Little Lulu “Never Again” bootleg

April 26, 2018 5:01 pm by Crocodile


Armageddon Shop is a punk/hardcore/metal record store here in town, run by one of the people from DROPDEAD. It’s a great store and one of two places to get zines in town (alongside Ada Books) and one of two places to get local noise tapes (alongside Analog Underground). You don’t see as many zines as you did in the zine heyday, but there’s more mid-size magazines– Armageddon always has a few copies of the last couple issues of Maximum Rock And Roll, alongside other mags of similar size and methodology (newsprint, regular columnists, record reviews, band interviews, ads) representing different facets of punk and metal. In addition you occasionally see old zines that someone sold, or more likely, gave to the store when they sold off their punk 7″s.

I’m not 100% on this but I think that getting less local zines and more larger mags led to them dealing more with distributors, which in some ways led to them getting weirder stuff. I think to get zine mainstay (and top seller) Cometbus you have to go through the publisher / distributor Last Gasp, and the store probably padded the order out with other interesting stuff- back issues of Zap, Duplex Planet Illustrated, and I suspect, this bootleg of a single story from a Little Lulu comic. The guys at the store said they didn’t remember ordering it, and it probably just got thrown in the box. It’s the one where she smokes doll hair and has a psychedelic experience. There’s no info on this except on the back is says “50 copies” and there’s a brown stain (smoke?) on the spine and along the bottom edge. 6.5″x4.25″ (quarter size legal), black and white xerox, $2.

One common thread I’ve been noticing in my interests lately (lately noticed, probably always had) is that I love it when things sneak through. I love that someone bootlegged this Little Lulu comic and it snuck into the metal music dungeon on the coattails of a more sought-after publication. Similarly, I remember hearing (but I did not confirm this) a similar thing involving Load Records– Lightning Bolt sold a lot of records, so not only did they underwrite other records that sold less (notably Kites, who matched LB record for record), but those other records rode into stores (and presumably, homes) on their coattails. I think this is a really good model. Sneak it through! FWIW, LB rules but Kites was by far the more influential band for me. Shoutout to Kites!!!

If you need this zine for your collection you are shit out of luck- I grabbed the only one and it’s not something you can just get from a known place. Last Gasp officially stopped doing mailorder last year. But if you just want to read it, the wonderful Stanley Stories blog scanned in the full color original, which you can read at that link or at the end of this very post.

Here’s a picture from Jackie Chan’s “Police Story 4” where a punk wears what looks like a DROPDEAD varsity jacket. Shoutout to the stylist on this one, maybe a kid out there with punk leanings saw this and searched the name, and now they have a good band.

Here’s a pic from a band reminiscing about the day they hung out with Star Man, and he said his favorite band was Lightning Bolt. I heard he ordered the entire Load discography, which means he had not only all LB records to date but also the Kites LP “Mechanical Gardener From The United States Of America Helped Into An Open Field By Women And Children” AND the Noise Nomads 7″. RIP Star Man!!!!!

As promised, the original is below the cut

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Melvin Monster by John Stanley

October 23, 2017 4:04 pm by Crocodile

Melvin Monster collection
By John Stanley

John Stanley was a cartoonist and comic book writer active from the 40s through the 60s, he wrote a lot of the Little Lulu comic books, and a grip of other stuff as well in various funny animal books and in the comic book versions of Nancy & Sluggo and Krazy Kat. Like Carl Barks he worked anonymously, and for years the only way you could tell a Stanley story was that it had more and better jokes than it had to, and that it contained a few of his trademarks, like characters who exclaim “YOW!” and laugh like “Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!”. Drawn and Quarterly collected some of the titles he lifted big weight for, and put them out in a handsome hard-bound set, labeled “The John Stanley Library”. Included in the set are the Nancy comics he did, a book focusing on Little Lulu’s friend Tubby, the incredible Thirteen Going On Eighteen, and a 3 volume set of Melvin Monster.

Melvin comics originally came out in 1965, prime time for the monster craze– Addams Family and the Munsters came out in 1964. Melvin is a good little monster, a constant disappointment to his Monster Family and all other monsters in the monster society in which he lives. The storyline is kind of a double-switcheroo– with Addams Family et al, there’s a sort of inverted sensibility at play- bad stuff is good, good stuff is bad. Melvin goes one more where his world is bad-stuff-good but he isn’t. He would rather not, for instance, jump into a thorn bush, or eat a broken glass sandwich, or wrestle with an alligator, which makes him an outcast to his family and peer group. He’s a problem child. On this beautiful framework John Stanley hangs an unending set of great gags pitched at an incredible pace, all of which serve the story. And on top of that, Melvin is truly a great character- whereas other writers might make a similar character just a  one-dimensional goody goody, Melvin is sweet-hearted and endearing, with a subtle sadness that never dulls his deep joy of life. Almost no one else in this field (1960s funny books) was putting nearly as much care into their work, and as a result these books glow like embers in a field of ash.

There are sort of a lot of Nice Reprints on the market right now, and some Not So Nice. One argument I see about reprint books is how pristine to make them- they were originally printed poorly and they were designed to be printed that way, so cleaning them up too much can be detrimental, and can leave them looking garish. On the other hand you don’t want to read a blurry mess. The John Stanley Library books are ideal- they look like the cleanest possible version of the original printing as you could get, and the pages are colored to look like the crummy paper the original comics were printed on.  They look great, the lines are clear, the colors are muted in a pleasant way. Also they aren’t bogged down with scholarly essays or sanctimonious errata. Perfect for kids of all ages.

The only thing I don’t like about these books is the covers- mononymous Canandian cartoonist Seth (not to be confused with the mononymous spiritual guide of the same name) did a good job with the overall design and cover lettering, but the pictures on the covers on the covers are pretty much all bad. Is there a legal or licensing reason he had to redraw the characters for the covers? The entire John Stanley Library is this way. The best covers are the ones where he redrew the characters close to the original style. The worst are the ones rendered in crisp geometric shapes. I understand the sales tactic of having a bold cover, and the desire to do a close-up on a character’s face, but in comics, don’t you want to have drawings that are full of life? All these dead eyes staring out at you… yuck. I mean it’s not a big deal, but if the books are lying around on the table I definitely turn them face down. That said, the rest of the design is really good! The books look and feel great, like an old children’s encyclopedia, and all the blurb / UPC / price info is on a sticker on the back that peels off easily and goolessly, leaving you with a timeless classic. Very thoughtful!


The Nancy one is ok, the Melvin one is not so good, and the Sluggo one is straight-up Wrong.

These books were $24.95 originally, and there are 3 volumes of Melvin Monster. The books are really great and I’m not saying they aren’t worth $24.95, but I waited patiently until I could find them at my local remainder shop for $9.95 each. I would strongly recommend these to anyone that likes old comic books and/or monsters, especially those interested in the 1960s wave of monster hysteria (aka 2nd wave American Monsteria). Unlike the Carl Barks reprints, Melvin Monster is OK for kids, as there isn’t any weird racist shit. Although the dad is an abusive rage-filled maniac, so I wouldn’t give these to a kid with an abusive rage-filled maniac dad. Or maybe it would help? I don’t know, read it before you gift it.

For more on John Stanley I recommend the very excellent stanley stories blog, which has lots of scans, plus commentary and background info. Stanley really is the best ever kid’s comics writer, and the fact that he worked anonymously and in a wide variety of different titles is almost a blessing to the fan- new Stanley stories are getting discovered constantly. Once you get the bug you’ll find yourself flipping through the absolute shittiest-looking comics looking for a lost Stanley. Keep an eye out for:

  • people yelling “YOW!”
  • people laughing like “Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!”
  • sound effects appearing in word balloons (for instance a door that “says” KNOCK KNOCK)
  • there are more jokes than there need to be
  • the jokes are good

Happy Halloween!

                                                                                                 

Cat Eyed Boy by Kazuo Umezu

October 19, 2017 4:22 pm by Crocodile

Cat Eyed Boy vol 1
By Kazuo Umezu

Perfect Halloween comics. Cat Eyed Boy is a weird little dude who lives in the attic of a house, maybe yours?? He peeps on you and something horrible happens. He doesn’t cause bad things, he’s drawn to them before they happen. Then he sits and waits and observes. He dresses in black shorts and a black long-sleeve shirt, has a Johnny Quest hair cut, and is extremely cute.

Cat Eyed Boy isn’t a hero but he does sometimes intercede in someone’s favor– motivated by boredom more than a sense of propriety. He’s a little bit like a Crypt Keeper character, observing the action with you and talking to you about it, but he gets in the mix too, and over the course of the book the stories get more and more about him. In general he lives like a ghost but without the shame or misery aspect of western ghosts. He just walks around, sneaking into houses, pissing on temples, and fucking off. The exploits he gets into are spooky, gross, tense, weird, and don’t completely make sense. The stories are neither silly nor self-serious, and Cat Eyed Boy remains wryly amused throughout. As I said, it’s perfect!


(read left to right)

Story and art are by Kazuo Umezu, who is a rockstar cartoonist in Japan, famous for psychedelic horror comics marked by malevolent indifference.

I bought this at full price without knowing anything about it, it was $24.99 and at the time (2006) and I didn’t really have that kind of money to toss around casually. Even at the time I thought “it’s weird that I’m buying this”, but I was really drawn to it. I went back as soon as I could and got volume 2.

I loaned volumes 1 and 2 out a few times and only the first volume returned. I’m not hung up on it but if you read this and you have my copy of vol 2 sitting around, can you send it back to me? I can’t remember who had it last, but when I got vol 1 back it had this picture in it, just a shot of a messy table (or maybe a floor) with fruits and vegetables and sunflowers and piles of clothes. Did Cat Eyed Boy take this picture? If so then I have to assume that vol 1 is well pissed-on by now, so keep it. If you, the reader, borrowed it and it got lost or destroyed somehow just don’t tell me.

Like I said this book was $24.99 in 2006, that’s like $30 in 2017. The print looks ok, not great. It’s probably a little better than it originally looked when these stories ran in Shonen King magazine in 1968, but bad enough to feel a little grimy and mysterious. You can still get this on ebay/amazon but it’s like $70??? Volume 2 you can get for $20. I think you can jump in to vol 2 without missing much exposition– there’s basically no backstory. But also I remember vol 1 being better.


(read right to left)

There’s a recent live-action movie but it doesn’t look very good. An essential part of the character design for Cat Eyed Boy is that his eyes are always glowing out from the shadow of his hair. In 3D settings like a live-action movie or a toy or something, they paint the shadow in and it looks really dumb. It sucks but it’s also kind of nice to know that the comics are the ultimate form– I don’t think Umezu thought this far forward, but if he had self-sabotaged his most likeable character to keep him from being utilized in other formats, that would be a really cool move.

There’s at least one episode of a TV show too, it’s not a cartoon but it is drawings- it’s made up entirely of dioramas that the camera moves around while smoke blows through them. It’s like a shittier Ken Burns Effect. I bring it up not to make fun but to point out that maybe this is a viable way to turn your existing comic into an animation without without making 12 drawings per second or learning flash.

Weird offer: I have a big stack of blank prestamped postcards- for $10 I’ll redraw one of my favorite panels from the book on a postcard and mail it to you. US only. Valid through Tuesday October 24 2017.

Link to trailer for the movie (in Japanese): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMZb3hMeqfE

Link to the weird tv show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvGPqY_doV4

“weird offer” is closed! thanks to all who did it!


(read right to left)

Happy Halloween!!!!

                                                                                                 

Peace, Mommy, Peace! / For This I Went To College? both by Bil Keane

September 22, 2017 3:28 pm by Crocodile

Peace, Mommy, Peace! and For This I Went To College?

2 Family Circus Paperbacks by Bil Keane Sr.

Growing up I used to always read the comics, sometimes I would read 2 newspaper’s worth of comics a day. I read every strip, even the ones I didn’t like. I didn’t like Family Circus growing up, I thought it was stupid, though I realized early on that there was a sympathetic mind behind it, based on the sole clue that the dog’s name was “Barfy”.  Over time I developed an appreciation for it, and then I started to like it enough to pick up older paperback collections. The older ones are truly great, although I think I like them in a way that only underscores how the newer ones are bad.

“For This I Went To College?” is an extremely bleak title, and some of the early strips are kind of bleak. I don’t want to connect bleakness with sophistication, that’s a false equivalency. But let this serve to show that the intended audience for Family Circus strips of this era was adults. I think in later years and up to now the intended audience is kids just a little older than the kids in the picture, and grandparents. Or just “people who want something familiar”, that’s probably the large majority of the newspaper comics readership at this point (maybe all-time).

Below are a few pages I grabbed pretty much at random, but the thing I want to point out is how good the design of the panel is. When you put a picture in a square or rectangle frame, you have certain harmonies to deal with. There are relationships between the edges and the corners, and as a result there are certain areas of the frame where things pop (see: “rule of thirds” [wp]) Also you have to contend with a strong analog with the written page- you’re tempted to read a rectangular image from the top left corner to the bottom right. With a circle the rules are different, or the rules have yet to be codified. Things can spiral in, lines of sight can bounce all around, it’s more intuitive. No one in any field of flat design work does the circle better than Bil Sr., he is unmatched.

Also the circle frame, combined with Bil Sr’s excellent use of perspective, gives me a feeling of looking through a telescope at this scene. It’s something I don’t get from, for example, Dennis The Menace. Dennis The Menace feels like a play being put on for my benefit, whereas Family Circus feels more like a slice o’ life that I’m omnisciently observing.

Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik wrote a great article on How To Read Nancy, and I would like to invoke and expand their methodology a little bit for added appreciation of the following. Look at the whole thing, then look at the picture without the words, then look at the words without the picture, then look at the background without the characters, then look at the characters in groups (kids only, then adults only), and then look at the areas of solid black only. Try to think of balance- is the circle off-balance in some way? How does this make you feel? Try to think about how your eye moves around the circle, what it sees first, and what it sees last. Although this is just a one-panel comic, there is still oftentimes a sequence in which elements of the picture are read- what determines this sequence?

Great background diagonals here, nice balanced use of solid black. The Toy catalog is juuust about in the center of the circle, but it’s in motion, giving us a Matrix-like feeling of a bizarrely quiescent moment of frenzied activity.

This is the other grandma FYI. There’s a lot going on but still everything is clear and all the details are rewarding. The detail on this car is great and some would say unnecessary, but it gives me the feeling that they all just spent a lot of time there. Grandma’s apartment is kicked back at a little bit of an angle, which pulls her towards Billy emotionally and draws your eye in. It’s not hard to figure out who’s talking here. Even the little trees that separate Grandma’s building from the family are dashed through with an inexplicable but not jarring line of white-out. Maybe this is a printing error though.

Here’s a fairly flat panel but the flatness is fun, and active. It’s almost Egyptian. The door is flush with the wall which is parallel to our viewing lens, and even the little bit of diagonal we should see leading along the floor on the lower right is obscured by the vertical edge of the couch. The little bit of depth we get is the dismal void in the outside space behind Bil Sr, perfect for a Halloween theme. The perfect flatness of the door, just shy of being completely unobstructed, is an ideal frame for the Halloween decorations which are the focus of the gag.

Very tense design with nothing in the center! It’s pretty flat but the wall is kicked back a little, and there’s a corridor or something behind Dolly that she could escape down. The drawing on the wall at Dolly’s level is well-matched with the framed picture at Thel’s level.

Another kind of bleak one that only adults would get. I love Thel’s hair… I knew a lot of very wonderful 90s punks with this sort of hairdo. Jeffy’s coat is wild but if you try to think of this panel with a solid-color coat, it just doesn’t work as well.

Great detail on these turtles, and a great layout, right through the tank and then out the window of the pet store to another building! I remember someone telling me they hated how everyone in Family Circus only has 1 nostril at a time- I had never noticed this before. It’s kind of weird if you really think about it, but if you draw in another one it looks weird, and if you don’t have nostrils at all, that’s sort of weird too. It’s a toughie, but I think 1 nostril per instance of nose is a good call (for this style).

Thel (the mom) is the real audience for so many of these strips, which makes you (me) sympathize with and love her. She’s the placid eye of the hurricane, but she’s not weak or secondary or removed. She doesn’t get very many lines but she’s the person that the whole thing is for, without whom none of this would exist.

Here’s some real-life boss behavior, via Thel’s wikipedia page:

Thelma Keane worked as the full-time financial and business manager for her husband while he continued to draw The Family Circus. Her family credited Thelma’s business skills as the main reason that Bil Keane became one of the first syndicated newspaper cartoonists in the country to regain the full rights to his comic. She led the 1988 negotiations with King Features Syndicate to return the copyrights for The Family Circus. King Features finally agreed to return the rights to the cartoon to Bil Keane after long and protracted talks with Thelma Keane.

Damn, I can just picture a bunch of 1988 suits underestimating The Mom From Family Circus. Bad move.

Nowadays Jeff (aka Jeffy) draws the strip and all the interesting design work is gone. Every strip now is just a big head talking in the center of the frame. I feel like this is a classic example of what happens when you just get something without having to fight for it- there’s no pressure to explore, advance, or be good. Anyway it still makes me smile and the old paperbacks should really be sought out if you’re interested in setting an image inside of a circle.

In conclusion, I love the Family Circus!

These books were published in 1967 & 1977, and retailed for $.75 and $.95. $.95 in 1977 money is $3.86 in 2017 money. I bought these used for $2 apiece. I also have I Need A Hug, Mine, I’m Taking A Nap!, I Can’t Untie My Shoes, Can I Have A Cookie?, Wanna Be Smiled At?, and Any Children?.

                                                                                                 
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