Continuing our review of the first two hundred LOAC books, which began here, take a look at our fifty-first to one hundredth releases …
Just a few weeks ahead of almost everyone else, my copies of LOAC Essentials Volume 14: Barney Google arrived on Saturday. Much as I enjoy seeing Billy DeBeck’s work, unpacking these copies also jazzed me up for another reason: we are now knocking on the door of our 200th LOAC release. That means our journey down the LOAC Road to 200, begun in January, is reaching its last stop, and this will be our final spin of the LOAC Wheel of Fortune.
Since Barney Google is the latest in our Essentials sub-imprint, I decided it was time to put all fourteen of ’em into the Wheel and see which would come up as the featured book, as determined by the fickle finger of fate. In case you haven’t kept track (shame, shame on you, if so! 🙂 ), here’s our list of Essential releases:
I know, I know — I said I had something planned for September, so we’d do our second humor-based spin of the LOAC Wheel of Fortune later in the autumn. I weighed the options and decided the idea I had for September would work even better if I held it back until October. That certainly appealed to me, since now I had a clear path to doing our focus on our funniest “funnies” in back-to-back installments. Hoo-hah!
You’ll notice that just before and just after our fiftieth release, we offered two delightful single-volume books, Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and the Little King and that splendid rare find, Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was. (I visited the Chuck Jones Gallery during a June visit to San Diego — a highly-recommended destination, if you’re a Jones-booster like me!) I also like to count myself in the forefront of Cliff Sterrett fans, so it’s a grand pleasure that we have offered readers Polly and Her Pals in two beautiful oversized “Champagne Edition” offerings, plus a year’s worth of dailies from 1933 in one of our LOAC Essentials books. Like Blondie, the earliest installments of The Family Circus are something I’m proud we’ve collected and preserved for 21st Century audiences. The humor offerings in our second hundred titles is weighted toward Walt Disney offerings, and notice that as the year has progressed, as Silly Symphonies Volume 4 indicates, our march toward our 200th Library of American Comics book is getting mighty close to that goal. Here’s the list, in order of release:
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 …
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 Kat; Alley 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!
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 …
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:
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.
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.
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.
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…