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Silence Is Golden

 

Lorraine_Toth

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.

FROM A 1981 LETTER – TOTH ON PAINTS AND FINISHES:

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.

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…

JULY

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.

 

Breathed

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.

Archie1_lg-1

AUGUST

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.

SEPTEMBER

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.

Corrigan1_lg

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

OCTOBER

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?

Blondie1_cvr_lg

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

NYCC-2

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.

BloomCounty3_lg

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

French_Terry

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.

 

NOVEMBER

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:

LilAbner2_lg

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.

 

DECEMBER

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.

 

Caniff_cvr

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.

Toth_slipcase

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.”

Polly_lg-1

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:

JANUARY

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

 

KingAroo1_lg

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!

 

FEBRUARY & MARCH

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 …

 

APRIL

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).

RipKirby2_lg-1

BloomCounty2_lg-1

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.

LilAbner1_lg

 

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.

 

MAY

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

 

FCBD_0-1

 

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.

LOA5_lg

JUNE

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.

 

DT10_lg

 

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

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:

French_Terry-1

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!

Terry_french_text

 

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

randy

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!

sabre

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.

New_arrivals

randy_dean

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_lorraine

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.

old_comics

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.

Gift_of_Murder_Notes

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.

Hunting(ton) Season

Beau_rocker

 

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.

pointing-1

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.

Beau_book

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.

 

Beau_Beth

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