Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Reprint This! 21. Tippy Teen

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected two dozen titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

I batted a couple of titles and ideas back and forth when nailing down my final list of 24. One, Marshal Law, was removed when a new collection was announced before I could feature it here. So for a couple of days, its slot was taken by THE COMPLETE DAN DeCARLO JOSIE & THE PUSSYCATS. But then I thought, "Hellfire, you're already asking for Marvelman, would you like the Fountain of Youth while you're at it?" Besides, when I was doing the scanning, I didn't actually have any DeCarlo Josie, though I do now, so it got moved to the epilogue feature which'll follow this up.

So she may be a third-stringer in my lineup, but that's okay, because Samm Schwartz's TIPPY TEEN was kind of a third-stringer in real life. Quite plainly an Archie cash-in, her short lived series is nevertheless incredibly charming, goofy, mod and with-it, daddy-o! I think some of the early Archie Comics credits are still disputed, but Schwartz generally gets the accolades for turning Jughead into one of the most popular characters there, and was in charge of some of the secondary titles in the late 1950s and early '60s. Then he moved to Tower Comics and created this delightful little universe.

You probably haven't heard of Tippy Teen before. I hadn't, until our buddies at Mister Kitty did a writeup about her on their Stupid Comics site last year. I was immediately taken by the character names and the swingin' 60s stylin'. You know, Archie reprints are a dollar a dozen, but odds are, since there's just so damn much of the stuff, you're usually going to run into lots of rotten 1980s work by drones copying old house styles and briefly hooking random characters into much uglier fashions and fads. Since Tippy Teen only lasted a few years in the late sixties, you're guaranteed that every issue contains thematically similar mod, groovy jargon and sensibilities.

Tippy inverts the Archie formula by having one lead girl juggling a pair of dueling boyfriends, neither of whom is really developed all that much. Her best friend is called Go-Go, and her spinoff book Go-Go and Animal sports one of the greatest names for a comic book in history. There was also a comic-sized tabloid magazine called Teen-In which featured Tippy strips along with amazing facts and trivia about period pop acts like the Cowsills and Sonny & Cher.

But there's more to Tippy Teen than just some cute period slang and with-it clothes. I'm not sure how much of Tippy Teen is Schwartz's work and how much his various collaborators working in a standard style (Toonopedia suggests that Dan DeCarlo and Bob White were also involved, among others), but this is just some wonderful cartooning here. A few scans here don't do it justice, but I have two issues and I passed another two on to Mister Kitty for their archives and they're all incredibly entertaining on several levels. The casual, fun style is just gorgeous, and feels natural, rather than a "house style."

Anyway, the Tippy Teen world was about one-half of the output of a short-lived company called Tower Comics, which hired Schwartz away from the Archie company, MLJ. Tower Comics was an imprint of Tower Books formed in 1965 to grab some of the growing market, and is best known for a superhero series called THUNDER Agents, which was sort of a cross between the Fantastic Four and the Man from UNCLE, if you can imagine such a thing. Tower had their superhero books, all part of the THUNDER Agents' world, and their teen books, all part of Tippy's world, but neither were very successful and the imprint was folded in 1969. Tower's books were twice as expensive as Marvel and DC's, and MLJ's for that matter, for twice the content. But value for money isn't relevant in a world where purchasing decisions were often made by parents at drugstore spinner racks, where the cheaper product was going to win out every time. Took DC another decade to figure that one out.

Anyway, there were 46 issues in total of Tippy Teen and her spin-off titles. The entirety of them could be reprinted in three thick editions. I have no idea who'd consider reprinting them. In the 1970s, an outfit called Atlas Comics tried to cash-in on Marvel's newsstand success and they reprinted some Tippy stories under the name Vicki, but otherwise she's not been seen in close to forty years. But I tend to think that if a couple of books, marketed to young girls but comprehensive enough to satisfy collectors, were available, they could certainly do well. The fact that my own daughter is a voracious reader of all things Betty & Veronica is proof that a market still exists, and any good publisher could make a strong pitch towards tweenagers while equally targetting completists by including all the strips, with as much source credit as is possible. The material is quite honestly good enough to make it worth a try.

(Originally posted December 26, 2007, 11:48 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

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