visible as one drives or strolls down Main Street, and as I looked at it, I found myself hoping there is room in Amesbury to honor two contributors to the arts.