Monday, November 25, 2013

Dressmaker's Dummy Leads Teenage Pals Into Hitchcockian Screwball Nightmare: 31-page story from Henry Aldrich 4, 1951

Given how poorly my 1960s John Stanley Bibliography has sold, I'm feeling rather discouraged about the hard work it will take to put together the 1950s volume. In the work I've done so far, if only to satisfy my own curiosity, I've made some pleasant discoveries and done some re-evaluations.

The richest vein I've struck is in the early 1950s title Henry Aldrich, which Stanley wrote for his most talented collaborator, the cartoonist Bill Williams.

As Stanley entered his most beloved period on the best-selling Marge's Little Lulu title, and just before he took up cartooning again for the eclectic Marge's Tubby spinoff, he wrote several issues of this teenage analog to Lulu and Tubby.

Stanley's Aldrich material is often surprisingly sophisticated, and the book's unusual format allowed him to experiment with story lengths. Today's offering is one of Stanley's longest regular-issue narratives: 31 pages of unfolding comedic mayhem, tinged with black humor and featuring two protagonists who never quite understand why their actions have such a strong effect on the world around them.

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Homer"-- A Fascinating Forecast of John Stanley's 1960s Work, One Decade Early

I have posted examples of John Stanley's work on the early 1950s series Henry Aldrich here in the past.

As time has gone by, my study of this series' early issues has gradually revealed much more of Stanley's input than I first realized.

Stanley wrote the entirety of the first two issues of Henry, skipped the third, and returned with the fourth. The skipped third issue threw me off for a few years. I finally sat down and carefully read these comics.

To my pleasant surprise, Stanley's work appears through at least the 11th issue. I'm still going over the last half of the 22-issue run.

These stories, which are often quite long and detailed, are a fascinating precursor of Stanley's 1960s work on the series Dunc 'n Loo (also with Bill Williams) and 13 Going on 18. They show that these concepts did not appear out of the blue, for their creator, in the early 1960s.

The dawn of the 1950s saw an uneasy transition in John Stanley's writing. He repressed, consciously or not, the wilder extremes of his comedic sensibility. The frantic, everywhere-at-once affect of his 1940s work was suddenly muted.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stan Lee Stories, Pt. 2: More Rip-offs from "The House of Ideas"--And A Story Starring "John Stanley"

Yes, this blog still lives, although it may appear to be on a life-support system. Short of the book project I hope to do someday (and which seems a hard sell, for reasons that baffle me), I feel that I've said all there is to say about John Stanley, in the format of this blog.

I could do a story-by-story analysis of his work, but that might kill all the joy of reading Stanley's comics for others. I believe that any reader curious about John Stanley can quickly gain a sense of who he was, and what his work was about, via the nearly 250 posts extant on this blog.

Here's something a bit more far-reaching than usual for this blog. This would be at home at one of my other comics criticism blogs, Comic Book Attic, which Paul Tumey and I occasionally revive.

Though his name was unknown to readers until the 1960s. Stanley was, certainly, a celebrity within the industry of the American comic book. His longstanding success as the writer/base artist of Marge's Little Lulu (which was a regular top 20 bestseller on US newsstands) made him a comics figure to watch--and emulate.

When the words "emulate" and "comics" are used in the same sentence, the company that would, one day, be Marvel Comics, springs instantly to mind. Timely-Atlas-Marvel built its publishing empire on borrowed ideas. To be fair, so did the rest of the comic book industry in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. If Company A published a popular title, Companies B-Z rushed out their simulacra ASAP, to get their chunk of coin while the gettin' was good.

In the post-war comics market, in which super-heroes were marginalized and genre comics such as crime, romance, war and funny animal were in, competitors did pulpy battle on America's newsstands. Martin Goodman's publishing empire, of which comics were one small but lucrative slice, led the field in providing ready-made imitations of any cresting trend.

Goodman's editor-writer Stanley Leiber closely watched the comics market and kept a large staff of artists (and freelancers) busy in post-war America with his copycat versions of others' innovations. To be fair once again, Lee did a certain amount of innovation. He began a line of short-story horror and fantasy comics just before the more celebrated Entertaining Comics (EC) inaugurated their line in 1950.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Running on Sheer Chutzpah: Little Lulu Four-Color One-Shot 158, 1947

One thing I must finish on this blog, as it reaches its end, is the remarkable run by John Stanley, Charles Hedinger and others on the one-shot issues of Little Lulu that precede its regular run.

This is the only Lulu one-shot that I own, although my copy is nothing to brag about. It is one of the worst-printed 1940s comics I've ever seen. When colors aren't wretchedly out of register, the black lines are fuzzy, clogged with ink, and otherwise bear all the signs of the end of a print run.

Thank goodness, I'll spare you a look at my version--these are top-drawer scans done by some anonymous kind soul a few years ago.

Many of the scans I've shared here, over the years, have come from such sources. I feel that I've never properly thanked these folks for all their hard, painstaking work in making these rare old comics available for study, reading and sharing (as I have done here with you).

These early Little Lulus suffer terribly when seen in black and white, as I've said before. Their simple contour lines were meant to be filled with the flat pastels and blunt primary colors of 1947 comics. Western's self-printed titles had a color palette all their own. After 1948, they are consistently well-printed comics. From 1943 to '47, buyer beware! Unless you somehow score a copy from the start of a press run, chances are the Dell title of this era will be a blurry, mis-registered mess.

But enough of that. Let's get down to brass knuckles, er, tacks. I usually choose a percentage of the stories in each of these one-shots. This book is so consistently great that I've opted to share the whole thing here today.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Casual Calamity Cubed: Three Stories From New Funnies 116, 1946

New Funnies was the most spontaneous and slapdash of the comics edited by Oskar Lebeck for Dell Publications. Its bar was set quite low. Quality of story and art material wavers dramatically from issue to issue.

In 1946 and '47, the title was a place for John Stanley to blow off steam, as he prepared for what he didn't yet realize was a 15-year run on Little Lulu. His story (and art) for that series is impeccable. Perhaps because the licensed property was of a higher status (and its creator was initially looking over the collective Lebeck shoulder), Stanley's Lulu is tighter, less risky and more grounded than any of his other work in comics.

While under close watch on the early Little Lulu one-shot issues (most of which you'll find elsewhere on this blog), Stanley catered to his chaotic, more off-the-cuff impulses in New Funnies. He did some of his best--and worst--work for the series.

At their finest, these stories are freewheeling, very funny and full of a street-wise charm, In their low points, they reveal their creator's burn-outs, hangovers or crunched-deadline hackwork. New Funnies was clearly not a high priority on either Dell's or Lebeck's agenda.

Offered today are Stanley's 31 pages of story for issue 116 of New Funnies, cover-dated October, 1946. I've isolated these three stories in a CBR file that you may download HERE. (If you don't like the CBR format, just rename the extension to RAR and open it with WinRar or other, similar programs).

Spoilers abound in the text that follows. Those who read the following without reading the stories themselves are living far too dangerously for their own good.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Something Old, Something New...

Two things of interest:

A complete collection of John Stanley's "Peterkin Pottle" stories has been posted, for free, at the Digital Comics Museum. Richard Davidson did this compilation, and it's handy to have all seven of these stories in one spot. Click on the image to go to the download page.

I have started a new blog which, like Stanley Stories, focuses on the work of one creator. In this new blog, I'll look at the Warner Brothers animated cartoons of Fred "Tex" Avery, and, I hope, trace the important developmental paths of these 60+ films--many of them landmarks in the reclamation of animation from the Disney influence. Click on the above image, or visit it at

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Cockeyed Cure For Well-Being: Clyde Crashcup #3, 1964: story by John Stanley, art by Irving Tripp

SPOILER ALERT: Once again, I've gathered today's stories in a stand-alone CBR format, which you can download HERE. I put in some time straightening and brightening the pages, and I think it improves the reading experience.

Don't dig CBRs? Rename the file as an RAR extension, unzip it, and read the pages that way. You'll want to read the stories before you partake of my commentary on them.

That said, let's get this show on the road...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bucolic Battles, Noxious Neighbors and Sob Sisters: Three Stories from Little Lulu "Four Color" one shot 146, 1947

It's been nearly a year since we continued the series of posts on the early one-shot issues of Marge's Little Lulu, before it was granted its own regular series at the start of 1948. Have crowd, will please!

The previous one-shot, 139, is fully covered on Stanley Stories. You may read "The Hooky Team" HERE, and the other two stories in that issue HERE.

Cover-dated May 1947, this Lulu one-shot was written and penciled by John Stanley. Charles Hedinger, a significant interim artist, did the inked finishes.

Hedinger brings a distinct energy to the table. His Lulu stories have more visual energy than those of Irving Tripp, who would very quickly join Team Lulu. That said, they lack the bristling vigor Stanley's own artwork gave the series. It's a pity Stanley had to cease the finished artwork for Little Lulu.

Without that break, he may not have developed such a sharply focused role as writer, as the series reached its early 1950s peak of all-ages popularity. With a need for consistent high-quality writing, the magazine needed a more focused, in-control Stanley. His presence is just felt enough, through the stagnant-but-effective lens of Tripp's stable, static artwork, to still energize the series.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Weekend Plug-O-Rama

My friend and colleague Thad Komorowski has big news that I eagerly share here: Sick Little Monkeys, his book on the rise and fall of John Kricfalusi, Ren & Stimpy and Spumco Animation is now available. Full disclosure: I was the book's editor, and I also colored and co-designed the cover with Thad.

That said, it's his work all the way, and as I edited the text, I was fascinated with this darkly humorous, sometimes painfully tragic real-life story.

As I recently experienced with my work on the graphic novel The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song, some real-life stories are so vivid, dramatic and striking that it is a privilege to tell them. I think this is true of Thad's account of John K's manic spiral of a cartooning career.

Thad did his homework very well, with many insightful comments from the various Spumco survivors he interviewed. This book will enrage some fanboys: it's a no-nonsense, decidedly frank look at an obviously talented man who made some great animated cartoons, but had certain personality quirks that brought the walls tumbling down around him.

Thad acknowledges John K's genius, but details the chaos and confusion of his world. I think that even those who don't like Ren & Stimpy would still find this book's historical narrative gripping. It's a remarkable achievement--well done, Thad!


Might as well plug some recent antics of mine. I occasionally review 1940s and '50s film noirs for the blog, Noir of the Week, which is loosely affiliated with the Film Noir Foundation. This week, I review the thoroughly nutty 1945 sorta-noir, Danger Signal. You might enjoy reading it, and the four other reviews I've done for this blog.

Over the holidays, I put together a collection of some of Dick Briefer's Frankenstein comic-book stories, from public-domain issues of Prize Comics, with an introduction and supplementary features written by me. I am asking a nominal $3.99 for this 146-page e-book, which I think is a bargain for the quantity and quality of the work within, and for the time I put in touching up and sequencing the stories. If you'd like to learn more about this project, visit Comic Book Attic, the blog I share with Paul Tumey, who currently unearths early comics history in his marvelous Masters of Screwball Comics blog. Check out his new essay on pioneering cartoonist/painter Gus Mager.

Note: this post does not count towards the official 250 for this blog.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Funnies Teachings: It's A Scary World Out There!

One of the key messages in John Stanley's world is this: the world is a scary place. Funny things may happen, triumphs may be scored, losses bettered, statuses and faces saved... but one never knows what's going to happen--or why.

This element, also familiar to readers of Carl Barks' comics, gives these so-called "kiddie comics" an edge seriously lacking in much of what passes for comics, period.

This message doesn't require the walking dead, heavy artillery, secret origins or super-powers... to experience the same, the reader only needs to open his or her front door, best foot forward, and step out into the world.

Culled from two issues of Walter Lantz New Funnies (113 and 120), this special "Scary World" edition of Stanley Stories features three stories, and is available as a .CBR file >>>HERE. <<< If you're not hep to the CBR revolution, just rename the file as an .RAR extension, crack it open, and read that-a-way.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

John Stanley's Tropical Nightmare Noir: The Complete Tramp Doctor

NOTE: A newly revised and re-uploaded version of the linked file was established 8/17/14. It's on, and should work for the foreseeable future.

Happy 2013! To ring in the new year, I present the complete run of John Stanley's intense, unusual and highly personal "Tramp Doctor."

You may download a CBR file (which can be converted to an RAR file by just changing the file extension) HERE. This file includes a three-page piece on the series I've written.

It does not, by far, contain all my thoughts on "Tramp Doctor." I have more to say about this series -- and about all of John Stanley's work.