Little Lulu anthologies (and other comics by John Stanley)

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:

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 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.

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.

Melvin Monster: Volume One
Melvin Monster, Volume 2
Melvin Monster, Volume 3
Nancy: Volume One
Nancy: Volume 2
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.


  1. Crumb also mentions the Carl Barks Donald Duck comics (really the star was Uncle Scrooge, but never mind)–turns out Fantagraphics just announced they are going to be reprinting the complete set! See this article for info.

    1. That is fantastic news! I have some of the Bruce Hamilton box sets, but I want all of Barks’ work.

  2. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, but I have to agree — Little Lulu comics are pretty sophisticated and entertaining even for readers of modern comics. I discovered this completely by accident when my Mom told me that she used to read Little Lulu comics as a little girl. On a whim, I picked up one of the Dark Horse paperbacks while I was doing my usual Wed. new comics runs to send for her birthday. I started flipping through it just to see what it was like, and before I knew what had happened, I had finished reading the whole thing cover to cover.

  3. What a great treat to read this! My six-year-old son started reading the dark horse books (we got the from the library) when a friend at camp this summer turned him onto them. I expected the worst as well, but was amazed at the imagination and depth of the characters. I love that Lulu and Tubby have such a complicated relationship, I try and explain to my son why you don’t fall for girls like Gloria – who is amoral, sadistic, and only has “pretty” going for her.

    I might be in the minority, but I actually prefer Irving Tripp’s wispier inking than Stanley’s broader brush. But I am nuts about these – and also the sociological change in our society – that kids would be playing outside by themselves, or sent to the store, or no one thought anything about leaving kids alone.

    READ THESE. They are wonderful!

  4. Carl Barks, William Van Horn, and Don Rosa are all wonderful Donald Duck artist/writers.
    Barks made the characters of Scrooge, Donald, the nephews and the supporting cast very adult and realistic. They are actually nuanced characters who aren’t two-dimensional, yet all have personalities softened enough to be palatable to children.
    The stories are the same way; adventurous enough for a kid, yet they often have elements of realism and adress some more mature topics (like politics or business, etc).
    I would highly recommend people read these comics – they’re like Ducktales that adults can enjoy. I personally think they’re a lot more appropriate for adults than, say, Harry Potter.
    Van Horn and Don Rosa are both modern artists influenced totally by Barks; Don Rosa is a fairly exact replica but furthers Barks’ sight gags and complex storylines and makes the art much more detailed; Van Horn goes the opposite direction and simplifies the art in a more kid-friendly way, while also making the stories funnier and the characters more interesting.

  5. I agree with Mark that these comics are great. My kids go through these books like candy. The characters are complex, unsentimental and hilarious. (Every time I see Tubby’s little cousin Chubby, I crack up. Tubby refuses to be seen with him because he’s overweight, but not only are they both overweight in exactly the same way, Chubby’s an exact smaller-sized duplicate of Tubby.)

    I would especially recommend the Dark Horse Little Lulu volumes 19-27 and the Little Lulu’s Pal Tubby volumes because they’re in color, and include the comic book covers.

    The Drawn and Quarterly volumes are lovingly compiled and designed, but it irks me that the covers aren’t included. Creators put a lot of thought and effort in these covers because they greatly affect sales; they were intended to be part of the reading experience, and they’re usually the most beautiful artwork done for each issue.

    It looks like the Fantagraphics folks are doing everything right on the Carl Barks library, including coloring, paper, placement (complete issues, in chronological order) and pricing. And they’ve personally assured me that these books will include covers!

    Now we have to get a publisher to reprint the O’Toole/Wiseman Dennis the Menace comic books in the same way, and the essentials of the Golden Age of Kids’ Comic Book re-printings will be complete!

  6. David,

    Thanks for the link – I have to say that if someone told me I’d see Little Lulu drawn by Daniel Clowes…

    Now THERE’S a story I’m not sure I’d like to read! And I say that as a huge Clowes fan…

    One more thing, Mark (if you’re following this thread ) or anyone else, for that matter. I’ve never read anyone comment (although a thesis could be written about this) about the girls bending over and showing their frilly undies in every story. Clearly this had no sexual overtone at the time – it shows up in some Golden Books that I have as well. It was just considered “cute” I guess. Stanley really took it to extremes, however, with Lulu also being put into situations where’s she’s changing her clothes, etc. None of this registers in the slightest with my son, and I obviosuly don’t call attention to it, but in today’s hypersexualized times, it’s one more sign that things were different then. Or where they? Henry Darger’s stuff was totally influenced by this.

    Now with regards to Stanley, he obviously was plugged into a kid’s head – he has Tubby disrobing all the time too – I think he knew that kids have a fascination with seeing kids in the bathtub, or having someone steal their clothes at the lake.

    I could go on and on about Lulu – like what’s with the adults in the foreground in so many of the pictures of the kids when they’re in town? For no reason he’ll just put a passing grownup smiling to themselves passing by…again, I think it’s kind of wonderful kid’s eye view of the world – grownups are like scenery or something.

    Finally, I wish someone would look at how this had to have influenced Peanuts. From what I know Schultz never mentioned Stanley as an influence, but it seems so clearly a step in that direction. But truthfully, as much as I love peanuts (I grew up on it) I find these characters far more complex than the one dimensional Lucy and Linus, etc.

  7. I’m shocked to find out that Lulu comics are valuable. They used to be everywhere; they were very “clean”, and she’d been around “forever” (since 1935) so every store that sold comix carried her. As well as her friend Tubby, who got his own comic in 1952.

    Lulu was often featured in very imaginative stories. I particularly remember one in which it snowed so much that when she went outside her whole world was white. For some reason I thought that was -really- funny (the town I grew up in got up to 10 feet each winter).

    I have to agree that they’re highly literate, and therefore it only follows that both Marge’s sons became English (meh, Lit, same thing) professors.

  8. Strangely (or maybe not so strangely), John Stanley is also responsible for one of the scariest comics ever written: The Monster of Dread End…. I looked for this one for years, but I couldn’t remember the name of the comic that the story was in.
    Scott Shaw Finally put me out of my misery, by answering the question (Ghost Stories #1). Best Horror Comics has the entire story online as a pdf.

  9. These are beautifully designed objects of course. But when I was a kid I found Lulu frightening, what with black hole eyes and mouth. Eyes and mouths I should say. They were really disturbing to me, but not so much as Little Orphan nnie (NYDN comics) who had blank white eyes. That was worse. But today I appreciate the design of the comics, but still I find a high residual creep factor in them.

  10. Tubby Volume 1 is a Drawn & Quarterly book, not a Dark Horse publication. You will need to correct this info.

  11. #16 Popvoid: Intrigued by your comment, I chased down TMoDE on It’s the same story which gave me nightmares as a six-year-old, and off and on over the long silent years. Thanks a LOT. ;-) I don’t know much of Stanley’s work, but this story shows his genius: pacing, timing, and a cinematic sensibility.

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