The Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly-curated anthology The Toon Treasury Of Classic Children’s Comics (Abrams Comicarts) will give history-minded comics fans more of what they’re looking for—and it contains several John Stanley stories to boot. The book offers more than 350 oversized, hardbound pages of funny-animal comics, kid-friendly gag cartoons, and the adventures of licensed characters like Donald Duck, Dennis The Menace, and Little Lulu. The Toon Treasury has been divided into sections like “Fantasyland” and “Weird & Wacky,” each of which features an introduction, and between those intros, the annotated table of contents, and the creator bios in the back, this book offers ample evidence of the artists and styles that dominated kid-comics in their ’40s and ’50s heyday. It’s also the kind of book that actual children can sprawl out on the floor and read, enjoying the gorgeous art and wild imagination of masters like Carl Barks, Walt Kelly, Sheldon Meyer, and Harvey Kurtzman. It’s never too early to develop an appreciation for true quality…A
NPR’s “Fresh Air” – Milo Miles
Heartfelt thanks to Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly for bringing back a nearly forgotten popular art form with their groundbreaking new collection The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics. The superhero mode has so dominated — you almost want to say "deformed" — comic books for so long that few folks younger than 50 can remember the wonderfully diverse subject matter of the comic's early days.
As Spiegelman and Mouly point out, the 1940s and early 1950s were the boom years for comics, with hundreds of titles and millions in sales. That's a lot of dimes. However, cartoons on TV, rising prices and the sense that only superheroes were cool in the 1960s led kid comics into a permanent decline.
The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics offers a potent argument that this was a loss for family entertainment. Spiegelman and Mouly do this by selecting only humorous stories — true funny books — and by avoiding any dated stereotypes. That means, unfortunately, that there are no black characters in this book.
Paging through mountainous piles of comics, the editors selected more material by four artist-writers than any others, all but one of them unknown to the general public.
Walt Kelly is still kind of famous because of his Pogo newspaper comic. Carl Barks, the creator of Uncle Scrooge and the finest of the Walt Disney comic artists, is a giant in Europe but a cult figure here. You have to be a comic-book fan to know that Little Lulu was written by John Stanley, or even that Little Lulu was a marvelous comic. And finally, only the hard-core now remember Sheldon Mayer, who did Sugar and Spike and many other titles. Mayer made his mark when he insisted that his bosses include a much-rejected work in the first issue of Action Comics. You may have heard of it — something called Superman.
Mayer was a master of gentle humor with a slapstick twist. It didn't matter whether it was Sugar and Spike, his wised-up babies who were all for each other in a world of adults they couldn't understand, or the goofy blowhard J. Rufus Lion. Kelly does a dollop of Pogo, but his equally droll treatment of fairy tale conventions is a revelation. Stanley made Little Lulu one of the most confident female characters in comics, stuck with grown-up fools and stuck-up boys in an absurd world. And Barks is one of the most deft and inventive American humorists and storytellers in any field. The man makes you crazy. Still, an old lesson holds true: The more overtly didactic a story, the less funny, which damages characters like intellectual Amos. However, the overall lack of ironic humor is refreshing, and it's interesting how many comics expected an audience that was thoroughly familiar with classic fairy tales and at least a bit familiar with life on a farm. Spiegelman and Mouly were also correct that wit outlasts thrills, in comics at least.
There were a couple of vintage superheros with a sense of humor: Jack Cole's Plastic Man and C. C. Beck's Captain Marvel, and both artist-writers are represented in the TOON Treasury.
The truth is, most of the comic-book Westerns and crime tales and superhero sagas of the 1940s and 1950s don't hold up well today. The nostalgic glow soon fades into tedium. But Sugar and Spike, Little Lulu and Tubby, and Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge remain as vibrant and timeless as the fairies and knights and genies that so much inspired them.
The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics Edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly. Abrams, $40 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8109-5730-5
Spiegelman and Mouly reinvented comics as pop art in their classic anthology RAW. This time out, they’re reclaiming comics as a medium of far gentler thrills in a bountiful collection of story gems from a more whimsical era of graphic storytelling. Cartoonists little known to nonscholars are standouts: Sheldon Mayer’s Sugar and Spike—toddler pals who speak their own language, much to the consternation of grownups—are a delight with their sweet hijinks. Andre LeBlanc’s oddball “Intellectual Amos” marries lush artwork to a bald boy who mysteriously soliloquizes about science to his silent imp companion. Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein is a gentle freak who longs to play the tuba. But the genius triumvirate of John Stanley, Carl Barks and Walt Kelly dominates—the first two with their wry fables of greed, revenge and childhood hubris. Kelly is simply one of the most endearing cartoonists of all time—every line he draws or character he creates exudes charm. Adults and comics fans will pore over this revelatory treasury for the stunning art; kids will simply pore over it, immersed in worlds of fantasy that are worth visiting again and again. (Sept.)
Booklist - Ian Chipman
The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics.
Spiegelman, Art (Editor) and Mouly, Francoise (Editor)
Sep 2009. 352 p. Abrams ComicArts, hardcover, $40.00. (9780810957305). 741.5.
Jon Scieszka fairly nails it in his introduction when he calls this compendium “the bank, the mint, the Ali Baba cave full of gold, silver, ruby, emerald, and diamond toons.” Spiegelman and Mouly, an authoritative team, offer an absolute windfall of kids’ comics from the 1930s through the 1960s. The works of familiar kiddie comics heavies (Carl Barks, John Stanley, Walt Kelly, et al) are all here, but there’s also a heaping array of minor weirdos such as Intellectual Amos and the Pie-Face Prince of Old Pretzleburg, and that’s all before the chapter “Weird and Wacky,” which rounds out the collection with the really nutty stuff, including a romp by none other than Dr. Seuss. Notably absent are superheroes—aside from one Supermouse tale and a jaunt into the Land of Surrealism by Captain Marvel. The focus here is squarely on comic comics. If there’s a word with more urgency than essential, then that’s what this comics cornerstone is for libraries. Adults looking to revisit forgotten childhood favorites will be just as enchanted as their children, who probably won’t care a whit that they’re reading the progenitors of modern “graphic novels,” only that these stories are terrifically funny, joltingly exuberant, bafflingly bizarre, and best of all, compiled into one hearty, hefty, handsome tome. It might take a nudge or two to get kids used to hyperdetailed artwork exploding off slick pages to dive into these somewhat antiquated-looking panels with Ben-day dot patterns and limited color palettes; but the sheer, wild fun of these comics is, simply, timeless.
School Library Journal
SPIEGELMAN, Art & Françoise Mouly, sels. and eds The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics 352p. index. CIP. Abrams 2009. Tr $40. ISBN 978-0-8109-5730-5. LC 2009009830.
Gr 3 Up–The dynamic duo has triumphed again. No, not the caped crusader and the boy wonder, but Spiegelman and Mouly. These comics giants have worked with an advisory board (composed of other notables such as Jeff Smith of “Bone” fame) to present great comics from the 1930s through the 1960s. The entries range from single-page gags to considerably longer and more convoluted tales in sections like “Hey Kids!” and “Fantasyland.” Readers are treated to well-known characters like Scrooge McDuck along with others, such as Nutsy Squirrel and Burp the Twerp, that are now mostly forgotten. The collection finishes strongly with the comic-book version of Dr. Seuss’s Gerald McBoing Boing. The age of these comics does present a few cautions. These are faithful reproductions with the limited colors and sometimes slightly blurry text common to the comic books of yesteryear that are, perhaps, unfamiliar to the comics readers of today. These stories depict youngsters and critters from another era whose slang and forms of play are considerably different from today’s norms. Other elements that may give some pause include a few instances of smoking and the use of “nerve medicine,” and, in Scrooge’s “Tralla La” story, yellow ducks with slants for eyes. Cautionary notes aside, this glorious collection will be enjoyed by most children and many adults as well. For something wacky yet more portable and contemporary, try Matthew Loux’s “Salt Water Taffy” series (Oni).–Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Toon Treasury review in Sacramento Bee
The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly Abrams, $40, 352 pages; ages 8 and up
There's no doubt this oversized anthology is a treasure.
It's a present from the talented husband-wife team of Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. And although it looks like a coffee-table book for adults, it will give youngsters hours of pleasure if they just skip the informative yet wordy introductions.
These comics are the ones we enjoyed as kids even though our parents criticized them as junk. They're funny, as Jon Scieszka reaffirms in his introduction. They are comic comics, not superheroes or sci-fi stories.
The publisher's rich colors improve the looks of these 10-cent classics, like Little Lulu getting the last laugh, Scrooge McDuck digging into his piles of money and Dennis the Menace conniving.
There are also Pogo and Uncle Wiggly, and a few lesser-known gems, like Nutsy Squirrel. the comics are grouped themes like "Funny Animals" and "Weird to Wacky."
This collection gives readers a look at what preceded today's graphic novel.
BNreview.com - Paul Di Filipo
Spiegelman and Mouly dig deep, with superb taste and expertise, into the vast archive of kids’ funnybooks issued from the 1930s till the dawn of the Silver Age, circa 1960. They select pluperfect instances of such famous strips as Little Lulu, Sugar and Spike, Captain Marvel, Uncle Scrooge, Pogo, Little Archie and Dennis the Menace, reproduced here in crisp colors and sharp lines that nonetheless conjure up all the lowbrow, under-the-radar, ten-cents-an-issue production values of that vanished era. Even young readers unfamiliar with these icons will instantly appreciate their charms.”
Forbidden Planet International
“The strips are full of engaging and interesting stories, they’re warm, funny and fun. No matter how old or young you are.”
The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics
Selected and edited by Art Spiegelman & Françoise Mouly
Hardcover, 352 pages ($40)
Kids of all ages—and grownups of just about any generation—will love this wonderful roundup of 60 full-length tales culled from comic books from the 1930s into the early 1960s. In addition getting re-acquainted with such classic characters as Dennis the Menace, Donald Duck, Little Lulu and Captain Marvel, you'll also enjoy discovering lesser-known gems like Egghead Doodle, Burp the Twerp and Patsy Pancake. A splendid introduction traces the ascension of humble "funny books," once regarded as junk, to eventual recognition atop the world of pop culture.
Rod Lott Bookgasm
Pound for pound, page for page, penny for penny, you won’t find a more thoroughly enjoyable book all year than this collection — not in any novel, not in any work of nonfiction. It celebrates a time when escape could be purchased literally for 10 cents at a time. So what if it’s up to $40 here? It’s an investment in hours’ worth of glee that’ll last years. I fully expect that in another 30, I’ll be pulling this down from a shelf to show my grandchildren … if their hands are clean.
John Seven of Reverse Direction.com
“What has resulted is a collection that’s great for little kids, a book you can cozy up to on a rainy day and read and laugh at together. It’s great for adults, too, but what a waste to read it alone.”
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