I see that this post is the most popular one ever to appear on Stanley Stories. It gets more hits than anything else on here. Well, give the people what they want, sez I.
The only story left from the first "Lulu" comic was reprinted in The Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics, seminal tome from 1981 that can be had for peanuts on Amazon.com.
Time to move on to #2. The pair of stories I've selected today both are animal-themed. Both also show much more of John Stanley's fine cartooning style than the prior issue.
These aren't hi-grade scans. It's better to read these in color, as originally published, rather than try the pallid traced versions of the Another Rainbow and Dark Horse reprints. Those suck the life and soul out of Stanley's deft drawings.
Exhibit A, "...has family trouble," is among Stanley's rare cat-centric pieces. With this still-larval version of Lulu as his protagonist, Stanley captures the innocence and curiosity of childhood in a way the series would quickly avoid.
"Li'l Eight-Ball" story Stanley wrote for New Funnies #101, also published in 1945. A sense of melancholy informs this story, too, but it's played for a much gentler effect.
This is as close to genuinely charming as John Stanley gets. Still, since it is a Stanley story, there is one moment of violent (but amusing) discord:
Mr. Gripe is on the gentlest end of this anti-social spectrum. To experience the Stanley Sociopath at his darkest and scariest, read this.
As well, this story offers two protagonists--Lulu and Christopher the cat. Christopher's inner monologue adds another level to the narrative. We are privy to her thoughts about Lulu and the other "pink ones," which is played for rich humor.
As is often the case in Stanley's world, the least empowered character is the wisest. Lulu's mother is oblivious to the kittens' need to still be with their mother. Christopher, who knows best, ingeniously retrieves her offspring.
Lulu and the cat trauma-bond in the ninth frame of p.7, in an echo of the "Li'l Eight-Ball" story's scenes of crying. However, Christopher is just playing; she's in charge of the situation 100%.
Stanley's feline drawings have great charm. I have a feeling that Stanley was a "cat person."
A couple of pantomime gag pages...
and then Lulu and Tubby "Goes On a Picnic." (Bad grammar is intentional.)
We see early signs of Tubby's self-absorption; it doesn't really occur to him that it was the Jensen's Groceries delivery truck that nearly did in the feline. At story's end it is the Jensen's truck that delivers Lulu and Tubby from their sylvan escapade and allows them to finally have their picnic.
The relationship of Lulu and Tubby is rather primitive, by later "Lulu" standards, in this story. The two kids are much more childlike here--antagonistic and stubborn, given to whims and acting out. Hints of Tub's future Quixotean self are already evident.
It's Lulu's terser, less expressive persona that makes the major difference. She is not the kidult she would be in 1950. She is closer to Marge Buell's imp than to the classic John Stanley version.
Stanley puts Lulu and Tub through some very funny slapstick paces here, and milks much humor from their bickering and over- or under-reaction to stakes-raising events.
We see more Stanley animals in "Picnic." Their presence, over these two stories, shows how much at odds Stanley's own drawing style was with the Marge Buell look and feel. All the human figures look stiff, awkward and generally unappealing. Stanley was a long way from making these characters work, visually, on his own terms.
Not to say that these are poor drawings, by any means. They're full of life, and Stanley does what he can to infuse them with character. His true colors emerge in the drawings of animals, in both these stories. Some hints of his masterful 1960s cartooning can be seen in those brief moments. His backgrounds, though simple, express a strong sense of space and depth.
It must have been frustrating for Stanley to work with Buell's primitive designs in these early Little Lulu one-shots, but he does his best, and the results, while stiff, are workable.
In Stanley's cartooning, the drawings are always humbly in service of the story. Stanley possessed one of the least distracting cartoon styles. It's just solid, unassuming line work, the better to sell his narratives--which, after all, is why we read his stories.