Amongst the numerous comic stars of the 20th century, Little Lulu was one of those characters, whose origins date back within the hands of cartoonist Marjorie Henderson Buell (best known as “Marge”). She was born in Philadelphia in 1904 and eventually found her passion for art into her teens and early adulthood.
Marge found great success with creating single-panel cartoons throughout the 1920’s. It wasn’t until Little Lulu graced the Saturday Evening Post on Feb. 23, 1935 that Marge found her most popular creation to behold. At first, Lulu was supposed to be a simple replacement for Carl Anderson's Henry. However as time passed on, she began to shift into her more iconic appearance and her attitude became more pronounced as a tomboy.
Marjorie Henderson Buell (1939)
While Marge initially brought the stage up for Little Lulu, John Stanley brought the comic character into a new vision, taking over the art duties. Stanley went to work with Western Publishing starting in 1943; writing/drawing for multiple properties before adapting Little Lulu.
Throughout the late 40’s and 50’s, the world of Little Lulu was fleshed out with a colorful cast, consistent artwork, and humorous writing. Each comic had a hand-crafted direction, turning Lulu into a 3-dimensional character and bringing Tubby as the prominent leader of the boys and a foe for others. Stanley worked alongside Irving Tripp, finding ways to bring the comic into fresh and funny situations.
John Stanley (1976)
With such clever wit and entertaining stories, the series became one of the prosperous comics in the 1950’s and readers around the world were able to grasp their hands on some of the funniest works made at the time.
John Stanley stopped writing/drawing for the comic in 1959, proceeding on other works such as Melvin Monster and Thirteen. Little Lulu continued to be published with Western Publishing’s lineup until 1984. While the series lasted in the comics for a long time, this didn’t stop other companies from bringing Little Lulu onto other forms of media.
Paramount and Famous Studios produced 26 theatrical shorts for the cinema between 1943 and 1948. These shorts were loosely based on the panels drawn by Marge and provided for many mischievous antics left-to-right. While Lulu’s adventures were fun and silly at times, there were some depictions of racism and crude humor included, given the time period. The theme song was done by a group called “The Satisfiers,” led by Helen Carroll. Famous Studios also created two ‘Noveltoons’ in the 1960’s with Little Lulu, featuring the use of limited animation.
Another well-known adaptation known as ‘The Little Lulu Show’ aired on HBO from 1995 to 1999. It was produced by Cinar (now known as the Cookie Jar Group) and brought Little Lulu to a whole new generation of kids. Every episode would consist of “Lulutoons”, “Lulubites,” and some stand-up comedy from Lulu herself. The “Lulutoons” heavily utilize John Stanley’s original stories from the comics (even though he wasn’t credited). The show brings back the 1940’s theme song, but at a much quicker pace and groove. With a 52-episode run, The Little Lulu Show was able to be very tight alongside its source material as well as being just as entertaining as the comics were.
ABC also produced two live-action Little Lulu specials in the late 1970's, the first (simply titled Little Lulu) was found in 2016 while the other (The Big Hex of Little Lulu) is still currently lost media.
While these first two particular iterations have been well-known to many in the public eye, many are unaware of a particular adaptation that has gone far less documented than most Little Lulu media.
Little Lulu had a 1970's anime.
2) Cereno, Benito. “Putting the 'Comic' in 'Comic Book': A Tribute to John Stanley.” Comics Alliance 22 Mar, 2016https://comicsalliance.com/tribute-john-stanley/
3) Glennon, Patrick. “How Philly's 'Marge' Buell - and 'Little Lulu' - paved the way for female cartoonists.” The Philadelphia Inquirer 17 Nov, 2017https://www.inquirer.com/philly/opinion/commentary/phillys-marge-buell-and-little-lulu-paved-the-way-for-female-cartoonists-20171117.html
4) Newgarden, Mark. “Talking to Bill Schelly, Comics Scholar and John Stanley Biographer.” The Comics Journal 30 Jun, 2017http://www.tcj.com/bill-schelly-on-john-stanley-giving-life-to-little-lulu/
5) Parten, James. “That First Step… Is a “Lulu”!” Cartoon Research 10 June, 2018https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/that-first-step-is-a-lulu/
6) Reed, Patrick A. “Now Girls Allowed: Celebrating the Impact of Little Lulu.” Comics Alliance 23 Feb, 2016https://comicsalliance.com/tribute-little-lulu/
7) “Little Lulu (found ABC Weekend live-action special based on comic strip; 1978).” Lost Media Wiki https://lostmediawiki.com/Little_Lulu_(found_ABC_Weekend_live-action_special_based_on_comic_strip;_1978)
8) “The Big Hex of Little Lulu (partially found ABC weekend special episode; 1979).” Lost Media Wikihttps://lostmediawiki.com/The_Big_Hex_of_Little_Lulu_(partially_found_ABC_weekend_special_episode;_1979)
Picture Sources:1) Marjorie Henderson Buell: https://www.inquirer.com/philly/opinion/commentary/phillys-marge-buell-and-little-lulu-paved-the-way-for-female-cartoonists-20171117.html
2) John Stanley: http://www.tcj.com/bill-schelly-on-john-stanley-giving-life-to-little-lulu/
3) Little Lulu Issues #33 and #111: https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?tid=200761&pgi=1
4) “Now Ya Done It” Little Lulu Poster: https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/that-first-step-is-a-lulu/
5) The Little Lulu Show: https://www.themoviedb.org/tv/10400-the-little-lulu-show