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:



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.



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.


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:


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!

Beau Smith joins the Library

Beau Smith, self-styled raconteur and manly man about town, has joined the Library of American Comics as our new Director of Marketing.

We’re thrilled to have Beau onboard. He and I go way back to the 1980s and Eclipse Comics, where I was the publisher and Beau the Marketing Director.

A graduate of Marshall University in his native West Virginia, Beau’s done it all in comics. In addition to Eclipse, where he got his start, Beau was the VP of Marketing and Publishing for Image Comics, Todd McFarlane Productions and McFarlane Toys, was with IDW Publishing for many years, and is the former Director of Product Information for toy maker JUN Planning USA.

As a comics writer, Beau’s written Batman, Superman, and Wolverine, and his stories have appeared at DC, Image, IDW, Eclipse, Dreamwave, Moonstone, Dark Horse, and many other publishers. He created several well-received series, including Wynonna Earp, Parts Unknown,Maximum Jack, Courting Fate, and Cobb.

If that wasn’t enough, he offers his pearls of wisdom in regular columns: “Busted Knuckles” at Comics Bulletin, and “From the Ranch” for Sketch Magazine.

Beau’s going to be focussing on retailers, libraries, and universities, so all retailers, librarians, professors, and teachers are encouraged to give him a shout: beau@loacomics.com.




Of Kings, Newsboys, and Pinheads…



Bill Griffith always keep us laughing, and this “Zippy” daily from Friday, September 10th, is no exception. What makes this daily different from all others? Check out his hilarious reference to Jack Kent’s King Aroo in the first panel. “Big words” is another reason for you to give theMyopian King a try, if you haven’t already.

Thanks to Bill for letting us post the daily (©2010 Bill Griffith). His — and Zippy’s — own siteshould be on your list of regularly-viewed sites.

Happy Birthday, BLONDIE!


Today is Blondie‘s 80th Anniversary! Here’s the very first daily. Chic Young’s classic creation premiered on September 8, 1930 in only two newspapers, and grew to become to world’s most popular strip. Congrats to the entire Young family, as well as King Features! And don’t miss our first volume of Blondie dailies — from the beginning — which will be on sale soon!

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!


If My Dad Could See Me Now

f you can imagine yourself slipping into the ink pot and flowing out the end of a cartoonist’s pen, this is how I felt when I worked restoring the raw talent in Cliff Sterrett’s Polly and Her PalsSunday pages.  We just approved the color proofs and the book, all 12″ x 16″ of it, is now in the printer’s hands.

My profession of graphic design has taught me more about people than the artwork itself; I’ve worked on tight deadlines and sometimes felt like I was running up the courts along with the NBA players I helped market. You get to know the subject well and you either love it or survive the stress.

Polly and her Pals put me in touch with this amazing creator, Samuel Clifford Sterrett. I closely studied each swoosh and brush stroke as his linework danced and dipped. His characters felt like members of my own family. I stumbled along every unfolding gag with Sterrett’s bizarre unpredictable checkered pathways leading me to Paw with twinkling eyes, and the purring Kitty. Kitty—heart of a lion and the strength of a Dane. Her attitude came alive as she added her two cents in every upturned-nosed-strut. I love Sterrett’s extra little touches—the curl at the end of Paw’s beard and the crink of Kitty’s tail as it mocked the direction of the staircase. His use of patterns and inexplicable objects that appear like unexpected hail kept my interest peaked and the laughter flowing. This was not a job-this was playing with one of the kids that created sheer FUN for my parents’ generation. How awesome to be able to bring this to future generations. Sterrett was an artist some thought daffy, but in reality, of course, he was a visionary pioneer.

I am thrilled to have been a part of presenting this work. I feel as if I have met Sterrett, wish I had…perhaps in my next lifetime. Gazing through Paw’s iron-sashed windows with smiling crescent moons, I will happily dream on.


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:



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…


Dateline: Myopia

We were mighty pleased to discover that King Aroo Volume 1 got a positive review from noted fantasist and critic Charles de Lint. Mr. de Lint writes a regular review column in the mightyMagazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and he closes the May/June 2010 installment of his “Books to Look For” by telling his readers that Jack Kent’s King Aroo is “just so darn good.” And who are we to disagree?

You can read the review at: http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/2010/cdl1005.htm. If you’re looking for some prose reading, the full column contains looks at recent releases by Stephen King, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Cory Doctorow, and Peter Straub. Or if you’re the impatient type, scroll to the bottom of the page to read Mr. de Lint’s delightful words about Aroo.

In Sergio Aragones’s introduction to the first Aroo book, he wrote about his love for the strip. Here’s Sergio and me catching up for a chat at the San Diego Comicon this year. (He’s the handsome one on the right)Dean_Sergio

We’re currently putting together the finishing touches on King Aroo volume 2, which collects November 1952 through November 1954. Jack Kent Jr. has again provided all the original art in his family’s collection, and Bubbly Bruce Canwell has written another incredible biographical essay. Here’s one of my all-time favorite Aroo dailies (from December 25, 1952) that fully captures Kent’s amazing talent for wordplay.



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!


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