The older I get the more clear it is to me that while I love all comics formats, I truly love the comic strip format best; and my darling hubby, Chris, indulges me with gifts of reprinted comics. When he got me the latest Mary Perkins On Stage, he also got me Volume 4 of The Heart of Juliet Jones by Stan Drake.
There are no soap opera comics anymore in the papers I read. Gee, there haven't been since, what, maybe the '90s that I can recall ...? Our local paper, The Tennessean, carries only humor strips from front to back page. Humor comics are completely cool, and I enjoy them, but when that's all there is to read, then really, there's just a certain lack of inspiration after a while.
In school I'm going over comics and their different formats with my 5th graders, and I've shown them just how much the Sunday newspaper comics page has shrunk since the 1920s. Chris and I own a gorgeous hardcover reprint of Sunday strips of Gasoline Alley from 1926, which the Publishers had amazingly printed to size!! The book is just gigantic. When I hold that huge book next to one of our current Sunday papers the kid gasp! (I can't blame them!) Even so, these Juliet Sundays from '54 to '58 are still a nice & cushy large half page size.
So Stan Drake had stand-alone Sunday story arcs from 1954 until October of 1965. They were completely separate from the dailies -- and I was curious as to how that worked. Interestingly, these Sundays read almost like a Golden Age comic book does, in the sense that Golden Age comics didn't waste a lot of time meandering around with teeny details or dramatic minutiae. Nope in those it was wham, you had a story, in 8 pages or less. So here in Juliet Jones you really get what seems like the highlights of a story. But you know, that's okay. I found I really enjoyed them once I understood how the rhythm of the pieces had to work to fit the format. And of course Stan Drake's artwork is just so much gorgeousness on a page ...
|One of Stan Drake's more sketchy-style panels.|
I also enjoyed reading the intro by Roy Richardson and the interview with Stan Drake by Charles Pelto that were included in the front of this volume. It's easy sometimes (especially when you're on a time crunch) to blow off front matter when it's not directly what you want to read. I want to read comics, not more text!! But a good intro adds so much to the value of the book, because there's a personal connection in it either in how that creator had influenced/inspired/or perhaps even knew the intro writer. Roy Richardson titled his intro "Some Meandering Personal Anecdotes in Praise of Stan Drake" and the brief piece sharing how he got to know Stan was just really cool -- because aside from the interview and the lovely comics that follow, Richardson really helps bring Stan to life to us, cigarette scent and all.