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 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.


Anonymous 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

2/10/2006 12:22 PM  
Blogger =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.


2/18/2006 10:06 PM  
Blogger 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!

3/03/2006 9:15 AM  
Blogger leif said...

"Buscema" ;-)

3/03/2006 9:16 AM  
Anonymous 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.

3/19/2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger 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.

3/20/2006 8:46 AM  
Anonymous 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.

3/23/2006 11:44 PM  
Blogger 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.

3/10/2009 12:19 AM  
Blogger TIM said...

Ah, the early 1960's!

3/03/2011 3:21 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home