It’s that time again — as we move toward our two hundredth entry in The Library of American Comics, we’re spinning that LOAC Wheel of Fortune to see which of our past releases gets spotlighted for the month of March.
We wanted to focus on the year 2014, which was the busiest in our almost-twelve-year history. A whopping twenty-three — yup, that’s 23! — Library books were released that year:
It’s fascinating to look back at ’14 and see what was going on. The Alex Toth Genius trilogy concluded with the publication of Genius, Animated (an eventual Eisner Award winner) — the LOAC Road to 200 will include a new Toth book, Treasures Retold, that’s now in production. The ambitious, fascinating, and lovely Puck: What Fools These Mortals Be came out that year, as did the first two Batman titles and the wrap-up of Alex Raymond’s classic Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim.
There was so much going on in 2014 that I decided not to crowd the Wheel with all twenty-three entries. Instead, I’ve sorted the list into two groups — this month, we’ll spin on the 2014 LOAC volumes that were either one-shots or Volumes 1 or 2 in newly-launched series. Yes, I’m including the two LOAC Essentials volumes here, because even though they’re #s 5 and 6 in the Essentials line, in my mind they qualify as stand-alone collections of The Bungle Family and Volume 2 of our three-volume reprinting of Herriman’s Baron Bean … And besides (*ahem!*), including them in this spin gives us twelve books for the March Wheel, with the remaining eleven 2014 entries available for loading into April’s Wheel.
Here’s the roster for this month …
… And here’s how they look before I give the Wheel its spin …
… With my wrist limbered up, I twirled the Wheel and it landed on:
What a delight that is! We did the entire run of Bobby London’s version of the squinky-eyed sailor in 2014 and it remains enormously entertaining in its own right, while also serving as a classic example of a cartoonist putting on his own indelible stamp on a character while still remaining faithful to the character’s core and the legacy established by the original creator.
The book opens on Mr. London’s exceptional story, “Heavy Metal Toar,” with much of the familiar Thimble Theatre cast involved in a race to The Valley of the Past and its pool of youth, which leaves Olive Oyl feeling like a kid again while luring a batch of rock ‘n’ roll icons to its shores, and featuring a donnybrook to end all donnybrooks! Things get all-“k”s kosmik during a trip into the fourth dimension — traveling inside The Beatles’s yellow submarine, yet! — in “Popeye’s Apocalypse.” “The Return of Bluto” brings back not just the blustering bad guy — not just the Sea Hag, that witch everyone loves to hate (well, except perhaps J. Wellington Wimpy) — and not just one Brutus, not just two Brutuses, but a whole whopping legion of Brutuses!
The contemporary satire flies fast and furious throughout this collection as Mr. London takes unerring aim at Madison Avenue, Big Oil, any number of celebrities, and home shopping networks. It was this latter bit of barbed narrative that grew into the storyline that was censored in the midst of its original publication, left unconcluded as Mr. London was removed from the series. Thanks to the co-operation of King Features Syndicate, our Popeye Volume 2 includes the previously-unpublished conclusion of that controversial tale, plus the additional six weeks of continuity that Mr. London had created that also went unpublished in newspapers.
“Arf-arf, ya swabs!” Bobby London’s Popeye is two of twelve different reasons why 2014 was the wildest year in LOAC history. Next month we’ll spin the wheel and look at the remaining eleven reasons … and I bet the LOAC Wheel will land on another winner!