Author Archive | hulabula

King of the Comics!

The popular weekend program “CBS Sunday Morning” profiled King Features’s 100th anniversary today. In case you missed it, here’s a link to their website (complete with plug for our big book, “King of the Comics”)!



The Syncopated Syndicate

Continuing our look at a century of King Features Syndicate offerings in advance of our King of the Comics retrospective, here are some “DVD Extras” that reflect the state of both KFS and newspaper comics during the period of the 1960s through the 1980s …

• • • • •

The changes on the comics page that had begun during World War II took firm root during the 1960s. The size of strips shrunk to the point where adventure strips were literally being squeezed off the newspaper page. Gigantic strides made by television—which began the decade by televising the first Presidential debate and broadcast prime time fare “in living color” by 1969—put a further choke-hold on action comics, as the audience increasingly turned to the small screen for its daily dose of derring-do.

The generation gap also played a major role in the 1960s—the audience was growing younger as baby boomers came of age, while the master cartoonists of comics’ golden age were now well into their fifties and sixties, their pioneering days now behind them, an audience they no longer fully understood before them.

Comedy continuity and gag-a-days were increasingly becoming the order of the day, and King Features had new offerings such as Frank Ridgeway and Ralston Jones’s Mister Abernathy. Here’s a snowy New Year’s Day sample from 1962:


By the middle of the decade King had introduced its own “kids’ strip;” though very different from Sparky Schulz’s Peanuts, the new Tiger, by cartoonist Bud Blake, quickly staked out its own winsome, heartwarming territory on hundreds of newspaper comics pages.


Combative married couples were a time-honored entertainment trope: The Bickersons had a popular radio run, Jackie Gleason’s Honeymooners were must-see viewing on the DuMont Network, and Bringing Up Father already had a half-decade of comic strip success under its belt. As the ’60s wore down a new single-panel entry into the “Love & Marriage” sweepstakes appeared in the form of The Lockhorns. This delightfully barbed series has entertained readers through the remainder of the 20th Century and into the 21st. This particular example was too muddy for us to consider using in King of the Comics, but the zinger cracked me up so much, I wanted to share it with you here. Plus, one we DID use.



By the early 1970s social change was visible everywhere. All in the Family had debuted, anchoring what would become a powerhouse Saturday night lineup for CBS-TV while making politics, sex, and the generation gap subjects for thought-provoking laughs. Into that newer, more open entertainment environment, Thaddeus “Ted” Shearer helped put African-Americans onto the daily comics pages with his endearing Quincy:


The talent behind The Lockhorns, Bill Hoest, took on a second, multi-panel series in the 1970s. Here’s an intro/promotional strip and a late-November 1977 example of his Agatha Crumm:



As the ’80s unfolded King began acquiring other newspaper syndicates and absorbing their comic strip offerings to expand its own mammoth holdings. Among those acquisitions was the most popular adventure-strip to launch in roughly two decades, a series that was added to the LOAC stable earlier this year. Here’s a 1989 selection from The Amazing Spider-Man produced by the brother Lieber, Stan and Larry:


To those of us for whom the ’70s and ’80s seem like yesterday, it’s a bit shocking to realize there’s still a quarter-century of King Features history that follows the Spidey strip above … but it’s true. We’ll wrap up our King Features retrospective next time!

Notes in Passing

The cliché says that March is the cruelest month — this year it has lived up to that billing, as we have lost a pair of fine cartoonists who leave a strong and lasting mark on the art form.

Fred Fredericks passed away on March 10th at age eighty-five. Mr. Fredericks was a consummate professional, one who worked in both comic books and comic strips, one who could write, pencil, ink, and letter — skills he employed during his forty-eight years on Mandrake the Magician, at first teaming with Mandrake‘s creator, Lee Falk, then taking over the writing in addition to the artistic chores following the 1999 passing of Mr. Falk. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, Mr. Fredericks returned to comic books, primarily as an inker — he worked over several pages of work by my old friend, Lee Weeks, during Lee’s stint on Daredevil, among several other assignments at both Marvel and DC.


You can read more about Mr. Fredericks here

… And here:

Only three days after Mr. Fredericks’s death, Irwin Hasen passed away of heart failure, aged ninety-six. Irwin received very nice obituaries in both the Los Angeles Times and the newspaper of record. Irwin will always be remembered for his work on Dondi, which has come back into print in recent years thanks to our friend Charles Pelto at Classic Comics Press.

Dondi‘s 1955 launch was given a big push by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, and by such client newspapers as the Syracuse Post Standard, which ran these ads for the new strip five days before and one and two days after its September 26 debut.




My friends Lee Weeks and Mike Dudley both studied with Irwin at the Joe Kubert School, Mike being part of the class attending the school in its second year of existence.

I interviewed Irwin in the spring of 2010, when Dean and I started preparing our Alex Toth — Genius series (although back then we hadn’t yet conceived of the project as a series – we initially and mistakenly believed we could capture Alex’s life and breadth of artwork in a single volume!).

In the fall of the same year, Dean and I worked the New York Comic Con and Mike Dudley made the trip to Manhattan with me. Irwin was a guest of the convention and, with Mike accompanying me, I made a point of wandering over to introduce myself person-to-person to Irwin, and to thank him for being generous with his recollections of Alex during our earlier interview. Mike had patiently waited for me to do my thing, then I pointed back at him, telling Irwin that the still-boyish-looking Dudley was a former student. I’ll let Mike tell it from here, in recollections he shared with me in a March 17th e-mail:

“[Irwin] was a character, but also a good guy and a very good artist. I had him for a few classes at Kubert’s and he was a versatile artist, not stuck in “Dondi-mode” drawing style. He once demonstrated a technique in sports cartooning utilizing coquille board. Very impressive. Glad I got the chance to see him again at NYC Con in 2010, even if he didn’t remember me. (Why would he, 30 plus years later?)

“I did get a big kick out his response to your introduction. When you told him I had been a student of his at Kubert’s, he came back with the response, ‘You must have been a baby!’ That still makes me chuckle when I think of it. He was still sharp, as there was no lag time in delivering the line after processing the introduction.”

The comics world is lessened by the loss of both these men, and we are grateful for the rich legacy they leave behind.

2014: A Look Back

Though we had discussions in 2006, Dean and I officially began working on the first Library of American Comics release, Terry and the Pirates Volume 1, in January of 2007, meaning this month we celebrate LOAC’s eighth anniversary and move into our ninth year. During that span of time we’ve produced close to one hundred books, received industry award nominations each year and brought home half a dozen trophies, done research from the East Coast (Boston University) to the West (UCLA), and from the northcountry (Michigan State University) to the heartland (the Ohio State University). Most important of all, we’ve struck up dozens of new friendships with academicians, peers and family members of our artists, other comics professionals (both retired and contemporary), and several of our readers.

Before we get too far into our ninth year, I thought we might look back and bid our eighth year a fond farewell. Here’s what stays with me when I think about LOAC in 2014…

We Traveled Over Ten Thousand Miles!


Dean and Lorraine made two trips to California during the spring and summer months, then Dean flew solo to Baltimore, New York, and Ohio State in the autumn. I also made treks to Baltimore (you can read about all about it here) and Ohio State (and read about that trip here); I connected with Dean both times. In addition, Dean drove up from his home to meet with me in early April, while I was in his general vicinity attending to a family matter. This year Dean and I logged more miles, did more research, and had more face-to-face meetings than any previous year in LOAC history.



We Were Triply-Honored at The Eisner Awards!

It was a humbling but splendid July evening in San Diego when LOAC experienced its best single-year showing at the industry’s version of the Oscars, the Eisner Awards. The second volume in our Toth cycle, Genius Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, took home awards in both the “Best Comics Related Book” and “Best Publication Design” categories, while we won for the fourth time in the area of “Best Archival Collection/Project-Strips,” this time for Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips Volume 1. We posted the news, and a handful of pictures, here.

We always value recognition within the field for our books. The awards we receive are first and foremost a reflection of the contributions to the field made by the artists whose work we reprint, and a reaffirmation of our goal to preserve that work and present it in ways that make it vibrant and vital for modern-day audiences.


And Then We Published Books! Continuations of Ongoing Series …



And Then We Published Books! Continuations of Ongoing Series …


Archie1960s_v2Skippy3_PRDT16_PR DT17_PR LOAC_Essential4_Alley_Oop LOAC_Ess5_BungleSupermanSA_Dailies_2 Superman_GA_Sundays_2_PRLOA10_coverTarzan2_PRTarzan3_PRSteve_Canyon4_PR

… Plus Brand-New Entries Appearing for the First Time Under the LOAC Banner:WhatFools_Puck_300dpiPopeye_London_1Popeye_London_2Batman1_PRWonderWoman1_PRGenius_AnimatedRipley1_wrap_flat


  • The lavish Story of Puck: What Fools These Mortals Be!
  • Both volumes representing the complete Bobby London run on Popeye!
  • A pair of superhero strip reprints produced in cooperation with DC Comics: Batman and Robin Volume 1 and Wonder Woman!
  • The final volume in our Alex Toth trilogy: Genius, Animated!
  • The blast-from-the-past that is Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

By my count, that equals twenty books in a single year – not a bad showing for a group that’s smaller in number than Robin Hood and his Merry Men!

Counting the inaugural release from our new sister imprint, EuroComics, make that twenty-one books!


Now, of course, the old year is gone and 2015 stretches out ahead. What will this new year hold? You likely have already heard our next Essential will be the middle act in the saga of George Herriman’s Baron Bean – and you likewise saw the press release from this fall announcing our agreement with Marvel Comics to reprint the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip – and I just recently discussed the fun associated with our upcoming release of the original Secret Agent X-9strips.




Our ongoing series will also continue, of course, but we have an announcement coming very, verysoon that we’re all tremendously excited about.

So keep watching this space—we’re having too much fun (or maybe we’re just too dumb!) to start taking it easy now…

He’s Coming! He’s Coming! Long Live the King!

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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