frazettabook frazettabook

Old Comics/New Books

I’ve been picking up a lot of good books lately and though they’ve been classic comics-related, all have animated cartoon connections. Check these out…

Frazetta Funny Stuff edited by Craig Yoe

It wouldn’t be a book round-up without one or two from Craig Yoe. His latest compilation is this remarkable 256 page hardcover collecting much of Frank Frazetta’s (Fire & Ice) funny animal comic art of the 1940s. These comics, which emulate Hollywood cartoons of the era with characters like “Hucky Duck” and “Bruno Bear”, show that Frazetta was equally skilled at exaggerated cartoon line art as he was with his later realistic fantasy paintings. The book devotes over 70 pages to these rare “animated” stories, over 60 pages to his remarkable text-page header illustrations (for such tales as Percy The Pufferfish and Abbott the Rabbit), and another 70 to humorous stories drawn in Frazetta’s more realistic style. Yoe recounts Frazetta’s earlier years in his lavishly illustrated (with rare art) opening essay, and Ralph Bakshi contributes his memories in a sincere Introduction. All in all, its a lot of fun!

Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and The Little King edited by Dean Mullaney

If you’ve ever admired the art or illustrations of cartoonist Otto Soglow, this book is a must-have. Over 400 pages filled with Little King Sunday strips, including a sampling of his associated characters The Ambassador and Sentinel Louie. The book includes a thorough biographical introduction by Ohio State University comics historian Jared Gardner accompanied by numerous rare Soglow images, animation art, advertising pieces and commercial illustrations. A beautiful package, a wonderful collection.

The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics edited by John Benson

If you collect any and all things related to classic E.C.’s original Mad comics – here is the missing link! This 192-page trade paperback is the last word on the bakers dozen of Mad knock-offs produced by Marvel (Atlas), Charlton, St. John, Harvey Comics and others in 1953-54 pre-comics code era. Editor John Benson compiles the best of these humor comics – with art by Jack Kirby, Norman Maurer, Howard Nostrand, Dan DeCarlo and others – and writes an informative and lavishly illustrated essay on the history of these books and their creators. Hilarious fun, The Sincerest Form of Parody is sincerely great.

Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1943-1945
by Ernie Bushmiller

Ahhh, the joys of Nancy!
Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy is one of those acquired tastes. Deceptively simple, it’s the comic strip stripped to its bare essentials. The end result may be perfection; there are many who think so. They’ll get no argument from me. This new compilation book is lavishly produced (by Fantagraphics Books), with an introduction by Daniel Clowes, and compiles the daily strip from the wartime years (not that you’d know that; the strip rarely references the war). If you like Bushmiller no explanation is necessary; if you don’t, no explanation is possible. Buy this book and make Nancy happy.

Popeye Comics by IDW

Finally, I must note IDW’s new Popeye comic book (32 pages, $3.99). It’s cover is a take-off of Action #1 – which is appropriate as some consider Popeye the first comic strip superhero. It’s also available with an “incentive cover” by cartoonist/Popeye screenwriter Jules Feiffer. Craig Yoe, Ted Adams and Clizia Gussoni are editing this four issue series with writer Roger Landridge (The Muppets) and artist Bruce Ozella. Ozella’s art is so authentic you’d think this was a reprint book. If you are going to revive Popeye – this is the way to do it. Five thumbs up, sez I.

  • The Gee

    Whenever possible, share this panel (and Mr. Woodring stating it is the greatest ever might seem like hyperbole, but no one has disputed it yet):

  • Scarabim

    Oh, god, what Feiffer did to Popeye in that horrible movie…the sailor man deserved so much better in my opinion.

    My old man and I used to read Nancy for one reason only…to see how stupid it was going to be that week. :P

    Can’t wait to get the “Parody” book and the Yoe book though. Good stuff!

  • Jules Feiffer wrote a Popeye movie that was true to the spirit of E.C. Segar. Robert Altman, the director, is the one who ignored the script and is responsible for the resulting movie.

    • Feiffer — who says he didn’t know much about Popeye before getting the assignment — wrote a fabulous script. Nilsson wrote terrific songs (which, sadly, were not the songs requested by the script). The sets, make-up, acting, and direction, were incredible.

      Flaws include the lack of a real ending and some times when the energy flags, but really, this movie created its own little world on the order of PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE.

  • i think/i hope that we got virtually every funny comic that frazetta did in the book. there were a few unsigned things that he maybe assisted on or teamed up with with a lousy artist on that i didn’t include.

    i LOVED feiffer’s popeye movie–i thought it totally captures segar’s spirit. watched and it ovwr and over. and robin williams and shelley duvall were perfect!

    great that you reviewed both frazetta and popeye. frank was a big popeye fan as i mentioned in the book.

    • Scarabim

      We must agree to disagree then. I’m a huge fan of Segar’s original Thimble Theater, (and also like the Fleischer cartoons, although I detest the Paramount/Famous ones), and I thought the film failed to capture Segar’s humor, especially the verbal humor. Everybody just walked funny. :P

      But I agree with you about the casting. Williams and Duvall were perfect for their roles. It’s such a shame the film let them down.

      • I enjoy the POPEYE movie very much, in spite of its problems! I saw the film several times in theaters as a kid, and I had the original movie program and the soundtrack LP (which I still have). At least you have to agree, it was a better comic-book movie than most modern superhero movies! The characters looked like the characters from the comics, and the setting was great too. The songs were pretty good, though, and I still love the epic orchestral arrangement of “I’m Popeye The Sailor Man” in the climax!

        Back to the point, though, I love the ACTION COMICS spoof cover of the new POPEYE comics! Although the title of the first comic-book superhero goes to the forgotten single-panel HUGO HERCULES, I’d say it was POPEYE that truly set the pace and deserves the honor. The first one with a full strip, and a full-blown story!

        DC and Marvel, eat your hearts out! (Interesting phrase, when you think about it.) :)

        I’ll look for this at my local comics shop.

  • Annabel Cole

    There’s a one-page preview of the Popeye comic online. It looks great. But still IDW couldn’t be doing a poorer job of advertising it! The page they’ve picked shows Castor Oyl the Oyls without Popeye. Without Wimpy. Without Bluto. Without even much of Olive. Without any fighting or action.

    New readers, who these days are unfamiliar with any Popeye beyond the cartoons, need to be lured into the richer world of the comics by means of something they’ll actually recognize. Here they’re going to see nothing they know.

    It’s like staking the hopes of a new Looney Tunes series on a page of Sniffles. It doesn’t matter how well it’s done, it’s going to leave newbies out.

  • mark, do we have to respectfully disagree? this is the internet after all!

    • I disrespectfully agree!! (add !!!s and 1s to taste)

  • Rich Tom

    Anyone else think that Nancy cover is a bit over designed? I can’t look at it without imagining hearing Spiegelman’s voice oohing and aahing in my ear, and that is NOT a good thing.

  • Agreed about the cover, Rich Tom.

    I disagree with “not that you’d know that; the strip rarely references the war.”

    Bushmiller referenced the war constantly throughout the strips in the book: there are numerous Nazi and “Jap” gags, weeks worth of rationing gags, etc., and a lengthy sequence in which Nancy and Sluggo open a ramshackle club for soldiers.

    Part of the charm of these earlier strips is the way they’re so much more engaged with the “real” world, unlike the pristine minimalism of Bushmiller’s later work.

  • Jody Morgan

    I plan to get the Nancy book sometime, but what I really want is a good-sized collection of Bushmiller’s ’60s and ’70s strips, so I can assemble a killer deck for Five Card Nancy.

  • Dave

    Just bought the Popeye comic. Have to say I’m really impressed with the art and writing. I think it captures Segar’s style and pacing very well.