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Sometimes Size DOES Matter

Polly and Her Pals, our first release in the massive 12″ x 16″ Champagne Edition size, has—as we noted—garnered two Eisner nominations this year.

Our second series in that oversized format will premiere in September. Although Flash Gordonhas been previously reprinted, this—finally—is the first meticulously restored edition that prints the strip in a large size, and in Alex Raymond’s original format that includes the Jungle Jimtopper! Look for the complete Alex Raymond Flash/Jim in four deluxe volumes.


The books are designed by LOAC’s own Lorraine Turner, two-time Emmy winner (and now Eisner nominee—for Polly and Her Pals), with historical essays by Bruce Canwell—LOAC’s Man About Town, and edits by Yours Truly.

We’ll have more details about the series in coming months.

Bill Blackbeard—our friend and mentor

When I created the Library of American Comics in 2007, our first release carried the following heartfelt words:

Dedicated to Bill Blackbeard,
who almost singlehandedly rescued
the American newspaper comic
strip from oblivion

Bill Blackbeard, who died recently at age 84, did all that and mentored at least two generations of comics historians and archivists. It’s safe to say that without him, today’s readers would not be able to enjoy the complete Terry and the Pirates, Krazy Kat, Flash Gordon, Bringing Up Father, and dozens upon dozens of other series that make today the Golden Age of Comic Strip Reprints.

We owe it all to Bill.


photo by R.C. Harvey

Bill’s and Martin Sheridan’s Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics and Bill’s line of Hyperion strip reprints introduced many of us to the classics for the first time. I met him 25 years ago when he gave me my start in reprinting newspaper strips, first with Jiggs is Back by George McManus, and then beginning the complete Krazy & Ignatz. Spending hours upon hours with Bill over the years was better than 100 years of “media studies” at any university. He just about knew it all, and what he didn’t know was located somewhere on the over-burdened shelves at his house, which doubled as The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art.

He was a gentle friend and a generous mentor. And while we’ll all miss him, he lives on in each and every one of us who knew him, and in the books you read that we produce.



April is Magyar Month

We have enough ongoing news and information about The Library of American Comics to prevent us from using this space to recommend noteworthy items from other genres…but Dean’s letting me make an exception this time (mostly because he’s in sync with every word that follows). I’ll still bring it around at the end and connect it to LOAC, because, as a friend of mine likes to say, “It all comes back to comics.”

Beginning April 19th, The Ernie Kovacs Collection goes on sale nationwide. This is glad news for humor fans in general and Kovacsphiles in particular. I am not big on the “pre-order” concept, yet I’ve had my copy of this six-disc DVD set pre-ordered since the end of March, which is an indication of how excited I am at the prospect of renewing my acquaintance with some of my favorite comedic characters and seeing some new-to-me Ernie material.


Ernie Kovacs (1919-1962) was a pioneer of television comedy, a genial Hungarian who combined a classicist’s tastes with a street-level sense of humor. Ernie saw the fledgling television medium of the 1950s as a playground of infinite possibilities. To the best of my knowledge, Kovacs invented the music video – admittedly, he did it with classical music, setting an urban street scene to Bartok, an exaggerated poker game to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and creating other quirky combinations, but there is no doubt he was incorporating music with video imagery a quarter-century before the debut of MTV.

Ernie was a master of the blackout sketch (also often set against a musical backdrop, most famously a German rendition of Mack the Knife). His lineup of recurring characters? Can’t be beat. Wolfgang von Saurbraten, German disc chockey (“Brushen de getoofens mit Schnitzeldent”) – the “old country” Hungarian, Miklos Molnar – kiddie show hosts Auntie Gruesome and Uncle Buddy – French arteest Pierre Ragout – tipsy magician Matzoh Heppelwhite – and flamboyant poet Percy Dovetonsils, whose classic Ode to Stanley’s Pussycat includes such inspired lines as:

That pussy’s personality

Slowly began to change

He hissed and arched his back so much

He looked like a camel with mange

Even Ernie’s end-credits were interspersed with terrific gags. “Bless me, Tom Swift, is this your electric fiancé?” – “Sure, it’s easy for you, Bernice, because you’re a girl … but for Doberman pinchers, it’s a sometimes thing.”



Ernie’s desire to push the envelope and explore the boundaries of TV’s capabilities meant he had a hard time finding a permanent home: his programs started locally in Philadelphia, then bounced to NBC, CBS, the DuMont Network, and ABC. He starred in daytime series, nighttime series, late-night comedy, and even hosted the Take a Good Look quiz show.

Incredibly, he did some of his best work while his personal life was haunted by emptiness and uncertainty. In 1953 his first wife kidnapped their two daughters, Elizabeth and Kippie, successfully hiding them from their father for over two years. Ernie spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on private detectives and traced seemingly as many false leads. “To tell you the truth, I sit here crying for hours sometimes,” he confessed during one print interview from this period.


Photos of young Kippie and Elizabeth Kovacs, distributed to the wire services during the two years they were the kidnap victims of their mother.

In the book Kovacsland, Kippie discussed with biographer Diana Rico the 1955 day her father and grandfather tracked the girls and their wayward mother to a dingy house in central Florida:

I wanted to go with him, because I was living a life of misery, a total nightmare … [Finally] I got in the car with him and he turned and said, “I see you still suck your thumb.” So I said, “I see you still smoke cigars.” And right away, it was right.

If the poignancy of Ernie’s personal life and the hints of Ernie’s genius aren’t enough to sway you, here are four connections between Ernie and the world of comics, with three of them tied directly to The Library of American Comics:

1. Ernie made a handful of appearances in the early Mad magazine. Wally Wood illustrated the Kovacs take-off on Ripley’s Believe It or Not titled Strangely Believe It, which featured items such as: “The strangest SCIENTIFIC PHENOMENON of all time was recorded on May 18, 1956, when Elizabeth Donohue Forsney was born in a commercial airliner while traveling over Grand Canyon, Colorado … A telegram was immediately dispatched to Elizabeth’s mother, who had missed the plane in Denver.” Will Elder provided the artwork for Ernie’s madcap board game, “Gringo!” (later brought to both the TV screen and long-playing vinyl album as “Droongo!”).

2. Ernie’s second wife was Edie Adams, the blonde bombshell famous for bringing Daisy Mae Scragg to life on stage in the 1950s Broadway production of Al Capp’s popular Li’l Abner. Edie also appeared on several of Ernie’s TV broadcasts and is sure to be well represented in the new DVD set.

3. Another member of Ernie’s band of TV players was the ravishing Jolene Brand, who later played the role of Anna Maria in several episodes of the late-’50s TV adaptation of Zorro. The firstZorro comics based on the TV series were, of course, drawn by Alex Toth …

4. …And Alex, like Ernie, was of Hungarian extraction.

In fact, with both The Ernie Kovacs Collection and our own Genius, Isolated being released so closely together, it seems fitting to declare April as Magyar Month, featuring hours of Hungarian-created comics biography/artwork and TV hijinx!

See? It really does all come back to comics…

Ehhh—Crawford’s Up, Doc!

In case you missed Dean’s announcement in his interview at, Crawford is a one-shot due for release later in 2011, a book I’m especially thrilled to have in our lineup. If you’re asking, “What is it, a Crawford?”, a better question would be, “Whose brainchild is Crawford?” Because the answer to that is, “Chuck Jones,” and if you’re like me, that’s sure to make you smile.


Though in my twenties I grew to enjoy Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks’sDonald Duck and Uncle $crooge, as a boy I pooh-poohed all things Disney – I was strictly aLooney Tunes kinda guy. Not for me The Wonderful World of Disney with its airings Herbie the Love Bug, Professor Ludwig von Drake, and Charlie, the Ding-a-ling Lynx. I was all about The Bugs Bunny Show and the Warner Brothers characters, led by the wascawwy wabbit himself. It was guaranteed laughs whenever Bugs appeared in shorts like “Long-Haired Hare,” “Duck! Rabbit! Duck!”, “Beanstalk Bunny,” or “Bully for Bugs.” As I grew older and began reading the material on hand in the 1970s about Warners animation, I learned all the cartoons named were directed by the same talented individual, one Charles M. “Chuck” Jones.


Jones’s earliest work as a director was considered “cute” and slow-moving by his peers at the studio; his pacing quickly improved, but in his artwork there was always a rounded, curvy cuteness to the line. Long before manga and anime entrenched itself on American shores, Chuck Jones was drawing big-eyed kid characters in everything from his aborted Road Runner TV pilot to Cindy Lou Who from 1966’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The trademark Jones cuteness is on display in Crawford, as well – and that’s hardly a bad thing. Jones filters his stories through a kid’s perspective, which includes flights of both whimsy and fancy while running an emotional gamut that will resonate to everyone who grew up as the neighborhood maverick, running against the herd.


Dean’s co-editor on Crawford is Kurtis Findlay, who conceived the project and has been researching this “Unknown Chuck Jones” project for the past couple of years. We’re working with Marian Jones, Chuck’s widow, on the project, and all art is © the Chuck Jones Estate. We’ll have more on Crawford for you as its publication date draws near. In the meantime, why do I have a sudden urge to watch “The Rabbit of Seville” again … ?

Sunday Funnies Are Like a Box of Chocolates…

…At least, they are on February 14th. To mark Valentine’s Day, 2011, The Library of American Comics offers you this Whitman’s Sampler of classic comics from Sunday, February 14th, 1937:









Is it possible Sunday funnies are better than a box of chocolates? Just as sweet – with zero calories!

It’s Always Lovelier the Second Time Around

Every day we receive emails from fans who want to know when we’re going to release new editions of our books that are currently out-of-print. We don’t blame anyone for not wanting to shell out $150-200 for a book on the secondary market. So, rest easy, friends. In March, all of our sold-out books will be available again.

They are: Terry and the Pirates 2-6 (Volume one has already been reprinted), Dick Tracy 8, Rip Kirby 1, Bloom County 2 and 3, Archie 1, and Bringing Up Father.





In his introduction to the second volume of Terry and the Pirates, Pete Hamill—one of our favorite writers, author of North River; Downtown: My Manhattan; and the memoir, A Drinking Life—had this to say about the greatest of all adventure strips:

“Here, in this sequence of daily strips and Sunday pages from the first day of January 1937 to the last day of 1938, we see Milton Caniff emerging as one of the most gifted writers of narrative in the American 20th century. Week by week, his drawing takes on a growing power, at once bold and subtle, a display of draftsmanship that was seldom seen before in the comic strip form. But it was as a writer that Caniff excelled.

“We see more clearly now that he was engaged in writing and drawing a picaresque novel, as full of adventures as Don Quixote, Tom Jones or Huckleberry Finn. There is no single plot to be unraveled, no Maltese falcon to be revealed, no butler who confesses to a detective in a crowded drawing room that yes, he did it. In Terry and the Pirates, one sequence gathers momentum, the heroes are trapped, or imprisoned, or face overwhelming odds, and ends with a culminating eruption of action and release. When all is apparently resolved, they move on to another adventure. Day by day, the reader is often left tottering on the serial-writer’s cliff, anxious to learn what happens next.”

‘Nuff said.

Silence Is Golden



As I have stated before, I am new to the comic industry—but am very well aquainted with visual communication. Throughout my journey, I have been by surrounded by some of the finest teachers—some from this century and some from long ago. Yesterday, as I was browsing through the aisles in my local Borders (yes there is still one in Key West), I came across a small section entitled Graphic Novels. I picked up a few books and was quite honestly disappointed. I kept looking at one after another and they all said the same thing to me…noise.

Although the expertise used in rendering the work may have been quite superb, the overall content was crashing as if an orchestra’s cymbal player had run amuk, instead of waiting for his cue. Louder is not better, and without the subtleties of a soft melody, the music is just a dull tone. Perhaps I am becoming spoiled working daily restoring strips by artists such as Cliff Sterrett, Milton Caniff, Al Capp, Alex Raymond, and Alex Toth. As I placed the graphic novels at Borders back upon their shelves, I was struck by the fact that their covers looked no different then their “inners.” It was as if that special piece of work that used to adorn the outer covering was now all-encompassing.

I walked along the rows of other books and kept wondering why I had found this so disturbing; I guess I was still processing what I had just uncovered. I think storytelling can be muddied by over-embellishment, leaving your eye no place to rest. Many contemporary comics artists are doing a fine job of giving the reader absolutely beautiful work, but are they all beginning to look alike? This is what they need to ask themselves. I wish they would get out of the studio and wander down the aisles of the bookshops and see the work as it lines up like uniformed soldiers along the shelves—all standing at attention wearing identical attire, saying pick me, pick me—I’m really different, just give me a look!

I do not give this thought as a collector or even a person who has been in the publishing industry. I give you my thoughts as one who enjoys a good story, who likes to blend my mind within the pages and let it carry me away. I may not be an expert in this world of graphic novels, but I do know one thing. Artists of today should take time to pause, pick up a collection of any of the masters listed above, and study it. And if they are quiet and really look with intent, perhaps they will discover the secret that was known to the artists who walked before them—to learn to say more with less. Learn the art of silence.

Talkin’ Toth: Part Two

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—more than we can comfortably fit into our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist. But we can share some of that additional material with you in this space, so—here is our latest in a series of Talkin’ Toth:


Hohlwein4A Ludwig Hohlwein advertising poster from the 1920s for Leibniz-Keks biscuits.


I’ve had my ups/downs, love/hate bits with acrylics—and, at present, am keen on the wonders of opaque tempera—forgiving as it is of brushes, very workable, paint-over capacity, nice texture when working, paints don’t dry out/up in cakes (always semi-moist), etc.—I find school-grade brands as acceptable as the higher-priced “Liquitex.”

Am collecting old books on the subject and re-reading my old tomes on its use by my hero illustrators/painters back in the old days of the ’40s, etc.… I’m just doing an occasional small rough, no big deal finished paintings, as it’s all I can do to meet b&w deadlines, the stuff that pays the rent! But I’m daydreaming painting, all the while—my question about tempera is, how and with what does one fix a painting – as the stuff does chip, dust, rub off, etc.—crack, too, I suppose… Do regular spray fixes, varnishes, etc. do the job? Acrylic clear varnish brushed on? I’ve got a C.C. Beck Captain Tootsie poster paint piece that I’m spooked to touch with a fix until I know I won’t screw it up using the wrong stuff!

* * * * *

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

Thanks to our (and Alex’s) good pal Bill Peckmann for letting us scan some pages, including the above, from his rare 1920s collection of Ludvig Hohlwein’s art. Hohlwein was THE great German poster artist in the modern school and had a huge influence on Alex’s use of negative space and composition in general.

Meanwhile, over at SCOOP, Jeff Vaughn expressed his anticipation for the first book:

“With Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, IDW Publishing’s Library of American Comics imprint redefined the standards for art retrospective books. Now it looks like they’re out to do it again with Genius, Isolated: The Life And Art Of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell.”

Aw, shucks. We just love talkin’ Toth.

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