Monday, June 4, 2012

Star of Screen, Stage, and Sunday Funnies

There were many tributes printed last month when television actor George Lindsey passed away. Most people remember him for playing "Goober" Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show from 1964 through 1968, a character he continued on the programs Mayberry R.F.D. and Hee-Haw.

But I haven't seen any mention of George's venture onto the Broadway stage. That's most likely because it didn't happen in real life, but only on the comics pages.

In an arc that ran from September 19, 1965 to January 9, 1966, Leonard Starr's wonderful comic strip Mary Perkins On Stage told the story of an actor named Claude Harper (read: "clodhopper") who had been typecast in the role of "Gopher" on the TV sitcom "Corncob Corners." When the show was canceled, Claude took a role in a Broadway play starring the strip's title heroine and a good-looking but talentless television idol named Rod Damian.

Claude flew his fiancée, Corrie, to New York City so that they could be married, but the pretty country girl caught Damian's eye, and he was determined to make her the latest in his long string of conquests.

Did the sweet and naive Corrie fall for the phony charms of the narcissistic actor? Did true love win out? How did Mary's meddling influence things? You can find the surprising answers in Volume Seven of the Classic Comics Press reprint series, Leonard Starr's Mary Perkins On Stage.

"Grits 'n grunts?"
Next to the strips of Milton Caniff, this soap opera strip about the world of show business is my favorite dramatic strip. Starr's artwork is crisp and detailed, and he captured the expressions of George Lindsey -- both facial and verbal -- perfectly. All of his characters were interesting and well-developed. I'm partial to the later years myself, but the entire series was an often overlooked masterpiece.

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