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On the Town with George and Zeke

It was a great honor to have our Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea nominated for a 2010 Eisner Award. There can be only one winner in each category, and BUF did not take home the trophy (Bloom County, our other entry in the awards, did win—yay!) but we gained a lot of satisfaction from the Eisner committee’s recognition of the fabulous work of George McManus and his long-time assistant, Zeke Zekley.

As usual, our research into the history of the strip and its creators blended details from well-known sources with newly-uncovered information and rare photographs. In studying the life of George McManus for BUF: FStSS, I bought all three issues of the early 1950s Collier‘s Magazine that featured the artist’s autobiographical musings. My research also uncovered birth records from the City of St. Louis that provided, for the first time, clear-cut proof of the date McManus came into this world (Geo. McM. himself often played fast and loose with that information). I was also fascinated to find McManus remained in the news after his passing – wire services and several newspapers followed the story Zeke Zekley going to court to contest McManus’s will. This was fresh information to even some of the art form’s most erudite scholars.

From Sea to Shining Sea also brought what is, to my knowledge, unprecedented (but much deserved) attention to the accomplishments of Zeke Zekley. It was the cooperation of comics historian and Zekley acquaintance Chris Jenson, as well as interviews with Zekley’s descendants, that made possible this coverage.

Now, presented for your viewing pleasure, here are a half-dozen additional photographs of George and Zeke. They came to us courtesy of David Folkman, of Hogan’s Alley fame, who was very close to Zeke for many years.

First up, McManus and the Zekleys chow down Hollywood-style, accompanied by actress Renie Riano, who played Maggie in five Bringing Up Father motion pictures:

 

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If this next photo is any indication, McManus gravitated toward the lovely ladies as much as did his strip’s hero, Jiggs. Though surrounded by fellow cartoonists, notice George is chatting with Zeke’s wife, Anita Zekley.

 

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Cartoonists have a long and notable history of doing their bit for Uncle Sam. Here’s Zeke (third from left) standing next to Dennis the Menace’s Hank Ketcham at a U.S. Savings Bond event that included cartoonists Chic (Blondie) Young, Gus Edson (Dondi), Milt Gross, Ferd Johnson, Dan (Hopalong Cassidy) Spiegle, and several others.

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McManus moved in the same circles with artist Jimmy Swinnerton, another favorite of William Randolph Hearst (the newspaper mogul who was the prime mover and shaker behind King Features Syndicate). Here, George and Swinny share a laugh:

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And here they participate in a U.S. Treasury event. Two things to call to your attention: [1] at far-right is George’s brother, Leo McManus, who worked for many years at King Features. [2] Notice with whom George is shaking hands – none other than Walt Disney, himself!

 

Group2Finally – my lifelong love of Popeye is well known amongst my social circle, but have you ever seen a sorrier version of that spinach-eating gazookas than the one in this 1949 photo?Z_Soglow_M_Laswel_49_ArmHos

Zeke and Otto (The Little King) Soglow appear to be massaging Popeye’s flaccid right arm muscles while McManus gives the squinky-eyed sailor a pep talk. Fred Lasswell (Barney Google and Snuffy Smith) may be wondering if even a can of spinach would be enough to help this guy whip Bluto.

You may also want to take a look at Popeye’s pants. Could it be that E.C. Segar’s inspired creation invented the “low-riders” so prominently worn around today’s schools and malls?

One of the absolute truisms of studying comics history: no matter how much we uncover, there is always more to be learned!

Beau Smith joins the Library

Beau Smith, self-styled raconteur and manly man about town, has joined the Library of American Comics as our new Director of Marketing.

We’re thrilled to have Beau onboard. He and I go way back to the 1980s and Eclipse Comics, where I was the publisher and Beau the Marketing Director.

A graduate of Marshall University in his native West Virginia, Beau’s done it all in comics. In addition to Eclipse, where he got his start, Beau was the VP of Marketing and Publishing for Image Comics, Todd McFarlane Productions and McFarlane Toys, was with IDW Publishing for many years, and is the former Director of Product Information for toy maker JUN Planning USA.

As a comics writer, Beau’s written Batman, Superman, and Wolverine, and his stories have appeared at DC, Image, IDW, Eclipse, Dreamwave, Moonstone, Dark Horse, and many other publishers. He created several well-received series, including Wynonna Earp, Parts Unknown,Maximum Jack, Courting Fate, and Cobb.

If that wasn’t enough, he offers his pearls of wisdom in regular columns: “Busted Knuckles” at Comics Bulletin, and “From the Ranch” for Sketch Magazine.

Beau’s going to be focussing on retailers, libraries, and universities, so all retailers, librarians, professors, and teachers are encouraged to give him a shout: beau@loacomics.com.

 

 

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The Next Generation?

And now for something completely different:

If you’ll allow me this brief diversion, I’d like to introduce you to my new nephew, Henry. He’s the first for my younger sister and her husband, born in April at nine pounds and twenty-one inches long. In the weeks since, he’s been thriving, having developed a ready smile and as sunny a disposition as an infant can display.baby

I’d like to say I played some role in making him that happy, but his mom and dad deserve all the credit.

One of the things I do hope I can give the not-so-little guy in the years ahead is an introduction to the classic comic strips we all know and love. Certainly there are Library of American Comics volumes to capture his interest as he grows up. The funny animals of King Aroo might make him laugh in his early school years—in his “tween” years, he may get swept away by the exotic adventure of Terry and the Pirates and our upcoming Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim—and by the time he’s a teenager, the sophisticated sleuthing of Rip Kirby or outrageous comedy of Bloom Countycould catch his fancy.

Of course, his interests may develop along entirely different lines…and that’s OK. We all get to pick our own path, which is how it’s supposed to be. I won’t push anything on him—but if he expresses interest in any of the LOAC books on his parents’ shelves, he’ll know who to talk to in order to learn more about them!

 

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Many of us remember when the idea of alternate universes was strictly the province of science fiction and comics enthusiasts. SF writers like Robert Silverberg, using their personal interest in history, have dabbled with the concept in short stories and novels for decades (most recently inRoma Eterna). “Mirror, Mirror,” one of Star Trek‘s most popular episodes, dropped Captain Kirk and three of his officers into an “evil twin” reality. And DC Comics has maintained a decades-long love affair with alternates, beginning with the Gardiner Fox/Carmine Infantino “Flash of Two Worlds” story from 1961’s Flash # 123.

Today we live in a science fictional world, and the phrase “alternate universe” is part of the common cultural coin, to the point where even crusty Republicans like Newt Gingrich are making money off the idea.

Recently I found myself pondering possible alternate universe comic strips. If there truly are an infinite number of Earths in the multiverse, these four comics must exist out there somewhere:

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Little Orphan Terry: Taken in as a seven-year-old by Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Terry Lee grows up finding adventure in the four corners of the globe. Terry proves he’ll not be separated from his adoptive guardian when he stows away the first time “Daddy” sails to deal with business interests in the Far East: even today, the “Wun Wey Battles Captain Blaze” storyline remains a classic. Many are especially fond of later stories, after Terry has grown into young manhood and helps “Daddy” get girls.

Scorch Kirby: Alex Raymond’s ex-aviator private eye has a straight nose and never wears glasses or plays the piano; Honey Dorian finds him crude but irresistible, especially after he feeds Pagan Lee to the law for her involvement with The Mangler. Scorch’s butlers never seem to last long. Short-timers like Tex and Gus have their supporters, though the majority of fans divide equally between the droll reserve of Desmond and the thick German accent of Himmelstoss.

Bringing Up Family: The George McManus/Zeke Zekley “diagrammatic” Sundays remain must-see material, as Maggie and her brood criss-cross the city in search of Jiggs and his carousing buddies.

Li’l Annie: The red-headed waif is the smartest (and best spoken) person in Dogpatch; her bemused comments about the zany antics going on around her built a daily readership that numbered in the tens of millions. She was beloved for her annual consultations with Old Man Mose in order to help deserving bachelorettes land a “dream-boat” on Sadie Hawkins Day. After Annie and the Dogpatch kids brought Gat Garson to justice, a pop culture catch phrase was born in 1939 with Garson’s last words on his way to the electric chair: ” … And I’d have gotten away with it, too – if it hadn’t been for those KIDS!”

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Got an alternate universe comic strip you’d like to see in this space? Send your ideas toinfo@loacomics.com ; we’ll run a follow-up in a future installment!

“No publisher is more dedicated…

…to archival collections than IDW,” writes Peter Rowe in the San Diego Tribune. “The Library runs the gamut from familiar titles to obscure works that haven’t been seen in decades: “Polly and Her Pals” debuted in 1912; detective “Rip Kirby” was on the case in the 1940s and ’50s; and fanciful “King Aroo” is another ’50s revival.”

 

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Here’s yours truly in the IDW booth at the San Diego Comicon. Check out the complete link. It’s great to see such positive mainstream coverage for the Library of American Comics and classic newspaper strips in general.

The Library and IDW were triple winners at the Eisners this year. In addition to Bloom Countytaking home the Archival Newspaper Strip award, The Rocketeer won as Best Archival Project—Comic Books, and Darwyn Cooke’s amazing adapation of Richard Stark’s Parker: The Huntedwas feted for Best Adaptation from Another Work. A big round of applause for all, especially Scott Dunbier, who edited all three winners!

Two Twos on sale today!

If it were a Rip Kirby mystery, we might call it “The Case of the Tandem Twos,” but it’s even better news than that: two different Volume Twos go officially on sale today. We invite you to consider Alex Raymond’s Rip Kirby vol. 2 and Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County vol. 2, and then check out the online IDW store, your local comics shop, favorite brick-and-morter bookstore, or an omnipresent online bookseller. Between Alex Raymond and Berkeley Breathed, there’s some enjoyable comic strip reading for everyone.

“If it’s Free, it’s for me.”

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It’s the first Saturday in May and that means “Free Comic Book Day” is here! Don’t forget to head down to your local comics shop and pick up the exclusive Library of American Comics #1.

This free comic book is a little different from the usual fare. You won’t find holographic variant covers or even superheroes in the 32 pages. Instead, we feature 30-year-old penguins and octogenarian flappers, 60-year-old “teenagers” and 40-something secret agents. What they all have in common is that, regardless of age, they are timeless and classic.

It’s 32 pages of previews for some of our upcoming books, so check it out. If it’s free, it’s for me…and you!

Time Changes Everything

I noticed that DC Comics’s “trinity” titles will soon be celebrating major milestones: Supermanand Batman are both reaching their 700th issues, with Wonder Woman arriving at #600. Certainly, an enduring legacy has been shaped by those characters and the many fine creators who have worked on them.

Still, these anniversaries remind me how immense it seemed to me as a kid in 1970, when The Fantastic Four reached their centennial. A hundred issues—wow! Now I think about the length of time I’ve been involved with comics – as a reader, a fan, and a writer – and I say “Wow!” for different reasons.

Let’s take that 1970 FF anniversary as a starting point: forty years have passed between that issue and today. Start at 1970 and go forty years back from there—welcome to 1930. Think about what’s going on (and what is yet to go on!) in comics at that time:

Milton Caniff is still two years from moving to New York; Dickie Dare is three years away, Terry and The Pirates four.

It’s been only a year since Popeye walked on stage at Thimble Theatre to utter the immortal words, “Ja think I’m a cowboy?”

The Shadow’s pulp adventures don’t begin until 1931; Doc Savage and King Kong both bow in 1933.

Kolor Krazy Kat Sundays are five years in the future.

Likewise, it will be five years before George McManus meets and hires Zeke Zekley to assist him on Bringing Up Father.

And oh, by the way, those comic book characters with milestones in 2010? None of them exist yet—there’s an eight-year gap between where we’re standing in 1930 and the release of Action Comics # 1.

What’s the point of this little exercise? It may make you feel old…or it may make you feel good. No matter if you came to comics in time to buy FF # 100 off the spinner racks—or to seeDoonesbury to take on the Nixon White House—or for Frank Miller’s Daredevil—or for the launch of Calvin & Hobbes—you have participated in a lot of comics history. And together, we’re fortunate to be here in 2010, a time when the breadth and depth of that history is being expanded even as it is being captured and preserved for future generations by The Library of American Comics and our friendly competitors, as well as the good persons behind DC and Dark Horse’s many Archive series and Marvel’s Masterworks.

Yes, we’re growing older – but there are still reasons to say, “Wow!”

The Errata Bug Bites LOAC

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Due to printing errors, two daily strips in Dick Tracy Volume Nine were duplicated, and two are missing; in King Aroo Volume One, one strip was similarly duplicated, while one is missing. We apologize for the mix-up. In order to keep both series truly “complete,” the missing strips will be printed in the succeeding volumes. For those who can’t wait, we reproduce them here.

The top strip is the Dick Tracy from June 24, 1944 (page 67); the middle strip is from May 24, 1945 (page 211). Below them is the correct April 4, 1952 strip from King Aroo (page 173).

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