Review: Little Lulu: The Treasure Map & Other Stories

This Dark Horse collection will help preserve the history of the classic comic strip, upon which the modern-day comic book industry is built.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Little Lulu: The Treasure Map & Other Stories

You really can’t go wrong reading something as genius as Little Lulu: The Treasure Map And Other Stories. I mean really, what could be better than spending an entire day on the couch joining Lulu and her cohorts on one rousing adventure after another? Seriously? Does anything even come close?

Started in 1935 by Marjorie Henderson Buell, Little Lulu and her gang ran around and caused trouble for nearly fifty years. In the late forties writer and artist John Stanley took over and launched some of the most legendary Little Lulu antics. Ever. This new Dark Horse collection combines two of his 100 page Little Lulu Giants into a must read for any comic book fan.

While the historical importance of Little Lulu is obvious, my appreciation isn’t based on that alone. The art for this strip is still wonderful to behold and the writing remains as crisp and funnier than most indie comics that try so hard to be funny. Stanley (later with help from artist Irving Tripp) executed stories for children that never insulted them, condescended to them or pandered to them. Lulu Moppet, Tubby, Cousin Chubby, Alvin Jones, The Moppets, the entire cast are handled with such warmth and humanity, you can’t help but fall in love with them.

Don’t get me wrong; this is also fall down funny. Stanley has a way of tapping into the imagination of kids, and adults who remember being kids, in a way that’s always refreshing. The dynamics between the characters are very real, from the friend/enemy relationship of Lulu and Tubby, to the Moppets who are clueless on how to handle their daughter, to the kids who fight and then run out united to take on a new adventure. I can hear the voices saying “Aren’t you getting too deep with this Iann?” My response is, well, how deep do you want to go?

Page after page of this wonderful John Stanley/Irving Tripp artwork is another reason to celebrate. One of the most amazing things is how both artists get so much expression into the faces of characters whose eyes are just two black ovals. I’ve seen detailed faces in modern comics that don’t get across what these basic faces can. Within each panel is a perfect set up that builds across all the panels until you feel like you’re in a neighborhood with these kids. Stanley and Tripp breathe so much life into every page that you can’t help but be captivated, even if it’s by Tubby fighting with Lulu over his failing shoeshine business.

As comic books rocket into both the digital age and the world of motion pictures, sometimes the comic strip gets lost. We as comic book fans can’t let that happen. This is where it all began, these are stories created by human hands and not computers, stories where the personality of the creator bleeds through the hand into the pen and onto the page. This Little Lulu collection is a reminder of how less is more and how every single comic book celebrity today is standing on the shoulders of giants.