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 …
… And here they are, sitting on the launch pad, jam-packed into the LOAC Wheel of Fortune …
… After limbering up my wrist muscles, the wheel goes ’round and ’round, and it comes out here –
The fact of the matter is, until we signed up to do Bloom County, I had never been a regular reader of this strip. My good friend, the late Howard Downs, absolutely adored it, but I wasn’t taking a newspaper on a regular basis during much of this period and I never saw enough of Bloom County to develop an affinity for the characters or the storylines; it never got a chance to draw me in and make me a regular reader. Our line of books certainly changed that!
The third volume in the “Bloom County Library” spans the years 1984-86, and its election-year hijinx had me chuckling again and again and again. Bill the Cat and Opus follow the path previously trod by Pogo and Howard the Duck by running for the highest offices in the land — their adventures as the candidates of “The American Meadow Party” included Opus being taken hostage during a campus revolt by extreme (if goofy) right-wing radicals and advertising that linked incumbent Republican President Ronald Reagan with both Fidel Castro and Pugsley, from The Addams Family — congratulations to Berkeley Breathed for presenting the concept of “fake news” more than thirty years before that phrase became common currency. The October 21st Sunday page from 1984 is also excellent, blending the matter of the continually-shrinking size of comic strips with a Star Trek take. And of course, there are fifteen months of other daily and Sunday comics to savor in the book’s more than two hundred fifty pages of breakneck Breathed comedy.
Berkeley Breathed also enlivens the entire series with in-the-margin commentary on select strips. His observations are sometimes hilarious, sometimes a trip back in the time machine of memory for me, since I was in my mid-twenties when these comics first saw print. Yes, I not only remember Bert Convy, I sometimes still see him — Saturday nights, the “Buzzr” cable channel reruns the 1970s game show Tattletales, hosted by that other B.C.
It’s a true pleasure to have Berkeley Breathed’s oeuvre as such an important stretch of The LOAC Road to 200 — and Howard, you were not just right, you were waaaaay ahead of me, where Bloom County was concerned!