Thursday, June 26, 2008

Some Great Books

I received the second issue of the comic book SISTER MARY DRACULA by Gerry Mooney. Thanks for sending it, Gerry! It's on a stack of other terrific books for the Mike Lynch Cartoons summer reading program.

I also have the following:
Fresh off the presses, the first 2 years of LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE published by IDW. I haven't even sat down with the book, but it sure looks great. Very thick (1000 strips!), and with an informative essay by Jeet Heer. This is the first of a series that will, if all goes well, reprint the entire strip ala THE COMPLETE PEANUTS. Memories of Andrea McArdle singing "Tomorrow" aside, the strip was, in its day, very popular and a commercial powerhouse. Remember Ralphie, from the movie A CHRISTMAS STORY, desiring the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring? "A crummy commercial!"

I feel ashamed that I only know the strip thru its commercial incarnations, like the Broadway show and movie, as well as the slight incident from CHRISTMAS STORY. It's like only knowing Dick Tracy from the Warren Beatty flick. The LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE book is an opportunity to sit down and immerse myself in the source material.

Way back when I was a tot and I borrowed the book ARF! THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE (1970) from the Lawrence (Kansas) Public Library. I remember (as well as I can remember, since I was about nine years old back then) enjoying the strip. It was also, like Peanuts, a strip that was graphically accessible. It was one of those times, early in life, when I thought that if I worked hard enough, I could maybe draw as well as its creator Harold Gray (1894-1968) and maybe, oh just maybe, I could draw well enough to be a cartoonist. I hope that Gray's work is going to be rediscovered like Frank King or Cliff Sterrett. I hope my memory of it is still the same as it is in 2008. Time will tell if Gray will join the names of perennial fave comic strip artists like Herriman, Caniff, McCay or Schulz.

Here, once again, is Tom Spurgeon, writing in the Comics Reporter about the strip:

"No one believes me when I tell them just how much I enjoy Harold Gray's long-running newspaper strip Little Orphan Annie at the height of its powers. There's nothing like it in all of comics, in all the artistic world. On a technical level, Gray used white space and spare design in a way that equaled George Herriman when it came to showing the awesomeness of nature. Gray could also use those same elements to suggest how empty a single room apartment could be, or the loneliness of a mansion's Great Hall when people weren't around to fill it."

Also in the incoming stack: the first volume of Gus Edson's and Irwin Hasen's DONDI, beautifully put together by Classic Comics Press. DONDI was a long running post-war strip about a war orphan making his way in 1950s America. It's another one of those fondly remembered strips by people who read it and, without the Classic Comics people, it would have remained unseen. It won "Best Story Strip" awards from the National Cartoonists Society in 1961 and 1962. My edition of DONDI is just gorgeous, with crisp B&W reprints of the dailies & Sundays from the strip's debut on September 25, 1955 to March 17, 1957. DONDI ran until 1986.

On the literary graphic novel front, I have a couple that are arriving today.

CHIGGERS by Hope Larson got a nice write up by Tom Spurgeon; so nice that I thought I'd get it.

Finally, THE EDUCATION OF HOPEY GLASS by Jaime Hernandez is arriving tomorrow (along with a new scanner). I was just paging through the book a couple of weeks ago. I used to buy all the old Love & Rockets magazines back in the day and I haven't read any of Jaime's work in years, aside from his NY Times Maggie story.

Above: a very young Catherine Zeta-Jones, with co-star Philip Franks, from the TV series The Darling Buds of May photo from the 23 September 2007 Daily Mail article by Neil Sears titled "Darling Buds of May village in uproar as pub landlord launches daily strip club." The bucolic rural world of 1950s Britain as portrayed in the series is as dead as a doornail.

I don't know a lot about the above 2 graphic novels, and that's the way I prefer it. On top of this, my local librarian called and the H.E. Bates book that I had ordered via inter-library loan, THE DARLING BUDS OF MAY (yeah, the book that was made into the Brit TV series with Catherine Zeta-Jones) has arrived. I enjoyed MY UNCLE SILAS so much, I had to get more Bates.

Tis a bountiful book harvest. Now I don't care that so much on TV sucks.

No comments: