Mile Markers on the Road to 200: #s 51-100

Continuing our review of the first two hundred LOAC books, which began here, take a look at our fifty-first to one hundredth releases …

… And here’s what jumps out at me as I scan this list. As noted in the first installment 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 were really feeling our oats during this period — the fifteen books we released in 2011 were topped by the nineteen we produced in 2012 (the seventeen above, plus January releases Blondie Volume 2 and Li’l Abner Volume 4, which were our 49th and 50th books, and so were represented in the #1-50 blog entry). That would in turn be exceeded by the twenty-three books we put on sale in 2014 (the first dozen of them are shown above).

While our “throughput” increased year after year, we continued to offer a wide range of quality titles, books that had significance as they brought back important work to modern-day audiences and put that work into a proper perspective. Dean and I were fortunate to be working with a group of top-flight comics historians, all of whom were never less than graceful in accepting our suggested editorial changes. Since we haven’t done it in a while, let us publicly salute Jeet Heer (Little Orphan Annie), Brian Walker (Rip Kirby), Max Allan Collins and Jeff Kersten (Dick Tracy), then-newcomer-to-our-ranks Jared Gardner (Skippy, Baron Bean), and all the various writers who graced our pages with one or two essays on shorter-run projects. Dean and I have always viewed LOAC as representing one of the definitive records of the newspaper comic strip artform; we envision future researchers coming to our books and building upon what they find there, even as we’ve built on the work of that first generation of comics researchers/historians, such as R.C. Harvey. As a result, we have always spent a decent-sized chunk of production time for each book editing the text content, seeking to achieve a certain line-wide consistency (note our preferred way of referring to newspapers, which is that the city is not italicized, but the name of the newspaper is, as in Chicago Tribune or Los Angeles Times) and provide our readers with features that inform and entertain, contributing to a lively reading experience.

We started some new series and ended others during this period. We were excited to launch the aforementioned Skippy, our reprinting of Percy Crosby’s seminal “kid strip” garnered praise from a variety of sources, including the much-admired novelist Tom DeHaven, who knows more than a little about comic strips himself (his novels Funny Papers and Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies come highly recommended). And, as you can see above, we began this segment of LOAC history with the first of our Steve Canyon series, which has gone on to reprint a greater depth of these strips than any previous attempt, and which is still continuing to this day. We won another Eisner Award for the first volume in our Tarzan by Russ Manning series, even as we completed our “Champagne Edition” Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim project, brought the Berkeley Breathed oeuvre fully back into print with Outland and Opus, and closed the book on our visits to the kingdom of Myopia with the second King Aroo release. LOAC Essentials debuted with the first volume of Baron Bean strips, and during this period four more Essentials saw print, featuring notable slices of such strips as The Gumps, Polly and Her Pals, Alley Oop, and The Bungle Family. The Essentials have brought an extra dimension to the line that I continue to highly value.

Two more Eisner Awards came our way with the final volumes of the Alex Toth trilogy, Genius, Illustrated and Genius, Animated. This remains our most ambitious project, over five years in development from the point of “We should do a Scorchy Smith-type book devoted to Alex Toth,” to the outpouring of co-operation from family members, collectors, historians, and those I collectively refer to as “The Friends of Alex,” to the realization what we had bitten off was a multi-book series, to the creation of all three volumes. The always-colorful Toth inspires deep loyalty and deeply-held opinions, but what I will be forever proud of about the Genius books is that we met the wishes of Alex’s four children. At the start of the effort, they told us they wanted a fair picture of their father presented to the readers, giving equal measure to his many strengths and his sometimes-unfiltered shortcomings; at the end of the effort, they told us how pleased they were with the final result. Again, Dean and I offer our public thanks to all the many folks who gave of their private collections to allow us to use the rare original art, sketches, doodles, letters, and postcards that so enriched all three books.

We again executed a variety of one-shots and short-run series, such as Bobby London’s Popeye and the U.S. Star Trek strip, both collected in two-volume sets. Our association with DC Comics began, beginning our collections of the hard-to-find Superman and Batman strips. I had a great time flying to Los Angeles and going through the George McManus papers at UCLA as part of the research for Bringing Up Father: Of Cabbages and Kings (I wrote about the trip here and here, too). Another one-shot from this period that I feel is often unfairly overlooked is Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and The Little King. Soglow was a singular talent, and his diminutive ruler was a mainstay for years, in 1936 even co-starring in a Fleischer Studios animated short alongside the irrepressible Betty Boop! (You can find the cartoon available for viewing on YouTube, and perhaps elsewhere on-line.) I number Cartoon Monarch among our finest books.

Had we called it quits around this time, LOAC would still have been a line to be proud of. Fortunately for us, over the next four-plus years we had the fun of putting another hundred books on the stands! Join us again in just a few days for a look back at LOACs # 101 – 150!

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