Everybody’s Friend: Remembering Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo’s “My Friend Irma”

While the My Friend Irma comic books are pretty easy to find, though getting tougher and pricier, the newspaper strip has remained pretty much unseen, even among DeCarlo’s biggest fans. I was lucky enough to stumble across a one-month run of dailies a few years back, and these strips are the only ones I or other DeCarlo fans I know had ever seen.

The strip couldn’t have been in many papers in its later days, but perhaps more survive. And was there a Sunday Irma? A friend of mine asked Lee himself recently, and he couldn’t even remember having done the strip version. I asked DeCarlo before he died in 2001, and he couldn’t remember if a Sunday version had been syndicated or not. If any Hogan’s Alley readers have further information or material, please contact us.

irmaDespite the unanswered questions, here is a truly rare strip by two of comics’ greats—a glimpse of a now largely forgotten pop culture phenomenon.—Andrew Pepoy

Andrew Pepoy has drawn the Little Orphan Annie newspaper strip and currently works on comic books including Jack of Fables for DC Comics and Futurama for Bongo Comics. His website is pepoy.com.

Note: For those interested in more about Marie Wilson, the author recommends Charles Tranberg’s Not So Dumb: The Life and Career of Marie Wilson by Charles Tranberg, published in 2007 by Bear Manor Media. For more on My Friend Irma, many of the radio shows survive and can be found through various old-time radio show dealers such as www.otrcat.com. The television series, being done live, is almost entirely lost, and only three episodes are known to have survived as kinescopes, though a short bit with the Irma cast can be found on “Stars in the Air,” a 1952 special celebrating the opening of Television City in Hollywood and available at www.otrdvd.com. The two movies, conveniently, were recently release as a double-feature DVD by Paramount.

Bonus: What About Willie?

Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo also collaborated on the Willie Lumpkin newspaper strip, which began and ended in 1960. (Willie later gained comics immortality a few years later when Lee reincarnated him as the Fantastic Four’s affable mailman.) We are pleased to present a sampling of this little-seen strip (click the thumbnails to see enlargements).

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