The First Library of American Comics …

… Was that early 20th Century publishing company, Cupples & Leon (named for its two founders, Victor Cupples and Arthur Leon). They collected several early comic strips into numbered series of books, each series devoted to an individual feature. Each book often featured over fifty pages, captured between sturdy cardboard covers.

Being a huge George McManus/Bringing Up Father fan, as we began working on our own “From Sea to Shining Sea” collection, I started casting about for previous Maggie & Jiggs collections from other publishers that I might pick up at reasonable prices, just for the fun of having and reading them. I was lucky enough to find a lot of six Cupples & Leon BUF editions, numbers 1-3 and 6-8.

C&L reprinted early escapades of other strips that would eventually also be reprinted in 21st Century Library of American Comics editions …

Here’s a by-no-means-exhaustive gallery of other strips C&L collected:

All the Cupples & Leon publishing eggs were not in the comic strip basket, however — C&L published one-off prose titles, such as this Grimm’s Fairy Tales compendium, with lovely artwork by Johnny (Raggedy Ann & Andy) Gruelle …

… And many fiction series, often packaged by the Edward Stratemeyer’s young-readers fiction syndicate, such as the series of Jack Ranger adventures:

By the mid-1930s C&L moved out of the comic strip reprinting business and focused on their prose offerings, but they had established the benchmark for the form, with every subsequent strip-reprint initiative following their lead.

Cupples & Leon comics collections are still available on the used book market, and I believe that any serious student of the newspaper strip artform is well served to have at least one or two of their books in their collections.

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