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2017: The LOAC Year in Review

The Library of American Comics marked its tenth year of publication this summer, and using this milestone as a launching point, 2017 was the year LOAC took the comics world by storm. The familiar “word balloon” logo was emblazoned on a wide range of products including t-shirts, coffee mugs, towels, baseball caps, and even lace doilies to drape over the back of sofas or love-seats. There were the LOAC events at major conventions on both coasts. The article on us (with the biographical sidebar about Dean) in that July issue of Entertainment Weekly. And how about …

Wait. None of that really occurred. Sorry — sorry!

Instead, what happened during 2017 was that LOAC continued its mission to collect a wide range of entertaining and significant newspaper comics in permanent hardcover editions, helping to preserve the “strips” portion of comics, one of the handful of truly native American artforms.

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When “Quick Takes” Meet “Coming Attractions” —

— You get a piece like this one, in which we answer the often-asked question, “What’s ahead for LOAC in the months to come?”

Firstuvall, we got your space opera right here! As 2017 unfolds you’ll see us wrap up our UK Star Trek comics and release the middle volumes in both our Star Wars and Star Hawks trilogies. To whet your appetite for the exploits of Rex, Sniffer, Alice K., and Chavez, here’s an April 1979 beauty, done in Gil Kane’s inimitable style:

STAR HAWKS_19790410

ZAM!, indeed …

Old friends will continue to make fresh appearances — Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, and also our fourth Skippy book! This endearing kids-strip is always a delight, and Jared Gardner’s insights into the increasingly-troubled life of cartoonist Percy Crosby is compelling reading, an important addition to our understanding of comics history.

One of our old friends will offer something extra-special to readers — our upcoming Li’l Abner Volume 9 will provide a handful of strips that have never before been reprinted in continuity! What the dickens does THAT mean, you ask? Well, sharp-eyed readers of the Kitchen Sink Press Abner reprints from the 1980s/90s may remember there was a gap in the continuous run of strips between KSP Volumes 17 and 18 — the 1951 strips reprinted in Vol 17 ended on December 29th, with Fearless Fosdick still at the mercy of the “Atom Bum”. Vol 18 opened in Dogpatch with the January 21, 1952 daily, focusing on Abner and his brand-new chemistry set. What happened to the dailies in between? What was the fate of the Atom Bum? Here’s a snippet from one of the missing strips that makes it look bad for America’s ideel …


We asked Denis Kitchen about the missing strips and he reported that a layout problem in Volume 18 caused the dailies in question to be unintentionally dropped (and KSP had reprinted the full story of the Atom Bum in the first of their two Fearless Fosdick collections, published in 1990). Denis is always an invaluable part of our Li’l Abner team and he’s as happy as we are to see these strips being reprinted in continuity for the very first time. And oh, by the way, the other strips in our Abner Volume 9 are also literally History-Making — the mystery of Nancy O wraps up in 1951, and a major event in 1952 made the prestigious cover of Life magazine!

We have more than old friends to offer — as we recently discussed, we’ll also be welcoming Lynn Johnston’s exceptional For Better of For Worse to the LOAC line of books.


We’ll have more Disney comics for you to enjoy (don’t quack up — more Donald Duck Sundays are coming soon!), and Superman will be wrapping up the 1950s in a colorful collection of Sunday pages. Meanwhile, our next LOAC Essentials will showcase a strip we’ve used in a past “fantasy day comics page” or two (so you can use our “Search” feature to do a little research and start guessing …). This feature is one of my very favorites, but I won’t be writing the Introduction to the book, because we’ve lined up someone who may love this work even more than I do!

Of course, I will be writing the essay for Steve Canyon Volume 8 as we take Stevenson B.’s adventures deeper into the years of the Kennedy Administration. Here’s a sneak-peek at Milton Caniff’s Christmas thought for his audience, circa 1962:


Bottom line: what’s coming from The Library of American Comics in the months ahead? Loads of adventure and comedy — stories ranging from the Dogpatch hills to the depths of the Barnum Star System — and work by award-winning talents spanning the 1940s through 1970s. If you agree that’s a nice lineup, please join us for those books you’re sure to enjoy!

It All “Ad”s Up

We sometimes have more artwork and photos than we can squeeze into the text features of our books. We’re just putting a wrap on Steve Canyon Volume 7, for example, and we have such an abundance of 1959-60 riches related to Milton Caniff and his creation that we’ll likely do a feature in this space showcasing some of the artifacts that didn’t make the cut as the book gets closer to its on-sale date.

Sifting through the files I’ve amassed related to a couple other recent books, I saw some newspaper promotional ads that we didn’t use. Here’s a “Kigmy”-related ad supporting Li’l Abner, circa 1949:

2_Abner Kigmy Ad_1949

And from that same year, an ad that does double duty, both as a promotion for Abner and as a contest pushing Proctor & Gamble products:

1_Abner Shmoo Naming_1949

I’m also partial to this 1933 ad for Tim Tyler’s Luck that we found while preparing our jumbo-sized LOAC Essentials/King Features Essentials Volume 2 devoted to Alex Raymond’s brief-but-memorable stint on that series.


Seeing those items, and given my own soft spot for this type of material, I thought I’d sift through a batch of newspapers and see what other comic strip promotional ads I could find. The earliest one I located was from the year of the stock market crash, 1929, and is hyping Percy Crosby’s delightful and influential kids strip, Skippy:

4_SKIPPY Ad_1929

Fans of Gasoline Alley (myself included) may get a kick out of this 1930 advertisement, suggesting readers send in their summertime addresses and get the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette delivered while on vacation in order to stay current with events in the Wallet household:


And I was delighted to find this 1934 ad from the Asheville, North Carolina Citizen as the paper prepared to bring Little Orphan Annie into its lineup of daily comics. The ad symbolically reminds readers how “Daddy” Warbucks’s red-haired charge typically ends up in hot water :


Not every ad was as elaborate as the Annie, of course. In 1940, when this ad promoting the Golden Age Superman was appearing in client newspapers across America, The Man of Tomorrow was scarcely two years old. How many readers in 1940 could have imagined the strange visitor from planet Krypton would still be entertaining millions, more than seventy-five years after this modest advertisement saw print?

7_SUPERMAN Ad_1940

The sophistication and graceful action shown in this 1952 ad for Rip Kirby strikes me as resonating very closely with what Alex Raymond was presenting on the comics page as he chronicled the adventures of the ’50’s first modern detective:

8_RIP KIRBY Ad_1952

One of the strips I always enjoyed as a youngster was Andy Capp. I liked the “Englishness” of his world, its rough-and-tumble nature, and I’m heartened that Andy has successfully continued his visits to the local more than a decade after his creator’s death (Reg Smythe passed away in 1998). The copy in this 1967 ad from the Pittsburgh Press certainly reflects the tenor of those “Swingin’ Sixties” times, doesn’t it?

9_ANDY CAPP Ad_1967

Finally, here’s a March, 1971 ad for Doonesbury, only five months into its existence. It serves as a reminder of how the art style, themes, and characters in this sprawling, sometimes controversial, sometimes powerful, always-worth-reading strip have changed!


Keep watching this space, because we’ll be back soon with, as the Monty Python troupe used to say, “something completely different” …

Back in Black (& White, & Most Every Color, Too!)

In words of one syllable: We are back!

The IDW tech department has been doing a major (we’re talkin’ major) upgrade to LOAC’s digital presence as part of an on-line face lift for the entire company. Dean, Lorraine, and I thank those unsung heroes of the bits-&-bytes for getting us up-and-running while achieving the goals of a great re-design: we think you’ll agree this look is at once familiar and easy to navigate, yet it’s also slicker and more robust than our previous incarnation.

The navigation bars at the top and bottom of the homepage remain unchanged, so it’s as easy as ever to zip around. But once you move to our other pages, well …

Click over to the “Blog” page and look to your right. The old reliable set of links allowing you to browse the Blog archives by month-year are still there, but below that we now have categories for each of our books, plus a “General News” category. Click any one of those category links and — Sha-ZAM-M-m-m! — the blogs for only that category will appear on your screen! “Word clouds” are also all the rage these days and we decided we should have us some of that, too. As a result, you’ll now find a “Tags” section that features our own customized LOAC word cloud — click on any “Tag” you see and its related blog entries will also display. Pretty nifty, wouldn’t you say?

But wait (as the TV ads have said for decades) — there’s more …

Click over to the “Complete Catalogue” — is that a feast for the eyes, or what? Every logo for every LOAC series is now a link — and if you’re an old-fashioned sort who prefers to deal with words over imagery, those same series are listed as text at the right-hand side of the page, and are always available for use, even when you’re browsing the page for a given LOAC title. No matter which form of access you prefer, our catalogue has never looked more colorful, or been easier to access.

“New Releases” and “Upcoming Books” function much as they did before, albeit with a more compact, concise style, while “About/Contact” continues to hold the e-mail links, bios, and pictures of LOAC’s Cary Grant, Mae West, and W.C. Fields (guess which one of us is cast as Fields — Godfrey Daniels!).

There are other “inside baseball” changes to the site that improves its usability for us, which should yield benefits for you, as well. We expect we’ll be back with even more frequent updates than ever before … and in response to popular demand (Peter Popular demanded it) we’ll soon be able to offer links that will provide you a sneak peek at upcoming projects. Whether (as John Steed liked to say) you’re panting at the leash to see the next chapter in the eternal struggle between Donald Duck and Neighbor Jones, or you’d like to get a taste of rare strips like RED BARRY or TIM TYLER’S LUCK before you buy, our upcoming “samplers” will help scratch those types of itches!

That’s the scoop. Go forth and start clicking! Our fingers are crossed that you’ll like what you see …

Christmas in September

Three new LOAC books are now in stores, prompting several people to email me that it’s “Christmas in September!”

Leading off is the first all-John Prentice volume of Rip Kirby. As Tom DeHaven, author of theDerby Dugan trilogy, says, “John Prentice’s work is superb. He’s one of the few cartoonists who took an important strip by a great cartoonist and did it not only justice, but in some ways, was as good as—and in some cases better than—the originator.”

And there’s Steve Canyon as we’ve never seen it before—with the Sundays in color reproduced from Caniff’s own proofs.


Finally — holy shemoley — Alex Raymond hits his stride in the second Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim in our gigunda Champagne Edition size.



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