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Today would have been the 91st birthday of the great Jack Mendelsohn (1926-2017), who passed away last January, leaving behind a life well-lived and a sumptuous, if often unsung or anonymous, legacy.
Yet Mendelsohn will be no stranger to those accustomed to reading the small print and staying for the credits crawl: he co-wrote Yellow Submarine (the film, and got credit for it, unlike Donovan for the song), episodes of Laugh-In, The Carol Burnett Show, then decades of soul-killing animation scripting, not to mention, er… Three’s Company.
Ah, but today we salute him for his greatest triumph, though probably not the one his fans brought up when they met him*: the short-lived Sunday-only King Features comic strip Jackys Diary** (1959-61). In 1960, Dell Comics (were good comics, so they said) in a fit of mad inspiration, issued a one-shot (Four Color 1091, April-June 1960) drawing from the strip’s run… a flashback to the early practices of the comic book industry, when its product consisted of repackaged comic strip reprints.
For a more comprehensive sample, hunt down the comic book, or Dan Nadel’s excellent Art Out of Time (2006, Abrams), which may just turn you on to further neglected but worthy visions. Or get thee hence swiftly to Sam Henderson‘s wonderful blog, The Magic Whistle. Sam saved me a lot of work (and stole my thunder) by graciously providing top-quality scans of the entire Dell comic book.
Then, if you’re good and hooked, you’ll be chuffed to hear that a complete collection of the strip’s run was miraculously assembled and published a few years ago, and finer than even the most fervent optimist could have envisioned. Once again, international treasures Craig Yoe & Clizia Gussoni and their crack production team have delivered a dream.
Produced with utmost attention to detail, as well as the full and clearly enthusiastic coöperation of the auteur himself, this handsome tome boasts, in addition to the full complement of excellently-reproduced strips, a fascinating and richly-illustrated retrospective article by Mendelsohn and a fondly witty foreword and backword by colleagues and accomplices Mort Walker (then 90 1/2) and Mell Lazarus (then 86 1/2). As they say, get yours now!
**that’s how it was intentionally spelled, for effect. Unlike spelling nowadays…