Wednesday, March 7, 2012
POLITICS-FREE SINCE MONDAY
debut in 1938 as an anthology of UFS comic-strip characters. That
first issue starred Tarzan, the Captain and the Kids, Li’l Abner,
and others. From issue #30 on, it apparently became a one-strip-
at-a-time title, rotating between the Captain and the Kids, Li’l
Abner, and Fritzi Ritz with Nancy. Pretty soon, Nancy became the
headliner when she and Aunt Fritzi started and, with issue #60, she
was the permanent star of the title, though she often shared cover
billing with Sluggo. Comics on Parade #104 [February 1955] was the
last issue of the title.
The comic strip that would become Nancy started out as Fritzi Ritz
in 1922. Created by Larry Whittington, the strip was taken over by
Ernie Bushmiller three years into its run. Nancy, Fritzi’s niece,
was introduced on January 2, 1933. From all accounts, Nancy took
the feature to new heights of popularity and, before long, she was
the star of the strip and it was renamed for her.
Since 1995, brothers Guy and Brad Gilchrist have been writing and
drawing Nancy. The strip is beautifully drawn with a heartwarming
attitude. I think it’s one of the finest comic strips of our time.
In the unlikely event I ever become the editor of some newspaper’s
comics pages, it would be the first strip I would add to the pages.
That’s how much I love it.
All of the above is my lame attempt to disguise the obvious truth
that all I know about Comics on Parade #82 is that it came out in
December, 1951, the month of my birth, and that the cover is signed
“Ernie Bushmiller.” I don’t know if the issue presents reprints of
the comic strip or new material written and drawn for the issue.
I’m eager for further enlightenment, so, please, feel free to share
your doubtless vaster knowledge with me.
My library system continues to be a abundant source of entertaining
material. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki [Drawn
& Quarterly; $24.95] is Mizuki’s fictionalized memoir of his World
War II service in the Imperial Army. Stationed on an island in the
South Pacific, a company of poorly-supplied soldiers are expected
to hold their positions at all costs and, if necessary, hurl their
bodies at their enemies in senseless suicide charges. It’s a grim
tale with a large cast of characters, but it humanizes all of them
from the most lowly to the most fanatic officers. It a way, this stand
alone graphic novel reminds me of Sam Glanzman’s classic U.S.S.
Stevens stories for DC’s war comics. It has that same sense of reality,
that same sense of empathy for the common fighting man, that same
attention to detail that makes a great story a great learning experience as
well. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a quiet masterpiece and
I recommend it most strongly.
From 1989, Les Roberts’ A Carrot for the Donkey is the third novel
in that author’s Saxon series. Saxon is a sometimes actor who pays
his bills between parts by working as a private detective. I came
to Saxon by way of Roberts’ Milan Jacovich books, which are set in
and about my native Cleveland, Ohio. Having read and enjoyed all
15 of the Jacovich novels as well as the unrelated Strange Death of
Father Candy, I decided to give Roberts’ first private detective a
chance. It’s worked out pretty well for me.
Saxon is less morally resolute than Jacovich. He’s not a bad guy,
just someone who’s adapted to the shady locale that is Hollywood.
When he adopted a street kid in his second novel, Saxon completely
won me over. In this book, he’s hired by a profligate producer to
find the man’s runaway daughter. The trail leads to Tijuana and a
world of bullfighters, corrupt cops, people smugglers, and pimps.
The setting is even more sleazy than Hollywood and, in that world,
the detective is completely on his own.
There are three more books in the Saxon series, which seems to have
ended in 1994. I’m looking forward to reading those and any other
new books from Roberts. He’s become one of my favorite authors and
I recommend his books to you as well.
Jill Thompson’s Magic Trixie and the Dragon [HarperCollins; $7.99]
is the third in her delightful series about the pre-teen witch-in-
training. Trixie is one of the great kid comics characters. Her
enthusiasm is high and her impulse control low. She makes mistakes
and she learns from them. Her supporting cast is often hilarious,
but Magic Trixie still commands the center stage. With outstanding
art that tickles my eyes and writing that makes me smile and even
chuckle out loud, Magic Trixie is fun for all ages.
I can’t decide if Shunju Aono’s I’ll Give It My All...Tomorrow is
inspirational or depressing. I just finished the third volume in
the series [Viz; $12.99] and I still can’t decide.
The protagonist of Tomorrow is Shizuo, forty-something dreamer and
single father who quits his decent albeit unexciting job to devote
himself to becoming a manga creator. He’s currently working at a
burger joint and living with his father. His best friend is a co-
worker two decades younger than he is. His editor is encouraging,
but, as it turns out, that says more about the editor than it does
about the quality of Shizuo’s manga.
While reading each book of the series, despite my keen interest in
the story, I thought about not reading future volumes. Shizuo is
not an incredibly sympathetic character. He appears delusional on
frequent occasions. He’s less than a good father to his daughter,
who, thankfully, is a pretty tough cookie. He wallows in self-pity
often. As reviewer Ed Sizemore wrote, I don’t know if I’m reading
this series because I want to see Shizuo succeed against all odds
or becomes I’m curious how big a train wreck his life will become.
But there’s always something that keeps me reading. In this third
volume, it was a twist involving Shizuo’s editor that I never saw
coming and has me eagerly awaiting how this will affect Shizuo in
his quest for manga stardom. My interest in the series is sort of
book-to-book. Right now, I’m hooked.
ISBN: 978-1421533650 (Volume One)
ISBN: 978-1421533872 (Volume Two)
ISBN: 978-1421533889 (Volume Three)
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella