Jeet Heer offered some thoughts on the editorial thinking behind the new Drawn + Quarterly John Stanley Library books.
He was not involved with the editorial decisions on this series, but he has spoken with some of the individuals who put these books together.
What he has to say makes sense to me. It also clears up any misgivings adult readers might have about these books.
Please read Jeet's words and consider them...
I think the MM book is a great kids book. I have witness[ed] a few families I know who are really enjoying it. [The addition of] a long introduction (in the mode of Walt and Skeezix and other books) would have been a mistake since it would make the series seem archival rather than living kids books.
There's plenty of time to do an archival edition later: right now I think it's more important to get kids reading Stanley again as they did in the 1950s and 1960s. Once there is an audience for his work, then there will be room for a more focused study of the man.
I agree with him: it's important to get these comix back into the hands of kids! Dark Horse's paperback Little Lulu books have sold well and been very much enjoyed by kids. Although Stanley's stories can be enjoyed by adults, as with Barks' work, there is much to be gained by getting this material back into the currency of young readership.
However, it is standard publishing practice to fully credit the creative talent of a book. Therefore, I strongly suggest that John Stanley be credited as ARTIST and WRITER of the comix he created fully, such as MM and Thirteen Going on 18. I hope Drawn + Quarterly will amend the credits for future JSL volumes.
As well, introductory material could be helpful in giving interested adult parents some background on what they're buying for their kids. The kids will just skip past the introduction anyway; there is an interested adult market for these books, and it seems wise, business-wise, to gear them towards as many paying markets as possible.
Let me know your thoughts on this.
UPDATE: Tom Devlin, who commented on this post, has asked that his comments be withdrawn. I found his viewpoints on the editorial vision of the John Stanley Library series of great interest. They are rather invisible in the published volumes, and given the controversy my postings have aroused, I felt that, for once, an explanation was helpful.
I'm going to paraphrase some points Tom made, just to end this dischord--a dischord not intended by me in any way...
The MM books were designed for children--as stated earlier, their goal is to bring John Stanley's comix back into circulation for younger readers. As John Stanley is one of the great American authors of the 20th century, this is a noble goal.
D+Q has tentative plans to produce an Art of John Stanley book someday. I have discussed this project with Tom, and my involvement is likely. I didn't mention it here because (a) it slipped my mind and (b) I don't like to sound off on projects that aren't in the here and now. If this book comes to be, and I am a part of it, I will be happy to work on it. I think such a book is inevitable, despite the lack of solid biographical information available on Stanley.
But Stanley is not the first great author to be written about in the absence of a great deal of biographical knowledge. The themes of his work, and the artistry of his storytelling--and his innovations to the comix format--are a rich topic, and much can be said about them.
The MM books were planned as a three-volume set, each to contain a third of the series' nine-issue run (#10 was a reprint of the first issue). This choice helped keep production costs down, and thus the retail price of the books down.
This is an elaborate book, but it's worth the retail price. As said in my review, amazon.com and other discount internet sites offer excellent deals on the book. Again, I urge you to purchase this volume to support D+Q's ambitious plans to restore John Stanley to print.
OK! Matter closed. Let's move on to new horizons. I look forward to the next volumes in D+Q's Stanley series. I may even review them here. We'll see...