Archive | Polly and Her Pals

Still ESSENTIALly The Baron — and His Friends

This week I received an advance copy of the twelfth LOAC Essentials volume, which also completes our reprinting of Baron Bean. As a stone George Herriman fan, that made my entire week special! Fronted by an incisive introduction by Jared Gardner, this volume collects the 1918 strips that wrap up The Baron’s misadventures, aided and abetted (as usual) by his man-Friday, Grimes.

But the arrival of The Baron’s swan song gave me pause — yes, this book is the latest in the Essentials line, but it’s also the third in Baron Bean‘s distinguished, perhaps-too-short run. Since I shelve all my Essentials volumes together, should I arrange them in order of publication, which would sprinkle the Bean books throughout as the first, sixth, and twelfth of the series … or should I make a “mini-series” out of Baron Bean, grouping those three book together, and leaving the other Essentials standing side-by-side in publication order?

Giving it perhaps too much thought, I came up with a third option, hastily shuffled my Essentials into this order, and snapped a picture of it to share with you:

As you can see, the solution I’ve settled upon is to simply shelve my Essentials in by-year chronology. This has the benefits of keeping the three Baron Beans together, since they’re by far the earliest strips reprinted in the series, then grouping the remaining books in such a way so that common styles of each period are also grouped together (and styles did change, as the young artform matured and attracted new talent).

Looking at this arrangement we see two ends of the comic strip spectrum in 1929, with the family serials, epitomized by The Gumps, in the ultraviolet and the a’borning adventure features (represented by the first-ever Tarzan newspaper comic strip) in the infrared.

And how about that 1933? Family comedies move in zany new, often-Deco directions, thanks to Cliff Sterrett’s terrific Polly and Her Pals, while Dan Dunn debuts as part of a wave of hard-bitten crimebusters in the then-still-fresh Dick Tracy mold, while Alex Raymond elevates Tim Tyler’s Luck to new artistic heights before he leaves Lyman Young’s employ, striking out on his own on series like Secret Agent X-9, Jungle Jim, and what was that other one …? Oh, yes — Flash Gordon!

The years represented by only one Essentials volume are nevertheless well represented indeed — a slice of the classic Bungle Family (“Such crust!”) in 1930; a 1934 dose of Coconino Craziness from Herriman’s dear KatAlley Oop totally changing its narrative structure in ’39; and an end-of-the-War dose of Americana as only Edwina Dunn could do it with our collection of “Cap” Stubbs & Tippie (hurray!) circa 1945.

Looking at the Essentials-to-date in this manner gave me a fresh appreciation for the series. These little books pack a mighty historic punch!

I’m hoping you’re enjoying each release in this series as much as I am — and that you’ll be on the lookout for Baron Bean Volume 3, as it goes on sale very soon. Of course, we’d love to see photos of your comic strip collection, either in its entirety or focused on the LOAC subset of the whole. Feel free to send them to us via social media or Facebook!

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A few months ago in this space I showed you some photos of our LOAC books, arrayed on my bookshelves — you can see it here, if you’d like a refresher.

More recently, we received some impressive bookshelf photos from another comics historian, the estimable Barry Pearl. Check out this first of five shots of Mr. Pearl’s amassed comics collections and be prepared, like me, to resist the urge to whistle in appreciation …

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Back to the Shelves

Several years ago we took some time in this space to show you what my LOAC bookshelf looked like. I shelve my books in alphabetical order by author, or by publisher where that makes more sense — for instance, while my William Saroyans are under “S”, my Fantastic Fours are under “M”, with the rest of my Marvel Comics collections. My Library of American Comics titles are therefore under “L,” and then shelved alphabetically in a logical way (well, logical to me, anyway), as you can see:

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Those Were the Days

If I posed the question, “What classic newspaper strip is both the largest AND smallest book in the LOAC catalogue?” and you answered, “Polly and Her Pals,” you’d win the proverbial Kewpie Doll. The daily strip has recently been released as Volume Three in LOAC Essentials, measuring 11.5″ wide by 4.25″ high. We published the Eisner Award-nominated first volume of Cliff Sterrett’s Sunday masterpiece nearly two years ago, coming in at a whopping 12″ x 16″.

A busy publishing schedule has kept us from returning to Polly Sundays, but we’ve decided that the wait has been long enough. We’re putting Volume Two on the schedule for Christmas 2014. It will pick up where the first book left off, reprising all of Sterrett’s Sundays from 1928, 1929, and 1930, plus a dozen or so from 1931. Why the extra strips? Our research has revealed that some of the Sundays were drawn by other hands while Sterrett was on vacation, so we’re adding an equal number from 1931 to give you a full three years’ worth of Sunday Sterretts.

In the meantime, here’s a rare item to whet your appetite: an 18″ x 24″ poster from the late 1910s. Click on the image for a larger view.

 

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For fans of Cliff Sterrett

While all our books are special to me in one way or another, certain releases carry with them an extra-special frisson. I like to think our two King Aroos and the Cartoon Monarch volume, for example, help call attention to these unfairly-neglected strips and their exceptional creators (Jack Kent, Otto Soglow). Books such as Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, as well as our Little Orphan Annie, Steve Canyon, and Terry and the Pirates series always energize me because they reflect the research I and others have done at Boston University, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and other sites. I always hope our readers will get as much of a thrill out of seeing reproductions of rarely-seen Christmas cards, notebook entries and sketches, advertising art, and personnel correspondence as we get from touching and examining the originals.

The third in our series of LOAC Essentials, collecting the 1933 Polly and Her Pals dailies, gives me the equivalent of a frisson double whammy.

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As scholars with bigger brains than mine have often stated, Polly‘s creator, Cliff Sterrett, is among those most often-neglected in the pantheon of great comic strip impresarios. Who can read this new collection of the whacky antics of the Perkins clan, including the delightful Christmas sequence that rounds out the book, and not be both utterly charmed and duly impressed with the unique artwork and impressive storytelling and characterization skills on display?

Not only do I hope this Polly Essentials will help shine a deserved spotlight on Cliff Sterrett’s talent, I have fingers crossed readers will enjoy my essay, titled “The Downeaster.” It represents the scratching of a thirty-year itch.

I became a Polly and Her Pals devotee from my initial introduction to the strip in the pages of the late, much-missed Nemo magazine. When I discovered Sterrett had spent several years residing in Ogunquit, Maine—a town roughly sixty miles from where I grew up—I became fascinated by the possibility of learning more about him and the “artists’ colony” with which he was reportedly involved. Time passed, Nemo suspended publication, no further significant information on Sterrett’s Ogunquit years was forthcoming, and at the time I perceived no outlet for any writing I might do were I to research the subject.

Once we decided to reprint Polly Sundays in our oversized “Champagne Edition” format, Jeet Heer expressed to Dean his desire to write the text feature for that particular book. I admit I winced a bit at that news, but as I told Dean, I had a full plate in front of me at that time, and it would hardly be fair of me to play “dog in a manger” and keep such a plum assignment for myself. If you read Jeet’s exceptional article in our Eisner-nominated 2010 Polly and Her PalsSundays volume, I think you’ll see why I had few regrets over that decision.

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Still, when we obtained the 1933 Polly dailies and put it on the schedule as part of our Essentialsline, I wasted no time laying claim to that writing assignment! I did my research, wrote my article, and edited the galleys before we shipped the book to the printer … and I was sky-high all the while.

I’m still sky-high whenever I look at my copy of the completed book. If I’ve done my job properly, you’ll finish reading this article and have a significantly-improved understanding of what the Ogunquit artists’ colony was all about and how Cliff Sterrett fit into it. (You’ll also see a piece of Sterrett original art we found that was produced for the artist’s Maine-based friends and neighbors!)

If our latest LOAC Essentials whets your appetite for more Polly and Her Pals, you’ll be glad to know we’re planning a future “Champagne Edition” of surrealistic Sterrett Sunday pages from 1928 to 1931. To help tide you over until then, here’s a sampling of some later 1938 PollySundays from a batch of clipped strips I recently acquired for my own fun and entertainment. (A year when Polly was going brunette!)

Click on strips for larger versions…

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Kitty on Top!

We’ve been so busy working on the first volumes of Tarzan and Superman that we let a book dear to our hearts slip through the cracks. Now that Tarzan is at the printer, we can turn our attention to the third volume of LOAC Essentials.

We all know how wonderful Cliff Sterrett’s Sundays Polly and Her Pals were, but few people—including us—have seen long runs of his equally surrealistic daily strips. It’s easier to find his early ’20s dailies than it is his prime strips from the late ’20s and early ’30s. Last year we were fortunate enough to locate King Features syndicate proofs for 1933. And that set will be printed as LOAC Essentials Volume 3. These strips are a rare treasure indeed!

Plus, Bruce Canwell made a trip up to Maine and uncovered fascinating details about Sterrett’s life at the Ogunquit artist colony. Look for it in late July/early August.

 
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Puzzle Me, Jiggs

Some time back we showed you the custom Polly and Her Pals jigsaw puzzle we had made and promised to show other goodies from our collection. We like taking them out of their boxes every so often. Here’s a sweet four-in-one puzzle set featuring Maggie and Jiggs. Ah, for the simpler life…

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One Day at a Time

While we’re always excited about launching a new series, here’s one that has us revved up even more than usual. We’ve been planning it for quite some time and and it’s actually a bunch of series within a series. The first volume has just been put on the schedule for September.

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LOAC ESSENTIALS will reprint early daily newspaper strips that are essential to the history of comics presented in a novel format: 11″ wide by 4.25″ high, each page containing a single daily strip. It’s different from our other books which generally contain two or three years of strips printed three to a page. By reproducing the strips one per page in an oblong format, it allows us to have an experience similar to what newspaper buyers had fifty to a hundred years ago—reading the comics one day at a time. Each page will also showcase the title given to that daily by the cartoonist, plus the weekday and date.

Every volume in the series contains a year’s worth of dailies bound in hardcover, retailing for $19.99.

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In addition to wanting to recreate the feeling of reading sequential comics one at a time, the idea sprang in part from seeing Harold Gray’s set of bound Little Orphan Annie proofbooks. Syndicate proofs come in differing varieties, but dailies are often bound annually, in a thick one-strip-per-page book. When Bruce Canwell was reading a year’s worth at Boston University, he turned to me and commented that “the proofbook format creates an irresistible urge to flip the page and see what happens in the next day’s strip.”

Couldn’t say it better myself!

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Another inspiration was the Hyperion line of classic strips edited by Bill Blackbeard in the 1970s. These books were an eye-opening education to many of us thirty-five years ago. They’re long out-of-print and command ridiculous prices on the collector’s market. With LOAC ESSENTIALS, we take the baton from Bill so we can preserve many more classic daily strips that are essential to the history of comics.

The first three titles give you a taste of what’s to come:

Volume 1
Baron Bean by George Herriman. The first of a three-book sub-set by the creator of Krazy Katthat will reprint for the first time the complete series from 1916-1919 starring the character Gilbert Seldes called “half Micawber, half Charlie Chapin.” Edited by Dean Mullaney with an introduction by Jared Gardner. September 2012.

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Volume 2
Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett. A complete year (1933) of surrealistic hilarity featuring Polly, Maw and Paw Perkins, cousin Ashur, Neewah, and the rest of the outrageous Perkins household. Edited by Dean Mullaney with an introduction by Bruce Canwell. January 2013.

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Volume 3
The Gumps: The Saga of Mary Gold by Sidney Smith. In the early 1920s Sidney Smith augmented his gag-a-day style in The Gumps with suspense and soap opera continuity, creating what was arguably the most popular strip of its time. With “The Saga of Mary Gold” in 1928 and 1929 he cemented his reputation by creating a storyline that changed the comics forever, a saga that was called “one of the ten biggest events in comics history” by Hogan’s Alley magazine. Edited and with an introduction by Jared Gardner. March 2013.

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And there’s lots more to come!

Puzzle Me, Polly

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We’re big jigsaw puzzle fans here at the Library. On any given day there’s an unfinished puzzle on a spare table so anyone needing a break from work can get lost putting together anything from a snow scene in Central Park to a castle in Bavaria.

We also enjoy assembling old comic strip puzzles — and in the coming weeks we’ll post some examples from our collection. This week, though, we want to show off our one-of-a-kind Polly and Her Pals jigsaw. No, it’s not an oldie, but it’s certainly a goodie — the August 8, 1926 Sunday page, complete with Dot and Dash topper. We sent our digital file used in our multiple Eisner-nominated Polly book to one of those custom puzzle-making companies. Putting it together was a lot more difficult than it looks — those multiple Maws, Paws, and Pollys can get confoosin’!

Here’s some snapshots:

 

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