TRACY Hits Double Digits

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No, that title doesn’t refer to the denouement of a newly-discovered continuity (though wouldn’t it be great to unearth a lost Chester Gould work featuring a heretofore unknown grotesque antagonist?). Instead it marks a minor milestone, as with our upcoming July release Dick Tracy becomes the first Library Of American Comics series to require a tenth volume. In many ways this next Tracy installment, reprinting eighteen months of continuity from September 1945 to March ’47, is my favorite of the run. While no criminal in Volume 10 is as wily as Flattop, as sadistic as The Brow, as shocking in appearance as Pruneface, time and again this group strikes close to home in ways that are tense and sometimes disturbing.

Which Tracy rogue is as amoral and tenacious as Itchy? He pursues the late Shaky’s ill-gotten gains, threatens both Junior and Tess, then teams up with a distaff member of the criminal element to ensnare Tracy in a fiendish trap. During this sequence, a great panel showcases Tracy’s indomitable will: when all seems hopeless, Tracy nevertheless manages to snarl, “Itchy – – – I promise you one thing – – – when we leave this house – – – I’ll WALK out, but they’ll be carrying you!” Look for it in the December 12, 1945 daily.

This volume also features the rotten apples hanging from a few family trees. The innocent boy-scientist Brilliant is done wrong by his relatives. Nilon Hoze and her cousin Rod connive to get their hooks into their rich aunt’s moolah, while what happens to spunky little Themesong is a reminder that in Chester Gould’s world, no one is truly safe (relevant today, when people are quick to surrender civil liberties for vague promises of “security”).

The book’s final sequence is its most spine-chilling, as Vitamin Flintheart—that overwrought thespian and “capsule receiver” (as Themesong christens him)—returns in time to cross paths with the eerie Influence, who has the power to bend others’ wills to his own. Mental take-over stories always creep me out—as a kid, I didn’t even find it funny when Dr. Boris Balinkoff used his robot rings to take control of Gilligan and the other stranded castaways! So my flesh crawled as Influence systematically seized mind after mind, cementing his unscrupulous plans, toying with people like a cat at a mouse convention. Brr-r-r-r!

I’ll admit there’s one more reason I’m a Tracy booster besides Chet Gould’s crackling good stories and the exceptional behind-the-scenes insights offered by Jeff Kersten and Max Allan Collins: I’m the guy who writes each volume’s “Previously in the Case Files of Dick Tracy” feature. It’s a challenge to compress over two hundred pages of continuity from the previous book into two pages of text and images, but what great fun to write first-person commentary in Tracy’s voice!

It’s a pleasure to salute The Master Sleuth on the advent of his tenth LOAC volume, and it’s delightful to know there are plenty more to come…

“If it’s Free, it’s for me.”

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It’s the first Saturday in May and that means “Free Comic Book Day” is here! Don’t forget to head down to your local comics shop and pick up the exclusive Library of American Comics #1.

This free comic book is a little different from the usual fare. You won’t find holographic variant covers or even superheroes in the 32 pages. Instead, we feature 30-year-old penguins and octogenarian flappers, 60-year-old “teenagers” and 40-something secret agents. What they all have in common is that, regardless of age, they are timeless and classic.

It’s 32 pages of previews for some of our upcoming books, so check it out. If it’s free, it’s for me…and you!

Time Changes Everything

I noticed that DC Comics’s “trinity” titles will soon be celebrating major milestones: Supermanand Batman are both reaching their 700th issues, with Wonder Woman arriving at #600. Certainly, an enduring legacy has been shaped by those characters and the many fine creators who have worked on them.

Still, these anniversaries remind me how immense it seemed to me as a kid in 1970, when The Fantastic Four reached their centennial. A hundred issues—wow! Now I think about the length of time I’ve been involved with comics – as a reader, a fan, and a writer – and I say “Wow!” for different reasons.

Let’s take that 1970 FF anniversary as a starting point: forty years have passed between that issue and today. Start at 1970 and go forty years back from there—welcome to 1930. Think about what’s going on (and what is yet to go on!) in comics at that time:

Milton Caniff is still two years from moving to New York; Dickie Dare is three years away, Terry and The Pirates four.

It’s been only a year since Popeye walked on stage at Thimble Theatre to utter the immortal words, “Ja think I’m a cowboy?”

The Shadow’s pulp adventures don’t begin until 1931; Doc Savage and King Kong both bow in 1933.

Kolor Krazy Kat Sundays are five years in the future.

Likewise, it will be five years before George McManus meets and hires Zeke Zekley to assist him on Bringing Up Father.

And oh, by the way, those comic book characters with milestones in 2010? None of them exist yet—there’s an eight-year gap between where we’re standing in 1930 and the release of Action Comics # 1.

What’s the point of this little exercise? It may make you feel old…or it may make you feel good. No matter if you came to comics in time to buy FF # 100 off the spinner racks—or to seeDoonesbury to take on the Nixon White House—or for Frank Miller’s Daredevil—or for the launch of Calvin & Hobbes—you have participated in a lot of comics history. And together, we’re fortunate to be here in 2010, a time when the breadth and depth of that history is being expanded even as it is being captured and preserved for future generations by The Library of American Comics and our friendly competitors, as well as the good persons behind DC and Dark Horse’s many Archive series and Marvel’s Masterworks.

Yes, we’re growing older – but there are still reasons to say, “Wow!”

The Errata Bug Bites LOAC

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Due to printing errors, two daily strips in Dick Tracy Volume Nine were duplicated, and two are missing; in King Aroo Volume One, one strip was similarly duplicated, while one is missing. We apologize for the mix-up. In order to keep both series truly “complete,” the missing strips will be printed in the succeeding volumes. For those who can’t wait, we reproduce them here.

The top strip is the Dick Tracy from June 24, 1944 (page 67); the middle strip is from May 24, 1945 (page 211). Below them is the correct April 4, 1952 strip from King Aroo (page 173).

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth

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We’ve been keeping this project under wraps for the past year, but it’s time to release this little note from the “Coming Attractions” Department: this fall sees the release of a big stand-alone project that will bookend 2008’s Scorchy Smith & The Art of Noel Sickles. It’s a little number we call Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth.

Odds are you recognize Alex as one of the true icons of 20th Century comics art, and know the broad strokes that comprise his career: a working professional artist by his late teens; set the industry on its ear working for DC and Standard Comics between 1947 and 1954; did incredible work at Dell, particularly his classic and definitive Zorro; migrated into animation, and is perhaps best known for his designs for Hanna-Barbera Studios’s Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Super Friends; and marked a return to comics in the 1970s and 1980s, doing new work for DC and also publishing his much-beloved, creator-owned Bravo for Adventure. He ended his career feeling largely disillusioned with the comics of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, though he continued to comment on the industry through forums such as Comic Book Artist.

There is, of course, much more to Alex’s story, and we’ll bring it to you in Genius, Isolated. This book is being produced with the cooperation of Alex’s family. We’re also hearing from well-known “Friends of Alex,” as well as folks close to him who have never before spoken publicly. We’ll examine several of his artistic influences, names both familiar and less-well-known. Captured between two covers for the first time ever will be the complete run of Jon Fury in Japan, created while Alex was in the Army in the mid-50s. We’ll also present other complete Toth stories—from the original artwork!—that will show newcomers or serve to remind longtime fans why Alex Toth’s legacy will long endure. And then there will be page after page of rare and previously unseen art.

We’ll release some teasers from the book in this blog over the next couple of months…just to make sure you’re paying attention!

It’s amoozin’ but not confoozin’—it’s THE COMPLETE LI’L ABNER!

Head for the hills—or your nearest comics shop, bookstore, or online seller—because the first volume of Li’l Abner is now on sale! The book contains the daily and never-before reprinted color Sundays from the beginning in 1934 through December 1936.

Al Capp’s comedy masterpiece introduced Sadie Hawkins, Lower Slobbovia, the double whammy, Lena the Hyena, and The Shmoos to over 60 million laughing readers. In Volume 1, 19-year-old Li’l Abner Yokum travels between sleepy Dogpatch, Kentucky and New York City. Will he marry socialite Mimi Van Pett, or will Marrying Sam hitch Abner to beautiful Daisy Mae in a dee-luxe six dollar wedding? Can Abner outwit both kidnappers and the fightin’, feudin’ Skragg family? And trouble brews when Abner’s evil lookalike, gangster Gat Garson, arrives on the scene!

Bruce Canwell has researched and written a fantastic all-new essay on Capp that utilizes a newly-discovered manuscript by Capp’s father! Yours truly, Dean Mullaney, is responsible for the design. For the introduction, we called on our old pal Denis Kitchen, who was more than happy to return to his Dogpatch roots. Long-time readers may remember the series of Abner dailies that Denis published way back when. Denis also supplied all the color Sundays used in the book’s production. The dailies are reproduced from the Capp family proofbooks.

We think you’ll enjoy this oversized, 9.25″ x 12″ book. Let us know.

Welcome to the Digital Library!

Welcome to the official launch of our website! We appreciate your stopping by.

This is the place for information about all new and upcoming releases. We’ll also use our blog to offer behind the scenes production notes, links to reviews and interviews, plus plenty of web exclusives. We often come across backstory items in our research that don’t necessarily make it into the books. We’ll post them here so this website becomes an ephemeral addendum to the Library’s releases, in addition to being a central location where you can buy all of our books.

We invite you to check in regularly. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Two More Eisner Nominations for LOAC!

If we weren’t Red Sox fans, we might say this is a “three-peat.” In our first three years, the Library of American Comics has been nominated six times for Eisner awards. Our initial release—Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates—won as Best Archival Project.

This year, Bloom County and Bringing Up Father have each been nominated for Best Archival Project.

Bringing Up Father collects the most famous of George McManus’s storylines: the cross-country tour of 1939-1940. The book was edited by Bruce Canwell.

Bloom County Volume One begins the first comprehensive reprinting of Berkeley Breathed’s 1980s classic. The series is edited by Scott Dunbier.

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