Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: THE JOHN STANLEY LIBRARY: NANCY, VOLUME 2 (Drawn & Quarterly, Volume 2)


Something weird is going on with D&Q's NANCY reprints, and no, it doesn't have anything to do with anything in Oona Goosepimple's house -- or does it?? In my review of Volume 1 last fall, I made note of the confusion surrounding the exact issue of Dell NANCY in which Stanley introduced the freaky-yet-friendly little girl. This collection purports to reprint issues #167-169 (1959) of Dell NANCY, as well as FOUR COLOR #1034 (1959), the first NANCY SUMMER CAMP issue. In the second and third issues reproduced herein, Nancy visits (or, rather, is compelled into visiting) Oona's place and has dream-time encounters with mute little green characters called the Yoyos. Fair enough -- sounds like Stanley's adaptation of his "Story Telling Time" tales from LITTLE LULU to the NANCY "universe." BUT: The story "Nancy Meets the Yoyos" is in the third issue in the book, while the second Yoyos epic is in the second issue. I haven't been this confused since Darkwing Duck introduced a whole slew of characters in the two-parter "Just Us Justice Ducks", the "origin episodes" of which had not yet been broadcast. I'll take this as a simple printing mistake until a Stanley expert tells me different. The editor of the NANCY books, however, evidently needs a "time out," if not a knuckle sandwich from Spike and a side order of whoop-ass from The West Side Gang.
Flip-flopped freakfests aside, the highlight here is the SUMMER CAMP issue, the idea for which Stanley carried over from similar LITTLE LULU one-shots. It is nice to see Stanley attempting something resembling a continuous narrative (albeit one of the "thread-through-the-popcorn", "short-story-chunk" variety) with "funny" characters. But would Sluggo really vault from being a last-minute addition to the camp lineup to the lofty position of a junior camp counselor? (He must've threatened to beat a whole lot of people up.) The Oona Goosepimple stories got me to thinking about how Oona fits in with other "creepy family" characters in cartoons and on TV. Her relationship with her friends is decidedly peculiar. She isn't oblivious to her strangeness, like The Munsters, or convinced that she's normal and everyone else is warped, like the members of The Addams Family. Otherwise, she wouldn't act offended when Nancy makes up some lame excuse not to come and visit her, literally going to the extreme of forcing Nancy's unwilling legs to "work in reverse" and deliver Nancy to her doorstep. (I seriously doubt that this gambit, with its suggestion of abduction, would fly in kids' comics today.) At the same time, Oona takes steps to "protect" her guests from potential perils while they're in her home. Perhaps Oona is more "normal" than she would like to admit, while, at the same time, taking her "strangeness" in stride. But perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that Stanley found a unique take on a concept that has been exploited more than once in our popular culture.
It's a tribute to Stanley that he can make characters whom I frankly have never found appealing in the least both funny and interesting. Now, if only the editor would get with the program...

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