For a "Big Little Book" this tiny volume amassed a pretty big body count. If one wants to understand gun violence today, peer back to what Gramps was reading in 1937. Maybe the Kefauver Commission who wanted to tone down comic books in the 1950s avoided the Big Little Books because no senator wanted his picture taken of him reading one. They were for kids, and they were as violent as the most of violent, well… fairy tales. And then some.
Big Little Books are cool, but I am interested here in one particular artist, Henry E. Vallely. Before I go any further, check out THIS little gem in which scholar "DSK" seemingly proves Batman comic artist Bob Kane swiped from Vallely. Holy smokes, Batman…our inventor is a CROOK!
I swear. No honor among thieves or comic cook Illustrators.
There are literally hundreds of fantastic illustrations by Mr. Vellely in books for children There are nearly that many in one book alone, and all shown here came from just one.
The problem with Big Little Books is that they are brittle with acid pulp and literally disappearing while we twiddle our thumbs on smart phones. They can be frozen or treated in other ways to preserve them, but like capitalism, I guess, they held within them the seeds of their own destruction. (Marxist theory from my college days!)
The other problem is that no one can SEE the work of the artist anymore, as if you even touch the spine to read one, the entire little book cracks into a puff of brown paper dust. Wear a mask. Those collectors might as well be wrapping dead fish in their mylar bags…they're not going to last much longer and you can't stop it.
In order to illustrate my profile here of Henry Vallely, I have solved the problem of opening a book to scan it by shelling out four dollars for a completely beat copy of "In The Name of the Law" copyright 1937 by Stephen Slesinger published by Whitman Publishing Co. of Racine, Wisconsin. If they feel I have violated their copyright, I will gladly remove the images here (and ask vigorously what THEY are doing to preserve the work) but my initial check reveals they never renewed it. I'll proceed to tear and scan. Whitman gave up on Little Big Books and concentrated on those blue folders for coin collecting.
I am RIPPING IT APART and RUINING IT Comic book guy! Physics, chemistry and time are going to do it anyway. Someone better scan this work before it goes, and I don't think Google is including the little buggers in their massive book scanning program, deciding instead to concentrate on things no one is interested in while running rampant over copyright laws of their own.
Vallely's work is simple, effective and astounding. Vallely did more with a few black shadows than most artists do with full color. Endlessly creative, not a thing repeated. He did clothing ads, book covers and children's books mostly, but Vallely did Bible stories too. Why doesn't that surprise me? Big Little Books seem to have paid most of his bills.
Now for the biography! THERE ISN'T ONE. Not only unfamiliar and unrecognized today, the ASK ART website indicates there are NO biographical sketches to speak of. According to The Vallely Archives blog, he passed away in 1950…but even that source stopped seven years ago. No Wiki entry. Nothing. It pisses me off, and here I am doing it for free. What the hell ARE Phd. candidates in the arts writing about for their dissertations anyway? Effing BANKSY?
All illustrations by Henry E. Vallely from In The Name Of The Law 1937
Above Text by Jim Linderman
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