STANLEY AND HIS MONSTERMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1965
Creators: Arnold Drake (writer) and Winslow Mortimer (artist)
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Stanley & His Monster is a little like the work of Charles Addams, where creepy, fantastic things
occupy ordinary niches in an ordinary neighborhood. And it's a little like Calvin & Hobbes, where a boy keeps company with a marvelous being, the very existence of which is unknown by any of his more worldly associates. Its most direct antecedent in comics is probably Crockett Johnson's Barnaby, where parents repeatedly interact with their son's supernatural friend even while denying the possibility of that being's existence. But it's not really quite like any of those.
Stanley Dover (a 6-year-old with a lisp that some readers found endearing, others annoying) chased a ball into a sewer, and found a humongous monster with big, ugly tusks. The monster wasn't lurking, but hiding — he'd been chased away from practically every place in the world at one time or another during his 3,000-year existence, merely because he was scary — when in fact he found other denizens of the world far more fearsome than they found him. The monster (later named Spot, or as Stanley put it, "Thpot") convinced Stanley he was a dog, so he could move out of the sewer into a nice, comfortable house. Later a leprechaun, a dwarf and a ghost who claimed he was Napoleon were added to the cast. Stanley's mom and dad never suspected, of course, despite the fact that they presided over a household in which weirdos outnumbered human beings.
The feature debuted in the 95th issue of DC Comics' The Fox & the Crow (Dec-Jan 1965-66). Unlike other series which had shared that comic with its title characters over the years, such as "The Hounds & the Hare" and "Brat Finks", this one started off in the lead position. Apparently, it was intended from the beginning as a replacement for the title's venerable stars, who had been appearing regularly in DC comic books since the company licensed them from Columbia Pictures, 20 years earlier. Circulation had been dropping, so it made sense for DC to ease the licensed stars out, while bringing in new ones they wouldn't have to pay royalties on.
And in fact, DC did ease The Fox & the Crow out of their own comic, and install Stanley & His Monster as its new stars. Within a few issues, the two features were sharing the covers, and the newer one got a little bit more space. By the end of its second year, the older one was crowded completely off. With the 109th issue (Apr-May, 1968), the title of the comic was changed to Stanley & His Monster, and The Fox & the Crow were never seen again. This triumph did not, however, last, as issue #112 (Oct-Nov, 1968) was the final one.
In 1993, DC, as part of its relentless drive to show that nothing is so innocent and whimsical that it can't be made grim'n'gritty, brought Stanley & His Monster back as a four-issue mini-series. Here, it was revealed that Thpot is actually a demon, banished from Hell for his lamentable urge to do good. It also tied him in with other aspects of the DC Universe, in which a revolution had recently taken place in that locale, and established that Hell now wants him back.
Very '90s-style stuff — but not nearly as memorable as the original series. The real Stanley & His Monster will always be the short-lived 1960s version by Arnold Drake and Winslow Mortimer.