MARRIED LIFE IN WORDS AND PICTURES
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.