Back after too long an absence: deadlines are implacable (just finished proofing galleys for Steve Canyon Volume 9, which is chock-full of terrific material) and some family commitments placed their demands upon me (including a wedding in my wife’s family, which took me out-of-state earlier this month) … but the crunch is over, so at last I have a chance to offer a hearty “Salute!” to Larry Lieber, who stepped down in September from penciling The Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip after an incredible run that spans more than three decades. I’ve selected ten examples of Larry’s work on the wall-crawler’s newspaper adventures, grouped loosely by theme. Peter Parker’s far-famed bad luck is on display in these three strips from January of 1981 and July and October of 2001:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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?
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:
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?
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” …
When Rip Kirby artist John Prentice and his wife decided to move to Mexico in the early 1960s, Prentice’s assitant, Al(den) McWilliams, who was also drawing the Twin Earths strip, decided to stay in the U.S.. Enter another great artist, one with a similar name: Al Williamson, who signed on with Prentice. The two men and their wives headed for Mexico City, where they remained for about a year and a half.
Cori Williamson, Al’s widow, kindly shared some of Al’s “roughs” from 1961 for Rip Kirby Volume Six, which is in stores next week. Below are two examples of Williamson’s original work on vellum and Prentice’s finished inks.
One of the eight stories in Rip Kirby Volume 6 is “The Town That Time Forgot,” in which Rip and Desmond discover a town that has stood still since 1899. Its inhabitants have been immune to the vicissitudes of “modern” (in 1961 when this story was published) life. We’re currently working on the book, prepping the art for the printer. The logic of the plot is nonsenseical but it’s great fun. In the late ’50s/early ’60s there was a big fad for anything having to do with Gay ’90s culture and Fred Dickenson and John Prentice’s readers undoubtedly ate up every iconic image of the period. In these dailies, Rip explains to the town members what they can expect in the outside world. To our eyes, in 2013, it’s equally interesting to see the 50-year-old 1960s fashions, as alien to our time as the 1890s “Gibson Girl” look was to the 1961 reader.
Even before the fourth volume of Rip Kirby (that completed Alex Raymond’s brilliant work) hit the bookstores, we started receiving letters from readers who hoped that we’d continue with the incredible art by John Prentice, who picked up the pen and ink duties after Raymond’s death and continued it for decades. Prentice received three Reuben Awards for the series, in 1966, 1967, and 1986.
It’s not often we can precede the announcement of a book with “Because you asked for it!!!” (with the obligatory triple exclamation points, of course!!!), but in this case, we can. Our Rip Kirby series will keep going next summer with Volume Five. Fred Dickenson, who had been writing the strip with Raymond, keeps the continuity going for Prentice’s exquisite art. I’ve created a new cover design for the Prentice years since the four Raymond covers were meant to be a finite set. For those who haven’t seen much of Prentice’s art, the cover and the photo below it, speak for themselves.
Access to these original King Features Syndicate proofs insure that every daily will look even better than when they were first published in newspapers worldwide. Volume Five contains more than three years of strips, every one from October 22, 1956 to December 5, 1959, and sees the return of Rip’s arch enemy, the Mangler.
We’re both thrilled and saddened that Rip Kirby Volume 4 will be on sale soon. Thrilled because…well, who isn’t thrilled to see more than two-and-a-half years of Alex Raymond art! Saddened because it’s the final volume collecting Raymond’s post-war modernist classic. In the course of producing the series, we borrowed photos from the daughter of Ray Burns, Raymond’s assistant. We didn’t have room for them all in the printed series so offer a couple here as an online bonus—two staged publicity shots of Raymond and Burns listening to the baseball game on the radio.
Raymond’s tragic death in 1956 left his final story unfinished. It was completed by John Prentice, who continued the strip for decades to come. Here’s a sample of Prentice’s work from October 1956.
And because we’re especially proud of our sequential cover designs, here they are—all four together, starting with the titular character all by his lonesome—then joined by one new character per cover.