Saturday, August 1, 2015

Review- LEONARD STARR'S MARY PERKINS ON STAGE VOL. 6


LEONARD STARR'S MARY PERKINS ON STAGE VOL. 6 (Classic Comics Press, First Printing, 2009; Softcover)

Collects Mary Perkins On Stage strips originally published on March 10, 1963- October 11, 1964

Writer and Artist: Leonard Starr

Leonard Starr recently passed away, and the comic world barely seemed to notice. This saddens me, because that means that folks are oblivious to his genius. Luckily Classic Comics Press has rescued this strip from oblivion, collecting it in a series of affordable trade paperbacks. The entire series will be covered by fifteen books, with Volume 14 due soon and volume 15 due in early 2016.

This relationship between Mary Perkins and her husband, Pete Fletcher, is less of the focus than it has been in previous volumes. The characters and scenarios and their impact on the regular cast of characters was at the forefront this time out.

The first arc deals with Mary doing a movie with actor Joe Kulak, and there are actually two stories going on at once here. One is about Kulak and the temperamental car which is “the star” of the film. The car handles poorly for him and sometimes won't even start, while it behaves well for Mary's scenes. It's almost as if the car were alive, and while Starr doesn't tip his hand there are winks in that direction, such as the car grill and headlights almost looking like a face that seems to be smiling at times. To Starr's credit it is left up to the reader to decide. I grew up on Herbie the Love Bug, so you know which way I am leaning.

The other half of this arc is the affair between Kulak and Anya Bauer. Anya puts lubricant onto the breaks of the car, which makes Mary crash, horribly disfiguring her face. The ironic twist comes from the revelation of Anya's husband, Carlos, who turns out to be Mary's plastic surgeon. I won't go any farther into this, as the rest is all reveal. This all sounds like a soap opera, and while it sort of is, there is so much depth to the writing and artwork that it would be a disservice to paint it with that brush.



Others arcs include the return of reclusive actress Kristin Kara, Adam Budd reluctantly getting the keys to the throne from late actor Chappy, and the return of Johnny Q. Johnny Q's return is actually two arcs, the second one being among the weirdest yet in this series. Mary's purse gets stolen backstage and she gets captured by the unnamed “creature of the prop room”. Johnny Q ends up rescuing her, and the “creature” (really a weird old man) escapes into the subway.

The next arc in this book involves Mary returning to her hometown of Holmesfield to visit her old friend Christy Chalmers, a fellow actress who didn't pursue her dreams as Mary did. Unlike Mary, Christy has let herself go and is content to play bit parts in local theater. Her life is idyllic if routine, and it is this routine that has Mary pull a few favors to get her into the business. This almost ruins her marriage, but since Mary almost destroys her marriage Mary also sets things right.

The final arc in the book involves the ruthless Maynard King, his hired thug Kagle, and Kagle's daughter. Arcs like this show the emotional depth of Starr's writing. This entire book was a page turner. There were nights where I wouldn't pick it up because I usually lose time and sleep when I dive into this title. Starr was a genius as a writer and as an artist, and you owe it to yourself to check this stuff out. Step outside of your comic book comfort zone and check this out. You can thank me later.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- 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 a handful of strips that don't look as sharp 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.

5 comments:

  1. Man, Leonard Starr was amazing. I always knew he was the mastermind behind the success of Thundercats in the 80s (creating the characters and writing the most prominent episodes of season 1), but I've never really looked into the rest of his career. After your last few posts about his Mary Perkins work, I'm totally blown away. You can see a little Kirby, a little Wally Wood and maybe Doug Wildey in his work, but it is still uniquely his own.

    I've dabbled in comic strips a bit and it's definitely its own art form, but I may have to dig a little deeper and find a bit more of this stuff. Thanks for the review, Kris!

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    1. Thank you for reading! One of the best things that a blog like this can do is show lovers of comics something new that they will end up loving. Reading strips is different...and it isn't. Like regular comics, the form has its own conceits and rules and, like comics, breaks them as it sees fit. Starr is one of the best. I also highly recommend Prince Valiant and Flash Gordon.

      I have been buying more strips over the past year but am woefully behind on my reading. I will review more of them as time goes on. Classic Comics Press, Sunday Comics Press, Fantagraphics, Titan, Hermes Press, and IDW's Library Of American Comics imprint are churning out quality books. The biggest problem that a fan today has is A) affording these books and B) finding the time to read them all. It has never been easier to get the works of the ages. You could spend a lifetime looking for these beforehand.

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  2. Thanks for the recommendations. I've actually read the recent hardcover Volume 1 of Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. The art is some of the best I've ever seen in any comic, to this day. I also read the Graham Nolan Phantom Sunday strips which I thought were great. Something by Starr will probably be next on my list one day.

    I enjoy these books immensely but I guess what I have trouble adjusting to is the different flow of a strip, the relative confines of the art form, and character development from the 30s (in the case of Raymond and co.) is vastly different from today. Ultimately though, different people walk into the same museum and appreciate very different pieces of art, which is basically what we're doing here. Thanks again!

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  3. Just started reading this series, thanks in large part to your enthusiastic reviews (and all that great artwork you've posted). LOVED Vol. 1 - read it in less than a day because I just couldn't put it down. So far I'm not loving Vol. 2 quite as much, but it's still excellent stuff. Looking forward to having the complete series on my shelf.

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    1. Stick with it! There are lots of great things to come. I am well into Vol. 7 and loving it.

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