We continue our look at comics-related ads that appeared in Life Magazine, previously begun here. This time, just for fun, we’ll go in reverse-chronological order and start at the tag-end of the 1950s. I was but a wee bairn of two months and twenty-five days old (and Stevenson B. Canyon was once again crossing paths and trading barbs with “The Copperhead,” Copper Calhoon) when this ad for Teacher’s Scotch, starring the one-and-only Milton Caniff, appeared in Life‘s October 12, 1959 issue:
In various LOAC books we’ve shown (and discussed) examples of the intersection between comics and the world of advertising, yet it’s not a topic we’ve lingered over in this space. I decided to change that just a bit recently, when going through the contents of a bunch of Life Magazines. (One of the perks of this job is being able to sift through old magazines and newspapers, to get a look at — or in some cases, remember — The Way It Used to Be.) These Lifes had a variety of comics-based advertisements, so I snagged a batch of them to share with you.
The earliest Life ad I found with a comics connection was in the magazine’s April 15, 1940 issue. I knew Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Jeff were popular, but until I saw this I had no idea they were experts on digestive difficulties …
Dean Mullaney and Kurtis Findlay are back for another episode of the Library of American Comics & EuroComics Podcast!
In this special episode, Dean and Kurtis invite Don McGregor to talk about this favorite classic comic strips, including Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon and Dick Tracy!
By the end of 2019, The Library of American Comics will have 200 books under its belt! If you have been following us on social media, we have started a retrospective of all 200 of our books, starting with our premiere effort—Terry and the Pirates, Vol. 1. Every day or so, we will post a new image online, but we will also be collecting them here in small installments.
I could think of no better strip to launch the Library of American Comics than Milton Caniff’s masterpiece. Terry is the most influential strip in the history of the medium and, needless to say, my personal favorite. And to win the Eisner Award for our first release — it doesn’t really get any better than that! —Dean
We could think of no better way to wish all our readers Happy Holidays than to share the Christmas offerings from a half-dozen strips, each representing a decade of newspaper comics.
Leading off, from the tag-end of 1939, our favorite of favorites, Terry and the Pirates, with this Yuletide entry from the story in which Pat, April, and Captain Blaze first meet Singh-Singh.
Representing the 1940s, from 1948, Little Orphan Annie spends yet another Christmas away from her beloved “Daddy.”
And the young married Yokums get the hint of bad news, as only Al Capp can deliver it, in this December 25th 1952 installment of Li’l Abner:
A run of Christmas strips wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Peanuts gang. Here’s everyone’s favorite beagle, in a wryly charming 1962 outing from Sparky Schulz:
Here’s a more acerbic take on the season from Johnny Hart in this 1973 B.C. daily:
And we close in the 1980s, with one of our more contemporary favorites: here’s Lynn Johnston, clucking up a storm in For Better or For Worse from Christmas Day, 1985:
And if these strips alone don’t put you in the holiday mood, we’ll close with this old favorite from postings past, brought back by popular demand:
Best wishes, one and all, ’til we meet again in 2019!
–Dean, Lorraine, Kurtis, and Bruce
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 …
Here’s LOAC Art Director Lorraine Turner with Francesco Meo of the Italian comics publisher Cosmo Editoriale. We had lunch with Francesco today in Bologna, renewing the friendship we established at Angoulême last year. Newspaper strips fans will be glad to know that Francesco is publishing Italian editions of Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon, Dick Tracy, Russ Manning’s Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby, as well as other “A” list strips!
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:
Among that circle of long-time friends I’ve referenced in this space on several occasions is Tom Field, perhaps best known in comics circles as the biographer of “Gentleman” Gene Colan (1926-2011). Tom and I both cut our comics teeth on late Silver Age Marvel Super-Heroes — thanks to Stan Lee’s inspired marketing and promotions, we grew up thinking of the talents behind those books by their first names. To us they were Jack and John (Buscema and Romita), Neal and Barry and, yes, Gene. I was introduced to Colan’s work with Daredevil # 33 (a one-off purchase during a visit to a small store that carried comics during a summertime family vacation), but returned to it as a regular reader with DD # 42, a perfect jumping-on point, since contrived fictional “brother” Mike Murdock had been “killed off,” an ambitious four-part story featuring new villain The Jester was just beginning, and it was easy for me to dive into the world of the Sightless Swashbuckler. Tom’s first issue was somewhat later than mine, but his reactions to Gene’s rendering of Daredevil’s hyper-kinetic acrobatic style of crime-fighting mirrored my own.
Our appreciation for Gene’s work grew as we did — his two stints on Doctor Strange still strike me as high watermarks for that series. His ability to deliver absurdist humor was on display when he paired with Steve Gerber for a memorable run on Howard the Duck, and the Wolfman/Colon/Palmer Tomb of Dracula delivered a powerfully moody, atmospheric dash of macabre adventure throughout the 1970s. We followed Gene to DC in the 1980s, where he was a natural to depict the saga of Batman, while also teaming with Don McGregor on two hard-boiled detective miniseries featuring Nathaniel Dusk (Colan and McGregor re-teamed at Eclipse Comics on a still-much-beloved series of Ragamuffins tales).
Tom and I met Gene Colan during an appearance he made at the huge Worcester, Massachusetts comics shop, That’s Entertainment. Tom and Gene struck up a years-long friendship as a result of that meeting, and in 2005 Tom published a fine retrospective of Gene’s career in TwoMorrow Publishing’s Secrets in the Shadows: The Art and Life of Gene Colan. Filled with artwork (the hardcover edition includes a portfolio section in full color) and featuring interviews with and quotes from several of Gene’s major collaborators (Stan Lee, Tom Palmer, Gerber, Wolfman, Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart), the book is a labor of love I have returned to many times over the past dozen years.
And what’s the point of this trip down memory lane, you ask? Why, just yesterday (August 26, 2017, for you calendar buffs) Tom and I got together for the first time in several months. We spent an afternoon catching up and talking about the important things in life — you know, families, friends, comics, and Boston professional sports — and as we prepared to part ways, Tom said, “I have something for you.” And he gave me this:
“This” is a page from Colan’s visual record of his World War II-era experiences in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Gene captured impressions of military life in a journal and sent illustrations along with his letters home to family while he was stationed in the Philippines in 1945. As Tom describes it (with a bit of help from Gene himself) on pages 25-26 of Secrets in the Shadows:
“A little bit Bill Mauldin, a touch of Milton Caniff, Colan’s service diary eased his transition into life overseas, and it gave him a bit of notoriety on base in Manila. By day, Colan was a truck driver in the motor pool; by night, he was an in-demand sketch artist.
“‘I would draw guys going overseas, draw the natives around our base,’ Colan says. ‘I remember drawing a Philippine girl by candlelight — I wanted to do it that way. And I also drew a picture of our tent boy. The major loved that drawing so much he said, “I’ll give you my jeep for the day if you’ll give me that picture!“‘”
This particular page, as you can see, was capturing activity just before Gene’s unit was called to duty in the Pacific — also before Gene came down with a powerful case of pneumonia that put him in a field hospital, delaying his own ship-out to Manila. You can also tell it’s seen hard use over the seventy-two years since it was created, but it’s nevertheless a precious artifact, one I’m proud to currently steward and pleased to share with you here.
And if you think there’s no connection between Gene Colan and LOAC, well, here’s Tom again, from page 15 of Secrets:
“There are three prominent comic strips Colan recalls from the 1930s:
” Al Capp’s Li’l Abner: The Dogpatch hillbillies were a source of amusement and inspiration for young Colan. ‘I had a hard time at school with some of the bullies, so Li’l Abner and Mammy Yokum kind of helped me through it. She was very tough!’
“Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates: The greatest adventure strip of its day was at its artistic height during Colan’s teens, and he was totally entranced by the growth of Terry Lee, Pat Ryan, and crew. ‘I can even remember the smell of the newsprint. I’d put the paper right up to my face …’ and get lost in Caniff’s stylish rendering of action, adventure, and adult romance.
“Coulton Waugh’s Dickie Dare: A boy, his dog, and their adventures ’round the world. Those are the elements that appealed most to Colan, who recalls this strip as his favorite among favorites. ‘Every day I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to that poor kid. The strip appeared in the New York Sun, and my father would always come out of the subway with a copy, on his way home from work. I would wait for him topside and I’d grab the paper just to see the next installment.'”
It’s no surprise a talent as singular as Gene Colan would have such good taste in comic strips, is it?
Gene has been gone more than five years now, but his work continues to be reprinted (Marvel has announced new softcovered Tomb of Dracula reprints, for example) — and Secrets in the Shadows is still in print and definitely comes recommended. At the TwoMorrows website you can use their search feature to find the book’s listing, view a preview on-screen (or download a PDF preview for later viewing), and place an order. After you’ve enjoyed Secrets, you’ll join Tom and me (if you haven’t already) as a lifelong fan of the one and only Gentleman Gene Colan.