Archive | Polly and Her Pals

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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Polly is Everyone’s Pal

The rave reviews continue coming in for our first volume of Cliff Sterrett’s Polly and Her Pals. It’s also the first book in our gigantic “champagne edition” size—a glorious 12″ x 16″ that allows the art to truly shine, and caused J. Caleb Mozzocco at newsarama to note that it’s “a perfect coffee table book—not one that you would put on your coffee table…but one big enough to be used as a coffee table.”

You also gotta like a review that begins, “This extraordinary volume…”, and that’s exactly how Johanna Draper Carlson’s review starts on Comics Worth Reading.

 

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Greg Barbrick at blogcritics calls it “the most gorgeous book I’ve ever seen.” Not to be outdone, Scott Katz at ustownhall.com writes, “Reading Polly and Her Pals gives one the same thrill that an archeologist must feel as he or she dusts off an antiquity: the thrill of discovery—the sense of origin—the knowledge that one is witnessing the birth of new artistic techniques rather than the tenth generation knockoffs of those techniques.”

One of the most rewarding reviews comes from Gordon Flagg at Booklist, who writes, “The early years of newspaper comics produced a handful of widely acknowledged masterworks, such asLittle Nemo and Krazy Kat; this impressive [Polly and Her Pals] collection makes a convincing case that Sterrett’s creation should be added to that honor roll.”

THIS is why we do what we do, why we spent 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week researching and restoring classic newspaper strips—so the unique visions of such incredible cartoonists as Cliff Sterrett and Jack Kent can be rescued from obscurity and preserved in long-lasting archival editions.

 

I’m Positive, it’s Polly!

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After all these years of editing and publishing books, there’s still no greater thrill than when the first box arrives from the printer with the latest book hot off the presses. Last week, the massivePolly and Her Pals arrived on our doorstep. When I say “massive,” I’m not kidding. It’s the first Library release in the “champagne edition” size of 12″ wide by 16″ high.

On newsarama, J. Caleb Mozzocco calls Polly “a perfect coffee table book—not one that you would put on your coffee table…but one big enough to be used as a coffee table.”

Douglas Wolk at Comics Alliance was briefer in his assessment: “Don’t Ask! Just Buy It!”

art spiegelman writes, “Polly and Her Pals is a glorious composition of melodious, well-crafted, hot-jazz lines for newsprint; panel after panel of graphic design with the clarity, wit, and grace of a Bix Beiderbecke cornet solo. Visually, it is a happy synthesis of Art Deco, Futurism, Surrealism, Dada, and Pure Cartoon. Your eyes can dance to it.”

We’re incredibly proud that Cliff Sterrett finally gets his due and that we can all experience his amazing and singular cartooning vision.

Polly and Her Pals volume 1: 1913-1927 is in stores and available online now.

If My Dad Could See Me Now

f you can imagine yourself slipping into the ink pot and flowing out the end of a cartoonist’s pen, this is how I felt when I worked restoring the raw talent in Cliff Sterrett’s Polly and Her PalsSunday pages.  We just approved the color proofs and the book, all 12″ x 16″ of it, is now in the printer’s hands.

My profession of graphic design has taught me more about people than the artwork itself; I’ve worked on tight deadlines and sometimes felt like I was running up the courts along with the NBA players I helped market. You get to know the subject well and you either love it or survive the stress.

Polly and her Pals put me in touch with this amazing creator, Samuel Clifford Sterrett. I closely studied each swoosh and brush stroke as his linework danced and dipped. His characters felt like members of my own family. I stumbled along every unfolding gag with Sterrett’s bizarre unpredictable checkered pathways leading me to Paw with twinkling eyes, and the purring Kitty. Kitty—heart of a lion and the strength of a Dane. Her attitude came alive as she added her two cents in every upturned-nosed-strut. I love Sterrett’s extra little touches—the curl at the end of Paw’s beard and the crink of Kitty’s tail as it mocked the direction of the staircase. His use of patterns and inexplicable objects that appear like unexpected hail kept my interest peaked and the laughter flowing. This was not a job-this was playing with one of the kids that created sheer FUN for my parents’ generation. How awesome to be able to bring this to future generations. Sterrett was an artist some thought daffy, but in reality, of course, he was a visionary pioneer.

I am thrilled to have been a part of presenting this work. I feel as if I have met Sterrett, wish I had…perhaps in my next lifetime. Gazing through Paw’s iron-sashed windows with smiling crescent moons, I will happily dream on.

 

“If You Knew Polly Like I Knew Polly”

In my teens, I’d have said you were nuts had you told me I would fall in love with a comic strip that was named after a flaxen-haired flapper but starred her diminutive, balding, mustachioed father and the family cat.

Of course, you wouldn’t have been nuts, because Polly and Her Pals is indeed one of my fave-raves, and I unleash a real big grin whenever I think about the upcoming Polly Volume 1 in our new, oversized “champagne edition” format.

I got my first taste of Cliff Sterrett’s unique comics vision in 1983, when Fantagraphics treated readers to a five-page black-and-white Polly sampler in Nemo # 1. This oh-so-tantalizing taste revealed a cartoonist with a bouncy, light-hearted comedic style and a dab hand with pantomime. I wanted more of this guy Sterrett … it just took me seven years to get it, in 1990’s two-volume Remco set of full-color Sundays. This was bravura stuff, demonstrating a playful sense of design, delightfully wonky stories and gags, and a consistent surrealistic touch.

I sang Polly‘s praises, and one day in 1991, an In acquaintance mailed me a copy of Merlin Haas’s 1986 “Flying Flounder Review” compendium of Polly dailies, produced for the enjoyment of members of that venerable APA, CAPA-Alpha. Haas’s pamphlet presented “The Mystery of Greystone,” encompassing a run from 06/18/29 to 09/27/29, and the dailies thoroughly charmed me. What a pleasure (though hardly a surprise) to discover Sterrett was as clever at concocting day-to-day continuity as he was at producing stand-alone Sunday work.

A decade later, on vacation in Arizona and shopping in a deeply-stocked comics shop, what to my wondering eyes did appear but a copy of Arcadia Publishing’s 1990 Comic Strip Showcasefeaturing – yes, you guessed it – Polly and Her Pals. Fourteen delicious months of Sterrett dailies from 1930-’31. Heaven!

I never get enough of sweet Polly Perkins, her Maw and Paw, her cousin Ashur Earl, their servant Neewah, and Kitty, who surely deserves a place in Cartoon Cat Valhalla next to Krazy and Felix.

Now I’m doing my bit helping to bring Polly back into print for 21st Century audiences, and how cool is that? If you’re a Pollyologist, you know how cool that is. If you’ve yet to sample the joys of Sterrett’s unique vision, this summer you can discover the coolness for yourself by checking out The Library of American Comics’s Polly and Her Pals Volume 1, served up in a 12″ x 16″ format that showcases this series the way it’s never been showcased before.

The Sunday above—from December 6, 1925—has never been reprinted before.

Our goal is a simple one: we plan on introducing Polly to a whole new batch of pals!

 

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