Here's another trifecta of super Little Lulu stories from 1956.
Just one issue after delivering the devastating "Two Foots Is Feet," John Stanley continued to mine the rich "parents-bewildered-by-children" vein. In our first story today, "The Bawlplayers," we get an 'in' on how Lulu's parents are hip to the manipulations and bargaining that are their child's only currency.
Tubby, of course, is in on the adults' 'in,' and has his own set of fool-proof counter-manipulations. He acts as a crying coach for Lulu. His evaluations and feedback are hilarious: a grand example of the transfer of adult characteristics to kid characters.
The story also makes use of Dell Comics' unique, limited color palette. As noted in prior posts, Dell (Western, rather; see Michael's comment below, with a helpful link] printed their own comics, and hewed to a very austere set of colors. Their very pink red, murky violets and bricks and eye-piercing flat yellows are like no others in funnybook history.
This story's subtle in-jokes about color are a delightful extra touch to a short story already bursting with great ideas. Look at how much Stanley achieves in five pages!
"The Sick Tree" mines another common Lulu theme: the girls' ability to thoroughly outwit the boys. By 1956, Stanley had already done this sort of story, oh, 40 or 50 times. His capacity for getting mileage out of the most overworked comix tropes is a lesson for every writer.
In this story's case, by having the boys' mischief impinge upon Mr. Moppet, Stanley raises the stakes of this-type story. He even inverts the potential threat of Lulu getting a spanking from her pop.
Alvin provides a brilliant offbeat coda to this exceptional Lulu story.
"Big Bite" was the opening story of this issue. I decided to move it to third place--not for any lack of quality. It's such a perverse variant on the Lulu-Tubby-food dynamic that it deserves to be the final course of today's comix snack.
Tubby's dependance upon Lulu for extra foodstuffs is the stuff of comedic legend. Like Sgt. Bilko and a scam, the prospect of ill-gotten food proves irresistible, time and again, for Tubby. He seemingly lets his status plummet while trying to work his manipulative wiles--all for a 10 cent ice-cream cone.
As with "Bawlplayers," we see Stanley expand his arsenal of hilarious vocal excalamations. What happens to the final ice-cream cone causes some wonderful physical contortions as well.
These stories, which are masterful in their economy of plot, characterization and theme, literally speak for themselves. I'll post the remaining two stories from this fine, fine, super-fine issue next time around!