Mile Markers on the Road to 200: LOAC’s Bicentennial Biggies

Concluding our look back on our first two hundred releases, we check out LOAC books number one hundred fifty-one to two hundred, spanning the years 2016 to 2019. Here’s the list of those titles:

… And here are my strongest recollections about these twenty-six months of LOAC history. As with previous installments of this series, other LOACers may recall some of these events differently, or have retained details that have slipped past me through the years, but this is the way I remember it.

We had so many long-running series going at this point, the milestones attached to them remain in the forefront of my mind. We continued to push the reprinting of Steve Canyon farther than any previous attempt at such a project, and it’s stunning to realize that, more than thirty years into his career, there is still so much to learn and share about Milton Caniff’s life and career. Speaking of thirty years, with Little Orphan Annie Volume 16, we closed in on having almost three decades of Harold Gray’s masterwork back in print. We’ve taken Rip Kirby into the mid-1970s and completed the republication of ten years of the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip (with the important “child abuse” storyline featured in Volume 5). We also closed in on getting the complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy captured in hardcover — the final two volumes necessary to complete that project won’t appear until 2020, but hey, we had to have some important milestones in The Twenties, too!

The ongoing series were joined by a handful of newcomers — it was a true joy to add Lynn Johnston’s For Better of For Worse to the LOAC lineup. The Patterson family’s story rings true on every level; FBoFW ran in my area newspapers, and it was one of those strips I followed eagerly, day to day, during its newspaper publication. Eddie Campbell’s The Goat Getters and Paul Tumey’s Screwball! were notable additions to the cause of comics scholarship. We also went Kosmic and brought both Star Hawks and Star Wars into the lineup, each strip collected in a three-volume series. A great treat to hear from Ron Goulart in the first Star Hawks volume, and fun to catch up with folks like Howard Chaykin and Roger Stern about their contributions to this “cult classic.” Star Wars features lovely art by Russ Manning and, later, Al Williamson; its third volume  also netted LOAC a 2019 Eisner Award for “Best Archival Collection – Strips,” for which we are grateful to everyone who voted.

Alex Toth was again represented, first with a delicious Bravo for Adventure Artist’s Edition, then with our well-received Treasures Retold: The Lost Art of Alex Toth. That book gave us a chance to further extend our knowledge of Alex, not just by seeing the stories and artwork we collected, but by presenting revised information about Alex’s first two marriages that came to us from a relative of one of those women who read our Genius trilogy and approached us with a wide range of new information. It’s very exciting to add a degree of illumination to some of those shadowy corners of such a major talent’s life.

LOAC Essentials steamed ahead with five wide-ranging new entries during this period. Dan Dunn turned out to be one of my favorite research/writing assignments from this period; artist Norman Marsh proved to be a fascinating person! After all, how many of his peers joined him in offering a cartooning correspondence course in the pages of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics? A collection of “Cap” Stubbs and Tippie had long been one of my goals, so it was terrific to see that reality come to pass, and Caitlin McGurk did us all proud with her excellent text feature for that book. We finished our reprinting of Herriman’s Baron Bean, we published the start of Andriola’s Charlie Chan, and late last year, we reached our two hundredth title with LOAC Essentials Volume 14, Barney Google.

Producing two hundred LOAC books has been a task that on rare occasions left one feeling like Spark Plug after running the Million-Dollar Cross-Country Marathon — but mostly, it has been an invigorating journey that has taken Dean and I from our respective homes on trips to Los Angeles, San Diego, Michigan, Ohio, New York, and other destinations in between. It has allowed us to work with distinguished names in the field, a wide range of scholars who share our love of the artform, and family members eager to offer readers their knowledge and memories of talented cartoonists who have left us. Most of all, it has been one heckuva lot of fun.

The good news is, it ain’t over yet! Dick Tracy Volume 28 will soon be on its way to the printer (one more to go after that!), I’m busily working on Steve Canyon Volume 11 (Steve enslaved in Paris! Poteet and Bitsy in Africa! And the specter of Vietnam looms over all …) — and there’ll be more to come, including a special project that is special indeed!

We won’t have that announcement ready for our next posting in this space, but if all goes according to plan, I’ll have something else to show you related to one of our earliest books, one that remains one of my Top Five LOAC Favorites!

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