Sunday, November 23, 2014

Post-Mortem Post 003: The Fine Art of Comics Pantomime, with Little Lulu and Company

John Stanley was a great storyteller. His ability to spin multiple variations on a number of stock plots, and bring something fresh to the table each time, is downright enviable.

At the core of his storytelling skill is a sardonic, droll sense of humor. Stanley often indulged in slapstick on the comics page, and did it well. His true gift was an understated, subtle comedy, deeply rooted in the myriad flaws and quirks of characters he made his own and knew like his own children.

In my recent updating and book publication of the three-part John Stanley Comics Bibliography (see links at foot of post), I've been reminded of the grace and charm of his pantomime one-page gags in early issues of Little Lulu. These were in line with Marge Buell's original vision of the character. They expanded beyond Marge's one-panel chuckles, as did Stanley with all the characters he grandfathered over from the Buell version.

Stanley's "Lulu" and "Tubby" stories are dominated by talk. Traditionally, the author offered a great deal of character information from how his comic figures act, react and think. At his best, Stanley can make pages of dialogue riveting. His love of language, and his word-smithing, are evident in each line he wrote for the hundreds of thousands of speech balloons he filled.

A constant of Stanley's Lulu and Tubby work are one-page pantomime pieces. These items, usually landfill in poorly-planned comic magazines, were treated as equals to the longer, dialogue-driven stories by their creator. There is no sense of haste or waste in these pages. As with the text feature, Lulus Diry, these apparent fillers are as rich and rewarding as any other components of the series.

Stanley did another string of impressive one-page pieces for the magazine New Funnies, featuring his rendition of Woody Woodpecker. Those may be read HERE. The "Woody" pages, drawn by Stanley, traffic in the typical sassy dialogue exchanges of his longer stories. The Lulu pages are almost exclusively mute, and require the reader's utmost attention to small details. Their rhythm, flow and structure are striking. They're often laugh-out-loud funny, and offer a taste of Stanley's driest wit.

Here is a selection of some of my favorite panto pages from early issues of Little Lulu. Spend some time with them and you'll be rewarded...

two pages from Little Lulu one-shot #110
two pages from Little Lulu one-shot #120
two pages from Little Lulu one-shot #97
two pages from Little Lulu one-shot #115
Little Lulu one-shot #131
two pages from Little Lulu one-shot #139
Little Lulu one-shot #146
Little Lulu one-shot #158
two pages from Little Lulu #1
three pages from Little Lulu #2
Little Lulu #3
Little Lulu #4
Little Lulu #6
Little Lulu #8
Little Lulu #13
John Stanley's hand as cartoonist is keenly felt in the earlier pages. This sheaf of 23 pages offers a quick look at the visual evolution of Lulu, from Stanley's cartooning to Charles Hedinger's to Irving Tripp's.

Stanley entertained an ambition to be a magazine gag cartoonist. He had one cartoon published in the New Yorker in 1947. Roughs exist for several other well-executed gag cartoons, but I don't think any others were published in his lifetime.

As Lulu became more formula-bound, the gag pages acquired a more mechanical flavor. By 1955, they are more filler than inspiration. That said, Stanley wrote one of his most inspired single page strips late in the Lulu game, for issue #94:

To learn more about my just-published complete John Stanley comics bibliography, please click HERE. The books are available on and These lavishly illustrated books are a great holiday gift idea for the comics-loving person in your life...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Edition of the 1960s John Stanley Bibliography is out!

THIS LINK will take you to the CreateSpace store page for this 112-page full color updated edition of the 1960s John Stanley Bibliography. In a few days, it will be available on Amazon, and I'll append this post to include that link.

This print edition, in an 8 x 10 trade paperback, is full color, and features a special 24-page section of stories written by Stanley and illustrated by his greatest collaborator, Bill Williams.

Any of these three books will make a superb holiday gift for the comics fan in your life. Please consider purchasing one or all of these books. Thank you!

Book Edition of the 1940s John Stanley Bibliography Available on Amazon!

THIS LINK will take you to the page for the deluxe full-color version of the 1940s John Stanley bibliography. This is much improved from the original download version, with a great deal of new content, three complete comics stories, and seven essays on the significant Stanley characters of this decade.

The publication of this and the other two books in the bibliography is the culmination of years of research and hard work. I'm glad to be able to make these available in print form.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The John Stanley 1950s Bibliography is now on Amazon!

Start spreadin' the nooz! Both the cost-conscious standard edition and the deluxe all-color version of "John Stanley in the 1950s: a Comics Bibliography" are now available for reduced rates on! While I get less royalties from the amazon versions, they make the book more affordable, so I'm down with that. Click on those links and check them out! You can look inside the standard edition and see interior pages!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Buy A Print Edition of the 1950s John Stanley Bibilography! Yow!

Click HERE to order copies of the standard (black and white interior) edition of the 1950s John Stanley bibilography. It's 190 pages, in a handsome 8 x 10 squarebound trade paperback. The cost is $12.99 plus shipping, from Amazon's CreateSpace.

The deluxe (color interior) version, which includes a cover gallery in full color, is also available. THIS is the link for that edition.

I have print versions of the other two volumes in process. The 1940s volume will undergo some big revisions--mostly the inclusion of more text.

I think this is the first stand-alone book on John Stanley's work to be published. With any luck, this will just be the first of many...

Here's the full cover image, including spine and back panel...