Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sugar and Spike (comic book)

Sugar and Spike(1956-71)
Created by
Sheldon Mayer
Wikipedia Entry

Believe it or not, at one time comic books actually were comic. Nowadays you’re hard pressed to find something other than superhero or adventure comics, but in the early days, comic book publishers covered all bases.  Romance was big for the (perceived) female audience.  And there were several humor titles.  Sugar and Spike was one of the longest running and one of the best.

The book was a creation of Sheldon Mayer, whose career coincided with the invention of the modern comic book. Indeed, it was due to his persistence that DC reluctantly published Superman. He became an editor at DC’s sister compsny, All-American Comics, and was involved in the creation of icons like the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice Society of America. But Mayer preferred to be a creator, not an editor, so he left the editor’s chair to write and draw full time in 1948, where he concentrated on humor.  And in 1956, he created Sugar and Spike.

The book is about two babies, Sugar Plumm and Spike Wilson. It was told from their point of view, with the individual conceit that they two could talk to each other in baby talk, while they could barely comprehend what adults would say*. They could also talk to baby animals.

The stories often revolved around their misadventures, with the two of them getting into trouble and dealing with the consequences. Mayer kept things inventive and fun with these twin Dennis the Menaces. Many of the jokes involved their not understanding how the real world worked.

But the adventure bug was everywhere, so by the mid-60s, Mayer started sending them on various comic adventures, usually involving their friend, the baby genius Bernie the Brain.

Paper dollsAnother popular feature of the book was the Sugar and Spike paper dolls. Each issue would show a new set of costumes you could cut out and dress the two babies in. The designs were sent it by readers, who could see their name and age immortalized in the pages.

The book ran until 1971, when Mayer was unable to draw it any more due to eye problems. Since Mayer’s contract prohibited DC from using another creative team, there was no way for it to go on even if they wanted it to.

When cataract surgery gave him his eyesight back a few years later, however, Mayer went back to drawing the characters, but by that time DC was not interested in running a humor book. Mayer continued to draw new stories, though. They were published internationally and were rarely reprinted in the US.

The strip ended everywhere when Mayer retired, though it’s fondly remembered by people who read comics of that era. Some attempts have been made to revive it,** but no one has figured out how to replace Mayer’s art and sense of humor.


*One exception was one of their grandfathers, who was in his “second childhood” and thus understood them perfectly.

**Including one where the two have grown up to be detectives.

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