John Stanley, Giving Life to Little Lulu

By Bill Schelly

This is a biography of one of the most influential “girl power” comic book writer/artists (Little Lulu, Nancy) of the mid-20th century.

This is a deluxe, full-color, coffee table book biography; the first of one of America’s greatest storytellers. It’s filled with beautifully reproduced artwork from the comic books Little Lulu, and his creations Melvin Monster and Thirteen(Going on Eighteen); rare drawings and cartoons; and never-before-seen photographs.

Marge Buell invented Little Lulu, but John Stanley was the creative genius who gave her a life in comic books that made her one of the best-loved characters of all time. His work in Marge’s Little Lulu from 1945 to 1959 ensured Lulu immortality as an iconic, proto-Feminist figure in American popular culture. Stanley developed or invented all Lulu’s memorable supporting cast: Tubby, Alvin, Witch Hazel, the Fellers’ Club and more. John Stanley: Giving Life to Little Lulu is a deluxe, full-color coffee table book that honors this Hall of Fame cartoonist with beautifully reproduced artwork from Little Lulu and his own comic book creations such as Melvin Monster and Thirteen (Going on Eighteen), as well as rare drawings and cartoons, as well as never-before-seen photographs.

Despite his talent and creative achievements, John Stanley avoided the spotlight, revealing little about his personal life or his creative methods. Bill Schelly’s extensive biographical text tells Stanley’s life story for the first time, through interviews with his family, friends and colleagues, and the discovery of a previously unknown, lengthy interview given by the reclusive author. The result is the true story of one of America’s greatest storytellers: his childhood in Harlem and the Bronx, life with his strict Irish Catholic mother, his education at Parsons, his first job as an animator at Max Fleischer Studios, and his years working as a commercial artist, before finding his true métier in comic books during World War II. It goes behind the scenes as he created the Little Lulu comic book for Dell, while dealing with the twin demons of clinical depression and alcoholism. Despite these struggles, John Stanley was one of the great writers and cartoonists, and is amply celebrated in this handsome volume.

List Price: $39.99
Hardcover: 184 pages
Publisher: Fantagraphics; 1 edition (May 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606999907
ISBN-13: 978-1606999905
Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.8 x 13 inches

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BILL SCHELLY is the author of over a dozen books chronicling the history of comic art in America, including Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America, which won the Will Eisner Comics Industry Award in 2016 for Best Comics-Related Book. He is associate editor of the magazine Alter Ego.

“Bill Schelly has an obsessive yet intelligent passion for things many might consider marginal if not bizarre—always the mark of an interesting mind.” – Tom Robbins


“I would pile up all our blankets and stay awake till quite late reading Little Lulu comics and listening to Bob Dylan.” – Patti Smith

Little Lulu had incredible stories. I still read those Little Lulu comics from the late ‘40s, early ‘50s and they’re great.” – R. Crumb

“John Stanley’s character-driven tales of Little Lulu and Tubby … are at least as sophisticated as the Dark Knight and the X-Men—and a lot funnier.” – Art Spiegelman

“Many of the Little Lulu stories written and drawn by John Stanley repay reading and rereading by educated adults even today, decades after they were published as disposable entertainment for children.” – Michael Barrier, Funnybooks

“[Stanley was] the most consistently funny cartoonist to work in the comic book medium.”   – Fred Hembeck

“His colorful, S. J. Perelman-ish language and a decidedly bizarre, macabre wit (reminiscent of writer Roald Dahl) marks him as an important American writer.” – Frank Young

“The only comic books I ever read and enjoyed were Little Lulu and Donald Duck.” – C. C. Beck

“Donald Duck and Little Lulu turned out to be the outstanding comics of that period. The drawing in Little Lulu was very simple, hieroglyphic, but the stories were very sophisticated—it was a literary comic. In the early seventies I found a guy who was selling a complete collection of Little Lulu. I bought the whole thing.” – R. Crumb

“The queen—or princess—of all the ‘little’ characters was Little Lulu, whose comic books started in 1945. These were mostly the work of the brilliant and talented John Stanley.” — Trina Robbins

Stanley’s work on Little Lulu was #59 on Comics Journal’s list of 100 top comics

Inducted in 2004 into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame.

His son, James Stanley, accepted the Bill Finger award given to his father in 2015 at Comic-Con International in San Diego.