Friday, February 13, 2009

The rest of Little Lulu 95: fairy-tales and Tubby tension

As promised, friends, here is the rest of this fine issue of Little Lulu.

First, the cover, 'cos everyone likes covers...

"Ol' Witch Hazel and the Goblin with the Tender Toes," by its long-winded title, prepares us for a fairy-tale full of verbiage and wordplay.

Some think less of Stanley's fairy-tales than his regular stories. They are very wordy. They're actually considered to be too hard for modern-day kids to read.

While Stanley does go off into Al Feldstein-land with his rich captions, let us consider the virtues of this, and its fellow fairy-tale stories. They gave John Stanley a regular excuse to go off the rails, and play with genres and themes that would have been taboo in the structure of the "normal" LULU stories.

Stanley never hesitates to bring something sinister into these stories: the stakes are high, and supernatural elements are the norm. He got busted the one time he tried to incorporate these aspects into a "regular" LULU story--"The Bogeyman," which was slated for issue #26 of the series, but sat unprinted 'til the 1980s.

Yes, these stories have a lot of words. But they still succeed as lively comix. They aren't wooden prose-fests like, say, Hal Foster's Prince Valiant--nor are they as literal as Feldstein's prosaic captions for his EC stories.

[Example given: the drawing shows a man standing before a bureau, knotting his tie. CAPTION: "You're knotting your tie, John Simpson. You're tying the old Windsor knot... pushing the silky fabric over, around and through...creating a knot...a knot as tight as the one in your gut...a gut that's filled with fear... tension... hatred...tie that knot, John Simpson... then look for your keys!"
DIALOGUE: Guess I'll finish tying this tie...]

Stanley's captions always add to the reading experience. The reader gets some subtle humor, usually from the discrepancy between the narrator's version of the events, and the "real" version, as seen in the frame below his/her account.

There is a dreadful, unapt pun at story's end. In the later 1950s, our hero developed an unhealthy fondness for such groaners. The one that ends this story would make even Rocky and Bullwinkle consider suicide...

Here's this issue's "Tubby" story. Art is by TUBBY artist and sometimes LULU pinch-hitter Lloyd White. His cartooning is, as ever, crude but full of feeling. "A Brave Deed" is prime Tubby. Driven by his insecurity, Tub slaps together a half-baked scheme to raise his status. It collapses, then miraculously succeeds. But high status proves ever-elusive to Tubby. For all his trouble, he's literally left hanging at story's end.

Once again, looka how much happens in just five pages. The timing is just right, and there are some nifty touches. I love the moment when Tubby's forged letter is read, in cursive, complete with spelling errors.

Lloyd White's version of Tubby looks weird to me. Especially when Tub is angry, he looks like a middle-aged man whose head was grafted onto a midget's body. White seems to have stuck to Stanley's sketched layouts much more than did Irving Tripp. These stories make me wish Stanley had done the finishes on the "Tubby" stories himself.

To end our excursion, a vaudeville-style "chaser"... ba-da-DUMP! >tinggggggg< Have yourself a happy Friday the 13th!


Prof. Grewbeard said...

those were some of the best Lulu/Tubbys i've ever read- and the pun was great!

Myrrpage said...

Question: I understand that Lloyd White did the art in most of the Tubby comics. Did he also do the art in the Tubby stories that were a part of the Little Lulu comics?

Frank M. Young said...

This week's Tragically Belated Reply: Lloyd White did the TUBBY stories for LITTLE LULU later on in the '50s. The contrast of his artwork and Irv Tripp's is quite noticeable in those later issues.