Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I am glad I am not doing this seriously yet, because keeping this up on a regular basis needs a lot more structure in your life than I can manage at this moment. So I guess I'll be filling in these posts one by one under the radar until I have a good number of them, before I go public with them.

And boy, do I have a lot to share with you. First of all, I will finish up my run of Stan Lee and Dan deCarlo's Willy Lumpkin Dailies with a little more commentary. After that I have a couple of other rare newspaper strips from the fifties and sixties I'd like to share. In between I will try and ad a couple of posts about my other interest: sitcoms.

In the late fifties, Stan Lee was looking around for ways to leave the comic book grind. The Toni Mendez archives at Ohio State University show that he prepared several comic strip proposals, including a very early soap opera strip with Vince Colletta. Toni Mendez was the driving force behind Creator's Syndicate, a small outfit that was famous for allowing Johnny Hart to keep creative control and many of his rights to B.C. I hope some further research will make clear how Stan Lee arrived there, but one connection could be that some of his former collegues and employees at Timely were doing strips for them. One of those was Al Jaffee, who had a long running panel series called Tall Tales. In a private e-mail Jaffee told me that he had a good working relationship with Toni Mendez (a woman, by the way). Even after Tall Tales folded, he kept submitting new strip ideas. "I did one every two weeks," he told me. That could be hyperbole, but knowing Al Jaffee's supple mind and huge production, it could also be true (at least for some periods).

Stan Lee's first succes with Creator's Syndicate was Ms. Lyon's Cub Scouts, a gentle humor strip about a family whose children were in the club scouts. The artist was Joe Maneely, Stan Lee's favorite artist in the fifties. When Maneely died in 1958, Stan Lee had to look for a replacement. In a recent book about John Romita Sr. from Twomorrows a try-out by his hand is seen. But in the end he chose Al Hartley, another of his Timely mainstays. Unfortunately, Hartley drew the strip in a lackluster style. The amount of detail in the art was more than halved, the parents were dropped and the strip became even more juvenile. Later on I will show a few samples and talk a bit more about this strip.

But first, more Willy Lumpkin sundays.

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