Little Lulu: Vol. 1, by John Stanley and Irving Tripp

The character of Little Lulu was created in 1935 by Marjorie Henderson Buell, beginning life as the subject of a series of gag panels in The Saturday Evening Post and eventually becoming the star of an ongoing comic strip. In 1945, she graduated to her own comic book series, written by John Stanley and illustrated by Irving Tripp. In 2004, Dark Horse Books picked up the rights to reprint the Little Lulu stories, making Lulu's adventures available to a new generation of readers.

Little Lulu Vol. 1 collects the first 14 issues of the Little Lulu comic book series, introducing readers to the indomitable Lulu Moppet, her portly, biddable best friend Tubby, and their little circle of friends, family, and enemies. Lulu and Tubby go on several fantastic adventures, but many of the funniest stories focus on their rocky but loyal friendship. In “A Problem in Box Tops”, both children are saving up box tops to earn a prize—Lulu wants a bracelet; Tubby covets a jackknife. When Lulu cons Tubby out of one of his box tops, her mother makes her give him three box tops as an apology. Tubby gallantly decides he's going to request the bracelet for her... unaware that Lulu's mother has just discovered three more box tops. The set-up is pure Gift of the Magi, but—sadly for Tubby—Lulu's not exactly the self-sacrificing type. Their resulting argument is an excellent example of the goofy yet character-driven nature of Stanley's sense of humor.

Let's get the awkward stuff out of the way first: Little Lulu is a product of its time, which means there are several racist and/or sexist jokes. (The idea that a girl could be president! Hilarious! Why, that would mean a boy would have to be First Lady!) I've read worse, but I'm not super-comfortable grading these things on a curve, so please be warned—“family-friendly” humor from the mid-20th century does not always age well. That being said, I was amazed at how many of the jokes did land, and how appealing a heroine Lulu could be. I enjoyed her fearlessness and the ruthless way she bullies Tubby, and she won my heart when she gravely sympathized with her little babysitting charge's determination to lick a barber pole, thinking it was a giant stick of candy: “'It's all right, Alvin... I went through that once myself.” Dark Horse's repackaging of this 600-plus-page omnibus is oversized and solid, giving readers a chance to appreciate both Irving Tripp's sturdy illustrations and John Stanley's Peanuts-meets-surrealism jokes. It's a fitting tribute to a comic-book classic.
Posted by: Julianka


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