Thursday, December 01, 2016

Pre Willy

Tuesday Comic Strip Day.

Here is something special I came across. Someone was selling Willy Lumpkin originals on Ebay. I was interested, because I have shown large parts of it's run here and plan to show even more. I wrote an article about Stan Lee's efforts to get out of comics between 1956 and 1962 which will run later in 2017 as the cover article in Alter Ego, which includes all I could find out about this forgotten strip by Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo. In fact, I bought three of them. And I went back into the Ebay archives to see if any others had been sold recently and it turned out the same seller had sold two others earlier, which I managed to pull from their files as well. But there was something odd about them. These two have the same gag and one of them looks older than the other. Time for some detective work.

All of these strips are from the early days of Willy Lumpkin. The origin of this strip was the moment that Stan Lee saw Mel Lazerus' Miss Peach and realized he could do something in the same format. Miss Peach features several characters in one long panel, who all comment on a situation - with the last one giving a final one-liner. He applied the idea to a strip about a cop on the corner of a big city, commenting on the things that went on around him. But the syndicate thought he should do something more suburban or even small town, so the idea was switched from a cop to a postman and Willy Lumpkin was born. For the first few months all gags were in this format. The strip started in December and only in March the format was changed from single panel to multipanel. Not as a clean break, but within a month the long panels had disappeared. So all of these strips, including the ones beneath, are from those first three or four months. In fact, I found most of them and they belong in February. In most of those strips, Willy has a four button coat, because it is set in a city that has cold winters (allowing for gags with snow). It's only in the spring, that his coatless attire is shown, which always includes a small black tie. But... this was after the change to multi panel gags. So the first version of the reused gag which has Willy in a tie, has to have been drawn in the summer of spring, making it likely that what we have here is in fact one of the earlier try-out strips - which was finally (re)used and redrawn in the winter!



1 comment:

The Art of Bob Chambers said...

Makes sense! The first strip doesn't have syndicate information or a date so it probably was an unpublished tryout strip. The gag is funnier with checkers, though.
Nice to see original early DeCarlo art!