Tuesday, January 25, 2005

LITTLE LULU GOES SHOPPING by Stanley/Tripp

Over the last few years Dark Horse has expanded its output with reprints of various classic comics. A lot of them are welcome additions to the library of any comic fan, none moreso than their new series of LITTLE LULU comics by John Stanley and Irving Tripp published by Dell in the 1940s and 1950s.

The first volume released, LITTLE LULU GOES SHOPPING, collects MARGE'S LITTLE LULU #6 - #12 from 1948 and 1949 (check here for a partial explanation of when the earlier issues will be published, but be prepared for head-spinning).

It's always good to see long-running work from a pair of top-notch creators at the top of their game brought back into print. The premise of the series is just kids living in suburbia, and how they interact with the world and each other. The main characters are Lulu (a smart young girl), her best friend Tubby (good natured but sometimes a bit conniving), and a younger boy, Alvin (generally a bit bratty and hard to handle). There are various other kids who are mostly background in this volume, but fleshed out later. From this basic set-up all sorts of story possibilities open, and provided Stanley and Tripp with material for years.

Each issue has a good variety of material. In general there's a wordless gag strip (from the inside cover of the original), a few Lulu focused stories, an "Alvin's Storytime" tale (where Lulu tells a free-form fantasy story to Alvin, usually trying in vain to teach him a lesson) and a Tubby story. A nice mix within each issue, as each type of story has a different feel. The storytelling is nicely dense, with the four-tier format common in kids comics of the era, so you get a lot of room even in six to ten pages. Lots of sight gags, word gags and often an interesting ironic or sardonic twist at the end.

Upcoming books should be equally strong. In particular I'm looking forward to the "Spider" stories, where Tubby takes a role as a detective, whose main suspect always ends up being Lulu's pop. Those I've read are wonderfully done.

While I've got all sorts of quibbles about some production aspects of the book, it's an amazing value at US$10 for seven original issues, over 200 pages of classic material, with crisp reproduction of the artwork. There's an occasional story where the colouring is missed (not surprisingly mostly in "The Green Girl"), but for the most part it looks great in black and white.

Since I'm a bit obsessive about these kinds of things, here's a table of contents I prepared to put inside my copy of the book.

Marge's Little Lulu #6
6 - [Tubby's Death Scene]
7 - Little Lulu Goes Shopping
17 - The Bad Boy
24 - Lost Dog
30 - The Ugly Duckling

Marge's Little Lulu #7
37 - [Tubby Sledding]
38 - Detective Story
48 - [Lulu! Time to get up!]
50 - The Snowball War
60 - [Alvin! Oh, Alvin!]
62 - Tubby Takes Care of Things

Marge's Little Lulu #8
68 - [Tree Swing]
69 - Happy Birthday
79 - [43-44-45-]
82 - Beautiful Lulu
88 - Pleasant Dreams
94 - Tough Guy

Marge's Little Lulu #9
99 - [Z Z Z Z Z Z]
100 - A Wrong Move
110 - The Cloud That Ran Away
116 - Pot of Gold
124 - Tubby Meets a Ghost

Marge's Little Lulu #10
130 - [Lulu Sleeping / Tubby Reading]
131 - Snowmen
142 - Bank Robbery
150 - Story In a Barrel
155 - The Musician

Marge's Little Lulu #11
161 - [Feeding the Cat]
162 - Housekeeper Wanted
172 - A Clothes Call
178 - The Prince In the Pool
186 - Tubby's Uncle

Marge's Little Lulu #12
192 - [Buttering Bread]
193 - Sea Dogs
203 - Fifty-Fifty Proposition
209 - The Green Girl
217 - Tubby's Revenge

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