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Monday, January 31, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Busy Corners

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Busy Corners
Sugar & Spike #1 [1956]
6 pages
Reprints: The Best of DC #47 [1984], Sugar & Spike No. 1 Replica Edition [2002]
Dedication: None

One of my favourite Sugar & Spike stories is from the very first issue, this story that introduces Sugar's Uncle Charley, her mother's younger brother, a traffic cop who frequently visits to play with his niece, who adores him because "he's only grown up where it shows".  Spike is initially jealous, but is quickly won over by Charley's charm.

This story sets the pattern for most of the future Uncle Charley stories, where his ideas of how to handle children infuriate Sugar's mother, then seem to work, and then ultimately backfire because for all his trying, the children don't really understand what he's saying, but love him anyway.

Among other things, this story has the first appearance of one of my favourite lines, one Mayer liked enough to use a few times over the years.  "If people don't want their things busted, they shouldn't leave 'em lying around on the ceiling!"

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Plumm, Uncle Charley
Damage: one new chandelier and everything on the living room table
Punishment: Two trips into an increasingly crowded corner

"What's he talking about?"
"I don't know, but pay attention or you'll hurt his feelings!"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Little Giants

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Little Giants
Sugar & Spike #27 [1960]
6 pages
Reprints: The Best of DC #47 [1984]
Dedication: Mrs. Marjorie Lane (age 21 plus), California

Spike is a bit of a pest while his mother tries to talk to Sugar's mother.  Sugar's mother suggests something that she learned from the baby-book that works for Sugar, letting the kids play as giants in a miniature world.  They decide to let Spike try it, and then Sugar explains her interpretation of the toys, and how she feels about their mothers ignoring them. All of this serves to dissipate the anger the kids have, though perhaps not for the reason the adults think.

This was among the earliest Sugar&Spike stories I read, through the 1980s digest reprint, and not really one of my favourites back then.  Not sure why, but I do like it a bit better now, especially some of Sugar's dialogue when explaining things to Spike.  There are also some clever bits in the art which are much easier to appreciate at full size.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Plumm, Mrs. Wilson
Damage: Hopefully the dolls are waterproof
Punishment: The dolls get treated harshly
Sugar's treatment of Spike: He gets a doll smacked out of his hand and yelled at a bit, but suffers much more from the coffee dumped on his head

"Whenever I'm in the mood to play with it, I make a real pest of myself until she gets it out"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sugar&Spike - FLRJ!

Oh sure, I like the "GLX", and always get a chuckle out of "SPTZL", and don't mind "GLAAH" one bit. Even the lesser known "SHMZL" and "GLBSH" I have affection for. But my favourite bit of Sheldon Mayer created baby-talk, by a long shot? No competition, it's:

In case you have trouble with Spike's accent, here it is from Sugar:

Ah, FLRJ! I don't know what it means, but it's a word the kids usually use when they're upset and arguing. Whatever it means, I suspect when they say FLRJ that's one of the rare times they're lucky their parents don't understand the baby-talk, because that would be a one-way trip into the corner.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Unused 1971 book proposal

Back in 1971, Mayer did some material as a proposal for a book collection of comics as THE POCKET-SIZE TREASURY OF SUGAR AND SPIKE STORIES.

It didn't come out, of course. Too early, I guess. Just had to wait another 40 years. Still, a nice cover. This copy of it is from COMIC BOOK ARTIST #11 [2001] from TwoMorrows, a flip-book issue with one side devoted to Sheldon Mayer (guest edited by Bill Alger) and the other to Alex Toth (an artist who Mayer hired back in the 1940s). You should try to find a copy if you're interested in Mayer's work. TwoMorrows is sold out of the print edition, but has a digital version available.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Little Arthur Becomes a Mad Professor!

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Little Arthur Becomes a Mad Professor!
Sugar & Spike #42 [1962]
6 pages
Reprints: None
Dedication: Carol Chernoff (age 12), Illinois

One of the major recurring characters in the series is Little Arthur, a slightly older boy whose mother Myrna often brings him over.  Arthur first appears in #17, returns in #22 and then shows up every few issues for the rest of the series, including the new material drawn in the 1980s.  Arthur is quite a terror, so the kids learn to dread his visits, which usually consist of Arthur pulling Sugar's ponytail, which leads to Spike biting him.  Arthur is old enough that he speaks grown-up talk rather than baby-talk, so he lie about what happened, getting the kids punished (as Sugar once says, he doesn't so much speak in grown-up talk as he fibs in it).  Of course, his plans always backfire (I don't think the Comics Code allowed them to show success through lying).

In this variation, Arthur has a new interest in medicine, and pretty much ignores Sugar and Spike as he works on his plans for a self-propelled stretcher. The kids figure he must be sick, and are quite happy with that, until Arthur tries to put his ideas into practice, converting a coffee table to a stretcher and trying to use them as test patients.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Plumm, Little Arthur, Myrna
Damage: That coffee table is history, all Arthur's fault.  The lamp, that was all Spike

"He should be sick more often! It improves him!"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sugar&Spike - The New Vase

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

The New Vase
1 page
Reprints: None

Most of the unpublished Sugar & Spike stories are those that Mayer drew in the 1980s. However, there are occasional bits like "The New Vase", a 1-page story that seems to date from fairly early in the run of the series (maybe 1960 or earlier), but which wasn't used for whatever reason. It's a cute enough gag, nothing special, notable for being one of only a handful of stories to only feature one of the kids. Pretty unusual, since a lot of the charm of the series is how the kids interact with each other.

I did want to point out the alphabet building blocks that Spike is playing with.  They were a common prop in the stories, being a ubiquitous toddler toy and endlessly useful for comedy purposes.  What I always like about them is how they frequently spelled out the common baby-talk words that Mayer used when presenting the speech untranslated, GLX, SPTZL, GLAAH and the rest.  Nice touch, I thought.

Characters: Spike, Mrs. Wilson

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sugar&Spike - One Good Deed

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

One Good Deed
Sugar & Spike #87 [1969]
1 page
Reprints: None

Cute little single page story about how the kids react to the doorbell.  I like the logic of Sugar describing ringing the bell as punching the door in the face, and the action that results from that interpretation is both sensible and silly, and the proud expressions on their faces for thinking of it are adorable.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Plumm, Mrs. Wilson

"It was my mommy who punched its nose!"

Upcoming Comics - Staton on Anthem

Hey, if I told you that a prolific 1970s Charlton artist was doing a comic book adaptation of an Ayn Rand novel, who do you think it would be?

Right, Joe Staton, co-creator of E-Man and many other comics in the last four decades. I usually enjoy his stuff (especially when he inks his own work), though I haven't seen too much of it in a while. I noticed he was drawing a lot of Scooby-Doo comics in the last few years, which fit his style well, and he's just been announced as the new artist on the Dick Tracy comic strip.

Anyway, Staton is the artist on an upcoming 144-page comic book adaptation of ANTHEM, Rand's short novel from the 1930s, with writer Charles Santino (who did some enjoyable work on AESOP'S FABLES [1991]). Should be an interesting read.  The story is short enough that not much, if anything, will have to be cut out to fit the 144-page adaption.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Strip Proposal 1980s

In the 1980s, Mayer did another proposal for a Sugar & Spike comic strip. There are around seven weeks worth of daily strips, and possibly one Sunday strip, for this proposal, in various stages of completion. Most of them are fully inked, with the lettering still in pencils. Others are in rougher stages, and sometimes there are multiple versions of the the same strip, which are a nice look at the creative process.

In this strip, for example, Mayer tried the joke two ways, one with most of the baby-talk dialogue translated, and then revised to leave it as baby-talk.  I think he made the right choice.  You can also see some other changes, like in panel three where it was changed to Sugar climbing up on books to reach the sharpener.  I can't make out all the notes, but it looks like there's one sketch where Mayer's trying to work out the expression of Spike's face in the last panel. I also find it interesting that often when Mayer does strips with the baby-talk untranslated he'll note what they're saying in the margins.  I guess that was for his own benefit, to more easily make sure the expressions and body language match what they're saying.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Feature Pages - Cards

In addition to the Write Your Own Comics and Pint-Size Pin-Ups features that ran in the majority of issues of SUGAR AND SPIKE, Sheldon Mayer ran cards featuring the characters for Valentine's Day and Christmas in the appropriate issues from 1960 to 1967.  Yet another excuse for kids to cut up their comics and vex future collectors...

This is one of the four Valentine's Day cards from Sugar and Spike #27 [1960].

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Strip proposal c1960

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Around 1960 Sheldon Mayer prepared a two week sample of a strip proposal for Sugar and Spike. Above is the first strip, which begins a brief storyline of the kids and their parents meeting for the first time, which is a bit different in comic strip continuity from how it was shown in the comics. The end result is the same, though, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  After the introductory storyline (including one that adapts the gag on the cover of #11), the dailies then go on to begin a story based on "Lobsters Away" from #3.  There's also a page out there that may be a sample Sunday page from that proposal, which is based on a story from #4 ("One Sunday Afternoon"), along with some paper-dolls that appeared in #21.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sugar&Spike - New Method

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

New Method
Sugar & Spike #11 [1957]
1 page
Reprints: None

Well, you know this isn't going to end well for Spike's dad, sleeping on the beach with his bare feet sticking out when his son finds a crab.

Nice quick little story, something to look forward to if the upcoming reprint is followed by a second volume.

And Spike's dad even brings his pipe to the beach...

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mr. Wilson
Damage: That toe's going to be sore for a while

"It's good for waking up sleeping daddies"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Bissette on sidekicks

Steve Bissette has a massive book coming out from Black Coat Press, TEEN ANGELS & NEW MUTANTS, about superhero sidekicks, in particular Rick Veitch's BRAT PACK.

Rick Veitch's Brat Pack® and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks
by Stephen R. Bissette
Introduction by Charles Hatfield

Writer/artist Rick Veitch's career bridges the underground comix of the 1970s, mainstream DC and Vertigo Comics, and the self-publishing revolution of the 1980s and 1990s. In that extraordinary body of work, Brat Pack® remains a landmark, and Teen Angels & New Mutants is the first book-length, in-depth study of a creator and graphic novel worthy of the autopsy. En route, Teen Angels offers a crash-course on teen pop culture and superhero sidekick history, fresh analysis of Dr. Fredric Wertham's seminal books, ponders real-world "new mutants" like Michael Jackson, The Olsen Twins, and Jason Bieber, and charts the 1980s comicbook explosion and 1990s implosion--and more.

Sugar&Spike - The Fix-It Machine

A reminder, if you're planning to get the upcoming SUGAR AND SPIKE ARCHIVES VOL. 1 from a comic book store, right now is the best time to let them know of your interest. Order code JAN110334, page 115 of January 2011 Diamond Previews. They'll probably still be able to order it later (the book isn't due out until August/September), but the initial numbers they order in the next few weeks probably count for a lot, and early interest may encourage them to order shelf copies in addition to special orders. You can also order it from other sources, like Amazon, not sure if early orders on places like that have any effect, but the price they have now is pretty good, so good idea to lock it in now.

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

The Fix-It Machine
Sugar & Spike #9 [1957]
6 pages
Reprints: None [yet]
Dedication: Linda Mayer, Washington DC

Hm, no idea if that dedication is related to Sheldon Mayer...

Anyway, Spike gets a new scooter, and plays with it by sitting on it upsidedown and rolling the wheels with his hands.  Sugar realizes this is wrong, and correctly surmises that it's a "bump toy", which is exactly what it sounds like.  The scooter doesn't last long under that abuse, which leads to Sugar teaching Spike about how to use his father as a fix-it-machine.  Things escalate from there, to an entertaining finish.

Clever little story, especially the looks of pure joy as the kids think they're finally starting to learn about how the world works, contrasted with exactly how far off they are.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mr. Wilson, Mrs. Wilson
Damage: The scooter, multiple times and Spike's clothes

Sugar's treatment of Spike: Very rough, dragging him around, standing on him, although oddly the most damage is done when she's trying to keep him from hurting himself

"Are you sure you're playing with it right?"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Alter Ego Centennial

Congratulations to Roy Thomas for making it to #100 with this iteration of his magazine devoted to classic comics. I was a regular reader of it for years, been a bit more selective about picking it up since #50 a few years ago, but I always enjoy it, and will definitely be picking up this issue.

Alter Ego: Centennial is a celebration of 100 issues, and 50 years, of Alter Ego, Roy Thomas’ legendary super-hero fanzine. It’s a double-size triple-threat book, with twice as many pages as the regular magazine, plus special features just for this anniversary edition! Behind a Rich Buckler/Jerry Ordway JSA cover, Alter Ego celebrates its dual anniversaries as Roy Thomas is interviewed about the 1990s at DC and several independents! Plus, special anniversary editions of Alter Ego staples Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt, Fawcett Collectors of America (FCA), and Alex Wright's amazing color collection of 1940s DC pinup babes!
Softcover, 8x11, 160pgs, $19.95

Sugar&Spike - The Covers

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

The Covers of Sheldon Mayer

Sheldon Mayer's SUGAR & SPIKE covers are among my favourite covers ever, always sure to bring a smile or chuckle

(for a full gallery of SUGAR & SPIKE covers, you can go here, or here, or here)

The early covers were all self-contained and didn't refer to any of the interior short stories (except to the extent that there would be seasonal issues for things like Christmas or Halloween and both the cover and an interior story would play off that theme in different ways). One of the many delightful things about them, and about Mayer's work in general, is the way he can put a perfect facial expression on Sugar and Spike for any situation. When you see them, there's no question about whether Mayer meant for them to be happy or confused or angry or surprised. All the expressions are clear, all of them are funny and all of them remind me of faces I've seen real babies make in similar circumstances.

Structurally, these covers can be divided into three major groups, the comic strip, the single image verbal gag and the single image sight gag.

The comic strip types are usually four panels, and have the same rhythm as the classic humour strips like PEANUTS. Mayer used that type of cover on the first three issues, and again on #14 and #18. #11 is also a variation on this, being a two panel gag, with the panels being two tall ones (essential to the construction of the particular gag). These covers really make me wish that a SUGAR & SPIKE comic strip had come to pass (it was apparently seriously discussed at various times, with a proposal and some finished samples from around 1960 and an an unfinished six-week proposal from the early 1980s, including some recycled gags from these covers and other places, but it wasn't to be). Mayer is clearly worked on a level that only a handful of daily comic strip artists managed, and comic books didn't really seem to give him the audience he deserved. On the other hand, I like his longer stories even more than the four panel gags, and he had a certain flexibility in story construction there that comic strips didn't offer, so it's a trade-off.

Most of the covers are single images, though. Of those, most use both words and pictures to tell their joke, often playing off the idea of how the point of view of a baby is so completely different from that of adults. Their reaction to a lifeguard is to marvel at the size of his "highchair" but wonder how his mommy will feed him. Their reaction to a tree growing in the living room is to run before they get blamed. This kind of thing is a constant theme in almost all the SUGAR & SPIKE stories, but here on the covers it's distilled into its purest form.

Some of the verbal gags deal with just the general mischief and mayhem that the kids cause. This is seen even better in the third group of covers, the pure sight gags with no (or very little) dialogue. Here Mayer presents exactly what you would see, leaving it to your imagination to wonder exactly how that situation came about, what the kids are thinking and what the consequences will be. Of the 6 such covers in the run (#12, #15, #21, #21, #23 #44) I think #23 is the best, and may be the best SUGAR & SPIKE cover of all. It features Sugar and Spike in a movie theatre, and while the visual gimmick means we see less of their wonderful facial expressions than normal it's more than made up for in the rest of the cover.

In later issues Mayer started to do more full-length stories, and for a time the covers were mostly of a fourth kind, more of a teaser for what was inside (with a lot of blurbs and stuff) than a stand-alone entity. The first of these was #40, and then starting with #58 that becomes the norm, with about half the run after that composed of those types of covers, especially the stories with long Bernie the Brain featured stories. While those were still funny, they lacked a certain amount of the charm and completeness of the early covers.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Nick Cardy wartime art

Probably too rich for my blood, but I always love Nick Cardy's work, so I'll definitely take a look if I happen to see a copy of this upcoming book, and if there's ever a more affordable softcover unsigned edition (with or without the DVD), I'll definitely be interested.

by Nick Cardy

Renowned cover artist and illustrator from DC Comics' golden years, Nick Cardy, now in his 80's, has been drawing his whole life. Before beginning his career in comics post-World War II, Nick was one of the Greatest Generation, shipped overseas to take part in the war. Without benefit of a camera, Nick did what he did best — carrying a sketchbook and documenting his time from beginning to end, both the humor and the horror. What we have is a chronicle, one man's journey, that speaks for millions, and each sketch and painting accompanied by Nick Cardy's own commentary. Each volume also includes a 30-minute DVD of Cardy discussing his experiences as an artist at war. Available in both Signed and Sketch editions.

SIGNED EDITION—Hardcover, 6x9, 126pgs, $39.99
SKETCH EDITION—Hardcover, 6x9, 126pgs, $150.00

Sugar&Spike - Winter Sunday

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Winter Sunday
Sugar & Spike #6 [1957]
4 pages
Reprints: None [yet]

Given what I just had to spend the last hour doing, this is an appropriate tale.

Spike is underfoot while his mother tries to clean, so his father takes him outside to help clear the snow.  Anyone who has ever tried to get an infant to "help" in any task knows how that'll go, doubly so when Sugar shows up. Mr. Wilson manages to distract them with some tiny snow-men, which works for a while, but he doesn't consider their infant reaction to the ephemeral nature of snow.

Very cute body language for the kids in this one, as they range from quite proud to confused to happy to angry.  I especially like those panels of Spike imitating his father when they first go outside.

I also get a kick out of the stereotypical 1950s dad pipe that Mr. Wilson smokes, even when shoveling snow.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Wilson
Damage: A bit of a mess at the beginning and end, but nothing permanent

"Just nod your head and look bright!"

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sugar&Spike - A Study in Science Friction

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

A Study in Science Friction
The Best of DC #41 [1983]
8 pages
Reprints: None

Following the 1971 conclusion of SUGAR AND SPIKE's impressive 98 issue run Mayer's main work for a few years was writing for DC's mystery books, including the creation of the Black Orchid and several great stories with Alex Toth. After his recovery from his 1973 eye operations, he also drew some stuff, including some Rudolph the Reindeer stories for DC's tabloid line, and worked on a Bible adaptation. The original Sugar & Spike stories were also published in other languages ("Sal y Pimienta" in Spanish, "Bib et Zette" in French, "Tutuca e Teleco-Teco" in Portuguese, "Bosse och Bettan" in Swedish), and in the early 1980s Mayer began writing and drawing new stories to appear in those publications.  Eventually some of those stories, along with classic reprints, would appear in DC's digest comics, although there are still a lot of stories that have never been published in English.

Most of the new stories that were published appeared in this issue of BEST OF DC. In this one, Spike is confused by his inability, as a little kid, to fit in his mother's big-person shoe, when the rules he learned from Sugar suggest he should be able to (since "little stuff always gozinta big stuff").  Bernie tries in vain to explain the logic to Spike, and then briefly thinks that Sugar understands him (which requires a bit of a strained bit of dialogue) before learning, as always, that life is never easy for an infant genius.

While the new material Mayer did in the 1980s isn't quite as good as the original series, there are a lot of fun stories, and I'd certainly like to see the published material re-published in a larger-than-digest size and the remainder published for the first time in English a few years down the line, after several books of the 1950s and 1960s stories come out.

Characters: Spike, Bernie the Brain, Sugar, Mrs. Wilson
Sugar's treatment of Spike: It's actually Bernie who faces the usual wrath of Sugar, pushed over and stood on

"You may be the infant genius around here, but I know a thing or two myself!"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sugar&Spike - A Tale of Two Sugars

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

A Tale of Two Sugars
Sugar & Spike #87 [1969]
17 pages
Reprints: None
Dedication: Cindy Davidson (age 12), New York and Ronnie Zowadsky (age ?), Rhode Island

The second half of Mayer's original run on SUGAR AND SPIKE generally featured longer stories and more fanciful adventures.  In this story, the fathers are charged with taking care of the kids for a day, and are unable to outsmart the kids so one of them can sneak off, which the kids interpret as an elaborate hiding game.  So they take the kids to a used car lot, which happens to be targeted for theft by master of disguise Marvin the Midget.  Despite misinterpreting everything going on around them, the kids manage to completely confound Marvin's plans, which leads to Marvin disguising himself as Sugar.

While my preference will always be for the shorter more true-to-life Sugar&Spike stories, there is a lot of great slapstick in these longer stories. This one is pretty good, since it uses the same general theme of many of the earlier stories, the kids misinterpreting adult actions, and turns that concept up to eleven.

Characters:Sugar, Spike, Mr. Plumm, Mr. Wilson, Mrs. Plumm, Mrs. Wilson, Marvin the Midget and his gang, car lot staff and police
Sugar's treatment of Spike: Pushes him over and stands on him

"I haven't had so much fun since we put the eggs inna washing machine!"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sugar&Spike - The Doggie That Wasn't

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

The Doggie That Wasn't!
Sugar & Spike #48 [1963]
4 pages
Reprints: None
Dedication: Lisa Ray (age 6 months), Vancouver, via her Aunt Rayline

Spike gets agitated when another baby won't let Spike play with his imaginary dog. This time it's Sugar's turn to try to be the reasonable one. That trick never works, so she changes tactics to try to get the other kid to admit there's no dog, and failing that, chases the imaginary dog away to solve the problem. Positively King Solomon in her wisdom. Unfortunately, Solomon didn't have to deal with baby logic, which in this case just creates an imaginary giraffe.

Great little story, demonstrating one of the common dynamics of the series, Spike being the more naive, gullible and imaginative one, and Sugar being the realist who finds herself with the job, if not the right temperament, of his protector.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, unnamed small baby
Property damage: Spike's suspenders
Sugar's treatment of Spike: overall protective, in her own way, but she does drag him around by said suspenders until they snap

"There's only one way to end this nonsense!"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Sugar and Spike Tackle Halloween

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Sugar and Spike Tackle Halloween
Sugar & Spike #31 [1960]
6 pages
Reprints: None
Dedication: Jean Meyer, Minnesota

Through the magic of non-continuity, Sugar and Spike got to experience events like Halloween and Christmas for the first time a half-dozen times or more. Mayer came up with some great variations on the themes every year.

In this year, the parents obviously decided the kids were too young for Halloween, and put them to bed early. Of course, they can't sleep with all the commotion, so they sneak out to see what's happening (I should add a "bad parenting" section to these write-ups). Understandably excited at witnessing candy being given away, they decide to get in on the action, but run afoul of a rather mean neighbour who didn't buy any candy for the kids. He gets his after Sugar and Spike disguise themselves in a pair of longjohns.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, unnamed 12-year-old trick-or-treaters, unnamed neighbours, Mrs. Plumm, Mrs. Wilson
Property damage: the neighbour took a flip on a banana peel

"This is the greatest game since 'Sneeze-the-Pablum'!"
"--And more profitable, too!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Better Late Than Never!

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Better Late Than Never!
Sugar & Spike #54 [1964]
1 page
Reprints: None

Ah, poor old "No-Feets", long suffering pet fish who manages to narrowly avoid catastrophe at the hands of Sugar and Spike time and time again. You'd think parents with such active kids around would think twice about having a fish in a glass bowl precariously balanced on top of a pole.

I guess he belongs to the Plumms, based on this story, but I'm not sure if that's consistent. I think he shows up wherever it's most convenient for the joke of the moment.

Anyway, a nice little story in just six panels. I especially liked the attention paid to the face of No-Feets, going from suspicious to resigned to scowling.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, No-Feets, Mrs. Plumm (hands only)
Property Damage: No-Feets came out unscathed, but that toothpaste tube is a goner

"I must say, your mother is broadminded! Mine frowns on this sort of thing!"

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Trip to the Zoo

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Trip to the Zoo
Sugar & Spike #8 [1957]
6 pages
Reprints: None [yet]
Dedication: Mr. and Mrs. Rube Grossman (age 21 plus), New York

Rube Grossman was one of the other prolific artists on DC's humour books of the era, among other things drawing Mayer's other creation, the Three Mouseketeers, after Mayer went on S&S full-time. He's possibly best known as the artist of the annual RUDOLPH specials DC would publish (which Mayer would take over for the tabloid books in the 1970s).

To see if the kids are ready for the zoo, Sugar's dad shows them a film that his pal Rube Grossman made. The kids seem uninterested at first, fighting and talking. Then they start laughing when the camel comes on. We also get an appearance by Rube hisownself, standing next to the camel, eating a hot-dog, imitating the camel chewing its cud.

The next day at the zoo, the kids aren't very interested. In one scene, they figure out that the grown-ups will be disappointed if they don't act excited, so they both give a half-hearted "Wheeee". You have to see this panel to believe it. It perfectly captures the faces I've seen on infants when you try to get them interested in a new toy more exciting to you than to them (they're usually happy to play with the wrapping paper). Anyway, they fool around at the zoo for awhile, uninterested in the animals, but suddenly start crying when they leave. Sugar's dad can't understand. Talking amongst themselves, the kids reveal that the only thing they wanted to see was the funny man with the hot-dog.

I absolutely adore this story, one of my favourites of the whole series. Mayer captured the body language and facial quirks of kids so well in it, and the theme of the contrast between what adults think kids are interested in and what they're really interested in was fertile ground for the series. And a cameo by a fellow cartoonist tops it off.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mr. Plumm, Mrs. Plumm, Rube Grossman (film)
Property Damage: minimal, one lost balloon, film and projector are briefly threatened by Sugar's interest
Sugar's treatment of Spike: swings him around by his legs, but he did ask for that by whacking her with a toy elephant. She also pushes him over and sits on him.

"All the interesting toys, with parts to pull off, are always theirs! And don't they hate sharing!"

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Smurfing incredible

I had my doubts, but suddenly I'm looking forward to the SMURFS film...

Sugar&Spike - Feature Pages - Write Your Own

In addition to the comics, SUGAR AND SPIKE was known for the many interactive feature pages, which were also done by Sheldon Mayer.  Always fun, although responsible for many of the back issues you find being in less than stellar condition.  The "Write Your Own Comic Page" started with the very first issue, and continued right to the end, missing only a few issues (and with a few variations, like scrambled panels).  For most of the run it featured two unnamed boys seen above, a few years older than the toddler stars of the series, having various slapstick adventures that don't really need words to understand, but provide ample opportunity for gags.  There is one episode which features Sugar interacting with the boys, so it looks like they are in the same neighbourhood.  Towards the end of the series, the pages would sometimes feature Sugar and Spike, or their supporting characters Bernie the Brain and Little Arthur, instead of our regular stars.

Not sure if the upcoming reprint will include the various feature pages like these, it would be nice if they are in there, as they add a lot to the experience.  Although I picture someone buying a hardcover years from now and finding the paper-dolls cut out, and the "Write Your Own" comic page filled in...

This page appeared in SUGAR AND SPIKE #32 [1961].

Friday, January 07, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Cats? Meowch!

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Cats? Meowch!
Sugar & Spike #6 [1957]
1 page
Reprints: None [yet]

Spike's dad comes home to find the kids sitting in the corner, apparently for finger-painting.  He can't understand that, until he finds out what they were painting with, and the feline invasion that resulted.

A very cute example of the singe page stories that Mayer excelled in. The cats in this one are especially adorable.

A few issues later in the letter column there was a note from a reader who didn't quite understand the punchline to this story. Oddly I read the issue with the letter long before I read this issue, so I was wondering what the letter-writer meant. It's unfortunate that the upcoming reprint probably won't include letter columns, as they're a delight.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mr. Wilson, Mrs. Wilson, dozens of cats
Damage: The walls can be cleaned, I guess.  That furniture might never be the same
Punishment: In the corner, twice

"I wish they'd make up their minds!"

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Glx Sptzl Glaah #1 [1977]

I've been waiting for a decent Sugar & Spike reprint since the mid-1980s. That makes me a late-coming band-wagon jumper compared to the guys who put together GLX SPTZL GLAAH #1 back in 1977. I believe it was the only issue of this fanzine devoted to all the works of Sheldon Mayer, with special emphasis on Sugar & Spike.

That cover up above is, of course, by Mark Evanier, who I assume most people reading this are familiar with, though you might not have seen his artwork before. He also writes a 2-page article about Sugar & Spike, in particular the story "Who's Sorry Now?" from #4, which will be included in the upcoming reprint.

A lot of other contributors to the 28-page fanzine.

Well, editor Ken Gale has a site with an article about Mayer over here, and archives of his comic book radio show 'Nuff Said. Rich Morrissey is sadly no longer with us, I exchanged a few e-mails with him back in the 1990s, nice guy. Ron Goulart is a shockingly prolific author. Harry Broertjes is a name associated closely with Legion of Super-Heroes fandom. Mike Gold's edited a lot of comics over the years, and writes for ComicMix now. A few of the other names sound familiar, but I'm not sure if they're the same people I'm thinking of.

Anyway, fun little magazine, with articles about Scribbly, Black Orchid and the Three Mouseketeers, lots of fan art (including paper dolls for the kids in Legion of Super-Hero costumes), a few samples of Mayer's art (including a short note on an illustrated form letter he sent to a fan) and more.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Sugar, the Sweet Little Mommie

The Chronicles of Sugar & Spike

Sugar, the Sweet Little Mommie
Sugar & Spike #95 [1971]
1 page
Reprints: None

Sheldon Mayer did some great single-page (sometimes half-page) stories throughout the run of the series. That's a form he was used to from his early days, working for newspaper syndicates and doing single page stories for the early comic books that imitated the format of the comic strip reprints that made up the bulk of the content in those days. He also, on at least two occasions, prepared some proposal material for an S&S comic strip.

This is typical of the single-page strips, just the two kids interacting in a high-energy way with a quick punchline. In this case, Sugar gets frustrated with the lack of cooperation from her dolly, while Spike tries to reason with her, a folly to be sure, until he realizes it's better for him to just play along. From the prism of the 21st century you might worry about the roots of Sugar's aggression, and wonder if she'll need some anger management help in later years, but ignoring that it's a nice look at how seriously kids can take their make-believe, and how the relationship between Sugar and Spike works.

By the way, the story code (461) on this page suggests it was drawn some years earlier, around #70 in 1967, but it wasn't used at the time. This was possibly because the book went to full-issue stories around that time (there's a twenty issue stretch with only two single-page stories).

Characters: Sugar, Spike
Damage: the doll looks pretty sturdy, probably came through okay.
Sugar's treatment of Spike: I'm more worried about damage to Spike. Sugar knocks him over and shakes him pretty roughly

"Tsk! Tsk! How silly can you get?"

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

My Collection - SUGAR & SPIKE [1956 Series]

[For the unofficial "Sugar & Spike Awareness Month", a repeat and updating of an old post]

Sugar & Spike [1956 series]
65 issues [1957 - 1971]
6 - 11, 19, 25 - 27, 29, 31 - 32, 37, 41 - 42, 44, 48 - 61, 65 - 98

Boy, this is some book. 98 total issues published, all written and drawn by Sheldon Mayer, over 15 years. The last of those came out when I was about Spike's age and probably getting up to similar antics. This is one of my favourite comics of all time, by one of my favourite cartoonists.

I first encountered the characters in a mid-1980s reprint digest, sometime after it was published. Don't even recall where or why I got it, but I do know that I liked it a lot. A few years later I happened upon a comic shop that had all its back-issues at half-price, and looked through for anything interesting (I recall getting my first taste of Kirby's JIMMY OLSEN at the same time), and they had some beat-up later issues of SUGAR & SPIKE for a few bucks each. Even better than the digest. Been picking it up ever since, getting a pretty decent collection in widely varied conditions (a few with pages missing or with the Write-Your-Own pages written or coloured on). Keeping all of these at least until the unlikely day that they're reprinted, and probably a lot longer. Didn't get any issues for a while, but now thanks to the internets (invented by Bernie the Brain, no doubt) I've got some more, and might actually one day track down the 33 I'm missing

It's hard to explain exactly why I love this even more than the work of other contemporary humour cartoonists like Barks or Kelly or Schulz or whoever. I guess everyone has a few cartoonists who just manage to speak to a part of their brain, depending on exactly when they first encountered them and any other variables. For lack of a better term, cartoonists who feel like home. I'd say three reach that level for me, and Mayer is one of them (one of the others should be obvious, the other, well, is still a few dozen entries down on this set of posts, but there's a clue in the name of the weblog).

For me just about everything just works in Mayer's work. The basic concept of S&S is brilliant in its simplicity. Babies who can talk to each other but not to adults. But far beyond the concept, Mayer's execution was sheer genius. He's one of those cartoonists who can draw everything funny, so the facial expressions, the body language, all the background bits, the character designs, everything on the page contributes to the humour. The writing easily matches that, with lots of explorations of the life of a baby, both logical and fanciful as the story calls for. I especially like how effortlessly Mayer seems to clearly define and constantly reinforce the differences between Sugar and Spike without needing to say it explicitly. A lot comes out just in how they talk and act towards each other.

In the later issues Mayer started doing longer stories and then injecting fantasy elements in the stories (most notably in regular character Bernie the Brain introduced in #72 and soon a de facto third star of the book, getting cover billing for a while). That stuff still works for me, and indeed many of my early favourites are among those stories since that was the first stuff I read, but I'm glad that later Mayer backed off a bit from the fantasy elements, and did a healthy mix for stories in the last dozen issues (plus the later new stories he did for foreign markets).

Okay, I'll shut up now. Just wanted to write enough to justify the number of scans I wanted to include. All complete stories, click on them and check them out.

Notable issues:

Eh, all of them.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Uncle Charley Returns

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Uncle Charley Returns!
Sugar & Spike #61 [1965]
4 pages
Reprints: None
Dedication: Lisa, Jimmy and Andrea Thomson (ages 3, 1 1/2 and 2 months) and their Aunt Rayline, New Westminster, Canada

Sugar's Uncle Charley (her mother's younger brother) is one of the best recurring characters in the series. He first shows up in "Busy Corners", the best story in the first issue of the series, which establishes that he's the one adult who truly understands what kids like, toys that make loud ka-bom noises (usually as part of his tests on his own theories of child rearing), and appears on a regular basis thereafter to play out variations on that theme, usually ending with him sharing the punishment of sitting in the corner. Charley is a traffic cop, and the kids always instantly know he's arrived from his put-put (motorcycle) out front.

In this short tale, Charley's gift is a record used to teach parakeets to talk, which Charley thinks can do the same for Sugar and Spike. Sugar's mother reluctantly agrees, but then gives up just as the kids figure out what's expected of them. Wanting to make their favourite Uncle happy, they decide to copy the next word he says, which unfortunately for him turns out to be "Baloney". The kids' gleeful repetition of "Bawoney" at the top of their lungs earns all three of them a (completely unjustified, in my opinion) trip to the corner.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Uncle Charley, Mrs. Plumm
Property Damage: some wet cement gets some footprint action
Sugar's treatment of Spike: drags him around by his feet

"Sure! He's our friend! And he knows he's not smart enough to learn baby-talk!... So he's trying to teach us his language!"

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Beach Nuts

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Beach Nuts
Sugar & Spike #10 [1957]
6 pages
Reprints: None [yet]
Dedication: Roberta Disano (age 10), NJ

The kids are taken to the beach, which they enjoy, and they aren't at all tired when put down for a nap so they sneak away.  When they find a pile of sand with feet sticking out if it, they come to the logical conclusion that the sand from their sandbox walked there, and begin to worry about how its going to get home.  Meanwhile, their parents finally notice they're missing, and their fathers show what courage really is.

Interesting lettering error, the man in the sand has babytalk style balloons for his speech, instead of grown-up talk.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, all four parents, unnamed man in sand and other beach-going extras
Damage: minimal, that hat filled with sand might never be the same
Sugar's treatment of Spike: he's grabbed rather harshly and thrown into the face of the man in the sand

"Did you know sand had feet?"

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Sugar&Spike - The Big Word Mystery

The Chronicles of Sugar & Spike

The Big Word Mystery
Sugar & Spike #10 [1957]
6 pages
Reprints: None [yet]
Dedication: Carolyn Ernest (age 8), CA

Spike explores the mystery of why some things don't stay in the air when you let them go, and others do. For some reason this gets him into trouble, but then when he repeats what his mother calls him ("Bah Boy"), she's all happy and calls over Sugar's mom to see Spike's new verbal skills. Sugar, meanwhile, demonstrates her own theories on things staying in the air if they have strings attached, resulting in a wooden duck smashing a window. Fortunately the magic words get them out of that jam, so they go out in the world to try it out some more. Their neighbour is out mowing the lawn, but thinking of skipping it to go fishing, just as the kids walk by and start calling him "Bah Boy", leading him to complain to their parents about them being mind-readers.

An excellent look at two common motifs in the stories, the kids experimenting with their version of science to find out why the world works in counter-intuitive ways and the grown-ups getting excited by the kids exhibiting verbal skills when in fact the kids have no idea what those sounds mean.

Characters: Spike, Mr. Wilson (flashback), Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Plumm, Sugar, Mr. Blodgett
Damage: baby bottle, water jug, flower vase, window (wooden duck presumed unharmed)
Punishment: slapped wrists, Spike sits in corner
Sugar's treatment of Spike: jumps off table onto his chest

Well, at first I  thought it meant, "I hate you, you're a phooey kid!"

11 Highly Anticipated 2011 Comics

A bunch of books that hopefully will be out within the next year, some new some reprint.

You'll be hearing a lot more about this from me in the next few weeks. This is a collection of the first ten issues of the classic Sheldon Mayer series from 1956-1957.  It's one of my favourite comics of all-time, and I've been waiting about 20 years for them to finally do a book like this. [Sugar & Spike Awareness Month launches later today]

A new book from Michael Zulli, writing and drawing. I'm still not sure what it's actually going to be about, but I know the artwork will be grotesque, horrific and beautiful.

Hope springs eternal... This has been promised for a long while.  There are a lot of great comic strip reprint projects going on (2011 should see continuing reprints of Peanuts, King Aroo, Gasoline Alley, Popeye, Little Orphan Annie, Captain Easy, Secret Agent Corrigan, Krazy Kat, On Stage, Prince Valiant and others, and first volumes of Buz Sawyer, Mickey Mouse, Brenda Starr and more), but for whatever reason Walt Kelly's classic work remains the biggest gap in that library.

A new book by Jason Shiga.  I've loved both BOOKHUNTER and MEANWHILE from Shiga, so that puts his next book right up there on my list.This looks to be Shiga's take on the romantic comedy formula, although with his track record I'd expect some twists.

A collection from DC, following up on their CREEPER collection of 2010, this will reprint his work on SHADE and STALKER from the 1970s, as well as his short story work for various DC anthologies from the 1960s to the 1980s. Some great stuff in there.

Steve Bissette's revival of his share of the 1963 characters.  I enjoyed the preview published last year, and it'll be welcome to see some major Bissette comics again, after a decade of mostly just a few short bits and non-comics illustration.

BOOK OF HUMAN INSECTS (Ningen Konchuki (人間昆虫記))
The next single-volume work from Osamu Tezuka to be published by Vertical, this relatively short book (under 400 pages, for Tezuka that's like a pamphlet) from the early 1970s sounds very strange. Which is just the flavour I love my Tezuka.  Here's its page on the official Tezuka site, under the title HUMAN METAMORPHOSIS

The latest of Rick Geary's long running series of true crime books, the 13th overall (9 Victorian and 4 20th century), I'm really looking forward to this one as it's an especially fascinating case. I love the Woody Guthrie album, if you're curious what side of the issue my sympathies lie.

You souls of Boston, bow your heads
Our two most noble sons are dead;
Sacco and Vanzetti both have died,
And drifted out with the Boston tide.

Will Eisner's work for the army from 1951 to 1971, using comics to teach maintenance procedures, is often fascinating and amusing.  While scans of the issues are readily available online, a well selected and produced collection of the best of that work will certainly be worth having.  And the contribution by Eddie Campbell, based on some of the last postings on his now-defunct blog, I'm sure will be worth having.

A big new book Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick about Richard Feynman. I loved the Feynman bits of Ottaviani's first book, TWO-FISTED SCIENCE, and it led me to read several books by and about Feynman when it first came out.  Saw a few pages of this at Ottaviani's table at TCAF last year, and it looks great.  See some of the full colour pages scattered on a table over here.

This is a collection of Jack Kirby's work for DC in the 1950s, with the exception of CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN (already reprinted in various formats).  That means about 67 pages of Green Arrow and over 200 pages of other material, mostly science fiction from the various anthology titles running back then. Over half of this material has never been reprinted before, and what I've seen is definitely prime Kirby.

Well, all that would make for a good year, so let's hope they all manage to make it out.  There's a lot more I could have included (and no doubt many more not announced yet), but my sense of balance insisted on 11.  Either that or 2011.  Wonder if i can find 2000 more books worth listing...

In any case, I'll definitely try to do a better job of writing about the stuff that comes out before the last day of the year.
Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]