Inside D+Q's John Stanley Library: Melvin Monster

Many comics readers were absolutely thrilled when Dark Horse Comics recently published a series of books collecting all of the highly regarded Little Lulu comics by John Stanley and artist Irving Tripp. They’re likely to be equally excited by the announcement of Drawn & Quarterly’s John Stanley Library project.

Spearheaded by editor Tom Devlin, who is consulting with Stanley’s son Jim Stanley, the John Stanley Library is set up to collect Stanley’s most popular non-Lulu strips into hardcover editions. April will see the first volume of Stanley’s Melvin Monster arrive in stores.

Jim Stanley, son of the legendary cartoonist (and himself a graphic designer for an environmental planning firm who freelances in website design/programming and print advertising, and who lives in New York with his wife Joan and two kids: Isabel, 7 and Adam, 16 months), answered some email questions for us about this reprint project and growing up Stanley.

The Library is a project of Drawn and Quarterly completely. Tom Devlin, the editor, contacted me and described the scope of the project and asked if there was anything I could contribute for the pre-publicity,” Stanley explained of his involvement. “I had some early photos of my father that they liked and used on their website.

“I don’t know why they started with Melvin,” he offered of the line’s inaugural title, “but I think it’s an excellent choice. Melvin is at the top of my list of his best work. There … that answers your last question too!” Stanley responded, indeed pre-empting a question about which of his father’s strips was his personal favorite.

Asked about what continues to attract new readers to his father’s work after so many years, Stanley told me, “I think the answer to that is the same for any enduring material that continues to draw new generations of fans: good writing that is basically funny/scary/moving enough that most can relate to it, regardless of their age or background.

“I first realized he had a following when my friend and I tagged along with him to Boston Comic Con in ’76,” Jim said of realizing how influential his father was among comics fans. “Besides having the time of my life being fourteen and running around with no supervision, I remember him on the dais, answering questions with Carl Barks. Later on, he told me about a few hard-core fans who would write him regularly and I noticed a fanzine sent to him, The Stanley Steamer. By then it had sunk in.”

Despite the cartoonist’s reputed complicated relationship with the comics industry, Stanley says that he remembers his father having great pride in his comics work. “I recall him telling me he worked on Nancy and Sluggo among other things. He mentioned himself that he worked on so many things, he could never remember them all. Melvin was always around, way back from my earliest memories. He was proud of it, and I did get the feeling he was somewhat disappointed that it didn’t make it.

“I’m delighted to see the appreciation of his work. Some of the terms thrown around in describing his work and contribution to comic history are stunning to me,” Stanley wrote when talking about his feelings on the recent upsurge in publishers reprinting his father’s work. “He was a very modest and had a self-deprecating side to him. I wish he were around today to enjoy the new appreciation of his work; I think he would enjoy it.”

In recent years, Jim Stanley has talked about establishing an Internet presence that would commemorate John Stanley and his comic book work. “There is some movement in that area, and few domain names lined up. I’ll let you know when I have something up,” he said. Until then, readers can appreciate Dark Horse’s Little Lulu editions and D&Q’s upcoming John Stanley Library.

Melvin Monster vol. 1, the first book in the John Stanley Library, arrives in stories in April. Nancy and Nancy and Sluggo will follow from Drawn and Quarterly.

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