Little Lulu Volume 29: The Cranky Giant and Other Stories Comic Review
When I was a kid, my parents often bought me books but they didn’t quite value comics the same way. Thankfully, there are numerous comic franchises that have also been adapted for television, and Little Lulu and her friends thus entered my childhood, via “The Little Lulu Show.”
It’s been at least 10 years since I last watched the cartoons, so when I got the chance to review “Little Lulu Volume 29: The Cranky Giant and Other Stories” for The Argus, I was delighted.
At almost 200 pages, this trade paperback, which contains every comic from two volumes originally published in 1958, is one hefty piece of nostalgia. The story is simple: summer is here and all the kids’ parents are going to “ship [them] off to some ol’ camp for the whole summer,” a fact the boys protest with great indignation. But when the girls get in the way of their escapades, they decide a camp without girls around will be great. Of course, it ends up being that “Camp Tiny Tot” is for both boys and girls. But off to camp they go, and good-old-fashioned-summer-camp shenanigans ensue.
I was delighted, but I was also slightly nervous about reading this volume. It’s interesting revisiting a beloved relic from your childhood and approaching it from where you currently are; there is a tension between being hypercritical of the work’s flaws and the inclination to staunchly deny or defend its shortcomings.
Case in point: this trade paperback’s cover art is the original from one of the 1958 volumes. It depicts Little Lulu, Annie, Alvin, and Tubby in a rowboat that is dramatically imbalanced in the water; Alvin is glaring at Tubby who has dug into their picnic basket (amusingly enough, he’s only eating an apple). It’s a comic meant for children, of course, so perhaps I shouldn’t over-analyze it. But I also wonder if it’s problematic that Tubby was made fun of for being a chubby kid—right down to his nickname, of course.
Through reading the comics collected within, though, two things became obvious: first, Lulu is undoubtedly endearing—all of the characters are, really—but Tubby is the ultimate scene-stealer; second, though the comics do occasionally factor in his love of food, Tubby is endearing mostly by virtue of the excellent lines he’s given.
“Sometimes I wonder why girls were ever invented!” little Iggy grumbles, and Tubby replies, “It’s all Noah’s fault, Igg... If he hadn’t taken two girls along on the ark, we wouldn’t be havin’ all this trouble!”
And then there’s the priceless moment when Tubby, angry at Lulu for not letting on that the camp is co-ed, calls her “Benedict Arnold,” a reference that would have been pretty old even in 1958, but is far from surprising given that Tubby is quite precocious even in the cartoons. I distinctly remember an episode in which he corrected a grown-up’s pronunciation of “horticulture.”
The comics are charmingly straightforward and traditional—classic, really—in their layout and artwork. Writer/artist John Stanle’s work on the Little Lulu comics is highly regarded, and here he works with Irving Tripp. The characters are all wide eyes and gaping mouths (amusingly, in most panels, they have neither pupils nor teeth, it seems), but wonderfully expressive. Ultimately, the timeless appeal of these stories lies in Little Lulu and her friends themselves, so kudos must go to creator Marge Buell, especially for creating a fun female character who enjoyed playing with dolls but also messed about with the boys. I’m waving my girl power flag proudly!