Richard Howell, a longtime friend and collaborator of mine (Richard drew my first published story, way back in Green Lantern #162, eight years or so after we first met, and we’ve worked together many times since) posted the following message on the Claypool Comics website, where he’s the editor of the line, as well as the writer/artist of the Deadbeats online strip.
Anyway, I heartily approve of his message, which is about Classic Comics Press’s line of volumes reprinting Leonard Starr’s great On Stage newspaper strip, so I asked him if I could run it, too. Here’s what he had to say:
For anybody who loves intriguing, enjoyable, literate comics (and that’s every Claypool reader, right?) I strongly recommend getting on the bandwagon to purchase each and every volume in Classic Comics Press’ ongoing reprint series of Leonard Starr’s excellent MARY PERKINS ON STAGE. The strip ran from 1957-1979, in both dailies and Sundays, and is arguably the best story strip ever produced by someone who wasn’t Milton Caniff. Single volumes are a bargain at $24.95 (for roughly 250 pages of terrific reading) and subscriptions are now being offered for four volumes at $100 (U.S. rate).
I can’t recommend these volumes highly enough (and would very much like to see them continued through the strip’s end). Leonard Starr’s mastery of narrative and draftsmanship was a big influence on me as I was developing my own talents, and I learned quite a lot from ON STAGE in terms of story development, pacing, presentation of themes, and delineation of character; I can’t quantify how much impact this strip had on me. (I never absorbed Starr’s gift for brevity, however.) Anyone who enjoys DEADBEATS is practically guaranteed to be mesmerized by the expertise on view in MARY PERKINS ON STAGE. Don’t hesitate! Order your copies now–and if you feel moved to do so, mention that you made your move due to a hard-sell from here.
Incidentally, Classic Comics Press also publishes reprint volumes of other notable comic strips, including THE HEART OF JULIET JONES, BIG BEN BOLT, DONDI, THE CISCO KID, and RUSTY RILEY. Visit their website and get all the information.
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I’ll second everything Richard said. On Stage isn’t just one of my favorite story strips, it’s one of my favorite comics, period, in any genre. A new volume of CCP’s series is cause for celebration in Casa Busiek on a par with a new volume of Walt & Skeezix from D&Q, or a new Steve Canyon volume from any publisher who saw fit to continue Kitchen Sink’s late, lamented (but great) series of Canyon reprints (hint hint), and gets read before just about anything else in the stack.
Starr isn’t simply a wonderful artist, but a terrific writer, with a flair for dramatic construction, and an unbelievable gift for making a character come to life as a distinctive individual in only a few words. I learned a huge amount about effective comics dialogue from Starr—both in terms of getting across a character’s essence, and writing exposition in a way that doesn’t weigh the story down. Anything he wrote is a must-have, but On Stage is his masterpiece.
There are seven volumes of On Stage out so far, which brings us almost to the halfway point in the series—and it’s a series that just keeps getting better and better. Give it a shot. You won’t regret it.
If it tips any scales for anyone, I wrote the introduction for Volume Two, and other volumes have intros by Walter Simonson, Joe Jusko, Eddie Campbell, Doug Beekman, Batton Lash and Sal Amendola. And Richard has a terrific essay in Volume Four. But we all pale next to the work of Leonard Starr.