The thing about the Little Lulu reprint project is that, brilliant as Little Lulu is, no one really needs 19 volumes of it. It’s a very repetitive comic. The adventures of Lulu Moppet, Tubby Tompkins, and their many small neighbors were published in a time when kids read their comics and threw them away; a month later, they were ready for more of the same. John Stanley and his nameless assistants worked out a series of reliable formulas which play out, often with only slight variations, in issue after issue after issue:
If you want a succinct disquisition on the strengths and weaknesses of Lulu, this is it.
The kids in Little Lulu have the kind of freedom modern middle-class American kids can hardly imagine: they have the run of the town, they play in the woods unsupervised, they pick up stray dogs and skate on thin ice and run errands for local shopkeeps that take them into the homes of friendly strangers. In one story, Lulu and Tubby play mountain climber and scale the outside of a brownstone with ropes tied around their waists. In another, Tubby teaches the West Side Gang “riding the pookle,” which involves swimming for miles through an underground drainage pipe. (It’s a ruse, of course; you know Tubby.) Kids today could never do anything remotely this dangerous. And if they did, you couldn’t draw a comic about it. The Scholastic Book Club would have your ass on a platter.
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