A Hail to the Hall & Recent Recommendations

There were pleased cries and exclamations among Library of American Comics personnel at the tag-end of February with the release of this year’s Eisner Awards Hall of Fame inductees. While four inductees remain to be determined in April voting, there are nineteen talented persons who will enter the HoF in 2024, with a half-dozen of them connected in various ways to comic strips or their preservation.

In the ranks of publishers, Gary Groth‘s Fantagraphics Books has a decades-long history of reprinting newspaper features, from the understated humor of Peanuts to the swords-and-chivalry of Print Valiant, while James Warren filled the two years of the mid-’70s with sixteen issues reprinting Will Eisner’s classic tales of The Spirit that paved the way for Kitchen Sink Press to continue the series and also publish many of Eisner’s original, non-series graphic novels that have influenced generations of cartoonists in succeeding years. While their comic strip credentials represent only part of their long and impressive resumes within the industry, we salute both gentlemen for their efforts to keep available essential newspaper comics.

Since LOAC has been in that same business for the past seventeen years, we were over-the-moon to see that two creators whose work we have published will be enshrined in the Hall’s Class of 2024. The inventive and influential Noel Sickles was selected, and certainly his 1933-36 run on Scorchy Smith forms the backbone of his comics credentials. We reprinted that entire sequence in our 2008 release, Scorchy Smith and The Art of Noel Sickles:

Joining Sickles in enshrinement this year is Polly and Her Pals impresario Cliff Sterrett. His gentle humor and surreal stylings made Polly a treat for the mind and the eyes. Portions of of his ourvre have seen intermittent international reprintings, including our two oversize “Champagne Edition” Sunday-page collections, as well as the 1933 dailies that formed a vastly entertaining LOAC Essentials volume:

It’s always a fine day when the contributions of a long-time friend or valued acquaintance are recognized, and the Hall’s announcement makes clear Don McGregor‘s long and varied writing career is receiving its due. Don is most closely connected to the comic book industry, where his 1970s “Panther’s Rage” and “Panther Versus the Klan” sagas for Marvel Comics drew both Dean and this writer to send more than one letter of comment (and appreciation) to the fan pages in Jungle Action; several aspects of Don’s Black Panther work were carried forward into the character’s movie persona. Dean and Don (alternately alliterative as Mullaney and McGregor) struck up a close friendship and — along with artist Paul Gulacy and lettered Annette Kawecki — produced Sabre, the graphic novel that launched Eclipse Comics. For many of us, Don and Gene Colan’s “Ragamuffins” stories, which were reproduced directly from Colan’s pencils, remains a high point of our comics-reading lives. Of course, that artist and writer combo teamed for several notable collaborations, including two four-issue Nathaniel Dusk mini-series for DC Comics.

Lest we forget, however, Don also took his auctorial prowess to the newspaper field while writing the 1990s Zorro strip. We offer this taste of The Fox a la McGregor, produced together with the talented Tom Yeates; you’ll find several other examples at Mr. Yeates’s site, Yeates_McGregor_Zorro Dailies.

Last though hardly least, George Tuska is being honored with a deserved place in the Eisner Awards Hall of Fame. Our contemporaries grew up, as we did, on George’s Marvel Comics work on series such as Luke Cage, The Avengers, and especially on Iron Man, though he also produced a handful of comic strips throughout his career, including The World’s Greatest Superheroes, which brought the DC pantheon into homes seven days a week as the 1970s turned into the ’80s. His most enduring comic strip contribution was his stint through much of the 1960s on Buck Rogers — though to bring things full-circle, let’s not forget that before Buck, Tuska was one of the final artists to create Scorchy Smith. Click on any of the images below for an isolated view of examples from both series:

You’ll find the full list of this year’s Eisner Awards Hall of Fame inductees, as well as brief career summaries of each person, here. We look forward to learning the final four members of the Class of ’24 after the voting has ended and been tabulated, but clearly, it’s already a banner year comic strips at the Eisners.

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In Addition:

We don’t spend all our time reading comic strips, and this writer has a pair of recently-read books to recommend, should you have some extra reading time available and be on the lookout for something different …

First, the Pulitzer Prize-winning first-person account of the perils — and atrocities — inflicted on the Uyghur population in portions China are spotlighted in the powerful graphic novella, I Escaped a Chinese Internment Camp. Originally published on the “Insider” news site, this true-life story of Zumrat Duwat — wife, mother of three, and Chinese citizen — is not one for the faint of heart, but snaps into focus the constraints of a repressive society, and what happens when that society turns against you. The emphasis artist Fahmida Azim brings to the moment when the protagonist and her family arrive in America is a powerful depiction of the bastion of hope the United States represents for many of the world’s oppressed, and helps remind readers that if we step away from that role, we do so at the peril of many — including ourselves. I Escaped a Chinese Internment Camp is now available at fine comics shops and booksellers everywhere.

Equally affecting, though in entirely different ways, is the prose novel Daughter of Moloka’i, by Alan Brennert:

In addition to an impressive list of television credits, Brennert has written several comic books, most notably — with artist Norm Breyfogle — the “Elseworlds” (alternative universe) graphic novel, Batman: Holy Terror. Daughter of Moloka’i tells a family/generational story that spans six decades, and it offers a new and deeper perspective on one aspect of World War II that occurred here on the homefront. The novel is an emotional ride, so if you prefer lighter fare ignore this recommendation, because this writer admits to being glad that tissues were nearby more than once as the story unfolded. (Note that this is a companion to — and shares some characters with — Brennert’s 1983 novel Moloka’i, but this book stands on its own, and reading the first book is not necessary to understand and appreciate this second one.)

Bottom line, then: there are plenty of reasons to be pleased in these late-winter days …

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