Thursday, September 03, 2009

It's Friendship, But Not Bob

Just a note on Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly's "Classic Children's Comics": the one story credited to Bob Bolling in the volume, "It's Friendship," is probably not Bolling. It's not signed by him, and the art and writing style isn't really his; he was drawing the characters shorter and plumper at the time. Others have identified it as probably being Dexter Taylor, who had just started on the title.

The mistaken credit is a shame for Bolling, who deserved to have several stories in such a book and instead has none, but it's a far bigger shame for Taylor, who -- while his work suffers by comparison to Bolling's -- has been working on this title virtually uninterrupted since 1957, much of it without credit.

Still, I suppose it's a good thing that Taylor got a story into the anthology, in recognition -- albeit accidental -- of his long career as one of the most widely-read children's comics' creators, even though the story isn't one of his better ones. (My suspicion is that Spiegelman and Mouly chose this story because it's somewhat similar to the formula of the "big" titles; it's not really a particularly interesting story.) And perhaps the credit will be fixed in future printings.

That still leaves us waiting for "The Long Walk" ,which was considered for this anthology, and somehow lost out to many lesser stories, to make it into a book.

(I've never really figured out why Bolling was allowed to sign his stories and nobody else was, but I suspect that it's a combination of two things: one, the need to have kids associate the title with a particular name the way they associated Dennis the Menace with Hank Ketcham, and two, letting the creator of a franchise sign his name was a cheap way of stopping him from asking for more money. It's the Mel Blanc principle: give somebody credit instead of a raise.)


Devlin Thompson said...

I'd be willing to believe that Bolling could have written it, but it's definitely not his art. Chance Fiveash and I were looking at it when it came in yesterday (I've already sold all of our initial order), and we both concur with you that it's Taylor. It's an odd choice, given the wide range of actual Bolling they could have chosen from, but that's pretty much the only complaint I could come up with about the book.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Without knowing anything about it, I'd be inclined to believe they chose it because it kind of reads like a "big" Betty/Veronica story, and not many other Little Archie stories do. There's a strong urge to seek out Little Archie stories that are like pint-sized versions of the main comics, which is why Taylor was eventually ordered to retool the series into just that.

It is a tribute to Taylor's chameleon-like abilities that his work can often be mistaken for Bolling's. I once saw a Taylor story from the early '90s, when Bolling was doing most of the Little Archie stories, and Taylor totally abandoned his usual style and did a story that was a really fine Bolling imitation in design, style, dialogue and plot (something about a Norse god's son turning up).

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Though of course his "regular" style is pretty easily distinguishable from Bolling's, and once he did the title all on his own, he did everything (comedy and adventure) in the same style. But when someone else was in control of the title, he was good at shifting gears to something resembling their style.