A few months ago in this space I showed you some photos of our LOAC books, arrayed on my bookshelves — you can see it here, if you’d like a refresher.
More recently, we received some impressive bookshelf photos from another comics historian, the estimable Barry Pearl. Check out this first of five shots of Mr. Pearl’s amassed comics collections and be prepared, like me, to resist the urge to whistle in appreciation …
Mr. Pearl was co-writer of The 75 Years of Marvel, focusing primarily on that book’s “Marvel Age of Comics” section (a mighty good section to focus upon, if I do say so myself!). “This section was spun off as a second book, The Marvel Age of Comics,” said Mr. Pearl. “In addition, Taschen has put out several books entitled Little Book of...Spider-Man, The Hulk and many others … Most of the scans from that era, including the very cover of the book, come for my collection. Along with Nick Caputo and Mike Vassallo, we wrote the entire large timeline and chronology, biographies, and captions that are under every image. Mike did mostly the 1940s and ’50s, Nick and I did the ’60s and ’70s. We also selected many of the images in that section of the book. We contributed 120,000 words! The Silver Age is more than 50% of the book.”
Mr. Pearl was kind enough to send along some thoughts about the 21st Century Renaissance of permanent-edition comics reprints, and while his comments were directed toward The Library of American Comics, a look at his bookshelves makes it clear they apply equally to the handful of our friendly competitors who help preserve this most American of artforms. He set the stage by noting, “The last few decades, newspapers have been reducing the space for comics. This hit the serious and more detailed comics the hardest — with smaller pictures and less dialogue, their stories often became impossible to tell. So to find great tales, I did not look forward. I had to look into the past. And what a past it’s been!” Mr. Pearl’s initial exploration of comic strip history led him to conclude, “There were wonderful stories and wonderful illustrations, but they almost seemed hidden. There was no place to find them. Some titles were reprinted, but often badly and even unreadably. Many books had selected stories and could not show the full development of the series.
LOAC, Mr. Pearl said, “… took us where no publisher had gone before — and I don’t just mean the Star Trek comic strips from both America and Great Britain. We finally get to visit the COMPLETE world of Little Orphan Annie as she goes through the Depression and World War II. We get to follow Milton Caniff in his full journey … [first in] Terry and Pirates and then Steve Canyon. Dick Tracy stayed at home during the war, but his villains and stories were unforgettable.”
“Newspapers, not necessarily comic books, were bought by adults, who often turned immediately to the comic pages,” Mr. Pearl continued. “So while the super-hero comic book often have been directed at children, the super-hero comic strips of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s were aimed at adults. The strips of Superman, Batman and, yes, Wonder Woman are beautifully drawn and their stories are often compelling. And we get Spider-Man from the 1970s!
“And there are a lot of smiles, too! We are presented with the beginnings of the Family Circus, For Better and for Worse, Bloom County, and the 1960s Gasoline Alley. What has surprised me most are the [LOAC Essentials,] smaller yearly compilations of early daily strips which feature many of the series I had heard about, but never saw much of. This includes Polly and Her Pals, The Gumps, and Baron Bean, along with some I was more familiar with, including Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, and Tarzan. There are so many more.” He wrapped up his remarks with a recommendation to readers everywhere: “In conclusion, my advice to you: read all these books slowly! You shall not see their like again.”
Mr. Pearl maintains a blogspot/website containing personal history and some fine comic book information, as well as lots and lots of terrific artwork; you can find it here. He also offers his considered opinions about select superhero movies and comics collections right here. We were delighted to receive his thoughts on our humble efforts, and we’re mightily impressed by his collection! Photos of your own LOAC-laden bookshelves are always welcome — please visit our Facebook site, our Twitter account, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to submit them. And keep an eye out for a very exciting project Mr. Pearl has co-written with Roy Thomas — The Authorized Biography of Stan Lee. It sounds like an excellent companion volume to our own Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip series!