Why ‘Little Lulu’ Works
Over at Comixology, Shaenon K. Garrity offers up her thanks to Dark Horse Comics for publishing Little Lulu reprint volumes en masse, and provides a great analysis of what made the comic strip work.
Simply put, I’m quite certain this is a quality piece of commentary because it actually made me want to hunt down a few volumes of Little Lulu, a strip that never really piqued my interest in the past.
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:
Garrity goes on to describe each of those "reliable formulas" in detail, explaining the typical set-up inherent to each formula, the payoffs readers could expect to see, and why the strips kept readers coming back. The author also provides examples of the small slices of zen served up by many of the strips:
Although Tubby was unable to carry his own spinoff comic for long, the Tubby-centric stories in Little Lulu are some of the best, and many of them feel autobiographical. When Tubby saves up his pennies to eat at a diner on the outskirts of town because real live truck drivers eat there, and he eagerly asks every man at the counter if he’s a truck driver until—joy of joys!—a bunch of truck drivers come in and sit down right next to him, the story transcends the formulas of kids’ gag comics and becomes a perfect moment drawn from life.