LEONARD STARR'S MARY PERKINS ON STAGE VOL. 5 (Classic Comics Press, 2008; Softcover)
Collects Mary Perkins On Stage strips originally published on September 18, 1961- March 9, 1963
Writer and Artist: Leonard Starr
Little did I imagine that this strip was just picking up steam during the first four volumes. Holy crow this is some great stuff. The trials and tribulations of Mary Perkins' marriage with Pete Fletcher is the focus of this book. They are both busy career folks with jobs that take them away from one another often, something very uncommon during the time that this strip was making the rounds.
Starr's artwork is absolutely breathtaking, photo realism on steroids. Every panel seems so natural and lifelike, and therein lies the deception. He didn't stage shots, he knew how to draw things that looked natural. Even drapes and sofas look interesting when he draws them. He draws beautiful people as well. His panels are all “camera angles”, and his layout is his “direction”. This would have made a good television series.
The first arc in the book deals with an eccentric millionaire named Walter T. Boniface, who approached Mike O'Hare about financing one of his plays. There is a catch, though. O'Hare must play a game of Rhymie-Stymie in order to get money in dribbles of ten grand. I am not going into too many plots points, as I am of the mind that reviewers who dole out blow by blows are A) essentially doing book reports and not reviews, as there is little critical analysis being done when one does that and B) are robbing readers of the joy of discovery. One of my goals in this blog, aside from amassing obscene wealth and total world domination, is to turn others on to good books that they may have overlooked amidst the glut of collections rolled out every week.
In the second arc Mary attends a press conference where we see the return of famed make-up artist Maximus, “The Man With The Plastic Face”. This time we also meet Ivor Brand, “The Master Of Horror”, Maximus' main competitor for all of the roles in these Horror movies. This is of course a wafer-thin metaphor for the real life competition that Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff had filling in the void that Lon Chaney's passing left. Brand is insanely jealous of Maximus' unbelievably realistic make up and special effects, and his jealousy drives him to desperate acts. Again, I will say no more, as I don't want to blow it for you.
I really, really enjoyed the Crispin Fly/ John Parrish/ Morgana D'Alexius/ Gerald Philip Jason/ Cassandra Bliss arc which brought Mary Perkins to Detroit. That was one of the longest arcs in this series thus far, weaving and ducking and growing. I couldn't put the book down that night, forgoing sleep to get some resolution. I was blown away by Starr's attention to detail, accurately depicting so much of Detroit. The performance was held at the then-newly renovated Fisher Theatre, as it was converted from a movie theater into a playhouse in 1961, as it remains to this day. There are many street shots of Detroit from when Detroit was still an economic powerhouse. The neighborhood that the Fisher is in has undergone something of a rebirth over the past few years, as the hipsters paved the way for the ballsier yuppies to return to it in numbers. We also see the State Theatre (now The Fillmore), the Fort Shelby Hotel (a Hilton hotel today), and The Willow Run Terminal, which hasn't been a commercial flight hub for decades.
The next arc deals with Mary befriending a nervous actor named Tony Abott and helping him with his self-centered mother, Cristabel Ainsley. The final arc deals with a shell-shocked veteran, Malcom “Nine-Lives” MacNab, who has come to claim a debt he feels is owed to him because he saved Pete's life when his plane crashed in Vietnam while on a photo assignment. His payment? He wants the hand of his high school crush: Mary Perkins. Post-traumatic stress wasn't something on the tip of people's tongues back then, so this is actually a bold storyline. Nowadays there are special snowflakes who claim to have PTSD from online arguments. Those folks do a disservice to those who legitimately have real PTSD.
Then there is a 16-page preview of Stan Drake's The Heart Of Juliet Jones strip, and I have all four volumes aging to perfection in my backlog. I should read them someday, as it seems great. First I am going to finish reading all of Mary Perkins On Stage books, though.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- There is a production error in this book. On page 64, one of the panels is repeated and another is omitted. The corrected page is printed in the back of Volume 6 and will be corrected in future printings, so all is well.
Like most strip books, this is presented in landscape format. It takes some getting used to reading a book this wide, but the material more than makes up for it. Plus the artwork is much larger than it would be if they released it in a standard format book.
Linework restoration: Compiled from many sources such as original art, proofs, etc. The nipple line is removed and many of these strips are more complete than they were at the time of original publication. There are some strips that don't look as good as others but by and large everything is crisp and clean.
The Sundays are presented here in black and white. They were originally printed in color.
Paper stock: Uncoated stock paper.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Cardstock coating has a matte coating that is resistant to scuffing.