Wednesday, August 27, 2008

KING KOJO with Illustrations by Marge Part 2

Some more rarely seen illustrations by LITTLE LULU's creator, Marge.

Here are another handful of scans from the out-of-print children's book KING KOJO.

Part one is here.




KING KOJO was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson, best known for continuing to write yearly installments of Frank Baum's OZ books after his death, with illustrations by Marge (Marjorie Henderson Buell), who created LITTLE LULU. The book is copyright 1938 by the David McKay Company.


KING KOJO is a nice guy; a good king, but a little bumbling ala McLean Stevenson's Colonel Blake in the TV series M*A*S*H.


In some but not all of the drawings, there's a little "M" somewhere at the bottom to let you know it was Marge Buell who drew these. Marge is the only cartoonist I know who can show you any expression without drawing a mouth. Case in point: the expression of the mouthless horseman above.


It wasn't until the third time I looked at the above illustration that I noticed that everyone's hand is a series of unclosed lines.


Some nice mastery of line to add value to the drawing. Our man in the lower right ("Pogo," the jester) has no mouth yet he looks pouty. A technique she used a lot with Lulu and Tubby.


OK, here's what I mean: here's a fellow who is obviously displeased to see his own mug on a "Wanted" poster. Who wouldn't be? And, as you already noticed, he has no mouth; just that pout-- and that's all we need to telegraph that he is pretty darned cheesed off!


Marge was a friend and a fan of author Ruth Plumly Thompson's since she was nine years old, according to the OzClub page on Thompson.

Marge was 34 years old when this book was published. These series of KOJO stories were first serialized in King Comics, which David McKay edited.

Here's a bit from her bio at the Harvard Web site:

While drawing "Little Lulu," Marge continued to draw other cartoons. In 1936, Ruth Plumly Thompson became the editor of King Features, which published monthly magazines of humorous stories and comic illustrations and strips; Marge often illustrated Thompson's stories published therein. A serial entitled "King Kojo," written by Thompson and illustrated by Marge, was first published in King Comics, then published as a book by David McKay in 1938. Thompson regularly wrote a humorous verse entitled "Sis Sez" for the back page of King Comics; Marge illustrated these as well. By 1943, however, Little Lulu's expanding horizons meant that Marge could focus only on her.


Lovely bit of shock on the guard's face here -- and notice how everything is drawn in a hurry. Even his buttons are drawn quickly, almost sloppily. I'm reminded of what veteran gag cartoonist Lo Linkert said about style:

"Work fast because speed gives you a distinct style. Slow lines look stiff."

Aside: I wrote more about Lo Linkert (1923-2002) during a guest blogging-stint at the Andertoons blog here.


I like how the King's whole body goes into a shocked take -- bent knees, hands frozen, body shaking.

Just look at those swishy action lines around the explaining hands. Deftly done.


Above: if you click on the image above, from the endpapers of the book, you get a nice Chip Kidd super close up effect. You can see the of drawing Kojo, the word DISCARDED at his feet, and a handwritten note above: "Edges mutilated." Yes, this was one well-loved volume.

3 comments:

Gabriel said...

Thanks a lot Mr.Lynch!!
You're a generous soul: a sort of Santa Claus in August. Of course, I'll post this one in my blog. I really like Marge's use of color: shades moving into harmony. I love the king and all and all...

Mark Anderson said...

Wow! Just wonderful stuff. That mouthless pout is a thing of beauty!

Normally when I don't draw something it's because I can't!

Mike Lynch said...

Since there is so much of LITTLE LULU reprinted (via Dark Horse Publishing) and there's now been an announcement of a John Stanley series, I wonder if KOJO will ever see a reprint!?