Sunday, Dec 25th, 2011
The Kind of Tree We Like…
We're taking the week off and will be back with a Year in Review. Happy Holidays and Good Reading to all!
Wednesday, Dec 21st, 2011
No Man is an Ireland…
posted 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Sadly enough for Dean and me, Lorraine topped both of us!
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.
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!
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…
Wednesday, Dec 7th, 2011
Skippy, at long last
posted by Dean Mullaney
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.
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.
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.
Tuesday, Dec 6th, 2011
Just a month away
Next month we celebrate Steve Canyon's 65th anniversary by releasing the first volume in our new series. Just a few more weeks, folks…
Thursday, Dec 1st, 2011
Because you asked for it!
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.
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.