Idea and Design Works (IDW) offered a glimpse into some of their upcoming archival collections of classic comic strips at their Sunday afternoon Comic-Con International panel “IDW: Old School Comic Strips New Again.” Moderated by IDW CEO Greg Goldstein, the panel included IDW Special Projects Editor Scott Dunbier, editor and designer extraordinaire Dean Mullaney, book editor Justin Eisinger and Craig Yoe, whose Yoe Studio! announced a new partnership with IDW earlier this month.
Goldstein kicked off the panel, stating “There is no school like the old school.” As he introduced the members of the panel, the easy humor between them was apparent as they dubbed Dean Mullaney “Dean of the Old School.” Goldstein also thanked DC Comics editor Adam Phillips for sticking around to assist with the slide show presentation. Phillips expressed his keen interest in IDW’s upcoming offerings and the classic art they’re collecting and presenting to new generations of readers through their Library of American Comics line.
The panel launched into the extensive introduction of IDW’s many upcoming titles collecting classic comic strips. Goldstein noted that IDW’s book division puts out an impressive fifty to sixty books per month. Among the comics already collected in special editions are collections of iconic titles such as “Terry and the Pirates,” “Dick Tracy” and “Little Orphan Annie.”
The panelists wasted little time chatting and jumped right into the slew of upcoming books from the imprint. Mullaney introduced his upcoming book, “The Life & Art of Alex Toth,” a biography and collection of the influential creator who passed away in 2006.
Early “Archie” comic strips and books will receive the royal treatment from IDW in the coming year, according to Goldstein. Among the projects noted is a volume collecting Bob Montana’s original strips from the 1940s. Goldstein stated that the goal with “Archie” is to try and produce complete works of the entire run of comic strips and books beginning with Bob Montana’s initial run with the gang. The panel was especially excited to be highlighting some often overlooked but influential Archie adventures such as those first seen in “Archie’s Madhouse” which dropped the Archie characters into spectacular science fiction and horror settings. Goldstein noted that the influence of “Archie’s Madhouse” is apparent in modern offerings like “Futurama.” IDW’s long-range plan is to include the beloved stories where Archie and the gang adopt superheroic personas such as Pureheart the Powerful.
Scott Dunbier was especially enthusiastic about “Bloom County – Volume 1,” collecting the early newspaper strips by creator Berkeley Breathed. The complete “Bloom County” library debuts in October and will feature unseen strips and commentary from Breathed. Dunbier noted that there were many early strips from Breathed’s college newspaper days that he really wanted to see included, but that Breathed didn’t think they all stood up to the creative standards he now sets for himself. Fans will still get to see some of these early “Bloom County” strips in the upcoming collection.
The work of artist George McManus on the classic strip “Bringing Up Father” will be collected as well. McManus’ strip ran in newspapers for over forty years, from 1912 to 1956. Picking the best of his lengthy run was a challenge, but it was agreed that his storyline “From Sea to Shining Sea” that followed the family’s adventures as they toured the country, best highlighted McManus’s artistic depth and humor.
IDW will continue to publish the collected work of Chester Gould on “Dick Tracy,” with Volume 8 arriving in stores in August and Volume 9 of the series planned for a December release. Mullaney was excited at some of the seminal work included in these volumes, which highlight Gould’s development of Dick Tracy’s classic rogue’s gallery. Mullaney noted that the collection will feature commentary from Gould’s daughter, who has assisted him with the compilation. He shared the value that her memories of her father add to the volume. She related how her father conceived the villainous Pruneface after seeing a heavily scarred burn victim on the subway one day. Gould spent the evening sketching the man, who served as the basis for Pruneface’s distinctive appearance.
Scott Dunbier freely admitted that his love for the classic newspaper strip “The Family Circus” earned him some “grief” from his co-workers. IDW will collect Bil Keane’s early strips from the 1960s in “The Family Circus Complete Collection.” Dunbier noted that some of the early strips had a bit more “edge” than the modern incarnation. He shared that, after hearing Keane speak, he realized that the man was not simply a cartoonist but “a true entertainer.” He also praised Keane’s artwork, saying that at times the whimsy of the art reminded him of Dr. Seuss.
Jack Kent’s early work on the “King Aroo” strip from 1950 to 1952 will be collected in book form. This will mark the first time that the “King Aroo” strips have been republished. Goldstein noted later in the panel that modern photo technology and scanners has enabled IDW to view and present these older strips in ways that they never could before. Some, such as “King Aroo,” will be available for the first time to old fans and newer generations alike.
IDW’s collection of Harold Gray’s “Little Orphan Annie” strips will continue and be joined by new books featuring Al Capp’s “L’il Abner” and Alex Raymond’s “Rip Kirby,” which chronicles the adventures of “the first modern detective.” Craig Yoe chimed in to add that Raymond’s artwork in these strips included “loads of beautiful women.”
Yoe’s upcoming book “The Art of Ditko” will focus on Steve Ditko’s talent as an artist and storyteller. The volume will include art from throughout Ditko’s long career in comics and commentary from both his peers and those who were inspired by his influential work. Yoe said that he aspired to show “just how brilliant” Ditko was. The volume will include chapters by artists P. Craig Russell and John Romita, Sr. along with an introduction by Stan Lee. Yoe shared that John Romita, Sr.’s essay will be titled “A Tough Act to Follow,” as it was Romita who picked up the artistic reins on “Amazing Spider-Man” when Ditko exited.
Yoe shared an interesting bit about Stan Lee’s involvement with the book: when first approached to write the intro, Lee noted how busy he was these days and, though excited to be involved, expected it would take him a couple of months to finish. Yoe was surprised when Lee submitted his completed introduction the very next day. Apparently, once Lee got started writing about his old friend and collaborator, the words came pretty quickly.
Yoe’s enthusiasm for Ditko’s work was obvious as he discussed the incredible detail and energy that Ditko brought to every page. He showed a slide of a page from the book and pointed out the rich details and energy of each panel. Yoe also shared a funny story about his friendship with Ditko. Years earlier, Yoe had worked on the Muppets with Jim Henson and had introduced Ditko to Henson. Yoe described the meeting between the two legendary talents as a “great geek moment,” and added that he didn’t think either of them knew who the other was, but it was like “introducing Dr. Strange to Kermit the Frog.”
The panel continued on at a more rapid pace as Goldstein whizzed through slides of the covers from “Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics” which collects the early comic strip work of legendary creators including Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Harvey Kurtzman, Frank Frazetta and Dr. Seuss. “The Complete Milt Gross Life Story and Comic Books” will chronicle the famed Jewish creator’s life work and features a unique “Fold-In-Troduction” by MAD Magazine illustrator, Al Jaffee.
During the question and answer segment, one fan asked about IDW’s recent work in the Star Trek franchise. Goldstein shared the interesting genesis of their recent adaptation of the most popular of the early Star Trek films, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Goldstein explained that after the less than stellar merchandising from the first Star Trek motion picture, licensing for “Wrath of Khan” was kept to a minimum and no official comic adaptation was issued at the time. Twenty-five years later, IDW has published the adaptation to complete the set for collectors.
Another fan asked Yoe about his friendship with Ditko and whether they were still in communication. Yoe joked that they were sharing a room at Comic-Con before revealing that he has been in communication with Ditko and, despite being rather reclusive these days, Ditko still makes some rare public appearances and continues to do some comic work.
The panel wrapped up with some discussion of the enthusiasm that each panelist has for restoring these early works. It was noted that this is often possible thanks to the cooperation of family members and collectors who own original art and assist IDW in their efforts to restore these classic comics.