Saturday, February 27, 2010

Little Lulu #129

Little Lulu was the creation of Marjorie Henderson Buell (generally abbreviated to Marge). She appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in single panel comics for over a decade. Later she got her own newspaper strip and eventually made it into the comics for Dell, which specialized in licensed characters.

Dell hired John Stanley to produce the comics as both writer and artist. (Correction: As pointed out in the comments by Jonathan L. Miller, Stanley did the scripts and layouts only after the first few issues.) The result was one of the consistently funniest and entertaining books on the market. Along with Dennis the Menace and Richie Rich, Little Lulu was among the most successful comic book series featuring children ever; it was far more successful in that market than Charles Schultz's Peanuts.

Part of the charm of the series lies in the two main characters. Little Lulu is (generally) the leader of the girls in her hometown, while Tubby, her sometimes friend and sometimes antagonist, bosses the boys.

The opening story concerns the boys' clubhouse, which proudly declares "No Girls Allowed". Tubby and his pals have finally saved up enough money to put a lock on the door. However, the window poses a problem and:

Meanwhile, the girls are busy:

The boys pelt the girls with their snowballs, and later play an even worse trick:

The girls chase the boys, but the lads lock themselves in the clubhouse. However this doesn't work out that well:

And with the window boarded up, the boys have a lot of hard work ahead of them to escape.

The second story is about Lulu getting a present. Somehow she convinces herself that the present is going to be a giant playhouse that she and her girlfriends can have a tea party in. When it turns out that the actual gift is a piano, she's initially disappointed, but she's resourceful with the crate the piano came in:

The next three stories get into some of the continuing features in Little Lulu. In "Wet Mumday", the boys have one Monday a month where they refuse to talk to any of the girls, or even acknowledge their existence. This drives Lulu and her French friend Fifi crazy, to the point where they adopt desperate measures:

But while the old man may be turned on the boys are made of sterner stuff:

So the girls climb up a drainpipe and get into the house through the second floor, but they accidentally fall into the bathtub:

However, the boys have broken their vows not to talk to the girls, so they're all going to have to be sworn back into the club at some later date. Note: the Mumday thing featured in several Little Lulu stories.

The fourth story features an even more common theme. Lulu is pestered by little Alvin, who wants some money to buy a bottle of perfume for his mother. So Lulu tells him a story explaining why he shouldn't buy the cheap perfume. These stories were always quite elaborate, and at least in the 1950s often featured "a poor little girl" (played by Lulu) and an ugly crone called Witch Hazel. In the story, the poor little girl wants to buy her mother a bottle of perfume, but she can't find a way to earn money. Finally she meets Witch Hazel, who offers to pay the 79 cents she needs if Lulu will just wash all her windows:

When the witch asks Lulu why she needs the money, the poor little girl talks about the perfume sale going on that day only. So the witch heads out to buy some perfume for herself, but refuses to do the same for Lulu until the job is done, although she does leave the money for the job behind. Since the sale only lasts that day, Lulu grabs the money and heads downtown, but she runs into another witch, named Little Itch, who offers to make free perfume for her:

But Little Itch absconds with the money, and thus Lulu has no choice but to go back to Witch Hazel's house and finish washing the windows. Fortunately Witch Hazel returns, smells the bad perfume created by Little Itch, and, thinking it's the bottle she just bought, gives Lulu the good perfume. Alvin has learned his lesson:

The final story features Tubby and the Little Men from Mars. These were also continuing characters, and quite a common type in late 1950s pop culture, as I have discussed elsewhere. Tubby discovers a large dog, who rescued his little buddies from the Red Planet. But his mom won't let him keep the animal, and so he tries to sell it. At first he has no success, but then the Little Men convince Wilbur Van Snobbe (the rich kid) that the dog can talk:

But when it turns out that the dog can't talk, Van Snobbe drops it back at Tubby's doorstep. The Martians have a solution, however; they miniaturize the dog and adopt him as their pet. Tubby's mom comes in just as they fly away:

Probably another reference to Laika, the dog that the Russians put in space in 1957.


Jacque Nodell said...

The descriptive names of the characters are great!

While reading your synopsis of "Wet Mumsday," I suddenly remembered back to high school when we would have these spirit days where the boys would have to wear these stickers with their names on them called "hush buttons," and if they talked to a girl she would take the sticker away -- point being to collect as many stickers as possible. Hadn't thought of that in a while!

Jonathan L. Miller said...

Although John Stanley did basic layouts/breakdowns for the stories, after the first few issues they were actually drawn by Irving Tripp.

By the way, if you weren't already aware, Dark Horse has been reprinting the Stanley/Tripp Lulus. They're all great. :-)

Rick OzTown said...

Since the 50's, I've always remembered the beebleberries that the poor little girl picked for a living in the woods. And, by the way, in the stories I recall, when Lulu was telling Alvin these stories, she was usually pictured with one patch on her dress to show she was poor. I notice your example does not show that version.

Those side stories were really my favorite part of the comic, in the same way that I really almost enjoyed Lil Abner's favorite (internal) comic, Fearless Fosdick, more than the original.