Highly Recommended: Two by Jules Feiffer

We in the comics world do not devote enough attention to the treasure who is Jules Feiffer.

I first encountered his work in the Sunday newspapers of my boyhood. where his Feiffer feature appeared weekly. I bought his 1979 proto-graphic-novel, Tantrum, and the next year I hied myself to the local cineplex to see Robert Altman’s film Popeye — lovingly written for the screen by Jules Feiffer. His 1993 illustrated novel, The Man in the Ceiling, was one of my memorable late-20th-Century reading experiences; a story about a boy who dreams of creating comic books, it strongly resonated with me, to the point where many friends and family members received copies as Christmas gifts that year. I delighted in his string of early-21st-Century children’s books with titles like I’m Not Bobby! and The House Across the Street. A decade ago I came full circle and bought Fantagraphics’s complete collection of Feiffer’s Village Voice strips that were the precursors to the material I first read as a youngster.

While Feiffer has devoted much of his career to drawing cartoons featuring normal, everyday men, women, and children and has rarely intersected with the adventure comics that remain at the heart of the business even today, it’s always been clear to me that Feiffer is One of Us, a comics geek who embraces the warp and woof of the medium and has absorbed the same “classics” that we have. If we had ever had the chance to share a drink with some of the notable talents with whom Feiffer has rubbed elbows — with Altman or Gay Talese or Mike Nichols — what would we say to them? What would we have in common with them? Ah, but if we had the opportunity to bend an elbow with Jules Feiffer, the conversation would likely flow faster than the bartender could fill our glasses. We’d talk about our favorite Caniff Terry and the Pirates sequences — compare and contrast the work of E.C. Segar and George Herriman — pull out of him the stories from his youngest days, just starting out in the business, when he assisted Will Eisner on The Spirit.

I understand that the odds I’ll ever shake hands with Feiffer are small, but I have been lucky enough to renew my acquaintance with him through his most recent works. I am taking this space to unreservedly recommend them to you. His two interconnected graphic novels, Kill My Mother and Cousin Joseph, are wonderful accomplishments that remind us anew of their creator’s singular talents.

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Episode 005 with special guest Eddie Campbell

Dean Mullaney and Kurtis Findlay are back with another episode of the Library of American Comics & EuroComics Podcast!

In this episode, Dean and Kurtis discuss LOAC Essentials, Vol. 11: Tippie, The Goat Getters, and Violette Around the World, Vol. 1. Plus, cartoonist Eddie Campbell reveals all about his upcoming book, The Goat Getters!

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Back to the Shelves

Several years ago we took some time in this space to show you what my LOAC bookshelf looked like. I shelve my books in alphabetical order by author, or by publisher where that makes more sense — for instance, while my William Saroyans are under “S”, my Fantastic Fours are under “M”, with the rest of my Marvel Comics collections. My Library of American Comics titles are therefore under “L,” and then shelved alphabetically in a logical way (well, logical to me, anyway), as you can see:

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Steve Canyon: Still Swinging in the Sixties!

One of the key points I raised in my text feature for Steve Canyon Volume 8 was that Milton Caniff’s picaresque adventure strip was still a hot property as the Sixties began to unfold. The perceived “Communist threat” was a very real part of life during that period, and the nuclear specter hung heavily over citizens of many countries (having spent my single-digit childhood years in the ’60s, I clearly remember the bi-level department store in my hometown, with both ground-level and basement shopping, and how the stairwells leading down to the basement prominently displayed “Fallout Shelter” decals). We too often try to examine the works of the past from a modern-day sensibility, ignoring a simple but accurate truth: It Was a Different World Back Then. (And our society couldn’t have arrived where it is today without our grandparents, parents, and some of us living through the way it was then … but that’s a thought for another day and another forum).

While doing some advance work for Canyon Volume 9 — which will feature more never-before-reprinted stories, this time from the years 1963-64 — the power of the feature to serve as a “draw” was once again brought home to me as I saw the plethora of advertisements and promotions for the series that ran in various client newspapers. Here’s a small cross-section of them, sure to whet the appetite of any Caniffite:

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JUST ANNOUNCED: LOAC Essentials, Vol. 12: Baron Bean, 1918

We know you’ve been waiting, but the wait is over! Coming November 2018, The Library of American Comics proudly presents THE LIBRARY OF AMERICAN COMICS ESSENTIALS, VOL. 12: BARON BEAN, 1918, the concluding volume of George Herriman’s hilarious daily strip starring the self-appointed Baron Bean. Now the complete Baron Bean will be reprinted for the first time ever—three volumes that will be a must-have for fans of century-old comics!

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Beyond the Death of Mary Gold

The second volume in LOAC Essentials reprinted “The Death of Mary Gold,” one of the most significant and influential sequences in comics history. The events that occurred in Sidney Smith’s The Gumps during the spring of 1929 are the benchmark against which every major comic strip death in the succeeding ninety years has inevitably been compared.

When we last saw Tom Carr, Mary’s betrothed, on May 3, 1929, he was alone, adrift…mourning the loss of his beloved Mary Gold. Although Sidney Smith naturally turned his attention to new storylines involving Andy Gump and family, the cartoonist periodically kept readers apprised of Tom’s life post-Mary. Through November of that year, Smith dedicated twenty-five dailies to our old friend Tom Carr. Part way through, he re-introduces the gold-digging Widow Zander, who first appeared in 1921(Watch out, Tom!).

Click “Continue reading” to see the first eight (from May 4 to May 26). Look for a second group of eight in a few days, followed by the final nine.

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A Fantasy Comics Page for The Holiday That Gets No Respect

Comics creators sometimes gave nods to the calendar in their ongoing newspaper strips. Year-in and year-out, many comics did special installments of their features to commemorate Christmas and, a week later, the farewell to the old year and the welcoming of its successor. Comics with a strong streak of patriotism saluted holidays like Independence Day, Armed Forces Day, and for a time, V-E and V-J Days.

But Groundhog Day? Fuhgedaboudit. The comics trade showed no love to that special early February day when millions of hearty northerners, fatigued by battling weeks of the subzero cold, ice, and snow that Ole Man Winter loves to dish out, looked to the humble groundhog for a sign that spring might soon be on its way. An event that has its roots in the 19th Century and is worthy of being marked on each year’s new calendars never seemed to excite the cartoonists who offered readers their daily dose of excitement and humor.

What did comic strips offer their audiences on that day when the woodchuck was acclaimed for something other than chucking wood? We thought you’d never ask — so, just for you, we prepared this fantasy comics page from February 2, 1935 …

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