Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Book Revue

Just a couple of recent developments you folks might find of interest...

I spent the past two years restoring Cecil Jensen's indescribably droll, dark and whacked-out newspaper comic strip Elmo. It ran from 1946 to 1948, and it defines the notion of a concept that came before its time.
The strip was scorned by the public-at-large, badly printed in the few newspapers that carried it, and destined to be a forgotten treasure of 20th-century American pop culture.
No longer. This 206-page 8.5" square trade paperback contains the entirety of the original run of Elmo, augmented with a biographical introduction by myself (which contains several examples of Jensen's editorial cartooning, for which he was best-known).
The comic strips have been painstakingly restored from the best sources I could locate, and it took a lot of hard work to bring this book to fruition.
As with my four books on John Stanley, Elmo is self-published, and can be purchased HERE for $14.99 USD. You may preview the book at this link. If you appreciate the humor of John Stanley, I think you'll cotton to Elmo.

And, of course, coming on November 26th is this book--the first in a six-volume series that collects my favorite Little Lulu stories and reprints them accurately for the first time at full comic-book size and in color. The first volume, Working Girl, features the three debut Lulu comics, which were John Stanley's work from cover to cover, art and story. A selection of stories from the next seven one-shot trial issues and the first six issues of the regular series rounds out the first volume.
Prior reprints of these three comics were done from amateurish tracings which Bruce Hamilton commissioned in the 1980s. Those impostors are a vulgarity, and can be discarded. This is the real deal. The production staff at Drawn + Quarterly have done these stories proud. All but one issue used in this volume comes from my personal collection--as will the bulk of the stories in subsequent books.
Each book has an afterword by me discussing John Stanley's career and spotlighting a handful of exceptional stories--kind of a fancy, tangible version of this blog in its heyday.
Little Lulu: Working Girl may be pre-ordered HERE. These books will come out on a regular schedule. I'm working on the scans for the fifth book in the series at present. It's my hope that these books will establish an adult readership for Little Lulu. I am honored to be the co-editor of this book series. 


Robert Fiore said...

You mean those things really were traced? As someone once said, YOW! I always thought that was some sort of loony conspiracy theory. I just couldn't believe anyone would do it that way. Of course, that was the set I never got; I don't think they printed much more than to fulfill the subscriptions and pre-orders. It came out when I was in a bout of unemployment, and by the time I was back in funds it was nowhere to be found, except online for hundreds of dollars. I did get the little Dark Horse versions, but those all looked lousy. I have the Elmo book in my shopping cart, waiting on a paycheck.

Frank M. Young said...

Thanks for your comment, Robert. My understanding is that there were no photostats available for the pre-1949 stories. I only bought one of the hardcover sets (the third one) and it has a couple of traced stories. The Dark Horse black and white volumes were scanned from the Lulu Library hardcovers, so we lost a generation of clarity and the traced stories (of which there are many) looked that much poorer.

There are some traced stories in the Carl Barks Library sets as well. The thinking was that readers would be put off by photographs of the printed comic book pages. I'm sure most readers would have been just fine with contrast-corrected black and white photos of the missing stories. Those tracings are one of the big botch jobs of comics preservation.

SangorShop said...

There's even traced stories in the EC boxset! And of course the various tracings in the Marvel boxsets

Luiz said...

Hi, the first Little Lulu issue is already in my shopping cart, as will be all the subsequent books. But I was disappointed to learn it´s now a best-of series. I understand the original project was to reprint Little Lulu´s Stanley run IN ITS ENTIRETY! In fact, I had already pre-ordered Little Lulu The Hooky Team - supposed to be volume 2 in the series - from Amazon!

What made D&Q change their mind? While it will be wonderful to have Little Lulu reprinted the right way for the first time ever, it is obvious now that the entirety of Stanley´s Little Lulu run will NEVER see the light of day, which is a crying shame.

Thanks for this great blog, which I unfortunately only found recently.

Luiz Abreu

Frank M. Young said...

Hi Luiz,
There were two factors in this decision:
1)Due to the influence of social justice warriors, about two dozen LULU stories are no longer acceptable for 21st-century audiences. There was nothing to be done about this. SJWs are rewriting history. The artifacts of our forefathers are pieces of history--not to be repeated, but to be preserved and learned from in the future. The notion of pretending they don't exist and censoring or banishing them I feel is wrong-headed. But such stories would offend a certain percent of the books' audience, and would adversely affect sales.

2) The complete series would exceed 30 volumes. With a recession forecast and interest in books waning, there is no way the market would support such a project, and it would end in mid-stream. Six books of carefully chosen stories--which still makes for over 1,000 pages--seemed the right way to go to ensure that the series is financially successful.

Luiz said...

Hi Frank,

Thanks for your prompt and thorough response.

Yes, I can perfectly understand the reasons that led to this decision.

I am happy to learn it´s going to be a 6-book series, not 5 as described at Amazon - yay!

The ongoing Fantagraphics reprint of Barks´ Ducks will run for 30 volumes - or more! And some Duck stories ("Darkest Africa" comes to mind) may also ruffle a few liberal feathers but I suppose the SJWs just got bolder - and louder! - over the last 10 years or so - a shame. Dark Horse should have got it right the first time around - what a missed opportunity!

Here´s hoping some of my favorite stories such as "The Big Snow" and "The Ghost Train" find their way into the series!

Frank M. Young said...

"The Ghost Train," one of my favorites, is in the books. I chose "The Snowball War" from LL #7 among a couple of outstanding snow stories. There are some stories we couldn't run because of their length, like "Alvin's Solo Flight" and "Lulu is Taken for a Ride," but there's always the possibility of a seventh book if the first six do well in the marketplace.

Robert Fiore said...

So what are some of the anathema? I would hardly have thought Little Lulu to be that censorable. Lil' Eightball maybe, but . . .

Frank M. Young said...

Any appearance of non-Caucasian characters; any reference to Native Americans. Reasonably benign stories like "Indian Uprising," "Adventures in Africa" and, say, the entirety of "Tubby" #5 (which is a moot point, since the series doesn't touch on that title) would be met with squawks of disdain by the SJW League. Once you start looking for examples, they're all over the place.
It's possible that the use of spanking as a punishment might make their radar light up. I tried my hardest to choose stories judiciously and stay away from hot potato incidents. I believe I did sneak a few spankings in. People need to be reminded that parents regularly walloped their children for most of the 20th century. I still see WalMart People (TM) doing so to their unfortunate children today, but tongues cluck and objections fly--rightfully so, in these instances.
The greatest tragedy of this SJW Reichstag is that we no longer have visible reminders of these human shortcomings in our popular culture. Thus, they're virgin territory for future generations to revive. I dearly hope mankind can evolve past the need to hurt other mammals, including themselves. I don't think comic book stories approaching 100 years' age are going to sway anyone one way or the other, but if anyone printed these stories now, they'd be in for a world of trouble. That might be the only reason to hang onto the Dark Horse books, flawed as they are.

Luiz said...

You´d think a little notice such as "this story contains stereotypes that were prevalent ... we do not condone etc. etc." would suffice but no! this may not be enough to appease the PC crowd.

The problem is once you go down that road... hey, why stop at Little Lulu or Duck stories or wonderful movies such as Disney´s "Song of the South"? Why not censor Shakespeare, or Plato or The Bible - they´re full of un-PC passages. Shades of some political experiments that did not end well...

Anyway, I´d love it if you´d keep us posted on updates of the Little Lulu project. Of course it´s your call and you may not want to give away too much but it would be nice to get regular updates: maybe one comment or two on some of the stories selected, what made you decide on a particular story. Will any of the Tubby stories that were featured in the LL magazine be included - some are certainly among Stanley´s best.

Frank M. Young said...

That worked up until Trump's election. That societal game-changer amped up the SJW army and began The Great American Hissy-Fit which continues as I write. So be it.
The first book will contain the entirety of the three Stanley-drawn issues, and stories such as "The Hooky Team," "Just a Gigolo," "The Kid Who Came to Dinner," "A Problem in Box-Tops," "The Case of the Purloined Popover," "Mountain Climbing" and its sequel "Babes in the Woods," "A Feathered Friend in Need" and Stanley's early masterpiece "The Gourmet," which my afterword discusses in detail. Along with other stories, some Lulus Diry entries and one-page gags are included. The book is 316 pp. cover to cover.

Robert Fiore said...

I hadn't thought of Indians! You're right, they show up all over the place. And another thing that had slipped my mind is that these books are specifically aimed at children, under a dedicated children's comics imprint. If it were aimed at an adult readership I'd absolutely call bullshit on it, but the circumstances make it a judgment call. As I've written before, parents expect people who entertain their children to assume parental responsibility. I don't think I'd make that call myself, but I can easily understand the responsible parties concluding it just wasn't worth the aggravation. There was a period of time there where Tintin in the Congo was constructively banned in North America because the licensees considered Tintin books to be children's books full stop, and they weren't going to touch it with a stick. Eventually they sublicensed it to another publisher who brought it out in a hardcover "Collector's Edition" to differentiate it from the official series. Besides, getting back to D&Q and Lulu, these are Canadians, who could simply conclude that they don't want to stand the gaff for our Indian Wars, having troubles of their own. Not to presume they don't share the prevailing sentiment, which I would interpret to be that the indigenous people of the Americas are morally equivalent to Holocaust survivors, and should no more be subject to humorous reference than Holocaust survivors would be. However, unless young people have become very different from what they were in my day, once they find out they've been given a bowdlerized edition, nothing on Earth will stop them from seeking out the dirty version.

If I were you, though, I would hold out on the spanking issue as a matter of integrity. Leaving out Cowboys and Indians humor is a matter of selection. Excluding spankings would be to remove an integral part of the sort of childhood that's being depicted, and would constitute materially altering the nature of the author's work. I would imagine handling the issue with a Note to the Reader: "Please be aware that these comics were drawn in the Olden Days when spanking was considered a natural way to punish misbehavior. In these enlightened times we know that being the perfect little devils that you are spanking will do no good, and we have abolished this barbaric practice. Also, be warned that if your parents catch you spanking one of your dollies you've earned yourself a Time Out, Buster."