Archive | Miss Fury

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

After several years and well over a hundred releases, I sometimes get asked about my favorite stories from the LOAC family of books. Sometimes the question is just that straightforward — “Which ones do you like best?” — and sometimes I provide that answer within the context of a larger inquiry, something along the lines of, “What stories would you recommend to get a new reader hooked on classic comic strips?”

Of course, there are certain stories that belong in the Comic Strip Hall Of Fame — “The Death of Raven Sherman” from Terry and the Pirates, for example, or Dick Tracy’s encounters with The Brow or Flattop. And certainly our friendly competitors have released their share of Must-Read sequences in several of their fine series. But I have other, perhaps less obvious favorites, and this seemed like a good time to share ten of them with you. In no particular order, here are the first five that have burned a warm place in my comics-fannish heart:

10. Scorchy Smith in Northern Africa. Our big Noel Sickles retrospective/Scorchy Smith reprint remains one of my very favorite books. I like to think we brought well-deserved new attention to the major and important talent that was “Bud” Sickles, and the wealth of artwork we were privileged to see and publish (more of the former than the latter!) was a rare treat. Thanks to this book, Sickles’s virtuoso efforts on Scorchy are now also preserved for future generations to savor, and while there are several delightful moments throughout the run, I’m especially partial to the 1936 sequence that sees “Scorcher,” his sidekick Heinie Himmelstoss, and their charge/employer Mickey LaFarge touring Northern Africa and the Middle East. In this lovely strip from March 25, 1936, set in Algiers, Mickey’s foreboding is well-founded, since she and her aviator pals will soon run afoul of the evil Ali Hamman in the Syrian desert …

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9. The King Aroo Seal of Approval. Something else within the LOAC oeuvre I’m especially proud of is our two-volume set of King Aroo. I’ve loved Jack Kent’s winsome style and smart, snappy writing since my first encounter with the King and his Myopean subjects in the Nemo magazines of the 1980s; it was both a delight and an honor to offer over ten thousand words of biography devoted to the man, and to help get hundreds of his King Aroo comics back into print (I’ve also been fortunate enough to acquire an Aroo original from 1960, which proudly hangs on a wall in my home!). There are many, many King Aroo sequences I’d eagerly point to as a favorite, a big grin on my face as I do so, but I have special fondness for the October-to-December, 1951 storyline in which Professor Yorgle drinks Wanda Witch’s magic potions by mistake and turns into a seal. Great sight gags ensue, series regulars serve up all variety of amusing reactions to the change in their friend, and new characters are introduced such as “Rube,” the flea who is now a theatrical agent. Rube has all the contacts Professor Yorgle needs once he decides to embark on a new career — as a trained circus seal! King Aroo is a singular accomplishment within the comics firmament, and I can’t give this storyline, and the strip in its entirety, enough praise.

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8. The Rocky Road to Motherhood. Within the past year mainstream and comics media have reported on Marvel Comics’s decision to feature first a pregnant Spider-Woman, then that character as a new mother. Taking nothing away from this turn of events (how many mothers get whisked off Earth by the Skrulls, after all?), yet let’s not forget that Marla Drake, AKA Miss Fury, was a superhero who became a parent about seven decades before Marvel’s Jessica Drew gave birth. Yes, Marla went the adoption route, but that still put her ahead of heroes like Bruce Wayne, who was content simply to serve as guardian to his youthful ward, Dick Grayson. This Sunday page from February, 1945 is an excerpt from the story that puts Marla on the path to adopting a young son. The diabolical Doctor Diman has perfected an acid as clear as water, but capable of destroying every trace of the organic matter it touches. At least, he thinks it is — it’s passed all the preliminaries and is now ready to be tested on a human subject — in this case, a curly-headed toddler in the doctor’s care. Miss Fury intervenes and saves the boy from an horrific fate. Shortly afterward, she adopts the lad as her son, Darron Drake, never suspecting the boy’s mother is one of her greatest enemies, and his father is the man she once almost married! Cartoonist Tarpe Mills’s unique mix of intrigue, soap opera emotion, high fashion, and derring-do make this Miss Fury escapade a fun and frothy reading experience!

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7. Li’l Abner‘s Attacks on Ham Fisher. This is a selection from Li’l Abner Volume 8, on sale soon and a book I personally feel no serious comic-strip collector can do without. In it we take a long look at the Al (Abner) Capp/Ham (Joe Palooka) Fisher Feud and the Sunday continuities in its pages feature a pair of stories, spanning three consecutive months, in which Capp went for his nemesis’s jugular. The longer of the two plots involves Sam the centaur, a horse race, and an old plug named “Ham’s Nose Bob” — which was Capp’s way of letting the world know that the vain Fisher had recently had plastic surgery on the ol’ schnozzola. After Sam returns to Olympus, Abner runs afoul of “Happy Vermin, the World’s Smartest Cartoonist,” in a savage satire that set off waves of controversy through whole segments of the newspaper industry, receiving coverage in Walter Winchell’s popular syndicated column and elsewhere. Li’l Abner is one of comics’s bonafide masterpieces, and these anti-Fisher Sunday pages — plus the information on the Feud upon which we focus, information spotlighted nowhere else that we have seen in our research — plus the other fun and fanciful tales from 1949 and 1950 make Li’l Abner Volume 8 a book I most heartily recommend. These anti-Fisher screeds are some of the most arresting, significant, and (on a few levels, at least) fun comics I’ve read in a handful of years.

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6. Call Him Dexter, Though His Name is Corrigan. Mix one of my all-time favorite writers (Dashiell Hammett) with one of my all-time favorite artists (Alex Raymond) and the result is, for a number of reasons, less than the sum of the talents involved. Still, the original Secret Agent X-9 is anything but dogmeat. Their long inaugural tale is filled with bits of business that would have been right at home in Black Mask and the Street & Smith hero pulp magazines. The young Raymond, still deep in his Matt Clark Period, displays bravura flashes, especially in his eye-catching single-panel panoramas. “The Martyn Case” gives X-9 hints of an origin that other creators would borrow, flesh out, and make good use of throughout the ensuing years as they created adventure heroes of their own, everyone from The Avenger to The Punisher. Still, I’m perpetually fascinated by “The Torch Car Case,” from 1935. This represents Hammett’s last work on Secret Agent X-9, and while some scholars have claimed he never contributed to the story at all, I submit this March 13, 1935 strip gives X-9 the sort of sarcastic, wryly-humorous quip that was a Hammett hallmark — and reflects a skill with dialogue that few of King Features’s writers of the day demonstrated (and that Alex Raymond, who would do uncredited scripting on the series until The Saint‘s Leslie Charteris was brought in, was likely not yet capable of). “The Torch Car Case” is a creditable swan song for the superstar Hammett/Raymond team.

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Having reached the halfway point in this unscientific, purely subjective countdown, I’ll wrap up here for now. Please watch this space in coming days for Part II, and five more of my favorite LOAC stories!

The Water’s Hot. Come On In!

Check out this bath scene from the tenth Miss Fury Sunday page (June 8, 1941). Although it ran in newspapers across the country, it was apparently too hot for Timely (Marvel) Comics to print in its 1942 comic book reprint. But you can see this — and the other censored panels — in theComplete Miss Fury, 1941-1944, which is off to the printer today for an on sale date in October. (Click on image for a larger version)

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(For those counting, this is LOAC book #84!)

Yay, Trina Robbins!!!!!

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One of the highlights of the San Diego Comic-Con this year was the election of Trina Robbins into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. Congrats to Trina for a well-deserved honor!!! Trina’s newest editing job is going to the printer next week—our second book in the series. It represents a dream come true for Trina — to finally reprint the classic Miss Fury pages by Tarpé Mills that she has telling us all about for years. This book, as well our previous Eisner Award-nominated release, features an intro by Trina and book design by Lorraine Turner.

 

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Cat Fights Now in Color

Our new Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays release represents not only a benchmark in The Library of American Comics’s history, but proof of why this is the golden age of comic strip reprints.

Back in 2007, when Dean and I were launching LOAC, we kicked around a number of titles we’d like to reprint, and Miss Fury was on that list. The first female costumed hero created by a female cartoonist? That seemed worth re-introducing to modern-day audiences. Personally, I was intrigued by Tarpé Mills’s story, and charmed by the work I had already seen—earlier that year, a company had released black-&-white reprinting of the comic book reprints of the divine Miss F., informing us that “each panel has been slightly altered to fingerprint this [2007] edition.”

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A page from the 2007 reprinting of Miss Fury# 3, formatted for comic books in the 1940s, then further “fingerprinted” for the 2007 collection.

Now, four years later, here we are, with Miss Fury almost always in full “living color” (as the major TV networks used to love bragging during my boyhood), just as she appeared in the newspapers of the 1940s. No messy fingerprints, no re-edited versions…the pure strip—with all its adventure, gentle kinkiness, and high fashion intact—just the way Tarpé Mills created it.

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The same page as it originally appeared in the newspapers—you’ll find it on page 15 of our Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays.

That LOAC and its friendly competitors are able to release such material, and that you continue to enthusiastically support it, helps prove that together, we’re forging that strip reprint Golden Age I mentioned earlier.

Here’s hoping you enjoy Miss Fury as much as I did!

 

Fast and FURY-ous!

I grew up in a small New England town with a five-days-a-week newspaper, meaning my first exposure to comics was surely that paper’s stable of strips: Peanuts, Juliet Jones, The Phantom,Beetle Bailey, and Red Eye. To a seven-year-old, the newspaper comics were just there, part of the fabric of daily living. What caught my youthful eye was comic books, often seen at the local barber shops, with a few of them even coming into my possession when my parents had a few extra coins to divert my way, or when a lengthy car ride was coming up and they knew a couple comics would keep me quiet for the duration, there in the back seat of the station wagon.

Two of the earliest comics to come my way were issues #163 and 165 of Marvel’s Strange Tales, containing chapters of Steranko’s high-octane “Nick Fury vs. The Yellow Claw” story-cycle. I was not exactly sure who these characters were or what was going on, but I knew it was exciting. Those two comics made me a lifelong Steranko fan, and decades later, the great Marvel Bankruptcy/Implosion of 1998 scuttled my chances of continuing in Steranko’s footprints (I still have stats of Lee Weeks’s pencils from my plot for what was supposed to be our opening NickFury salvo).

Thirteen years later, I’m resigned to the likelihood I’ll never get a shot at writing Nick Fury…but over the space of just a few months, I’ve been involved with shepherding two other Furys back into print, both of them well worth your attention.

You’ll find that rare wartime adventure comic, Jon Fury, featured in our very-soon-to-be-releasedGenius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth.

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Jon Fury was created especially for Toth’s camp newspaper during his military service in Tokyo, and was produced for reproduction on an Army “multigraph” machine, which was hand-cranked in order to generate press runs. Since it was designed to reproduce text, Jon Fury presented a number of production challenges for Private First Class Toth.

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Like Toth’s original run of Jon Fury, our reprinting is presented in its authentic inked version and, as with everything in Genius: Isolated, has been approved by and presented in coöperation with the Toth family. Reading Alex’s first ongoing effort at producing plot, script, and art is one of the highlights of the book.

Before Alex Toth began producing Jon Fury, New York cartoonist Tarpé Mills was telling tales of Marla Drake, the costumed adventurer known as Miss Fury.

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Mills’s series debuted in 1941 and struck a unique chord, especially compared to the testosterone-filled adventure strips created by Tarpé’s male peers. Miss Fury is a mix of action and romance, Nazis and science fiction, fashion and gangsters.

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Trina Robbins, the acknowledged authority on all things Miss Fury, is your guide to this, the most extensive collection of this strip ever assembled, including the only surviving pages of Tarpé Mills’s final comics work—a 1980s graphic novel!

Things eventually work out for the best. Though my Nick Fury work never got published, it’s been fun and informative to be involved with the production of both Jon Fury and Miss Fury…and hey, two out of three ain’t bad.

 

 

 

 

Harrowing Heroines

I’ve put a lot of Alex Toth talk into this space recently—and there’ll be more of that chatter to come, you can be sure. Many have told us they’re eager to see Genius, Isolated, and I like to think their patience will be rewarded. Meanwhile, we have two other books featuring two very different female lead characters that will repay your time and attention.

The year got off to a fine start with the release of Little Orphan Annie Volume 6. One of our staunch supporters works as the Trade Book Coordinator for Maine’s Colby College Bookstore (Sopranos fans might remember the first season episode in which Tony and his daughter Meadow visited the Colby campus). In his blog, our friend described Annie as, “a sprawling Depression-era fable about a kid with nothing but spunk, grit, determination, and a great dog. These beautiful volumes belong on the shelves of anyone who takes ‘graphic novels’ (I still call ’em comics) seriously.” Who am I to argue with an assessment like that?

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Our sixth volume features the quasi-mystical Punjab and the story of Eli Eon and the miracle substance Eonite, a story treasured by Annie fans everywhere. My sentimental favorite in this book, however, is the “Annie in Hollywood” segment featuring the return of Pee Wee the Elephant. Some complain that Harold Gray didn’t draw convincing dogs, but he sure knew how to depict an elephant! I am utterly charmed and utterly convinced every time Pee Wee steps into a scene.

Little Orphan Annie is unique in the LOAC stable: we started with the rarely-seen original strips from the 1924 debut of the series, then moved in chronological order through the early 1930s strips that were collected by other publishers in decades past. Now we once again move into largely-unreprinted territory, so those Annieologists who have been feeling déjà vu should enjoy the fresh material at the end of Volume 6, and will want to join us again later this year for the debut of The Asp in Volume 7!

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While Orphan Annie is arguable comics’ premier kid headliner, there’s no doubt the star of our coming springtime release is all grown up…

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We’re pleased to add Miss Fury to the Library of American Comics lineup—her provocative exploits were released by the Bell Syndicate and carried by newspapers nationwide for a dozen years during the 1940s and ’50s. Miss Fury‘s unique place in comics history was cemented by her creator, Tarpé Mills. There were other women cartoonists, but only Mills was interested in mixing it up with the boys in the realm of costumed adventure. Her work blended derring-do with a dash of fashion, and melodrama with a modicum of romance. Oh yes, there’s a certain kink factor as well—Miss Fury’s world comes complete with its share of whips, lingerie, bondage (of a sort), and spike heels.

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The book has turned out to be an all-woman project. It’s being assembled by the one and only Trina Robbins, who is of course a cartoonist, a comics historian, and an expert on the subject of Mills and her panther-suited star. The Sunday restoration and overall design is handled by LOAC’s own, two-time Emmy winner  Lorraine Turner. Similar to our 2009 Bringing Up Fatherrelease, Trina is selecting prime cuts from the Miss Fury archives for your reading pleasure.

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Meanwhile, over at comicsbeat.com, Heidi MacDonald gave Miss Fury a shout-out the other day, and printed four other Sundays you won’t want to miss.

As I read and compare/contrast Annie from the 1930s and Miss Fury from the 1940s, I’m reminded that, here in the 21st Century, these crackling good stories help keep us all young at heart.

 

Gutsy Broads, Unite

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I have worked as a designer for most of my life. You learn a lot about people this way. Sometimes you work with high-maintenance clients with whom you roll your eyes and try to give them the logo or billboard or brochure that is in their little minds. I am the hands that create what they are envisioning.

It has its moments, though. I enjoy meeting interesting people and I have lots of great stories to tell my children and grandchildren. As I wake up each morning, I approach my computer with a sense of adventure…which comic will I be working on today? Will it bring a smile or will it cause me to interrupt Dean and say, “Oh, my gosh, get over here, you have to see this!”?

Today is one of those days. I’m now working on the restoration of Miss Fury and am becoming more acquainted with Tarpé Mills’s style. She loves to show a lot of skin, and the babes are always in furs and hats that look fresh off the runways of Paris. Her art is drawn very traditionally—no surprises, no ah-ha moments. But her storytelling is drawing me in more and more. What a gutsy storyteller: women pulled through car windows by their hair, Nazi swastikas branded to their foreheads…young children being told if they don’t stop whimpering they’ll get their heads bashed in.

No wonder she passed herself off as a male artist…in those days people would run if they knew these stories came from a woman. I wonder now if my mom ever read these strips or ones like them. Did she pump her fist and say, “YES,” as the female villain was knocked down a few pegs, or is this just wishful thinking on my part? I hope she did. I hope that, after the dishes were done and all eight of us kids were tucked in bed, she poured herself a cup a tea and sat with a newspaper and read about women in fancy duds attending fancy parties.

As I work each day bringing life back to this strip, I think of that generation and how this was a huge part of their entertainment. I hope by bringing this strip to the audience of today, they will appreciate what it must have been like to anxiously wait every day for the paper to arrive. This is my pleasure and this is the story I tell to my children: slow down and learn from the craftsmen—and women—of yesterday. Slowly turn the pages and when you come across something that makes you stop and take notice, share it with a friend.

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This full-color collection featuring the best Miss Fury strips from the 1940s will be on sale in April, edited by and with a biographic introduction by the one-and-only Trina Robbins.

 

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