Continuing our review of the first two hundred LOAC books, which began here, take a look at our fifty-first to one hundredth releases …
With a brand-new year and LOAC Essentials Volume 14: Barney Google available on sale, we’ve now successfully traveled The Library of American Comics Road to 200. Each month during 2019 in this space we paused to feature one of our books via the trusty ol’ LOAC Wheel of Fortune, but now seems like an opportune time to show everyone our full list of publications, from Number One to Number Two Hundred.
Of course, a list this big is best absorbed in bite-sized pieces, so we’ll offer it to you in four separate postings, with a few of my personal recollections and observations along the way.
Here is our list of LOAC titles, # 1 – 50 …
It’s tough to get an American Thanksgiving holiday to appear much later on the calendar than it does this year, on November 28th. It does happen every so often, though, and in fact it happened exactly seventy-three years ago, in 1946. Since it’s been a while since we did one of our “fantasy comics pages” in this space, we thought it might be good to show you a cross-section of what readers were seeing in their post-War newspapers.
We’ve done a fifty-fifty split between strips that mention the holiday and those that don’t. In the latter category, Bringing Up Father is no-so-subtly plugging the motion picture version of the strip that had debuted just three days previously, starring Joe Yule as the every-put-upon Jiggs and Renie Riano as rolling-pin-wielding Maggie. Blondie features the Bumstead kids, with Dagwood getting the final word, while Ernie Bushmiller puts Nancy and Aunt Fritzie through their familiar paces, and what else can one say about the day’s installment of Terry and the Pirates but, “Oh, that Burma …!”
For strips that chose to acknowledge “Turkey Day,” Buck Rogers yearns for some good old fashioned bird and fixin’s. Orphan Annie proves she’s “Daddy’s” girl, Invisible Scarlet O’Neil shows us pugs down on their luck (how invisible was Scarlet? She was nowhere to be seen on Thanksgiving Day!), and my absolute favorite entry on this fantasy page is Mutt & Jeff, with Bud Fisher spreading holiday cheer and dropping Mae West’s name in the bargain. Miss West’s career was pretty quiet by 1946 (her brilliant My Little Chickadee, co-starring W.C. Fields, was already six years old at this point), but she was lovely, she was intelligent, and her mention here shows she was still very much a household name. Many of her films still hold up remarkably well, and in her heyday she dominates the screen whenever she’s in front of the camera — I highly recommend finding, viewing, and enjoying the work of Mae West.
My Leonard Maltin impression completed, I offer you this fantasy comics page from Thanksgiving Day, 1946, plus happy holiday wishes for all our American readers, from everyone at The Library of American Comics!
In the Little Orphan Annie strip of February 24 1935 (reprinted in Vol. 6 of our series) a mysterious giant wearing a turban appears and offers to help the little mophead chop wood. It’s the first time Annie meets Punjab. When she offhandedly comments how nice it was to receive his help Punjab gives her a magic whistle and tells her that any time she needs his help, all she has to do is blow it and he would immediately appear. She is frightened and apprehensive because she has no idea who he is, but takes the whistle nonetheless, and Punjab disappears. A few days later, on March 3rd, Annie wonders if the whistle would really bring Punjab to her aid and blows it. Poof! Punjab appears out of nowhere! Later that month at a key moment in the classic Eli Eon saga, she blows the whistle yet again. Same result.
Eighteen years later, in strips reprinted in LOA Vol. 16, Annie needs help saving the life of a friend. In the June 1, 1953 strip she unexpectedly finds the magic whistle in her pocket and blows it. Punjab appears again! When asked where he came from, Punjab simply stated, “When the little princess blows the magic whistle, I appear.”
During the height of LOA licensed merchandise in the 1930s one manufacturer produced Little Orphan Annie sweaters, including “Magic Punjab Whistles” as premium incentives for retailers ordering full boxes of sweaters. So far as is known the whistles were never offered as for-sale items. Further, because the whistles don’t bear any markings, today’s collectors are generally unaware of them. Only one sweater box complete with five whistles is known to exist, making the “Magic Punjab Whistle” an extremely rare collectible.
Thanks to our good friend Richard Olson for giving us the background and scanning his sweater box and whistles for all to see!
We continue journeying toward our two hundredth Library of American Comics release with the August spin of the LOAC Wheel of Fortune – but before we give it a whirl, these few (semi-) serious paragraphs on a humorous subgenre –
I noted with interest that we’ve devoted almost twenty-five percent of the total LOAC output to some of the funniest of the funnies – and well over that percentage if you consider “story strips” like The Gumps, Little Orphan Annie, Baron Bean, Bungle Family, and Gasoline Alley to be comedy first and narrative continuity second. (I’ve chosen not to do that, to keep the list of titles under consideration to a manageable amount.) From dailies like 1933’s Polly and Her Pals and Herriman’s Krazy Kats that were published the next year (both collected in LOAC Essentials volumes) to more contemporary series such as Bobby London’s run on Popeye in Thimble Theater, The Library of American Comics has reprinted the crème de la rib-tickling crème. That commitment will continue, as you’ll see in the soon-to-be-released Screwball! book that will have you *plop!*ping with laughter into the nearest comfy chair (at least, we hope that’s where you land — *plop!*ping down onto a hardwood floor can hurt!).
Some of the LOAC parade of comedy also boasts historical significance – think of Dagwood Bumstead’s hunger strike and his eventual wedding to Miss Boopadoop in Blondie, Volume 1 – and some of it has sprung from our agreement with Disney (as you’ve surely noticed, the first word in Silly Symphonies is, well – Silly), but those are extra benefits added to comics designed to provoke smiles, chuckles, and out-and-out guffaws as they brighten up your day.
We have so many humor collections in our backlist, we’ll split it in twain and do two funny-funnies spins of the ol’ LOAC Wheel of Fortune, one this month and the other later in autumn (we have something planned for the September spin that is specifically tied to that month, so stay tuned for that!). Here is our August list of contenders …
Newspapers across the country delivered coverage of Man’s first steps on the Moon to Americans eager to read every word on the morning of Monday, July 21, 1969. As this breakout box shows, the quotes of astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin were forever preserved for posterity:
We’re quickly closing in on the 50th anniversary of The Landing of the Eagle, as the Apollo 11 mission brought Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin safely to the surface of the Moon and back. Surely the media coverage of this golden anniversary is difficult to escape, and that’s as it should be — those of us who were alive to follow the voyage of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins (who remained in orbit, piloting the Command Module Columbia as his fellow astronauts trod the Lunar surface) remember it as one of those rare moments when much of the entire planet was united to celebrate an amazing accomplishment.
Being born in mid-July, I was nine years old when Apollo 11 blasted off for its date with destiny, but ten years old when Armstrong made his “one small step for a man.” Headlines across the country mirrored this one, from the Boston Globe, as Columbia roared skyward from Kennedy Space Center atop a Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969:
Deadlines, family commitments, and some technical difficulties have delayed our May dip into the LOAC Wheel of Fortune, but it’s not like we forgot or anything, believe me!
Since May is the fifth month of the year,. we opted to look at all our releases to-date that have a “5” in their volume number — that encompasses “Volume 5s,” “Volume 15s,” and in the case of Dick Tracy, even a Volume 25! For the first time, if memory serves, we’re also including a pair of 2019 releases in a Wheel of Fortune population, since both Spider-Man and Donald Duck celebrated their fifth volumes (in Donald’s case, his fifth volume of dailies).
So here’s the population, eleven titles strong:
Looking at the list, I found a few surprises in it — I didn’t realize we finished the Al Williamson run on Corrigan before our seventy-fifth release, or that Bungle Family (which is still fresh in my mind, a testament to the quality of the strip) fell into our first hundred books. Anyway, here it is, loaded into the Wheel and ready for a big spin:
And this month’s featured title is <insert drum roll and dramatic pause here> …