Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Unseen Stanley, Part 1: Dunc 'n' Loo Offshoots (or Precursors?)

John Stanley's son, Jim, has been in touch with me recently. In the course of our most enjoyable e-mail correspondence, he has offered the first of a series of rare and unpublished John Stanley works.

Today's offerings are completely unknown, and make their world debut here. They are what appears to be daily comic-strip concepts for a Dunc 'n' Loo newspaper feature.

The first two are Loo strips. They would appear to predate the Dell Comics series of 1961-63. I say "appear" because nothing is known about them--even by James himself. I would assume these were worked up before the concept became a Dell Comics series, as the characters would have automatically become Dell's property upon first publication.

Note the highlighted copyright information on the indicia of the first issue of AROUND THE BLOCK WITH DUNC 'N" LOO:

Like "Jigger and Mooch," "Peterkin Pottle" and all the secondary characters John Stanley created for Dell's licensed properties, the Dunc 'n' Loo universe was surrendered to Dell ownership upon first publication. (As happened with Carl Barks, all the new characters created for licensed entities became the property of the overall owner. Thus, Disney owns Gyro Gearloose and Scrooge McDuck, and Universal owns Charlie Chicken and any other recurring new characters invented by Stanley.)

It's possible that Stanley might have developed a newspaper version of Dunc 'n' Loo after the first comics were published. We're in Dead Sea Scrolls territory, info-wise.

These first two strips provide the first ever look at John Stanley drawing the Dunc 'n' Loo cast. This gives us an idea of what his cartoonist/collaborator, Bill Williams, would have worked from when doing the finished comic book art:

These are very funny comic strip concepts. Stanley's roughs are lively and lucid. Although Bill Williams was, by far, the finest cartoonist to finish Stanley's roughs, there's no mistaking the scrappy energy of their creator's pencils.

A subsidiary character of Dunc 'n' Loo was "Li'l Petey" (later, just "Petey"). Like Tubby's "Knotknee," this character was created to satisfy postal regulations for periodicals. These wacky laws demanded that comic magazines had to have a completely unrelated secondary character--they couldn't all be wall-to-wall Superman, Katy Keene or Sam Hill.

Thus, all the text pieces, humor fillers, puzzle pages, etc., that we see in older comic books.

Stanley gave more oomph to his postal-reg creations. "Li'l Petey" explored the more Damon Runyon/O. Henry aspects of Stanley's urban world. At first, he was a ragged, homeless shoe-shine boy, eking out his meager existence in a familiarly harsh Stanley environment.

Here are the first two installments of "Li'l Petey," from Around the Block with Dunc 'n' Loo nos. 1 and 2.

When Petey lost his "Li'l," he became more enfranchised. He played with other kids, dropped the shoe-shine routine, and looked more like a dark-haired "Dennis the Menace" than the ragamuffin of his first conception. Here are representative panels from the "Petey" stories in issues 4 and 8 of  Dunc 'n' Loo.

Was "Petey" originally "Pepe?" Here are two never-before-seen Bill Williams newspaper strips bearing that title. Note that "Pepe" is pasted over the top of the second strip, which is fully finished in ink and wash. The blue wash was provided to give engravers an idea where to place the mechanical Benday dot patterns. Imagine--a cartoonist who didn't have to cut their own Zip-a-Tone!

"Pepe" is unmistakably Latino. This is concurrent with a fad for Hispanic humor in American pop culture, circa 1960-5. Bill Dana's "Jose Jimenez" was a hit on TV, recordings, and even appeared in a Paramount theatrical cartoon.

The strip's title might be an allusion to the rambling all-star Hollywood movie of the same name, which attempted to capitalize on the popularity of the Mexican film comedian Cantinflas in the movie Around the World in 80 Days. An apparent pantomime strip, Stanley and Williams' "Pepe" could not have egregiously capitalized on it's hero's ethnic heritage.

Unlike most of John Stanley's comic-book work, these two strips have contemporary references in them. This would indicate their intention as newspaper comics, aimed at a more adult audience than the Dell material.

Jim Stanley has several more of these "Pepe"s in his possession, and may offer us some more glimpses of this heretofore-unknown work in the future.

As a closer, Jim sent this equally charming (and baffling) strip that may use the "Bridget" character from 1967's Wham-O Giant Book of Comics. She also resembles a "Val Jr."

Whatever its origins, this is a sweet and funny gag. According to James, his dad had a "love-hate relationship with cats." Felines have a fairly high status in Stanley's human-populated stories. A cat was the focal character of Stanley's most haunting and moving horror story, "The Cat That Was Part of the Night," which can be found elsewhere on this site.

Thank you kindly, Jim, for letting the world see these rare glimpses of your father's unpublished work. And don't forget, folks: Jim has a rare piece of original art by his father on eBay this week. You can see a large image of the piece in our previous post.


S. said...

Terrific stuff. Those Dunc and Loo's are gorgeous.
I'm not sure if that's Val though--it might be the little girl character Stanley used in Wham-o's giant comic. Her name escapes me at the moment...was it Bridget?


Frank M. Young said...

Yep, it was Bridget.
Jim Stanley called this "Val," so that's what I went with. It could be any character, I suppose. The hairstyle is Val's, anyway,

S. said...

That's pretty definitive then! It's Val.
I wonder why he drew her so little? An earlier strip version as children? An inside cover gag (wrong format though?). Just a favourite name for a character?
Fascinating material though.

JS said...

Actually, I thought of Bridget too - and around that time my sister and I we were roughly the sames ages! So don't rely on my "Val" comparison be the final word by any means.