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:
Looking back at one of these lists always makes me pause and reflect; this one is no different. The purpose of Essentials was to allow us to bring back a representative sampling of strips that deserve to be remembered and enjoyed by modern audiences, but may not be popular enough or of sufficiently-high profile to support a comprehensive reprinting. I like to think Essentials is admirably fulfilling that mission! The series has brought back to life Hal Foster’s first work on the Lord of the Jungle, Alex Raymond’s ghosting job on Tim Tyler’s Luck, and allowed us to reprint a rare full year of Sterrett’s brilliant Polly and Her Pals dailies. Four-fourteenths of the run (29%) has been devoted to the worthy cause of reprinting Geo. Herriman, with a year of Krazy Kat and the full run of Baron Bean. In researching the text features, I found it a delight to learn more about the roots of Charlie Chan, and to gain a wide range of knowledge about Norman Marsh, which helped bring Dan Dunn, Secret Operative 45 to life for me.
Shuffling the list into random order, they loaded into the LOAC Wheel this way:
And with one last snap of the virtual wrist, I set it into motion, to have it stop on:
To which I can only say, “Good going, Wheel!” Harry Tuthill’s razor-edged family saga was a “dramedy” more than fifty years before the term was coined. On the surface, The Bungle Family is cut from the same cloth as Sid Smith’s Gumps, but Tuthill’s put-upon patriarch, George, has a sharper tongue and a quicker wit than Andy Gump, at least to my eye. That doesn’t mean he’s any more adept at sidestepping domestic strife than Andy is, as this 1923 holiday offering proves:
The sort of household squabbles Tuthill chronicled in The Bungle Family wove themselves even deeper into American society as media became more mass-ive (yeah, sorry about that one): Josie and George will be echoed in later years by The Bickersons in radio and TV couples like Alice and Ralph Kramden (stars of Gleason’s remarkable Honeymooners) and Wilma and Fred Flintstone. I find it grand fun to trace those branches back to their roots on the newspaper comics pages of the first half of the 20th Century, where the Bungles await, dispensing bombast aplenty.
Tuthill also employed occasional clever storytelling devices, as indicated by this daily, welcoming in the year 1932:
So as we celebrate two hundred Library of American Comics books, it’s a real pleasure to point back to our 98th release, LOAC Essentials Volume 5, The Bungle Family. It’s an excellent example of what The Library of American Comics is all about, and a stellar read in and of itself.
What’s ahead for LOAC? I can’t tip our hand too far in advance, but I can go back to our earliest days, at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con, where I participated in a panel on “The Great American Comic Strip” just as our first Terry and the Pirates volume was going on sale. What I told the audience then still holds true today: “I think you’ll be surprised and pleased by what we have in store!”
Dean, Lorraine, and Kurtis join me when I say: Many and sincere thanks, as always, for your support!