Archive | Blondie

Sixty-Eight Years Ago …

If it’s been a little quiet around here over the past handful of days, it’s because we’ve been driving hard to get a whole string of books prepped and ready to go — he have our Tim Tyler’s Luck Essential and the first of our two Red Barry volumes at the printer, the finishing touches on the lucky-thirteenth Little Orphan Annie were wrapped up during the last few days of July, and I’m driving hard to finish a chock-full-o’-info text feature for Steve Canyon Volume 7, and then I shift my focus to Amazing Spider-Man Volume 4.

So we ain’t sitting on our hands when we don’t show up on a regular basis in this space! Aside from our parade of books, and the Red Sox’s latter July up-and-down fortunes, one of the other things that caught our attention is the recently-concluded Republican and Democratic National Conventions. This silliest of political seasons made us think of the Chicago Tribune‘s famous egg-on-their-face “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline that provided such a memorable capper to the 1948 Presidential campaign (Truman, of course, won re-election in November of that year).

That thought, in turn, made us decide to pull together a fantasy comics page from August 1, 1948. As is the case today, during the ’48 race between Republican Tom Dewey and Democratic President “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry” Truman there were fewer than one hundred days for each candidate to make his case to the American people. With the two candidates campaigning coast-to-coast in earnest, our fantasy comics page features a Leslie Turner Wash Tubbs, popular ol’ reliables Nancy, Popeye, and Henry, a Fred Lasswell Barney Google/Snuffy Smith, grins with the Bumsteads in Blondie, Roy Crane’s Buz Sawyer, hardball action in Ozark Ike, Alley Oop, and — as proof that single-panel features could contain continuity like their multi-panel brethren, Our Boarding House, featuring that lovable bloviating blowhard, Major Hoople (a perfect character to follow during an election year, for obvious reasons!).

Something about all these strips may catch your eye; join me on the other side and we’ll discuss it.

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Did you notice that each of these strips is dated 07/31/48? Yet they all appeared in newspapers on August 1st. How could this happen?

Well, August 1st, 1948 was a Sunday, and some small-town sheets did not publish on a seven days a week schedule and also did not have the budget to support a color Sunday comics section. As a result, they ran Saturday strips in their Sunday edition, as was the case with all the papers from which I culled the strips for this fantasy page.

We’ll offer the hope the gag strips you see above are the most outrageously humorous things you’ll see between now and our own 2016 election day — but somehow, we doubt it!

A Centennial Salute

Flag Day is June 14th, and this year isn’t just any Flag Day, it’s the 100th anniversary of Flag Day. Yes, in 1916 President Wilson established the date as a way each year to say, “Hurrah for the red-white-and-blue.” Flag Day isn’t an official Federal holiday the way Memorial and Labor Days are, and unlike “big” holidays such as Christmas and New Years, it has always pretty much passed without notice on the nation’s comics pages.

Still, since we haven’t done a “fantasy comics page” in a while, I thought it might be fun to mark this upcoming centennial with a new fantasy page made up of strips published on the fortieth anniversary of Flag Day, June 14th of 1956. Aside from their date of publication, there’s another common thread running through all of these strips. Can you guess what it is? (Click on any strip for a larger view.) Join me on the other side for the answer …

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ARCHIE

NANCY

SCAMP

POGO

GORDO

HENRY

GRANDMA by Chas Kuhn

REVEREND by Bill OMalley

RIVETS by George Sixta

 

Note that, besides sharing the same date of publication, all the strips above feature one-word titles …

Blondie and Archie are “big name” strips with LOAC connections, while to the best of my recollection we’ve never run a Nancy in this space before.

Dick Moores and writer Ward Greene served up this installment of Scamp, while Pogo certainly needs no introduction to lovers of good comics everywhere. Gus Arriola’s Gordo always puts a smile on my face, while Henry serves up a very different view of childhood.

Finally, we put three now-relatively-forgotten strips into the mix: Grandma, from Charles Kuhn (who did hard manual labor, including serving as a fireman aboard USS Connecticut during World War I, then spent years as an editorial cartoonist before starting Grandma in 1947, when he was fifty-five years of age); The Reverend, by Bill O’Malley (a prolific magazine cartoonist who lived on the West Coast, placed work in magazines ranging from Ladies Home Journal to Playboy, and had his cartoons — related to golf, travel, and his “Two Little Nuns,” Sister Maureen and Sister Colleen — all collected into book form); and Chicagoan George Sixta’s Rivets (the lead character was based on several Navy mascots Sixta had observed during his own military tour of duty; Sixta worked for the Chicago Sun-Times; originally produced the strip Dick Draper, Foreign Correspondent; and published cartoons in the Saturday Evening Post, which is where Rivets made its debut before becoming a Field Enterprises comic strip). The star of Sixta’s strip is supposed to be a wire-haired terrier, and since my own dog is part (predominantly!) terrier, how could I pass up including Rivets in this “one-name wonders” fantasy comics page?

Here’s hoping everyone has a Happy Flag Day —

 

A Few of My Favorite Things (Part II of II)

Concluding a look at some of my favorite storylines from the LOAC line of books, as it exists as of May, 2016. Let’s forge boldly onward, and remember this entire list is provided in no particular order …

5. Iconic Crossed Swords. Like “awesome” and “friend,” “iconic” is a word sorely abused in our modern language, its true meaning being eroded and dulled by dullards. So I try to use it carefully, and I chose it with care in reference to the last panel of this Flash Gordon Sunday page from August 14, 1938. Throughout the Alex Raymond/Don Moore run there is a reluctance to bring Flash and Ming the Merciless into direct confrontation; in this sequence, with Gordon and his loosely-knit band of Freemen ambushing the Emperor on The Island of Royal Tombs, we get an image of Ming and Flash squaring off, mano-a-mano, that truly lives up to the word “iconic.” It’s not only a perfect encapsulation of the strip, in a larger sense it’s a stirring representation of Good versus Evil. It is perhaps my favorite moment in the entire run of Flash Gordon, and I suspect I’m not alone in that assessment.

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4. Before the Famous Sandwich, There Was … The Dagwood Hunger Strike. For years while growing up, this was one of those plotlines I heard about and read about but never got to see. Bringing it to fans in our first Blondie collection was therefore a real treat for me, and I found that absorbing Chic Young’s full original run on his strip (given a first boost toward its eventual uber-popularity by this very sequence) was a fun — and sometimes eye-opening — experience. This January 25 daily, from deep in the heart of the Hunger Strike, especially tickled me, foreshadowing as it does Dagwood’s famous appetite, though his penchant for combining unlikely ingredients was a future development that readers of this story circa 1933 could never have guessed was on the far horizon.

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3. Punjab to the Rescue! One of the things I’m most proud of where LOAC is concerned is that we have preserved large spans of several deserving strips. On occasion I still pinch myself when I realize we have succeeded in putting thirty years of Dick Tracy continuity back into print, and we’re approaching doing the same for twenty-five years of that most American of The Library of American Comics, Little Orphan Annie. Harold Gray treated us to many memorable sequences starring the kid with a heart of goal and a quick left hook, but one of my favorites is “Assault on the Hacienda.” Captured by the nefarious Axel, Annie is whisked to a remote South American retreat and put under the care of the exotic Dona Dolores. “Daddy” Warbucks mounts a rescue, but eventually is captured and imprisoned deep underground with the two gals. “Daddy’s” men are still on the job and Punjab, their leader, gets good play in this July 16, 1939 Sunday page — he displays his wits, his strength, and even shows off his sensahumor!

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2. A (Sailor) Man of the World. I recently did a long piece in this space extolling the virtues of Bobby London’s Popeye, and of the many wild and wonderful stories London spins, my favorite (by about the width of one of Poopdeck Pappy’s whiskers!) is “Heavy Metal Toar.” What’s not to love in a yarn that features classic rock music superstars, a lost land, a fountain of youth, and the wonkiest biker scenes this side of Easy Rider. In fact, the August, 1989 daily below trips off a plot point that has the squinky-eyed sailor and Olive’s shapely cousin, Sutra Oyl, on a rest stop at a refreshing pond after riding a chopper south across the border. Sutra Oyl decides to do some skinny-dipping and gets a surprise after suggesting Popeye is too intimidated by her state of undress to join her — he wades in, picks her up, tosses her over his shoulder, and, well, see for yourself …

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1. Canyon Gets the Point. It’s easy to list any number of fantastic Terry and the Pirates stories that qualify as must-reads, but let’s not forget that Steve Canyon has its share of delights, too. This 1952 melodrama sees Steve among a small band who survive the crashing of their light plane in the remote woodlands south of Alaska. There they run into a most unscrupulous-seeming French-Canadian nicknamed Bonbon and hear a random radio news broadcast that indicates one of their number is hiding a stolen diamond necklace. It’s a classic melodrama of the genus “band of strangers forced together in stressful circumstances, with one of their number More Than He (or She) Seems,” and it’s expertly told with all the Caniffian touches we Milton-fans enjoy. This tale also introduced audiences to the snappy Miss Mizzou, she of the Marilyn Monroe physique and the naked-except-for-her-trenchcoat wardrobe. Mizzou became a favorite of readers, popping up semi-regularly when Steve might least expect it, and she was grist for the Caniff Steve Canyon Publicity Mill. J.B. Winter’s fine book, Miss Mizzou: A Life Beyond Comics, offers details of Mizzou’s effect on popular culture and the stir she created in the town of Columbia, Missouri. I recommend it as heartily as I recommend this Steve Canyon adventure.

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That’s my list of ten favorite LOAC stories. If you have your own list of ten (or even five) fave-raves, why not share it with us? Zap it to us at info@loacomics.com and who knows? We may do a follow-up in this space that will feature your list …

Those Midnight Munchies

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We just sent the second Blondie book to the printer. It concludes our two-volume collection that reprints, for the very first time, the earliest Blondie comic strips. Our first volume detailed Blondie and Dagwood’s courtship and ended with their momentous wedding. The comics in this book pick up the story with the young couple on their madcap honeymoon, followed by their attempts to settle in to a middle class life of married bliss.

In these strips, Chic Young introduced many of the strip’s supporting players: next-door neighbors Tootsie and Herb Woodley, the attractive Miss Teasley, Dagwood’s boss Mr. Dithers…and most important of all… Blondie and Dagwood’s first child, Baby Dumpling (later named Alexander) and their ever-loving dog, Daisy.

Young also debuts the familiar set-pieces that became visual reference points in the strip: Dagwood in the bathtub, Dagwood taking a nap on the couch, Blondie and Dagwood sleeping together in their double bed, Dagwood running to catch the bus, Blondie and Dagwood sitting in opposing chairs, Dagwood reading the newspaper at the breakfast table, Dagwood talking to Herb over the backyard fence, Dagwood running into the mailman, Dagwood getting berated by Mr. Dithers…and most importantly, Dagwood making a sandwich in the middle of the night.

Here it is, folks, the first midnight raid on the refrigerator, from August 14, 1934.

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Needless to say, there’s a lot more to discover in this indispensable look at America’s favorite married couple.

 

Happy Birthday, BLONDIE!

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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!

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!

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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 . . .

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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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