by J.D. Roth
Some people are addicted to alcohol. Some people are addicted to cigarettes. (Some people are addicted to both.) My vice is comix. I love comic books, I love cartoons (single-panel comix like The Far Side), and I especially love comic strips. (Classic comic strips are my favorites.)
I’m amazed how huge the field of comix is. I’m always discovering new gems, some of which were sitting in plain view, waiting for me to notice. One recent example is Little Lulu.
For the past year, I’ve heard raves about Little Lulu all over the comic book world. “What’s the big deal?” I wondered. “It’s just an old kids book, right?” Well. I recently bought a volume, and now I understand the raves. Little Lulu may have been a kids comic book, but it’s a kids comic book with class. These stories from the forties and fifties exhibit a charm and intelligence (and a sense of spunk) completely missing from the Richie Rich comics I grew up with. They do a remarkable job of capturing the feel of a bygone era, not to mention a sense of childhood. Most of all, they’re just plain fun.
Lulu is an eight-year-old girl with a terrific imagination. Her neighborhood is populated by other children, including a gang of boys (the most notable of which is her friend Tubby), and various other girls. A little boy named Alvin lives next door to Lulu. Alvin is a pest: he often wants Lulu to tell him stories. And lord, what stories Lulu tells!
Here’s a short example from a recent volume of reprints:
I love this bit (and the rest of the story, for which I do not have scans), and bored Kris by recounting it once on the way home from a grocery trip. I love the little details that reveal what life was like sixty years ago (the self-service market has replaced the old-style market, for example, or the fact that you might bring your own shopping cart from home). I wish you could see the gag on the next page where Alvin keeps stashing cabbages on the bottom of some woman’s cart. It makes me laugh.
There are several great Lulu pages around the web, including Michelle’s Little Lulu page,Bob Pfeffer’s Little Lulu page and John Merrill’s Little Lulu page. Apparently, the HBO Family channel (who knew there was such a thing?) airs an animated series called The Little Lulu Show featuring Tracey Ullman as the voice of Lulu Moppet.
I’ve managed to track down seven Little Lulu comic stories on-line, and am hosting them here in order to share them with the world. The seven stories are:
If you’d like to read more Lulu, Portland’s own Dark Horse Comics has begun a Little Lulu reprint project. They’re reproducing a large number of her early adventures in small, affordable black-and-white volumes. I own several. They’re wonderful. I think they’re perfect for boys and girls who are just beginning to read. (And for their parents, too!) These delightful books can be had for only $10 each from Amazon (just use the links below) or from your local comic book store. (Also, Tales of Wonder has them for $8 each.)
I often refrain from discussing comix in this forum, but one of my goals in 2006 is to cast off this inhibition. Every month or so I will share some comix-related feature that really makes me happy: Little Lulu, Little Nemo, Peanuts, Flash Gordon, Krazy Kat, early Wonder Woman, Micronauts, Rawhide Kid, and more.
I know this will bore some of you, but I hope that others will get to glimpse the greatness of an art form that often gets only disrespect.
Updated: 13 January 2006