The Library of American Comics marked its tenth year of publication this summer, and using this milestone as a launching point, 2017 was the year LOAC took the comics world by storm. The familiar “word balloon” logo was emblazoned on a wide range of products including t-shirts, coffee mugs, towels, baseball caps, and even lace doilies to drape over the back of sofas or love-seats. There were the LOAC events at major conventions on both coasts. The article on us (with the biographical sidebar about Dean) in that July issue of Entertainment Weekly. And how about …
Wait. None of that really occurred. Sorry — sorry!
Instead, what happened during 2017 was that LOAC continued its mission to collect a wide range of entertaining and significant newspaper comics in permanent hardcover editions, helping to preserve the “strips” portion of comics, one of the handful of truly native American artforms.
We provided new entries in several of our long-running series, of course. Dick Tracy continued to be “out of this world” in a pair of releases, Volumes 22 and 23, that further explored the “Moon Maid” phase of the smashing detective’s long career. Rip Kirby moved into the 1970s (a time when the detective field was particularly crowded, across many types of media) with our tenth book in that series, the sixth spotlighting the work of artist John Prentice. Superman checked in with another volume of Atomic Age Sunday pages, as well as the first volume of his Golden Age daily exploits. Not to be outdone, The Amazing Spider-Man sported a fourth volume of super-stories, plus inside perspective on the strip from former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Jim Shooter.
Two more releases from the last part of the year were a special cause for pride in our offices:
Little Orphan Annie Volume 14 took America’s Spunkiest Kid into the 1950s, meaning we have so far succeeded in publishing a full quarter-century of adventures featuring Annie, “Daddy,” and that mighty mutt, Sandy. “Arf!” indeed!
And the wedding of the 1950s was reprinted for 21st Century audiences to savor as Li’l Abner reached its ninth volume. Abner strips are always fun and fast-paced, and Al Capp’s career and life are fascinating subjects to cover. My introduction for this book not only looks at the reasons Capp chose to — at long last! — marry Abner and Daisy Mae, it puts the spotlight on other major items (the contest that comes from the resolution of the “Nancy O.” mystery; the Fearless Fosdick TV show) as well as minor-but-significant ones (including the business reasons that sent Capp to Grand Rapids, Minnesota for a “Turnip ‘n’ Tater Time” festival). We also continued our look at the feud between Capp and Ham (Joe Palooka) Fisher. The early-1950s entry in this long-running donnybrook involved a report from the New York State legislature that suggested Li’l Abner might be contributing to juvenile delinquency! I always find it a pleasure and an honor to be able to contribute — at least to a small degree — to our knowledge and understanding of this important comic strip and its often-controversial creator.
Disney fans also had reason to celebrate throughout 2017, as LOAC published new volumes of Al Taliaferro and Bob Karp’s always-enchanting Donald Duck dailies, a second Treasury of Classic Tales, and Volume 3 in the Silly Symphonies series (say THAT five times fast!). And just in time for the year-end holidays, Disney’s Christmas Classics appeared on the shelves of finer booksellers everywhere.
LOAC looked to the stars during 2017 — we completed our reprinting of the UK comics devoted to that most enduring of American science fiction franchises, Star Trek. But the final frontier is a mighty big place, which left room on our schedule to launch three-volume sets of both Star Wars (featuring lovely Russ Manning artwork) and Star Hawks, with its distinctive two-tier daily format, its snappy dialogue and exciting plots by Ron Goulart, and its wonderful Gil Kane art.
As we do every year, we injected some first-time projects into the mix: our LOAC Essentials were enriched by the addition of Dan Dunn, Secret Operative 48 in our tenth release in the one-strip-each-page Essentials format. It was great fun to learn about Norman Marsh — as a yachtsman, amateur pilot, and proprietor of his own mail-order art course, he leveraged his career, offering proof positive why so many artists from the 1930s-50s dreamed of having their own newspaper comic strip. We also began an ambitious nine-book reprinting of Lynn Johnston’s exceptional series, For Better or For Worse. This project coincided with the arrival of Kurtis Findlay as LOAC’s Online Communications Coordinator — if you’ve enjoyed the social media entries and two podcasts we’ve presented during the past few months, be sure to raise an end-of-the-year glass to Kurtis, since those projects reflect his diligent work to spread the Library of American Comics message!
How do we follow up a year like 2017? Well, we’re starting off 2018 in a big way, with the eighth Steve Canyon collection coming soon and featuring appearances by Princess Snowflower (“the Crag Hag”), Doagie Hogan, Madame Lynx, cousin Poteet … and Steve, who spends some time working in service of the space program! We’re all excited about our next LOAC Essentials, too. I’ve touted it in many ways in recent weeks, but it bears repeating here: “Cap” Stubbs and Tippie are on their way, accompanied by a lively and well-researched introductory article by Caitlin McGurk, Associate Curator at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. There will be more as the new year unfolds, as well — but at this juncture on the calendar, we are not looking ahead until we enjoy a moment to look back and recognize that 2017 was both a milestone year in LOAC history, and a mighty good year for comic strip reading as well.
As always, we thank you for your patronage and enthusiastic support, and we wish you and yours a Happy New Year!