I’m Positive, it’s Polly!

Polly1_cover-2

After all these years of editing and publishing books, there’s still no greater thrill than when the first box arrives from the printer with the latest book hot off the presses. Last week, the massivePolly and Her Pals arrived on our doorstep. When I say “massive,” I’m not kidding. It’s the first Library release in the “champagne edition” size of 12″ wide by 16″ high.

On newsarama, J. Caleb Mozzocco calls Polly “a perfect coffee table book—not one that you would put on your coffee table…but one big enough to be used as a coffee table.”

Douglas Wolk at Comics Alliance was briefer in his assessment: “Don’t Ask! Just Buy It!”

art spiegelman writes, “Polly and Her Pals is a glorious composition of melodious, well-crafted, hot-jazz lines for newsprint; panel after panel of graphic design with the clarity, wit, and grace of a Bix Beiderbecke cornet solo. Visually, it is a happy synthesis of Art Deco, Futurism, Surrealism, Dada, and Pure Cartoon. Your eyes can dance to it.”

We’re incredibly proud that Cliff Sterrett finally gets his due and that we can all experience his amazing and singular cartooning vision.

Polly and Her Pals volume 1: 1913-1927 is in stores and available online now.

Unexpected Treasure

Lorraine-1

Recently I had the privilege of doing research at the wonderful Cartoon Art Library at The Ohio State University. I have always loved history; it was my best subject in school…after recess and gym. I am a graphic artist and designer, but my hobby is genealogy, and I’ve become a pretty good researcher.

I say pretty good, because I am not and never will be a sleuth like some of my ancestry.com geeks (sorry, I mean “friends”) who are far ahead of me in this field. But I have to tell you, the thought of leaving 88-degree temperatures and my home facing teal water for the double-sweatered university research room with sterile white tables and SILENCE…well, let’s just say I had some mental adjusting to do. But I was anxious to begin the journey, and Dean had sweetened the deal with a promised Michigan family Thanksgiving. So naturally I was all ears.

I am a novice at comic history and here I was accompanying Dean, the bloodhound, on his mission. He instinctively knows what he’s looking for and where to look. I was just following his lead and pulling out any tidbit I thought we could use in one of our upcoming archival books. I swear, he’s like a hawk…nothing escapes his perception. Is he even human? I digress…

 

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Prior to our trip, we had made contact with a wonderful young man named Matt Tauber, who lived in the area and offered his help. Matt has a wonderful blog on Milton Caniff. He arrived early and was waiting as we walked into the library. Thank goodness…someone who actually goes by non-Key West time (in Key West, an hour late is the same as being on time). Dean and I liked him immediately.

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He wore a million-dollar smile, emitted non-stop energy and a positive attitude that made the day sing. That’s the best way  to describe it…like great harmony. The memory of this day was like listening to a great melody. As I was shuffling through the files, wearing my Ohio State University-issued white cotton gloves, I became aware of a dynamic in the room that became a sort of revelation.

Dean kept stopping, turning, and showing Matt precious gems—obscure articles, original art, letters, memos, pencil sketches, and the mementos of family and friends of the many artists and writers who comprised a historic comics generation that has since passed. Matt would become totally enthralled and the two of them would exchange silent looks of pure joy and understanding.

That’s when it hit me. This was it—this was the reason for the endless hours, the long brainstorming sessions, the meetings, the interviews, the letter writing…all of it. For this…that pure joy. I thought we had embarked on this expedition to uncover facts and art that were useful in telling a story. This was and IS the story. By collecting all this art and information and placing it in a book, we can give others that smile when they see it for the first time and own it for themselves.

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As we continue to uncover more of these little jewels, we can pass them along, too. And it will be there for this generation and for all generations. Joy…pure joy. And here I was fretting over the weather, silly me. I was part of an expedition. Some go to the Arctics…I went to Paradise.

 

ALEX TOTH: Genius, Genius, Genius

Alex Toth is revered as one of the greatest of all comics artists. Others laud his pioneering work in animation, including his groundbreaking designs for Space Ghost and The Herculoids. His work influenced countless professionals in both fields. His biography and talents proved too big to be contained in a single volume. Therefore, we’re releasing the much-anticipated Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth in March 2011 as the first in a three-book set that will be the definitive statement on the restless genius and timeless legacy of Alex Toth.

Isolated

Created by the Eisner Award-winning team of Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell—who produced the ground-breaking Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel SicklesGenius, Isolated is a lavishly illustrated book that includes the first biography of this giant figure. The book has been compiled with complete access to the family archives, and with the full cooperation of Toth’s children.

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Alex Toth in a playful mood in 2005 with Dana (his eldest daughter) and Eric (his eldest son).

 

Associate Art Director Lorraine Turner and I met with Dana and Eric last week to discuss the expansive plans for the three-book set. To say that we’re all excited with the larger scope of the project is an understatement!

In addition to art and photographs from the family, Toth fans and friends throughout the world have loaned original artwork reproduced in the entire series. Included are many examples of Alex’s art, from complete stories to rare pages, as well as —incredibly—a previously unknown, unfinished, and unpublished penciled story from the early 1950s! The tome covers his earliest stories at DC in the 1940s, his defining work at Standard and his incomparable Zorro comics in the 1950s, and a special section collects—for the first time—the complete Jon Fury pages that Toth produced while in the army, a section that alone is worth the price of admission.

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Alex Toth was more than a unique and influential artist. He was a keenly insightful philosopher about comics, cartooning, and animation—with opinions on how they are created as opposed to how he felt they should be created. He wasn’t shy about expressing those thoughts, whether in sometimes-scathing personal letters, essays for publication, or letters to the editor. To flesh out the complete story of his life and art, Mullaney and Canwell have spent more than a year conducting wide-ranging interviews with dozens of Toth’s peers, friends, and family members. With a special introduction by Mark Chiarello, Genius, Isolated is the beginning of a comics biography everyone will be talking about for years to come.

Genius, Isolated details his life story and work through the early 1960s, when he began his sensational move into animated cartoons. The second book in the series, Genius, Illustrated, picks up the story as Toth becomes one of the leading character designers in television animation—continues through his renewed career in comics with Warren, DC, and his creator-owned properties of the 1970s and beyond—and includes an examination of the artist’s poignant final years.

The third book, Genius, Animated, is a wide-ranging art book reproducing hundreds of Toth’s model sheets and storyboards for such successful cartoons as Space Ghost and Dino Boy, Jonny Quest, Space Angel, Super Friends, The Fantastic Four, Hot Wheels, Thundarr, and Shazzan…and also includes many full-color presentation pieces designed to sell new series to the networks.

 

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A slipcase for the three-book set will be available with the third book.

Hunting(ton) Season

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The fact that hunting season opened in the Middle West had nothing to do with why we were in Huntington, West Virginia last week. What could have drawn us nearly 1,200 miles away from the delightlfuly warm temperatures of Key West? Nothing less than a Library of American Comics confab with our marketing and sales guru, Beau Smith. Those who know Beau are aware of the fact that he rarely leaves his home town (the electronic shackles on his ankles may have something to do with it—only kidding!). Oh, he’ll travel up to Mid-Ohio Con each year, but that’s about as far afield as he likes to go.

Luckily for us, Huntington was a convenient first stop on our trip. Beau’s been doing a great job expanding our sales to libraries and universities. Here, he and Associate Art Director (and marketing whiz herself) Lorraine Turner exchange ideas about spreading the word in the halls of academia.

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For as many books as Beau and I have worked together on in the past twenty-five years, we still get a thrill opening that first box from the printer to see the latest release.

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Beau also gave us a fun tour of the town, which included the stadium of the Marshall football team (his alma mater, and the subject of the movie, “We Are Marshall”). Before we hit the road, Beau’s better half, Beth, joined us for a cracklin’ good breakfast. And then we were off to our next stop: Columbus, Ohio. More about that in our next entry.

 

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Overlapping strips

DT480710

 

In working on the layout for The Complete Dick Tracy volume 11, I searched for a specific daily—July 10, 1948—to place in the page design. The search results came up with the requested Tracydaily, but also a Rip Kirby daily and an Archie daily from the same date.

I guess it should have dawned on me earlier because with more than thirty books published as part of the Library of American Comics, we’re starting to see overlapping dates from strip to strip. We tend to look at each series as a distinct collection, but great cartoonists such as Chester Gould, Bob Montana, and Alex Raymond didn’t work in a vacuum—their strips often appeared alongside one other’s.

Archie480710

 

So in the interest of imaging what it would have been like to read a daily comics page at the time, here are three dailies from July 10, 1948.

 

RK480710

And for more fun, imagine the thrill of reading Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, and Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie all on the same day?! Here are those strips from May 21, 1937.

Enjoy!

Terry370521

Abner370521

LOA370521

Overlapping strips

DT480710-1

In working on the layout for The Complete Dick Tracy volume 11, I searched for a specific daily—July 10, 1948—to place in the page design. The search results came up with the requested Tracydaily, but also a Rip Kirby daily and an Archie daily from the same date.

I guess it should have dawned on me earlier because with more than thirty books published as part of the Library of American Comics, we’re starting to see overlapping dates from strip to strip. We tend to look at each series as a distinct collection, but great cartoonists such as Chester Gould, Bob Montana, and Alex Raymond didn’t work in a vacuum—their strips often appeared alongside one other’s.

Archie480710-1

So in the interest of imaging what it would have been like to read a daily comics page at the time, here are three dailies from July 10, 1948.

RK480710-1

And for more fun, imagine the thrill of reading Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, and Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie all on the same day?! Here are those strips from May 21, 1937. Enjoy!

Terry370521-1

Abner370521-1

LOA370521-1

 

 

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