2010: The LOAC Year in Review (part two)

Welcome back to our curtain call for 2010. While the weather outside is frightful (a blizzard is pounding New England as I type), in this feature it’s so delightful, with summer in full swing as we look at…


LOAC was in attendance at the San Diego Comic-Con and was humbled (but mightily pleased) to receive the Eisner Award for “Best Archival Project—Newspaper Strips” for Bloom County, Volume One.  Bloom prevailed over another LOAC project, Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea, which I edited—but a win for one is a win for all, so I was cheering Bloom wildly through my tears.



LOAC Assembled celebrates the 2010 Eisner win: Dean Mullaney, Lorraine Turner, Berkeley Breathed, and Bloom County editor Scott Dunbier, displaying the award. Alas, I was back East, on monitor duty.

Hardly willing to rest on our laurels, as the month waned, our collection of Bob Montana’s Archie dailies hit the shelves.



We caught our collective breath in August, even as the rest of the world caught up to us, just a bit. It was highly gratifying to have noted reviewer Charles de Lint praise our inaugural volume ofKing Aroo in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; scroll to the bottom of his “Books to Look For” column and there they are. The San Diego Tribune also gave LOAC front page coverage as an outgrowth of Comic-Con.


Things were popping on several front in LOAC-land during this month. Here’s the rundown:

Beau Smith joined the LOAC family circus as our very own Director of Marketing. One of Beau’s missions is to increase LOAC’s visibility in school libraries and university bookstores.

Bill Griffith dropped a mention of King Aroo into the September 10th installment of his own strip, the immortal Zippy. Thanks, Bill!

Dean appeared as Chris Marshall’s guest on a Collected Comics Library podcast. Through the magic of the Internet, you can listen to the entire program.

X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan Volume 1 went on sale.


Then, if that wasn’t enough, things really got busy in…


How to follow up the release of our first collection of Blondie, running from Blondie Boopadoop’s very first strip to the wedding (and subsequent disinheritance) of Dagwood Bumstead?


Dean and I swooped in on the New York Comic Con (NYCC) for three days, from October 8 – 10.


Move over, Laurel & Hardy! The LOAC editorial braintrust were on hand to hawk their wares and steer hopeful artists to the IDW portfolio reviews at NYCC.

Our feet grew heavy, standing on a thinly-carpeted concrete floor for nine hours each day, but our spirits were light as we talked to hundreds of fans about comics in general and classic comic strips in particular.

And when the fans weren’t visiting with us, we were chatting with the pros. Melissa Singer of Tor Books shared her childhood memories of the great comic strips. James Robinson, Ken Steacy, Glenn Whitmore, Andrew Farago of San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum, David Armstrong, Ryder Windham, and the one-and-only Don McGregor were some of our other visitors. Dean and I both took time to break away long enough to exchange pleasantries with the ever-amazing Jim Steranko. I was also lucky enough to catch Joe Kubert for a chat, and to meet irrepressible Nicky Brown (you can read her words of wisdom at her blog. My most devilish fun: stepping in amidst some of the IDW staff early Sunday morning to introduce myself to Darwyn Cooke after he arrived carrying a distinctive green briefcase bearing the shamrock logo of the NBA’s most storied franchise. “Celtics, bay-bee!” was all I had to say to earn a grin from Darwyn.

Dean and I showed off several of the wonders we’ve accumulated as we prepare our Alex Toth biography, but few knew that we were also grabbing moments throughout the weekend to have serious discussions about the growth of the project, and the ultimate shape it might take…

Bloom County was one of the most popular items at NYCC—more than one fan was disappointed to learn Berkeley Breathed would not be at the show—but in the wake of the convention, BloomVolume 3 went on sale.


Across the Atlantic, Bdartist(e) was releasing its French edition of Terry and the Pirates, Volume 1


Finally, not to be outdone by Dean’s September podcast, near the end of the month I was delighted to appear as a guest on Scott Katz’s Internet radio program at US Townhall. Yes, Virginia, you can still listen to the interview.



Berkeley Breathed joined the interview Parade with a Q&A conducted by Mike Russell at Ain’t It Cool.

Meanwhile, we took a second trip to Dogpatch to learn the origin of Sadie Hawkins Day in Li’l Abner Volume 2:


For days, Dean and I tossed e-mails back and forth using the language of the Mukoy! Yeh, ti desuma su

Around Thanksgiving, Dean and Lorraine embarked on a junket that included visits with Beau and Beth Smith, as well as the hard-working caretakers of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University and Randy Scott at Michigan State University, plus Dana Palmer (Alex Toth’s eldest daughter) and Eric Toth (Alex’s eldest son).pointing

Beau Smith displays his Svengali-like charm over women, to Dean’s bemusement.



The Great LOAC Road Trip paved the way for a pair of major announcements on our website. The visit to OSU was in preparation of 2011’s Caniff, a visual biography of the creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon.



With the endorsement of the Toth family, we also gave readers bad news and good news. The bad news: our original late-2010 solicitation for Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth was pushed back to the first quarter of 2011. The good news: because we have gathered so much excellent material, the Toth project has expanded to fill three books! Genius, Isolated will be part one of our retrospective on Toth, to be concluded in the follow-up volume, Genius, Illustrated. A third book (plus slipcase for the entire set) will follow, with Genius, Animated focusing on Toth’s brilliant career in TV cartoons.


Not only did we release information about some of our 2011 plans—yes, only some. We need to save a few tidbits for the new year, after all!—we stuffed readers’ Christmas stockings with a fine pair of new releases: the third, penultimate volume in our reprinting of Alex Raymond’s Rip Kirby…Rip3_large-2

…And the wonderful, must-be-seen-to-be-believed oversize Polly and Her Pals, Volume 1. My heart skips a beat every time I take down a copy of this beautiful collection and start turning the pages. Author Paul Di Filippo calls it: “A monumental object of comic strip bookmaking glory. Phenomenal!” Over at Newsarama, J. Caleb Mozzocco cracked us up in his review of Polly when he dubbed it, “…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.”


And that’s the way it was—fourteen books, a Free Comic Book Day special, appearances at major conventions on both coasts, a passel of interviews, a truckload of work—and several truckloads of fun.

If you enjoyed this website and the LOAC line of books in 2010, keep watching. We think you’ll like what lies ahead in 2011!


2010: The LOAC Year in Review

While hardly an original idea, the thought of doing a “Year in Review” feature for this space struck me as time and effort well spent. After all, during the past twelve months Dean, Lorraine, Beau, and I have been busier than Santa’s elves, ably abetted by Jeet Heer, Joseph Ketels, Brian Walker, and a long list of graphic artists, collectors, and writers who make such important contributions to our line of books.

As we greet the New Year, here’s a look back over our collective shoulder at 2010, LOAC style:


The year began with a project near and dear to all our hearts: King Aroo, Volume 1.



It was a great pleasure to bring this gentle, long-overlooked classic back into print, and to help shine the spotlight on the King’s talented creator, Jack Kent. We look forward to offering more Myopean Misadventures in 2011!



Dean’s joke is that we were “Closed for Repairs” during these two months, when in reality we were girding our loins for all sorts of activity in …



We opened this month with a pair of aces and a pair of deuces. As the baseball season began anew (who dreamed it would result in a championship for the San Francisco Giants?), we emphasized the diversity of our line by releasing our second volumes of both Rip Kirby andBloom County (the latter debuted at number four on the New York Times Best Seller list).



Not only did we serve up thick slices of Berkeley Breathed’s increasingly-topical absurdist comedy and Alex Raymond’s 1950s New York detective chic, we also launched this very website; Dean’s “Welcome to the Digital Library!” posting is dated April 9th. Before the month ended, we were able to announce in this space Eisner nominations for both Bloom Volume One and Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea, as well as listing our initial plans for Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth.

Last, though hardly least, we launched another series in April: our reprinting of Al Capp’s satirical masterpiece, Li’l Abner. For the first time, full-color Sundays were included along with the dailies.



There was a ripple of controversy surrounding our Abner reprint program as a segment of the readership expressed the wish for a series containing only Sunday pages, since they own the dailies in the earlier Kitchen Sink Press series. I’m sympathetic to that perspective – I have all twenty-seven KSP volumes on my bookshelves – and there was internal discussion about how to best reprint Abner. I campaigned long and loudly that we needed to re-publish the dailies with the Sundays; Capp’s work is too important and too dang good not to be preserved for 21st Century audiences in comprehensive LOAC editions. We hope our inaugural Li’l Abner releases have changed the minds of any dissenters, but if not … I still feel we made the right decision.



The first of May was Free Comic Book Day, and LOAC participated with a flipbook featuring our current and upcoming projects.




Our website worked in tandem with the FCBD sampler in announcing our plans for the Williamson/Goodwin Secret Agent Corrigan, as well as Polly & Her Pals in our oversize “champagne edition” format. In bookstores and on-line, we brought Little Orphan Annie into the mid-1930s with Volume Five of her series, featuring a variety of nasties including Charles C. Chizzler, Phil O. Bluster, and the Ghost Gang.



We arrived at the halfway point of 2010 with one of our most popular series reaching its tenth edition, as Dick Tracy squared off against the likes of Itchy, Gargles, and Influence.




The Influence saga remains one of my favorite Tracy storylines, as Gould does a fabulous job emphasizing the sadistic creepiness of the villain’s mind-control powers.

On a lighter note, Bil Keane brought another ring to the Family Circus as a new baby was added to the mix.Layout 1


All that and we’re only halfway through the year! Watch this space for the concluding installment of this 2010 LOAC Year in Review…


The Greatest New Year’s Eve Sunday of All!

It doesn’t get any better than this spectacular Sunday by George McManus and Zeke Zekley from December 31, 1939. Ahhh, back at a time when artists spent days—sometimes weeks—on a single Sunday comic strip, with no thought of posterity or future book collections such as those we are now producing. Masterworks such as this were created to read but once in an ephemeral newspaper on a relaxing Sunday morning. Incredible but true.

Happy New York to one and all!



d_4172, Tue Jan 20, 2009,  1:39:44 PM,  8C, 7604x7150,  (1591+6581), 150%, Ireland_repro2,  1/60 s, R72.5, G61.7, B71.1

Talkin’ Toth: Part One

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot. Much of it will appear in our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist, and some we just couldn’t comfortably fit. Over the next month, we will share some of that material with you in this space, so—here is the first in a series of “Talkin’ Toth.”


The splash page from “I Struck it Rich,” from Personal Love #11, published in September 1951 by Eastern Color.



As I recall, the whole scheme of these comics was to attract the pre-pubescent, if not adolescent, girl readership—those who were too old to read funny animal and hero comics, but still too young to read True Confessions-type “slicks”—so, the writers cut to the middle line, giving just enough, but not too much, story—load it with emotional scenes girls could relate to, and serve it up with credible artwork!

It worked very well, and for a good many years!

It affected my approach to every story I was to illustrate thereon—regardless of type—kinship was established with the writer, his motive, his copy, his delivery of dialogue, and his sequential breakdown of scenes to tell the story! I have had high regard for good writers, always! It’s thehack writer, of low talent, sensitivity, who has come under my fire, of whose work I’d reject, out of hand, returning scripts to befuddled editors who’d never heard of such goings-on before—thus, my reputation as a renegade grew—I’d had the privilege of working from good, sane scripts—and it spoilt me for the hack tripe of other writers, often puffed-up sorts who’d howl to editors about my changes or comments, never acknowledging the obvious reason for them: that their work was mediocre, minus a factor of ten!

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in March.


As Rouge Would say:

Though comics are one of the bare handful of born-in-America artforms, their appeal crosses all political and geographical borders. Submitted as proof of this hypothesis—as if proof be needed!…one of the first European editions of a Library of American Comics book. In October, 2010, Nicholas Forsans, Jean-Baptiste Barbier, Antonie Mathon, and their fine co-workers at Bdartist(e) released a lovely translated-into-the-French version of Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Volume 1. Here’s a look at their familiar-yet-different front dustjacket for the book:


More than two decades after Caniff’s passing and with almost sixty-five years gone by since he abandoned post-War China in favor of Horizons, Unlimited, Bdartist(e)’s release stands as testament to Milt’s unmatched talent and the timeless appeal of Terry Lee and his vivid, unforgettable supporting cast.

Their book follows our own Terry Volume 1 closely, but not exactly. Howard Chaykin’s introduction and my essay were retained; Dean’s preface was not. Like us, Bdartist(e) chose to provide a ribbon bookmark, but Randy Scott’s Index to Volume 1 has been replaced by eight pages of “Hommages:” interpretations of Terry in both color and black-&-white by Continental artists that served as a preview of a December 2010 exhibition on display at the publisher’s gallery, located at 55 rue Condorcet in Paris.

Aside from the text on the front endpapers, the daily reprinted on the back flap of the dustjacket, and the “Character Key to Our Cover” feature, the entire book has been translated into French, all the strips re-lettered. This means our European friends are deprived of Frank Engli’s beautiful lettering, but the work of Maximilien Chailleux is crisp and clean, and certainly it must be no easy task to place translated text within space defined for the “mother tongue.” Well done, M’sieur Chailleux!

As I browsed Terry et les Pirates, I speculated on the considerable challenge one faces in translating Caniff’s dialogue into another language. As the series unfolds, many of Milton’s characters use an increasingly snappy and sometime esoteric American slang, and several of his secondary players routinely fracture the King’s English as a reminder of their Asian or European origins (think of Singh-Singh’s love of “Pappermeents,” or Rouge, using one of her many aliases while confirming what Flippo Corkin has just wryly observed: “Preencess Rojo does have the prett-ee feegure!”). Is it possible to capture even the majority of the insouciance and humor contained in Milton’s scripting? Michel Pagel, who adapted the text in tome 1, will surely handle that considerable task with professionalism, skill, and care.

Alas, I’ll be a poor judge of his efforts—four years of school-years German left me ill-equipped to tackle a French translation!



Believe it or not, this is not the first time my work has been translated for European audiences. I own copies of both the French and German editions of Lee Weeks’s and my graphic novel,Batman: The Gauntlet. (There’s reportedly also a Spanish edition I’ve been unable to find – so if anyone knows where I can get a copy of Robin: Dia Un, I’d be greatly indebted … )LE_DEFI

Cover to the French edition of Gauntlet, which also featured a James Robinson/Lee Weeks
short story reprinted from Legends of the
Dark Knight #100)


On this side of the Atlantic, each week we’re bombarded with e-mails from readers requesting second printings of the LOAC Terry and the Pirates, since many volumes of the initial run are sold out, with copies commanding high prices on the secondary market ($200-300 for Volume Five!). While we have not yet completed our plans—there are scheduling, printing, and economic factors that have to be weighed and balanced—we will be offering second printings of Terry as we look to keep Milton Caniff’s original masterpiece in print during the second decade of the 21st Century. Watch this space for notification when the presses start rolling.

Meanwhile (with a lot of help from Google-Translate): Un grand merci à Bdartist(e) de me donner une copie de leur merveilleuse Terry et les pirates, tome 1! Mes félicitations pour produire un beau livre!

You’ll find the Amazon-France listing for Bdartist(e)’s Terry tome 1 here …

… While the page on Bdartist(e)’s website devoted to Terry – complete with French press coverage – is located here.

Master of the Motherload in Michigan


I’ve known Randy Scott and been familiar with Michigan State University’s Comic Art Collection since the late 1970s. I recently found a carbon copy (remember those?) of the letter I sent him in 1978 that accompanied a copy of Sabre by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy, the inaugural book from my publishing company, Eclipse Comics. Sabre was the first graphic novel ever published for the comics specialty market, and at a time when graphic novels and comics were considered trash by most universities, I thought it pretty impressive that at least one Big Time College Library would collect what I published!


MSU then became the home for the complete files of Eclipse Comics, from beginning to end. It’s turned out to be a useful resource. For example, when Blake Bell was writing his excellent bookon Steve Ditko, I was able to offer him nearly 100 pages of original research we did at Eclipse in the 1980s, including notes from an interview with Ditko’s brother.

Randy and I were also early members of APA-I. What’s that, you ask? Basically, a bunch of comics nuts producing indexes to different series, writers, and artists. Three other early APA-I members went on to form the Grand Comics Database.



So here we are, thirty years later — Randy is STILL the comics maven at Michigan State University, while I’m preserving and restoring classic comics as founder of The Library of American Comics. Many of our releases boast indexes by…you guessed it, Randy Scott.


Randy shows Lorraine Turner and me some of the hard-to-find European comics he’s brought home from a recent buying trip..

stacksStacks of fun!

bandroomRandy and fellow librarians on campus use his office for their weekly jazz improvs.


Some uncatalogued tearsheets from the King Features collection.

On our recent research trip to East Lansing, the home of MSU’s Special Collections Library, Lorraine Turner and I barely scratched the surface of the several hundred thousand (yes, several hundred thousand!) comics, graphic novels, and books about comics in the stacks. We were concentrating our research on—among other subjects—Alex Raymond’s syndicate proofs forFlash Gordon and Jungle Jim; the cartoonists Otto Soglow, creator of The Little King; Frank Robbins, creator of Johnny Hazard; and Jimmy Hatlo, of They’ll Do It Every Time and Little Iodinefame…

…and to look through my old Eclipse files relating to Alex Toth. Our forthcoming book—Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth—will be richer because the Eclipse files containing correspondence and stats of original artwork have been preserved and catalogued at Michigan State University.


Here’s Alex’s note to me expressing uncertainly over who drew this page originally published by Standard Comics. In the 1980s at Eclipse, I reprinted six issues worth of Standard stories in a series entitled Seduction of the Innocent. Alex’s comment that “you won’t have to pay any of us old crocks” refers to my policy of paying reprint rates to artists or their heirs, regardless of the fact that the comics were in the public domain. It’s a policy I maintain today: Alex’s family is sharing in royalties on our Genius books. It’s a policy we encourage other publishers to adopt.

* * * * *

So here’s a “Hear, Hear” for my old pal Randy Scott, Comic Art Bibliographer, Indexing Guru, and (with his wife Lynn) the best host north of Columbus, Ohio, and south of Cadillac, Michigan.

Caniff…a Visual Biography

Two days ago, I wrote that there’s no greater thrill than when the first box arrives from the printer with the latest book. A close second is discovering rare artwork or photographs and uncovering new biographical information about a cartoonist. In the case of Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett, our extensive research culminated in an 8,000-word introduction by Jeet Heer that alters the generally accepted view of Sterrett’s life.


On our recent foray to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University (how’s that for a mouthful o’ monicker?!), we were primarily looking through the extensive Milton Caniff archives for original artwork and rarely seen items. If you want Caniff, you go to Ohio State; the justly-famous cartoon library was formed on the basis of Caniff depositing his lifetime of artwork and files to his dear alma mater (class of 1930).


We’re working on the first-ever Milton Caniff artbook, to be published next June. “First ever?” you may ask, with a tinge of doubt. It seems impossible that in a career as well-documented as Milton Caniff’s, there has not been a coffee table artbook dedicated to his work. But there hasn’t. There’s our definitive six-volume Terry and the Pirates, editions of Steve Canyon, Male Call, andDickie Dare, and R.C. Harvey’s phonebook-sized biography—but no artbook.


Original logo color comps for “Buckeye Boys Ranch.”


We think of this new project—simply titled Caniff—as not merely an artbook, but a visual biography that will include many examples of original artworks, promotional pieces, background material, and photographs. Some will be familiar to readers (such the “Pilot’s Creed” TerrySunday that was read into the Congressional Record), but presented in a new version (Caniff’s original watercolor of that famous page, which I saw for the first time on this trip!). Other graphics have never or rarely been collected or reprinted.


And that’s why we were in Columbus, Ohio—to find undiscovered and unreprinted gems by the most influential cartoonist of all time. And find them we did…with a little help from our friends. Last week Lorraine Turner told you about Matt Tauber donning the white gloves in the research room.


Matt Tauber looking through Caniff original artwork

This week, we meet one of the unsung heroes in the field of comics research—OSU’s own Susan Liberator, the Keeper of the White Gloves, the Guardian of the Great Works. Along with Lucy Caswell, Jenny Robb, and Marilyn Scott, the indefatigable Susan has been a tremendous help in all of our research at the Cartoon Library—wading through the Noel Sickles papers, the Shel Dorf, Toni Mendez, and Harold Bell collections, and the wide-ranging Caniff archives. Our much-laudedScorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, as well as Bruce Canwell’s introductions to the Eisner Award-winning Terry series, would have been much poorer without her assistance. And so, a tip of the archivist’s hat to Susan Liberator.


Who said librarian’s don’t smile?

As we were cataloguing artwork, in walked Jared Gardner, Associate Professor of English at Ohio State, who was looking up something for the history of comics course he teaches. We’re big fans of Jared’s writings about comics on guttergeek and elsewhere; it was a pleasure to meet him and talk a bit about comics criticism, Otto Soglow, and how his 21st-century students respond to such 1920s strips as The Gumps. Here we are admiring the original artwork for one of Caniff’s early drawings for the Columbus Dispatch.


In the months ahead, we’ll share additional rarities from Caniff, like this one from Harry Guyton, Milton Caniff’s nephew: an original watercolor from the 1940s that Caniff did on a standard number 10 envelope. The “bunny” is Milton’s wife, Esther, and the great dane is Capt. Blaze, named after the red-headed rascal in Terry and the Pirates.



For now, though, I’ve got a date with the Dragon Lady…



I’m Positive, it’s Polly!


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.

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