Author Archive | Bruce Canwell

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:

TedWilliams

(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/ZekleyBUF 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!

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:

 

GN_Z_Anita_Riano

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.

 

Group

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.

Savings_Bond_Drive

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:

GM_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!

 

Group2Finally – 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?Z_Soglow_M_Laswel_49_ArmHos

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!

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.baby

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 Countycould 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!

 

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:

 

Meaco_0225

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.

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.

Meaco_0525Workplace 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?Meaco_1225BThe 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 . . .Meaco_1225

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…

 

A Rollicking Roster of Riotous Ramblings

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!

Blondie_poster

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 inRoma 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 toinfo@loacomics.com ; we’ll run a follow-up in a future installment!

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (or Brunettes)

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.

Rip3_large

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.”

Amesbury3

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”.

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 Lifepiece on pages 21 – 24 of our Li’l Abner Volume 1; you can see the Mooers version right here:

amesbury7

I stepped in to examine the work up close, mentally comparing and contrasting it to Capp’s Lifefeature. 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.

Amesbury’s chief industry was not poetry or comic strips, of course – not long after Whittier settled in town, a thriving carriage-manufacturing business developed and is remembered in yet another mural on yet another Main Street building.

amesbury91

Capp’s wife’s maiden name was Catherine Cameron; her father, Colin Cameron, came from old money earned in the carriage trade. In the early 20th Century, the carriage business morphed into the construction of automobile bodies before the Great Depression wiped out this particular industry.

My trip up Main Street brought me to the town’s public library, which featured well-maintained grounds and an inviting atmosphere. New Englanders love their statues and in Amesbury, a statue of Josiah Bartlett sits on the edge of the library’s grounds. Bartlett was born in the town and went on to sign the Declaration of Independence, though he lived much of his life (and had most of his successes) as a resident of New Hampshire.

As I retraced my steps, making my way back to my car, I spotted the storefront of the town’s bookstore, Bertram & Oliver Booksellers. I am decidedly cool to everything “chain” – chain department stores, chain restaurants, chain home improvement stores, chain bookstores – so I was delighted to step inside and be greeted by the soothing sight of shelf upon shelf of books, a simple employee station and single cash register, and preparations being made for a kids’ reading session slated for later that day.

 

amesbury94

I spoke with B&O’s owner, the delightful Joanne Wimberly, who gave me some of her valuable time even though she was in the midst of preparing for the special children’s event. I explained why I was in town and about LOAC’s Li’l Abner reprints and she was interested to hear we weren’t reprinting the strips as comic books, but rather as hardcovers. “Ah! A graphic novel!” Joanne said. “See, I’m learning the lingo!” At her request, I promised to send her the book specs and ordering details about Abner.

By the time I left Bertram & Oliver’s it was approaching noontime, my camera’s memory was nearly full, and I had hours of driving still ahead of me. It was time to say goodbye to Amesbury – but my detour off the highway lightened the somber circumstances awaiting me on Sunday, as several friends and I gathered to pay our due respects. It rather lightened things for my oldest, closest friends as well – as the day began to wane, I summarized my visit to Amesbury, my encounter with the family near the Capp mural, my exchange with Joanne Wimberly, my surprise at seeing the intersection of Main and Main. One of my friends shook his head. “You have about the greatest job on earth,” he said.

And you know – I’d be hard-pressed to disagree!

 

More Jabs Than Puns

The end of Annie as a regular newspaper feature received significant media coverage, but here in the Library of American Comics universe we are smack in the midst of Great Moments in AnnieHistory. You’ll see one of the greatest later on this year, as the incredible Punjab marks his debut in the sixth volume of our series.

Check out the extremely rare Punjab Mystic Code Translater above, courtesy our friend Richard Olson. He’d been searching for this elusive premium for nearly forty years and recently added it to his phenomenal LOA collection. Richard has been kindly sharing his goodies for the introductions to our Complete Little Orphan Annie.

The year 1935 opened with Annie, Sandy, and “Daddy” on the bum. Prospects looked bleak, but the first sign fortunes would change occurs in the January 26th daily, when “Daddy” shaves off the scruffy beard he had been cultivating for almost three weeks. “Maybe I was a little bashful about letting people recognize me-the great Warbucks sunk to the level of a tramp,” Warbucks muses. “But what do I care? Let ’em look-I’ve never cringed yet and I’ll not start now.” When “Daddy” gets that steely note of resolve in his voice, it’s only a matter of time before he’s back on top again…

But what’s the one lesson Gray consistently teaches? Even a man as formidable as Warbucks can’t do it alone. This time the path back to respectability leads to “Daddy’s” globe-trotting old friend, Henry Morgan, and his giant bodyguard from India, the exotic Punjab.

We get our first look at Punjab in the February 3, 1935 Sunday; “Daddy” begins introducing him to Annie on Monday, February 11th. In the weeks that follow, Gray’s stoic new character tosses around no-goods like Doc Savage, he appears and disappears like The Shadow, he espouses a Far Eastern philosophy that’s a mix of Rudyard Kipling and Sax Rohmer. As he performs feats of prestidigitation and serves up inscrutable visions of the future, Punjab takesLittle Orphan Annie—always the most hard-headed and pragmatic of series – into the misty realms of mysticism. It is Punjab who shows America’s spunkiest kid there are unseen forces at work in the world, that there is knowledge and then there is Knowledge.

By the end of March, when Annie finds an old tramp near death, lying deep in the woods, it is Punjab who uses his many abilities (including his skill with the “jungle wireless”) to save the tramp’s life. That tramp, as Annieologists know, puts “Daddy” back on the path to respectability as Harold Gray begins to unfold perhaps his most trenchant sociopolitical commentary.

     Little Orphan Annie Volume 6 offers more than a dance around the edges of the supernatural—old friends Wun Wey and (huzzah!) Pee Wee the Elephant make their returns, as well. But the spotlight moment comes in the early months of 1935, when Punjab steps onto the stage and into Annie’s life.

PunjabCode

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes