Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Was there ever a comic strip marriage as great as the marriage of Mary Perkins and Pete Fletcher in Leonard Starr's strip, On Stage? Mary and Pete had a wonderful relationship, smart and playful and mature-- the opposite of the bleak relationships in graphic novels by Chester Brown or Chris Ware.    

For Valentine's day, I'm putting aside my customary rants and offering a bouquet of moments about day-to-day love from On Stage.

Just like in real life, Pete and Mary chatted in the bathroom getting ready for the day, or in the bedroom decompressing at night. Their dialogue had all the rhythm of an excellent, mature marriage-- something very rare in a medium often tailored to adolescents. Those of you fortunate enough to be in long term relationships this Valentine's day will recognize the following situation where the wife wants to discuss a couple from that evening's dinner party and the husband wants to go to sleep.

Studying these comic strips as a young boy, I learned a lot about drawing-- about anatomy, composition, how folds in cloth worked, etc.-- but I also learned inadvertently how relationships were supposed to work. Leonard Starr got me as far as high school, at which time my girlfriend-- now my loving wife-- took over my education. God knows what I would have understood about relationships if I had grown up reading R. Crumb.

Here we see one of the frequent diversions from the plot of On Stage, where Pete and Mary break into spontaneous play:


Next is a scene where Starr cleverly uses a domestic episode to show how Pete is readjusting to life in the U.S. after a traumatic experience as a war correspondent in Vietnam. Mary stumbles across Pete and their housekeeper trying to make the most spectacular ice cream sundae they possibly can. Pay attention to Starr's unconventional use of the language:


In this final example, Pete throws the dinner dishes out the window, rather than wash them:

No other comic strip could beat Starr's domestic dialogue.  

I just discovered that the whole wonderful On Stage series is being reprinted by Charles Pelto at Classic Comics Press.(http://www.classiccomicspress.com). I urge you to check it out. And Happy Valentine's Day.


Anonymous said...

I've really been enjoying your blog.

I'm sure you're already familiar with this, but just in case...

Over on http://www.barnaclepress.com/ - there's a nice sequence from On Stage (specifically here: http://www.barnaclepress.com/comics/archives/drama/on_stage/index.html ) as well as Johnny Hazard, Peter Scratch & Terry & the Pirates, to name a few.

Bill Angus

=shane white= said...

Oh man...I love this linework. I miss the era of well-staged crafted serious strips.

This is just wonderful stuff...thanks for the education.


leif said...

I have to thank you David for enlightening me once again - I had only a passing knowledge of Leonard Starr's work. On a purely technical level I have to say I like it a lot! As much as Stan Drake's work and looking at the bottom example I'm reminded very much of the work of another favourite team: John Buscem and Joe Sinnot.

This is rock solid stuff - beautiful!

leif said...

"Buscema" ;-)

Mark Hannon said...

There is a lot more information about this genre of highly realistic newspaper strips at "The Rules of Attraction." Definately worth reading if you are interested in these newspaper strips and the artists who drew them.

David Apatoff said...

I agree, Mark. Prof Mendez has a far more in depth and more interesting analysis of Leonard Starr, Stan Drake and others at his excellent web site. I recommend it to all. He has a lot of great examples of this art.

Silver Shadow said...

I'm enjoying your blog, and I appreciate the time and effort you're taking to post all of this knowledge.

Unfortunately there are way too many illustrations, which, when clicked-on, result in the 404 horror.

peacay said...

Hey David, would you please drop me a line --> peacay @ gmail . com

I have something to share/ask about that may or may not interest you.

TIM said...

Ah, the early 1960's!