Friday, December 25, 2009


If you need to know more about this for some reason, visit Early Works for explication.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Gift From Aunt Cora

As a good number of you reading this know, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories sold in vast quantities in the '50s, routinely selling in excess of three million copies a month for years on end, without need for gimmick covers, crossovers with Daisy Duck's Diary and Spin and Marty, or some sort of major event in which the Big Bad Wolf rapes and murders Clarabelle Cow, only to himself be killed in revenge by an enraged Horace Horsecollar. No... the only gimmick they needed was six or eight pages a month by Carl Barks or Paul Murry! But besides high quality and universally-known characters, one other secret sales weapon was subscriptions, which Dell comics pursued more aggressively than many other publishers. Untold thousands of parents and relatives gave subscriptions as Christmas gifts... including my Great-Aunt Cora, on whose behalf the letters below were sent.

My father was eight and nine years old, respectively, when he received these in the mailbox.

The  1955 letter takes its image from Walt Disney's Christmas Parade #4, from 1952 (art by Bob Grant), and...

The envelope art is from Walt Disney's Christmas Parade #2 from 1950 (art by Jim Pabian). The painted art on the 1956 letter looks familiar to me, but I can't seem to trace it. Any art detectives out there got my back on this one? (UPDATE: Alan Hutchinson gave us the answer in the comments-- it's the back cover of Walt Disney's Christmas Parade #6, 1954. Thanks!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Irv Tripp 1921-2009

Steve Bissette reports that Irv Tripp, who worked on the vast majority of Little Lulu stories, has died at the age of 88 in Haines City, Florida. He did finished pencils and inks over rough layouts by  John Stanley until 1959, then worked with other writers, notably Arnold Drake, until 1982. Like Stanley, Drake also did his scripts in the form of fairly detailed breakdowns-- I don't know if Tripp's other collaborators worked that way or not, nor can I  say for certain if he ever wrote any Lulus himself. I expect that Frank M.Young will probably have more to say abou Tripp soon at the always great Stanley Stories blog. Here's the local newspaper's obit, and here's Lambiek's Comiclopedia page. Regrettably, he doesn't seem to have ever been interviewed any where I know of, though I'd love it if someone could prove me to be a liar on that count.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Early Works Crossover Special #1: Little Arthur Spiegelman!

One of my other internet timewasters is Early Works,  a blog presenting my artwork between the ages of two and fourteen, with commentary. But I've got skeletons from other closets beside my own... and this is one that I haven't seen in anyone else's blog or fanzine, so it should be a surprise to the vast majority of you.

    Children's Playmate was a digest-sized kiddy magazine in the same vein as Humpty Dumpty, Children's Digest, and Jack and Jill that dated back at least to the '30s, and lasted until December 2008, as best I can determine (there's not a lot of concrete information about it out there). All the issues I own are from the late '50s-mid-'60s range, and they're all pretty charming, if a bit restrained and cheap-looking. Every issue I've ever seen also looks like it probably seemed about ten years behind the times upon its initial release. Apart from a lot of (once again, very retrograde) art by Bill Woggon, done in the period between Katy Keene and Millie, The Lovable Monster, there's not a lot of appealing illustration  in these to speak to the modern comics fan... that is, except for the January, 1961 issue. Let's take a closer look at that readers' art page, shall we?

Well, whaddaya know? it's a superhero mascot, designed by future Pulitzer winner/chain smoker Art Spiegelman! I find it interesting that he gives his age as 12 1/2-- my first impulse was to think "what kind of sissy cites a fractional age past the six-year old point?", until I realized that it was actually because he realized that he was about to age out of eligibility for his target market. He wasn't fudging it, though... he wouldn't turn thirteen until a month after the cover date. Pretty savvy self-promotion, actually. I also found it interesting to see how much the young Spiegelman's work resembles contemporaneous work by the Crumb brothers or Jay Lynch , but that's mostly just because they're all shooting for the same Disney/Wally Wood look, in the same way that Toth, Kubert, and Infantino are near-identical in the '40s... or the way that Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman are a matched set of Ronald Searles in the mid-'60s. Young Artie would continue in his attempts to tailor his work to the venue in what I believe is his second national publication, about two years later... but you'll have to wait a little while to see that one! Stay tuned...

You can find both of the Spiegelman pieces cited here reprinted, along with a batch of early underground stories (some, but not all of which were since included in the new edition of Breakdowns) in this obscure bootleg collection from several years ago, published by someone purporting to be the reanimated corpse of schlockmeister extraordinaire Myron Fass (even though the real Fass wasn't quite dead yet!). I'm pretty sure I know who "Fass" really was, but I'm no stool pigeon, copper! Good luck locating it, though... I think that there were only maybe 50-60 copies.  I heard that one copy got slipped into a display case at a gallery show of Spiegelman's work in Germany, somewhat confusing the patrons.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Take A Tour of the Store (and More)!

Join noted designer/blogger/author/vertebrate Kirk Demarais on a 2007 tour of the store, along with a view of my home before our stuff all got packed up and shoved in storage awaiting the day when it again has a house to be poured into, right here!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Catwoman by Frank Robbins

 If you were an action-figure-buying child in the mid-'70s like myself, you were probably a bit confused by your Mego Catwoman, wearing an outfit that, while it kinda looked like the TV version, resembled neither her contemporary look nor her appearance in any of the variety of reprints available at the time. I would eventually stumble across back issues with this short-lived outfit, as well as its immediate predecessor, which was even more TV-like, but all green, for whatever reason, but it was only recently that I acquired Amazing World of DC Comics #4, whose back cover features the above image, along with the news that said outfit was in fact a Frank Robbins creation. Incidentally, the Mego Museum tracks the art on the Mego package to a panel in Batman #210, but that panel seems to have itself been closely modeled (read: "swiped") from the design sketch. So, was the Mego design department working from the comic, or a stat of this image? We'll probably never know, and I suppose that it doesn't particularly matter.

(Image stolen from the Mego Museum link above.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The "Blame America First" Crowd

Hey, Rush Limbaugh! Quit crying about Sean Penn and Tim Robbins and the Dixie Chicks! If you want to complain about America-haters in Hollywood, it's time you went after Daffy Duck! Plenty of his Warner co-stars like Blackwater CEO Yosemite Sam and NRA spokesman Elmer Fudd are longtime Republican supporters (I've heard rumors that Fudd was the actual gunman in the old man face-shooting incident, but Cheney covered for him), but let's face it... this guy ain't gonna be a guest blogger at Big Hollywood anytime soon with this attitude!

For the record, this is a real, officially sanctioned, fully licensed product, © 1996 Warner Bros. and I haven't fiddled with it at all beyond the watermark.