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 fabulous strip, On Stage? Mary and Pete had a wonderful relationship, wise and funny and profound. For Valentine's day, I am putting aside my customary rants about quality in art, and offering a bouquet of wonderful 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 the medium. 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 their dinner party that evening and the husband wants to go to sleep.
Studying these comic strips as a young boy, I learned a lot about drawing-- about anatomy, design, 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 Chris Ware or R. Crumb.
Here we see one of the many 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 Fletcher is readjusting to life in the U.S. after a traumatic episode 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:
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.