A 'Little Lulu' cartoon by 'Marge'.


Original Medium: Magazine cartoons
Published in:
Saturday Evening Post
First Appeared: 1935
Marjorie Henderson Buell
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Little Lulu was created by Marjorie Henderson Buell ("Marge"), who used her in a series of single-panel cartoons. These were commissioned by …

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The Saturday Evening Post to replace Carl Anderson's Henry, which had been picked up by King Features, and ran from Feb. 23, 1935 to 1948. It took Lulu almost a decade to transcend that venue, but when she did, she did it all over the place — by the mid-1940s, she was a star of comic books and animated cartoons, as well as the spokestoon for Kleenex.

Lulu's first animated outing was Famous Studios' Eggs Don't Bounce (released December 24, 1943), directed by Isadore Sparber. Over the next five years, she appeared in another two dozen cartoon shorts, all directed by Sparber, Seymour Kneitel, or Bill Tytla. Although these cartoons were successful, the studio didn't renew the licensing agreement because they thought they could do just as well with a knock-off character of their own, and not have to pay royalties. With Butterscotch and Soda (1948), Lulu was replaced by Little Audrey — who, despite expectations, never became the star Lulu had been. Both were voiced by Mae Questal (Betty Boop).

It was in comic books that Lulu truly found her place. The first issue of Marge's Little Lulu appeared in 1945 from Dell Comics. In a popular series within the series, Lulu told stories to her younger neighbor, Alvin, about a poor little girl who picked beebleberries in the woods, and had adventures with Witch Hazel and Little Itch. Marge's Little Lulu was published regularly until 1984. In 1972, it underwent a name change. Western Publishing, which at that time was publishing the comic under its Gold Key imprint, solved the royalties problem in a more healthy way than Famous Studios had — they bought the character from Buell, and thereupon dropped "Marge's" from the title.

Despite the name, Marge never had much to do with the comic book. From the beginning, it was written and laid out by comic genius John Stanley, with finished drawings provided by Irving Tripp. Stanley has achieved widespread acclaim for his work on such disparate comic books as Melvin Monster, Thirteen Going on Eighteen, Tales from the Tomb, and the comic book version of Nancy & Sluggo — but it's his work on Little Lulu for which he's best known.

But neither Marge nor Stanley ever had much to do with the newspaper comics version, which was distributed by The Chicago Tribune Syndicate, starting June 5, 1950, and continuing through 1969.

In the late 1980s, all of Stanley's work on Little Lulu was collected into a set of deluxe hardbound books by Gladstone Publishing Co. This set, like the original comic book series, has become a collectible highly prized by knowledgeable comic book enthusiasts.

Lulu provided a few more animated laughs on November 4, 1978, when ABC used her in one of its Weekend Specials, with Lauri Hendler (later heard in Ferngully) providing her voice. Hendler reprised the role a couple of years later in a sequel, The Big Hex of Little Lulu, the first part of which aired January 16, 1981. On June 30, 1995, Tracey Ullman (whose earlier Fox-TV show had spawned The Simpsons) did her voice in a series on HBO. Later, the role was taken over by Jane Woods (also heard in English-language versions of several anime).

Which proves Lulu still has what it takes to make an audience laugh.


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Text ©1999-2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Western Publishing.