Tubby comic from Tubby Volume One, published by Dark Horse Comics. Read a full-length Tubby story here (PDF).
Sometime in the early 1980s I read an interview with Robert Crumb where he said that John Stanley's comic books, especially Little Lulu, were some of the finest and most influential comics he read as a child. I can't find that interview, but here is an excerpt from the Summer 2010 issue of The Paris Review's interview with Crumb where he mentions Little Lulu:
INTERVIEWERI tried to buy some Little Lulu comics in the 1980s, but they were too expensive. I eventually shelled out $130 for a 4-volume anthology of Little Lulu, published by Bruce Hamilton's Another Rainbow Publishing (There are a total of six 4-volume sets in the Little Lulu Library, and some of them are still available), and understood what all the fuss was about. These timeless comics reveal and revel in the secret world of kids: clubhouses, campouts, tall tales, jealousy, rich kids vs. poor kids, outwitting bullies, vacant lot adventures, and all the intriguing schemes and rivalries that kids cook up.
Were you watching cartoons before you encountered comics?
It was at the same time. I was reading Little Lulu, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Felix the Cat. Often they were very bad. I never knew who the artist was, they didn't give the names of the artists at all in those comics. I gradually started to get more discriminating about comic books and got interested in Donald Duck creator Carl Barks. Donald Duck and Little Lulu turned out to be the outstanding story comics of that period.
What was it about Little Lulu that stood apart to you?
The stories. The drawing in Little Lulu was very simple, hieroglyphic, but the stories were very sophisticated--it was a literary comic. Carl Barks was a cartoonist who was both very powerful visually and as a storyteller. The stories were great in those Donald Duck comics. I still enjoy reading them.
I started reading Little Lulu to my daughters when they were old enough to comprehend them, and my 13-year-old daughter still enjoys them. My 7-year-old tears through them in the morning while the rest of the family is asleep (she's an early riser). Even my wife, who never read many comics besides Love and Rockets, likes Little Lulu.
There are a couple of ways to buy Little Lulu comics affordably. The cheapest way is Dark Horse's paperback anthologies.They cost between $10 and $15 for each 200-page volume, which is a great bargain (some are out of print and you'll have to pay more to buy second-hand copies).
Vol 1: My Dinner with Lulu
Vol 2: Sunday Afternoon
Vol. 3: In the Doghouse
Vol. 4: Lulu Goes Shopping
Vol. 5: Lulu Takes a Trip
Vol. 6: Letters To Santa
Vol 7: Lulu's Umbrella Service
Vol. 8: Late for School
Vol. 9: Lucky Lulu1
Vol. 10: All Dressed Up
Vol. 11: April Fools
Vol. 12: Leave it to Lulu
Vol. 13: Too Much Fun
Vol. 14: Queen Lulu
Vol. 15: The Explorers
Vol. 16: A Handy Kid
Vol. 17: The Valentine
Vol. 18: The Expert
Vol. 19: The Alamo and Other Stories
Vol. 20: The Bawlplayers and Other Stories
Vol. 21: Miss Feeny's Folly and Other Stories
Vol. 22: The Big Dipper Club and Other Stories
Vol. 23: The Bogey Snowman and Other Stories
Vol. 24: The Space Dolly and Other Stories
Vol. 25: The Burglar-Proof Clubhouse and Other Stories
Vol. 26: The Feud and Other Stories
Vol 27: The Treasure Map and Other Stories
Little Lulu Color Special
Giant Size Little Lulu Volume 1
Giant Size Little Lulu Volume 2
Giant Size Little Lulu Volume 3
Little Lulu's Pal Tubby Volume 1: The Castaway and Other Stories
Little Lulu's Pal Tubby Volume 3: The Frog Boy and Other Stories
The other option, which is a little more expensive, but well worth the extra cost is Drawn & Quarterly's John Stanley Library. These hardbound volumes are designed by the cartoonist Seth, and are just beautiful. The library includes other John Stanley comics, including Melvin Monster, Nancy (which was created by Ernie Bushmiller, who did the newspaper strips while leaving the comic book version to other artists and writers), and Thirteen Going On Eighteen.
I have most, but not all of the Drawn & Quarterly books, and about half the Dark Horse books. I'll probably eventually get them all. But I would also like to be able to buy PDF versions of these comics, because I really like reading comics on my iPad.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.