Saturday, January 30, 2010

Leggo Lamb in "What Are Friends For?"

I have long been a fan of Jim Engel’s smooth, sumptuous work. His story here, from Critters No. 18, September 1987, would have fit snuggly within the pages of 1940s era Ha-Ha or Giggle Comics without a hiccup, alongside work by Dan Gordon, Jack Bradbury, or Lynn Karp.

Engel has it all going on here: Great art and layout, a smart (and very funny) story, and great characters. I really want to see more of Grover Cleveland Goose, who makes me laugh out loud.

Next, we have a great treat!

In preparation for this post, I contacted Jim Engel requesting permission to blog his story, and he proved very generous. He was kind enough to share some of his memories about this particular story and cover. As it happens, Jim is a great student and fan of Funny Animal comics, and elements in this story pay homage to many past and current masters of the genre. Let’s start with Jim’s thoughts about his cover, which is posted again here in a much larger size (just click!) so details can be easily seen:

About this cover, Jim says: “This was really fun to do. Editor Kim Thompson asked me to do a cover and lead story for this (great, and missed) "funny animal" anthology comic. I did a story featuring "Leggo Lamb & Grover Goose" (they're sitting on the right railing & bottom step respectively). For the cover, I wanted do something that evoked an old Dell annual cover, and celebrated my love of funny animal comics, so I included the other two characters (not mine) that appeared in that issue (Lionheart, the cat in the yellow jacket, and The Blue Beagle, the superhero at top left on the stairs), my characters from The Comic Reader, Dick Duck (Duck Dick) and Pavlov (heading left on the sidewalk), and Mickey Mouse (that's his yellow shoe & red pants on the left).

It's hard to make out here, but each comic shown represented one of my favorite funny animal comic artists---Blue Beagle's reading a Mickey Mouse comic (Paul Murray), on the step next to him is an issue of "Giggle Comics" with Super Katt on the cover (Dan Gordon), the bunny's reading "Hi-Jinx Comics" (Jack Bradbury), Leggo Lamb's got "Pogo" (Walt Kelly), to the right of Grover Goose are “Yogi Bear" (Harvey Eisenberg) & "Scamp" (Al Hubbard), left of him is "Dizzy Dog" (Sheldon Mayer). Grover's reading "Uncle Scrooge" (Carl Barks), and Lionheart's reading "Fox and Crow" (Jim Davis).

Finally, I wanted the whole thing to look like a still from an animated cartoon, so I drew the background separately, did a color guide, and my friend Don Toht, a wonderful "realistic" illustrator, rendered it (beautifully) in water colors. I inked the characters on a separate page, and then took it over to my friend Ray Cioni's animation studio (Cioni Artworks), where Ray copied it onto a cel, and I spent an evening there painting the cel with his cel vinyl paint... The result, I think, turned out very well. Don & I opted not to sign it and mar the "movie still" illusion."

In our email correspondence, Jim also remembered several more tidbits regarding this story, some further honoring the masters; some relating to family and friends. Panel details discussed are enlarged and highlighted (click).

About the splash panel (above), Jim says: "in the splash panel (pg. 1), there's a Coo-Coo Comic...Super Mouse is my favorite funny animal comic book character ( not only are Hughes' stories hilarious, but what a roster of artists that DREW it---Stein, Gordon, Hubbard, Bradbury)...

There's also a Beany & Cecil, one of my favorite Bradbury books, and Bob Clampett was a friend of mine, too.

And there's a (made up) Don Rosa's Comics and Stories--Don is also an old and good friend of mine..."

About the above panel: "On page 2, panel 4, that's me on the book page under Leggo's thumb . . ."

This one is my favorite! About the above panel, Jim remembers: "Page 6, panel 1---on the newspaper 'CAL-MART' refers to my sons, Cal & Marty... it also says 'ANNIE ENGEL BORN 5/20/87'--my daughter was born the year i did this story. Also on that newspaper page is a caricature of my good friend Mike Tiefenbacher, who edited The Comic Reader, where my Dick Duck strip ran, and who also collaborated with Chuck Fiala & I on DC's 'Funny Stuff Stocking Stuffer'..."

And finally: ". . . along the top edge of the last panel on pg 8, you can read 'Hey, Bennett!, a shout out to my good friend (and great cartoonist) Dave Bennett (who's also THE expert on Jack Bradbury), and "SHAW!" a shout-out to my OTHER great L.A. cartoonist pal, Scott Shaw!"

In summation, Thanks, Jim - I really enjoyed your thoughts and I appreciate your generosity! -- Mykal Banta


  1. Cool! I enjoyed everything about this post, Mykal. Kudos to you for bringing Engel into the mix, with some great info on this issue and his own personal reflections.

    I am familiar with his work, but hadn't seen this story before. He definitely deserves to be included on your blog, and if you need suggestions for other modern day "funny animal" folks, Scott Shaw and Stephanie Gladden would be nice.

  2. chuck: I enjoyed this one a great deal myself. Jim is a very gracious guy as well as a wonderful artist. I do need suggestions about some modern practitioners of the fine art of bigfoot comics, and I appreciate them! I'll be looking up Shaw and Gladden post haste. Thanks, Chuck! -- Mykal

  3. AWESOME POST~! What a treat to hear from the artist involved, Mykal. They did a great job with the cover, because, before I even read about it I thought it resembled a scene from a Max Fleischer cartoon~!

  4. Lysdexicuss: Yeah, it was great to get info straight from the horse's mouth! This was a real fun one. That cover was so cool. I didn't realize it was such a tribute to all of those great comic book artists until Jim told me. The cool thing was, I mentioned to him in my intitial email how much his style reminded me of those legendary 1940 greats, and then he explained the cover, with all his characters reading those very same guys! I loved that. -- Mykal

  5. such a beautiful line! very interesting to hear jim's comments on what he was thinking! thanks for posting!

  6. Brad: The pleasure was all mine! Glad you enjoyed it (and, yes, his line is beautiful!).

  7. Nice stuff, per usual, from Jim, and it was even better with his comments. I went right by a lot of this stuff at that time due to limited funds, but I pick it up when I can.

  8. Gary: Yeah, Jim's input makes this one special. I always grab Jim's stuff whenever I can. I love Dick Duck, Duck Dick stuff as well.-- Mykal

  9. Jim Engel was A Great Individual. His Drawings actually always Contained a High Amount of Grittiness Way Better than Even the Fleischer, Disney's Doug, Codename KND, Pepper Ann (The Ovelapped Shading on the Neck, Arms and Legs are done even better here and less amateurishly by instead using thicker lines on respected areas) or Klasky Csupo (Ala Duckman, Aah Real Monsters and Rugrats.) Mike Judge Almost Matches Jim Engel's grittiness with his Beavis and Butthead Cartoons though.

    And that logo Jim did for You is COOL and Apealling, i like the way the color was executed.

    Big Apple


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