Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 30

« Every time I go to Oona Goosepimple’s spooky old house something SCARY happens to me! » — Nancy

Back in the blog’s early days, my partner ds, wrapping up her tribute to John Stanley, stated:

« And I haven’t even mentioned Stanley’s Nancy, nor her friend (and my favourite character) Oona Goosepimple. Next time… »

Well, that time has come. Despite my deep and enduring love of John Stanley, I never could warm up to what’s generally considered the cornerstone of his œuvre, Little Lulu. It’s hardly Stanley’s fault: I just happen to dislike Lulu creator Marjorie ‘Marge’ Henderson Buell‘s visual conception of her characters.

On the other hand, I’ve always been in thrall to Ernie Bushmiller‘s world. Purists will, and surely have, objected to the bold liberties that John Stanley took with Nancy and Sluggo, but I don’t care a whit. This collision between the singular visions of a pair of cartooning geniuses is every bit as delightful as I might have hoped.

Night Howls first appeared in Nancy and Sluggo no. 174 (Jan.-Feb. 1960, Dell). It was reprinted in Nancy, Volume 4: The John Stanley Library (2013, Drawn & Quarterly). Script and layout by John Stanley, finished art by Dan Gormley.

One more short one?

The Ghost Story first appeared in Four Color no. 1034 – Nancy and Sluggo Summer Camp (Sept.-Nov. 1959, Dell). It was reprinted in Nancy, Volume 2: The John Stanley Library (2009, Drawn & Quarterly). Script and layout by John Stanley, finished art by Dan Gormley.
Fancy, uh? This is Nancy, Volume 2: The John Stanley Library (2009, Drawn & Quarterly); meticulous series design (and covers) by Gregory ‘Seth’ Gallant. Now if only D&Q would finish building the library, or at the very least give us Kookie and Dunc & Loo!
In 1975, when fandom movers and shakers Robert Overstreet and Donald Phelps visited Stanley in his home, « … he dug into a closet, and said, ‘I have something that might interest you.‘ He pulled out the roughs for the first Oona Goosepimple story for Nancy. Stanley told Phelps he could keep it. (Actually, it was the script for an unpublished story). » [ from the late Bill Schelly‘s illuminating Stanley bio, Giving Life to Little Lulu (2017, Fantagraphics). ]


Hallowe’en Countdown V, Day 10

« Ghost stories … tell us about things that lie hidden within all of us, and which lurk outside all around us. » — Susan Hill

We’ve once before turned our attention upon Dell’s Ghost Stories, an anthology title with such an incredible first issue (written and directed by John Stanley) that all the subsequent ones whither in the long shadow it casts. In recent years, I’ve somewhat softened my stance on these sequels, taking into account that nothing could measure up to Stanley’s work on numero uno — and accordingly judging them on their own merits.

As a kid, I didn’t think too highly of Frank Springer (1929-2009), being primarily familiar with his inks over Frank Robbins on The Invaders (too sloppy, and no substitute for Robbins inking himself, which never happened at Marvel anyhow). Down the line, I ran into some of his earlier work (Phoebe Zeit-Geist, The Secret Six, The National Lampoon, Dial H for Hero and sundry items for Dell) and grew to appreciate his strengths.

Now, Ghost stories was interesting as a ‘horror’ (in the very limited Silver Age/Comics Code in full force sense) anthology, in that the vast majority of the stories were, after that peerless first issue, the work of one single artist (Gerald McCann, after contributing a couple of page to number one, handled issues 2-5, with a couple of filler pages thereafter, then Springer took over for 6-20, the rest of the run consisting of reprints, with the unexpected exception of no. 35).

Here then is what’s likely my favourite Springer Ghost Story: A Room with a Dreadful Secret.

This is Ghost Stories no. 14 (June 1966, Dell). Cover by Springer.


Tentacle Tuesday: Lovey-dovey Octopuses

Dunc and Loo (which was called « Around the Block with Dunc & Loo » for the first three issues) was a comic written and story-boarded by John Stanley. (See our initial post about John Stanley, including more D&C covers.) The finished art for the series was provided by Bill Williams. This combination worked perfectly to provide readers with (only eight, alas) hilarious issues of teenage high-jinks and other silliness.

Dunc and Loo no. 7, July-September 1963, art by Bill Williams.

You can read the whole issue over at Comic Book Plus – no tentacles, I’m afraid, but some gorgeous art and zany stories. It’s well worth the detour!


Hey, octopuses like surfing, too. Or maybe this one just wanted the blonde for himself…

The Adventures of Bob Hope no. 94, 1964. Art by Bob Oksner… I think.

The Adventures of Bob Hope were published by National Periodical Publications from 1950 to 1968, for a total of 109 issues. The main stories centred around comedian Bob Hope (or his misadventures, rather); the cover stories often featured some other film-related characters. The original artist of the series was Owen Fitzgerald, with Cal Howard as the writer. Official credits aren’t really available, but these two seemed to provide much of the content for the first 60 issues. In #61, however, Mort Drucker (on main stories) and Bob Oksner (on back-ups) made their debut, and continued on their merry way until, oh, 1967 or so. In case you’re interested, Neal Adams did the last 4 covers for the series (eek).


Here’s another series that followed a pretty similar path (unsurprisingly – same publishing house, comparable years, same subject matter): The Adventures of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis (July-August 1952 – October 1957) that became The Adventures of Jerry Lewis with #41 (November 1957). The art, handled mostly by Owen Fitzgerald in the beginning, gradually landed increasingly into the more-than-capable hands of Bob Oksner, who stayed around until the end with issue #124 (June 1971). Here, also, Neal Adams stuck his nose in, this time for three issues (covers of #102 through to #104).

The Adventures of Jerry Lewis no. 44 (April 1958). Art is, presumably, by Bob Oksner, though GCD tentatively attributes it to Owen Fitzgerald.

Read this issue over at Ominous Octopus Omnibus (what could be more appropriate on Tentacle Tuesday?)


~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 28

« No matter what scientists say, lumbermen of the West insist that the monster exists… Believe it or Not! » — the standard Ripley’s line, from The Beast of the Humboldt

In the early 1960s, former industry leader Dell Publishing suffered a crushing blow when Western Publishing, who had been producing Dell’s comics for them since 1938, decided to handle their own distribution, which left Dell with, well… just about zilch*. But that’s neither here nor there.

Dell had opted out of the Comics Code Authority, and Western’s subsequent comics, under the Gold Key banner, also enjoyed that advantage, not that they abused the privilege much, though the exceptions are among the finest comic books ever issued: Ghost Stories No.1 and the one-shot giant Tales From the Tomb, both from the phenomenal mind of John Stanley and published by Dell in the fall of 1962.

By the mid-1960s, Warren Magazines had pounced through the loophole of the magazine format, unregulated by the Code, to bring back monsters forbidden under the CCA’s rule. Gold Key required no such stratagem.

At first, GK’s long-running (1965-1980, 94 issues) Ripley’s Believe It or Not! * couldn’t decide on a focus: 14 of its initial 26 issues were devoted to « True Ghost Stories », two related « True War Stories », two shared « True Weird Stories », and six tackled « True Demons and Monsters ». With issue 27, the title stuck to ghosts, if not to the strict truth.



This is an excerpt from Ripley’s Believe It or Not! no. 4 (April, 1967), featuring the work of the much underrated Joe Certa (1919-1986), who began his comics career in the mid-1940s, working in just about every genre for a score of publishers, settling with Gold Key in the mid-60s and staying on until his retirement in 1980. He’s most remembered for his co-creation (with writer Joseph Samachson) of, and lengthy stint on J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter (1955-68), as well as for drawing every single issue of Gold Key’s loose adaptation of television’s first supernatural soap, Dark Shadows (35 issues, 1969-76). By this time, Certa’s style had evolved from a fairly mainstream style to a wonderfully blocky, angular and shadowy style that left him ill-suited to the depiction of standard superheroics… but prepared him well for moodier fare.

Issue 4’s front cover. Most of them featured often-splendid paintings by George Wilson, Jack Sparling or Luis Angel Dominguez, but the occasional effective photo cover crept in.

Here’s a harsh factoid that makes vampires seem cuddly by comparison.

– RG

*the one priceless creative asset that Dell managed to hold onto was John Stanley, not that they appreciated him. When he left the industry, it wasn’t with a carefree grin and a spring in his step.

** « Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is a franchise, founded by Robert Ripley, which deals in bizarre events and items so strange and unusual that readers might question the claims. The Believe It or Not panel proved popular and was later adapted into a wide variety of formats, including radio, television, comic books, a chain of museums and a book series. »


Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 2

« … it was a balled-up thing… like an empty wrapper thrown carelessly aside… but somehow still recognizable as having once been human… »

Dell’s Ghost Stories (1962-1973, with issues 21 to 37 lazily and straight-up reprinting numbers 1 to 16… with a single, perplexing exception, the all-new, surprisingly decent issue 35, late in 1972) were quite tame, trifling stuff, with one notorious bright spot: the première issue, entirely written by John Stanley (1914-1993) and comprising, amidst other excellent short pieces, what’s possibly the most nightmarish tale to see print up ’til then in American comics (particularly all-ages comics!), « The Monster of Dread End ». It represented the kind of material few comics publishers could have gotten away with at the time, save, ironically, one of the squeaky-clean stalwarts (Dell, Gilberton, Gold Key…) that opted out of the industry’s recently-instituted governing censorship board, the Comics Code Authority. Their reasoning was that, having never published anything objectionable to begin with, they were unlikely to head down that sordid path in the future.

Journeyman cartoonist Frank Springer (1929-2009) provided some decent artwork through most of the book’s run, but as he didn’t have much to work with, script-wise (Carl Memling was no substitute for Mr. Stanley), the end result remains underwhelming. Looking at the bright side, he did provide a couple of quite alluring covers, the final, non-painted entries in our select little gallery.

If you haven’t already made its acquaintance, treat yourself to the nerve-tingling Number One, available gratis under the auspices of the fine folks at comicbookplus.com. Love the semi-woodcut technique used on the cover by the Unknown Artiste.

Ghost Stories no. 3 (April-June 1963). Cover artist unknown.

Ghost Stories no. 10 (April-June 1965). Cover artist unknown.

Ghost Stories no. 19 (August 1967). Cover and interiors by Frank Springer.

Ghost Stories no. 31 (January 1972). Cover and interiors by Frank Springer, price and indicia aside, a facsimile of issue 11 (July-September 1965). My own tepid introduction to the series.


Happy birthday, John Stanley!

I’d like to bring to your attention that on March 22nd, 1914, more than a hundred years ago, John Stanley, American cartoonist and comic book writer extraordinaire, was brought into this world. He died in 1993 at age 79, but he left an undeniable mark on this world. (At least I hope it’s an indelible one.)

I won’t talk about his artistic parcours, as people far more erudite than I have already done it. For an enjoyable gallop through Stanley’s multi-faceted and staggeringly productive career, head over to the Comics Journal and read an excellent article by Frank Young. Want to read some stories (and have a few hours, if not days, to spare?) Visit Stanley Stories, a truly impressive blog by the same Frank Young, who scanned tons of comics and perceptively analyzed them for our great enjoyment.

Me, I’m just an devotee who likes to curl up and read his comics. I’ll share some images. The art is by John Stanley, unless otherwise specified.

Marge’s Little Lulu no. 10 (April 1949). I recommend « John Stanley: Giving Life to Little Lulu » by Bill Schelly, published in Fantagraphics in 2017, which pieces together Stanley’s transformation of Little Lulu into the beloved, iconic figure she is today.  I’ve never felt the need to have female characters to relate to, yet Lulu’s a great role-model for mischievous little girls who can pitch a mean snowball as well as any boy!

Marge’s Little Lulu Tubby Annual no. 2, March 1954. Cover by Irving Tripp from a layout by Stanley. Tubby’s series is an offshoot of Lulu’s.

Page 8 from « Guest in the Ghost Hotel », from Tubby no. 7 (January-March 1954). Looking for ghosts, ghouls and monsters? Look no further than Stanley comics.

John Stanley took a stab at Krazy Kat stories when Dell revived the comic in 1951. Krazy Kat Comics lasted for 5 issues (presumably poor sales doomed it), all published in the same year. This is Krazy Kat no. 1, 1951.

How do Beatniks while away the hours? They compose nonsensical poetry, noodle it out… and dig girls, of course. Kookie was John Stanley’s creation; the series was written and laid out by him. Unfortunately, it was very short-lived, running for a grand total of 2 issues. This is Kookie no. 1, February-April 1962. The handsome painted cover is by Bill Williams from a layout by Stanley. You can read the issue here.

Dunc And Loo no. 6, April-June 1963. Cover by Bill Williams from a layout by Stanley.

Lou (of Dunc & Lou) was apparently destined to be a newspaper strip, but never made it.

Melvin Monster no. 2, July-September 1965.

O.G. Whiz no. 1, February 1971.

An inside page of O.G. Whiz, with very typical madcap Stanley action.

It’s not all fun, though: « The Monster of Dread End », written by John Stanley for Ghost Stories no. 1 (Dell, September-November 1962), is genuinely scary. Art by Ed Robbins.

And I haven’t even mentioned Stanley’s Nancy, nor her friend (and my favourite character) Oona Goosepimple. Next time… pick yourself up a copy of Drawn & Quarterly’s Nancy: The John Stanley Library, and happy reading!

From Melvin Monster no. 1 (April-June 1965).

~ ds