LEONARD STARR'S MARY PERKINS ON STAGE VOL. 1 (Classic Comics Press, Second Printing, 2013; Softcover)
Collects the On Stage strips originally published on February 10, 1957- January 11, 1958
Writer and Artist: Leonard Starr
Beautifully rendered, superbly written, and charming to the last, Mary Perkins On Stage is the best thing that I have read in ages. The more disenchanted I become with line wide superhero crossovers and reboots, the more enamored I am becoming with long forgotten newspaper strips like this. While I fear that I am becoming the comic book equivalent of a hipster snob there is no denying quality storytelling like what you will find between the covers of this book.
Mary Perkins is a small town Midwestern girl with dreams of stardom, so she sets her sights on the Big Apple. She encounters people who don't necessarily have her best interests at heart or others who want her for their own selfish desires. Some people despise her while others help her out tremendously. She inspires people who have given up on life and falls in and out of love. While this may all sound rather ordinary, it is all handled in such a way that it is in truth a riveting read. Many a night was spent losing sleep to see what was going to happen next.
Leonard Starr is an incredible artist. I am sucker for photo realism, but the images can't just be lightbox traces, there has to be some sort of breath or life to them. Starr's artwork is warm and inviting and highly nuanced. Suffice it to say that I may have to rethink my Top 5 artists list.
The structure of a daily strip is challenging. Starr had three panels per day to move a story forward enough to keep readers coming back but not have so much going on that it feels rushed. It's a real balancing act that many comic book writers couldn't handle. Think of it as theatre versus film or television, a different sensibility altogether. This book has haunted both my waking hours and dreams and I am already into volume 2.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- The only gripe that I have is that the Sunday strips are presented in black and white when they were originally published in full color. Maybe someday we could get a collection of the Sundays in color. That would not suck. Or better yet, reissue these in hardcover, 2 volumes per hardcover, and include the color pages that way. That would be worth the double dip and would attract additional readers, since many of the high end collected edition snobs that I talk to have no interest in a softcover.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Introduction by Walter Simonson. (4 pages)
Leonard Starr & On Stage. (5 pages)
From The Publisher, an afterword about the restoration process. (4 pages)
Introducing Mary Perkins, showing promotional artwork for the strip. (4 pages)
Linework restoration rating: 4.75 out of 5. Great effort has been made cleaning up and restoring these strips. This second printing has been remastered, with better sources located for thirty plus strips.
Buyer beware notice: The inferior first printing has a green trim.
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Uncoated stock paper.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. The coating has a dull matte finish and has an almost rubbery feel to it. I like it.