On February 23, 1935, a certain mischievous young girl came strolling down a wedding aisle with banana peels in tow. This single panel was the start of a comedic strip that would spawn comic books, merchandise, theatrical shorts, and several television series and specials. Just how much do you know about the rascal known as Little Lulu?
Created by Marjorie Henderson Buell for The Saturday Evening Post, the Little Lulu comic strip starred Lulu Moppet. In her debut appearance, Lulu appeared as a flower girl at a wedding where she comically covered the aisle in banana peels. Little Lulu remained as a single panel strip in the Post until December 30, 1945, then continued as a regular comic strip. In 1947, Buell ceased drawing the comic strip, and by 1950 Little Lulu became a daily syndicated strip by Chicago Tribune–New York News Syndicate, which ran until ’69. Around this time, John Stanley wrote a series of 10 stories featuring Little Lulu for Dell’s Four Color comics. This led to Lulu starring in her own book, Marge’s Little Lulu, with Stanley writing the book and Irving Tripp providing art.
While the original Post panels depicted the humorous antics of a tomboy, Stanley expanded the cast of characters in Lulu’s universe to an entire neighborhood of children. Many of his stories revolved around the competition between the boys and girls, with Lulu and her friend Annie often scheming to “teach the fellers a lesson.” Stanley also changed the name of Lulu’s friend Joe to Tubby, who went on to star in his own series, Marge’s Tubby, from 1952 to 1961. Many of Lulu’s comics were translated into French, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Arabic, and several other languages.
Outside of comics, Lulu appeared in nearly 30 theatrical animated shorts throughout the 1940s. In the ‘60s, Paramount and Famous Studios produced two new Little Lulu cartoons based on Stanley’s comic stories. Little Lulu has starred in several TV series and specials, including the ABC specials Little Lulu and The Big Hex of Little Lulu, the Japanese Anima series Little Lulu and Her Little Friends, and The Little Lulu Show on HBO. The character’s popularity also led to merchandising opportunities, including being the first mascot for Kleenex tissues. She was also featured on an animated billboard in Times Square from 1952 to 1965.
In 2004, Dark Horse Comics obtained the rights to reprint Little Lulu comics and released 29 volumes, plus an unnumbered color special. Dark Horse later reprinted the companion Tubby series (Little Lulu’s Pal Tubby) in volumes similar to their Lulu volumes. More recently, Drawn and Quarterly reprinted Stanley’s Little Lulu comics in a multi-volume series and reprinted a selection of Stanley’s stories for Free Comic Book Day 2019. Clearly, the little girl who could outmaneuver any boy and leave grown adults gobsmacked continues to withstand the test of time.