Monday, October 19, 2009

The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics -- Edited by Art Spiegleman & Françoise Mouly

FTC Disclaimer: Although I'm a powerful and respected blogger, no one sent me this book to review. So I had to buy it with my own money. But because I'm a rich mystery writer, I could afford it. I'm glad I could because it's a wonderful book, full of full-size reproductions of some of the most famous comics by some of the most famous artists and writers from about 1940 to the early '60s.

I was a kid in the late '40s, and once I discovered comic books (we all called them funny books), I was hooked. I was such an addict that my aunt once gave me a small can of dimes for my birthday. She taped a little note to the can that said, "Strictly for funny books." I can still see that note as plain as day. And here's a little confession: All funny books were the same to me. Sure, I liked some better than others, but I read anything I could get my hands on. Superheroes, funny animals, it didn't matter. Give me a comic book, and I was happy. So I'm familiar with a lot of the characters in these pages. The Fox and the Crow. Little Lulu. Captain Marvel. Donald Duck. Uncle Scrooge. Uncle Wiggly. When I was a kid, I didn't know or care about the artists' names, but now I recognize nearly all of them. Walt Kelly. Harvey Kurtzman. Basil Wolverton. Carl Barks. Over 350 colorful pages! What more can I say? I love this book.

7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. You are aware that you had one of the best aunts ever?

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  3. Looks like a great book. If the publisher - or any rich mystery writers - would care to send me a copy, I'll be pleased to review it too.

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  4. ~Little Lulu~!!
    Oh, my! Was Sluggo there as well? This book sounds like heaven to people of a certain age.

    Thanks for the heads up.

    Terrie

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  5. Gerald, I know it well.

    Watcher, I'm hanging onto my copy!

    Terrie, it was Tubby in the LL comics.

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  6. There's a funny story connected with Captain Marvel, my favorite comic book and the best-seller of the '40s. DC comics sued Fawcett, publisher of the Marvel family's adventures, charging copyright infringement. "See, this Marvel fellow is bulletproof and flies and can go through walls ... and, oh yeah, he wears a costume, so he must be a knock-off of Superman." In this day and age when there are dozens of other superheroes, it sounds ludicrous but DC won, forcing Fawcett to stop publication.
    Fast forward about fifty years when DC bought the rights to the Fawcett characters. They decided to republish the Captain Marvel comics only to discover that Marvel Comics (under the guidance of the ever resourceful Stan Lee) had purchased the rights to the title for Marvel when it was thought to be worthless thanks to the lawsuit.
    So now DC has the right to publish Captain Marvel as a character, but not the right to name a comic book after him. The best they could do is call the comic "Shazam" after the word used by newsboy Billy Batson to transform into Captain Marvel.
    S The wisdom of Solomon;
    H The strength of Hercules;
    A The stamina of Atlas;
    Z The power of Zeus;
    A The courage of Achilles;
    M The speed of Mercury.
    Originally, there was going to be a C for the wit of Bill Crider, but SHAZMAC didn't work as well and they couldn't figure out a way to explain how they foresaw such an ability. Happily, they left the wit in and dropped the C, and Cappy became a classic.
    The Captain Marvel cliffhanger serial from the early '40s is among the best of that genre ever filmed. Unlike the first Superman movies, which used animation for parts of the flying sequences, the CM producers created realistic flying scenes by making a mannikin of Capt. Marvel and sliding it along a virtually invisible line which was strung through Topanga Canyon (a favorite movie location of the time). It was the best flying effect until George Reeves introduced blue screen SFX in Superman almost a decade later. The Captain Marvel serial is available on DVD as is the SHAZAM TV show from the '70s (a teen show). The latter is not available through Amazon at present.

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  7. Thanks for all the great info. Captain Marvel was my favorite, too, and I was devastated when he disappeared from comics. As a kid, I had no idea about the lawsuit and didn't learn of it until years later.

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