Laurel and Hardy #1 (1972)

Laurel and Hardy #1 (July-August, 1972)
“Silly Saps at Sea!”
“Private Detectives”
“Them Desert Bones”
Writer/Editor – John Albano
Pencillers – Mike Sekowsky & Marnow
Inkers – Henry Scarpelli & Bob Oksner
Touch Ups/Additional Artwork – Alan Kupperberg
Letterer – Gaspar Saladino
Cover Price: $0.20

Today we have a real treat… insofar as we’ll be discussing a novelty of sorts.  Folks who know me “in the real life” know I’m a huge fan of Laurel and Hardy.  Ever since first seeing them on a Thanksgiving morning in March of the Wooden Soldiers on Channel 11, I was hooked!  Even to this day, March of the Wooden Soldiers is part of my Thanksgiving tradition!

People who have seen my bookshelves know I’ve always got some Stan and Ollie trinkets on display.  Hell, I remember when I was in high school, AMC (back when they showed movies) had a three-day-long Laurel and Hardy marathon… which I bought a stack of blank VHS tapes and stayed up for just about the entire thing to make sure I “got it all” (I didn’t… the cable actually went out during the last three hours of the marathon… still have the tapes though!).  I still pick up most Laurel and Hardy stuff I come across… I must have a half-dozen versions of their final film Utopia/Atoll-K, which since it’s in Public Domain (and also just not very good) is the easiest to find.

So today we’re going to look at the one-and-only DC Comics issue of Laurel and Hardy… er, make that Larry Harmon’s Laurel and Hardy… which is to say, this comic isn’t based off of the short features and films of The Boys… it’s actually based off of the Hanna-Barbera animated series of the mid-1960’s!

Now, who’s this Larry Harmon anyway?  Well… you might know him better as this guy…

Yup, Bozo the Clown!  Harmon apparently owned the likenesses of Stan and Ollie… and was also the voice of Stan in those animated shorts.  To simplify things, we’re just going to call this comic Laurel and Hardy.

Worth mentioning before we proceed… none of the stories here had credits… and information about who-did-what is sparse online… had to cobble what we have here from several places…

… including a wonderful book that I never even realized existed!  The Artful Antics of Laurel & Hardy, by Antony and Joanne Mitchell-Waite.  Chock full of Laurel and Hardy comics information I never realized I needed to know!  I’ve only just discovered it, but have already devoured all of the free-preview pages on Google (one of which I’ll share at the bottom).  I’ll definitely be putting in an order for a copy!

Anyhoo… there’s a long preamble… let’s get to the book!

Our first story, “Silly Saps at Sea!” features The Boys heading off on a cruise.  A sometime-used story during the black-and-white shorts was Ollie’s having to “get away” from stresses of his everyday life, under doctor’s orders.  That stress usually stemmed from Stan… which is why it’s so humorous that he’d always bring his buddy with him on vacation.  Inside their cabin, Ollie hits the shower, and Stan starts raiding the fridge… only, it isn’t actually the refrigerator.

Stan’s actually just reaching out the porthole, and grabbing whatever the waiter happens to be walking by with.  Stan nabs a roasted chicken, and suggests he go for a second reach to find something for Ollie.  Ollie stops him, and proceeds to reach for his own free meal… only, by now the jig is already up.  The waiter chomps down on Ollie’s hand before threatening to report The Boys to the Captain.

Later that day… get this, Ollie downs an entire bottle of sleeping pills in order to help him relax.  Stan decides to let his pal sleep… and figures he’ll kill some time getting rid of his rock collection.  Yeah, he brought a great big sack of rocks with him on the trip… but it’s getting too heavy to haul.

And so, he drops it off the side of the boat… where there just so happens to be a live Naval mine bobbing just under the surface.

There’s a terrible explosion, capsizing the cruise ship.  Stan is able to find his pal, and drags him onto a nearby island… only, this “island” is actually a very annoyed looking whale.  The end?

Our second story, “Private Detectives” features The Boys as… well, private detectives.  Their first day on the job, they find themselves with a high-profile case.  A wealthy man reports that his family jewels have been purloined.  Hrmm… didn’t know it was going to be that kind of story.  I kid, I kid, he’s actually talking about precious stones and metals.

Stan and Ollie load into their adorable motorbike and head to a seedy part of town to do some (private) investigating.  They pop into a restaurant… and notice a sign suggesting they “watch” their hat and coat… it’s that kinda place, I guess.  They have a bowl of soup… then leave, not realizing that… their pants have been stolen!

After spending their last $20 on new trousers, The Boys head over to the wealthy fella’s house to report in.  When asked “whodunnit” Stan blurts out “The Butler did it”… and it turns out that, well… the butler did do it.  The hired-help throws himself at the mercy of his boss… but gets tossed into the dungeon for the next fifty years instead.  Not sure that’s what “citizen’s arrest” means, but, in fairness… I’m also not a lawyer.  The wealthy fella then hands The Boys a sack with the word “Money” on it, which we can probably presume has money in it as well.

The Boys return to their office to find… they’ve been robbed!  Looks like they’re going to have to spend all of their loot replacing their stolen stuff!  Ollie asks “whodunnit”, but Stan is dumbfounded… after all, they don’t have a butler!

Our third (and final) story is “Them Desert Bones” in which Stan and Ollie have just arrived for their first day at the Museum as Assistants to a Paleontologist… who might be based on prolific Laurel and Hardy foil, James Finlayson?  Even if he’s not, that’s what I’m going with!

“Fin” tells The Boys that he needs intelligent help… also, extremely careful help.  It’s not hard to see where this is going.  Stan and Ollie fall down a flight of stairs… knocking over a fella hauling a box of delicate (and priceless) bones.

Fin is incensed… and gives chase threatening to, get this… kill Stan and Ollie!  I guess the punishment ought to fit the crime?

Ollie suggests they look for disguises, and so they don themselves in white robes.  They then blend in with a group of folks in white robes… and are whisked away into the desert.  Turns out this group of robed individuals is… potential wives for the Sultan!

After several failed attempts, The Boys are finally able to escape their whip-snapping captor… and find themselves collapsing right in front of an Oasis.

We get a sight-gag of Ollie ramming his head into a palm tree in order to prove it isn’t real… before we can say with certainty that this ain’t no mirage.

After drinking up… we shift into the nighttime.  The Boys spy a pair of glowing eyes coming toward them… and climb up the palm tree… to, uh… get away?  Not sure that’s going to be much help… especially against a glowing-eyed beast.  Of course it winds up just being a Jeep.

Stan hops off the tree, which catapults Ollie back into the desert… where upon impact, he crashes through the ground and into an ancient Egyptian Burial Tomb!

The fella with the Jeep calls it the “biggest find ever”, and promises to take The Boys back into the museum where he will be his guests.  That evening they scrub up… while, at the same time Fin finishes putting together a dinosaur skeleton.

Stan and Ollie enter… with Stan, naturally, slamming the door behind them.  Dino bones go everywhere… and Fin’s on the warpath again.

Welp… much as I love The Boys… this kiiiiiinda missed the mark for me.  In fairness, I very seldom get anything out of humor comics… that is to say, comics that are only meant to be funny.  It just kinda falls flat… sorta like horror comics, which I never find scary.  The three short features we get here could just as easily been two-reelers back in the 1930’s… I’ll give ’em that much.

I really dug the art.  From what I can gather, only the lead-off story was “new”.  Even though the cover clearly states “All New Stories”, I’ve read that the second and third stories (with art by Marnow) are reprinted from the UK comics… so, maybe they’re just “New to DC”.  Both art styles worked for me… and, if pressed I’m not sure I could say which one I prefer.  They were both really good.

They got the “voices” of the characters down pretty well… and even gave us a few lines that I hope to work into my everyday vernacular.  Stan’s claim to be as “quiet as a baby mouse” is one I’m going to steal and shoehorn into the next conversation I can.

Worth noting, however… and I’m guessing this would annoy many a fan of The Boys… Ollie keeps saying “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”… when it ought to be “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”  “Another Fine Mess” was the name of a 1930 Laurel and Hardy film… but was never Ollie’s frustrated quote!

I suppose more interesting than anything inside the book is the fact that… this was the only issue!  We’ve discussed a few 1970’s books that only had a single issue here… and it’s one of those things that always kinda bugs me.  Weird that they wouldn’t even try a second issue… though, The Artful Antics of Laurel & Hardy suggests that there might have been copyright issues… not sure if those were conflicts with Harmon or maybe the UK Publishers (see below).

From The Artful Antics of Laurel & Hardy (Lulu – April 18, 2013)
By Antony & Joanne Mitchell-Waite

As you can see, DC was planning on doing more… at least two further-publications were in the works… a (50-cent) Digest… and issue two, in which The Boys would meet Superman!  Now, that’s definitely a story I’d want to see.  Though, I suppose it might’ve just been a gag for the cover.  I mean, we’ve already discussed that time Jerry Lewis met the Man of Steel… so, ya never know!

Here’s a color version of that Laurel and Hardy #2:

Overall… a decent attempt, which… I mean, when we’re talking about a comic about a comedy team from the early 20th Century, might be the best we can hope for!  This might be a (relatively) spendy find in the wild… so, I wouldn’t tell ya to break your back-nor-bank tracking it down, though… if you’re a Son (or Daughter) of the Desert… you’re probably going to want this in your collection!

This issue isn’t available digitally… nor has it been collected.  Though, if you’re interested… you can grab The Artful Antics of Laurel & Hardy right here.

(Not the) Letters Page:

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