Thursday, April 06, 2017

Given that the Fantagraphics published NANCY daily strip series seems to have ground to a stultifying halt it's really hard getting my Ernie Bushmiller fix these days. Thankfully the folks at Golden Age Reprints have come to the aid of many a comic strip fan by reprinting a number of old FRITZI RITZ comic books which, for some extremely odd reason, have fallen into the public domain which only goes to prove that even the eagle eyes at United Features sometimes let these little details slip in the cracks which is their loss but definitely our gain!

Most NANCY fans that I'm aware of aren't even aware that for many years Bushmiller was concurrently doing a solo Fritzi strip. Heck, even I didn't know this until I happened to see a mention of it when I was like a mere ten years old! From what I can tell most papers that were running NANCY didn't even carry FRITZI which only ran on Sundays (Saturday if you're in Canada), and judging from some examples that eventually got reprinted in various NANCY books it was kinda obvious by the comparatively slapdash artwork that Bushmiller probably wasn't even involved with the later comics!

FRITZI RITZ lasted into the mid-sixties and died without anyone noticing. It was more than obvious that NANCY was Bushmiller's bailiwick and like, why exert too much effort on a Sunday only strip that wasn't even getting into many papers and wasn't even being drawn by its creator. But for a comic strip kiddo like me who gobbled up every history of the form book as soon as it hit the library, matters such as a solo FRITZI comic were more'n just "crucial". You can bet that I was on the go for whatever of these comics were available to me, usually via old and tattered copies of SPARKLER, TIP TOP and other reprint titles which thankfully helped fill a dark void that existed in my life.

These comic book reprints are taken from rather beat up (maybe VG- to G+) originals that I assume the people at Golden Age Reprints picked up at some flea market-y antique show recently (the originals don't go for that much lucre). Thus the pages are cream colored and occasionally have those blotches which I usually tend think are age-old food sputters or flicked boogers from some sloppy nine-year-old's nostrils. But you still get the funny stories and even though the color job on these can be atrocious (with totally red faces and blurred lines) you still can osmose all of those great old-timey ranch house fun 'n jamz with these books that remind you of what you used to read during those off times between favorite tee-vee shows and the like.

The United Features titles date from the late-forties and early-fifties and they present a good smattering of old comics, some dating from the late-thirties if my judgement of Bushmiller's artistic de-evolution is accurate. Most feature Fritzi's boyfriend Phil Fumble, a guy who never made it into the original NANCY strip and  has only recently re-appeared along with the likes of Oona who never was in the papers and only existed in the John Stanley-drawn comic books of the sixties. But Phil is a perfect foil for Fritzi, and although Nancy is only occasionally referred to in these strips (I believe I saw her make a brief cameo only once) they are classic bad gag funny and catch you off-guard as true blue fan Bill Griffith said in one of his mid-seventies ZIPPY strips in praise of the then still-pumping on all cylinders Bushmiller.

The same sorta surprise snap is to be found here and anyone who grew up with the Bushmiller NANCY is bound to go fanabla over these. And not only that but United Features decided to pad these books out with other titles from their stable from PEANUTS and ABBIE AND SLATS to such long-forgotten yet still good enough titles like Russell Patterson's MAMIE and the BELIEVE IT OR NOT swipe STRANGE AS IT MAY SEEM. In all a nice li'l bit of comic history that will remind you of just how good the funny pages used to be before the onslaught of the hippie generation and their quotas over quality mindset. The only thing about these I didn't go for were the new stories done up by some guy going by the name of "Dib", whose various characters such as "Bill Bumble" come off as common comic book filler that lacks the verve 'n imagination we actually bought these comics for!

The Dell comics entry dates from '58 and, like the NANCY title from the same time, features nothing but all new stories that were probably (most likely definitely) delineated by longtime comic book veteran John Stanley who was also being overworked on a variety of Dell titles such as LITTLE LULU, MILTON THE MONSTER and naturally NANCY at approximately the same time. But don't worry, the art is impeccable Bushmillerian and the stories match up with anything NANCY's creator cooked up for the papers and if you get these either from Golden Age or by raiding your cousin's comic book stash you're bound to come up with some good reading for those boring Sunday afternoons when you should be out there riding bikes and doing alla that kid stuff the parents sez is good for ya (but we know better, 'eh?).

Lets just say that comes next payday I know where a good hunk of my next check is goin' and it ain't towards a nose hair trimmer that's for sure! And not only that but these are guaranteed to have more staying power than anything Lynda Barry has come up with! FRITZI RITZ or RHYMES WITH ORANGE...the choice is up to YOU!!!!!

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