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September 20, 2014

Big Little Books (BLB) have had a tremendous appeal to collectors since they first appeared featuring the likes of Buck Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Dick Tracy, Orphan Annie, The Phantom, Donald Duck, and so many others. In the course of this column, we’ll take you through a selection of them and explore some of the many nuances to collecting BLBs. You can mouse over the photos for the captions or click the photos to see them larger.

One of the most recognizable creations in pop culture history and the unmistakable corporate symbol of the vast Disney entertainment empire, Mickey Mouse was crafted as a replacement for Oswald the Rabbit and debuted as the first animated cartoon character to appear with synchronized sound in 1928’s Steamboat Willie. Initially called Mortimer Mouse by his creator, Walt Disney, Mickey was voiced by Disney and animated by Ub Iwerks.

A legend was born, and over the next 25 years, Disney produced about 120 Mickey Mouse adventures also starring supporting characters such as Minnie Mouse, Pluto the Pup, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Clarabelle Cow. In newspapers, Mickey Mouse began a hugely successful comic strip run with daily installments starting in 1930 and Sunday strips beginning two years later. Beginning in early 1931 and for the next 45 years, Mickey’s comic strip exploits were largely shaped single-handedly by Floyd Gottfredson. 1930 saw the release of the first Mickey book published by Bibo and Lang, and many more books, magazines, and reprint collections were on the way.

Mickey and friends invaded radio in 1938, but it was television that would prove to be Mickey’s next big conquest.

NOTE:The earliest known Mickey Mouse flip-book, a Moviescope Corp. publication assumed to be from about 1932 and designated “Series A” with 50 stapled pages at 1 3/4” by 2 1/2”, Mickey Mouse (In actual Motion Pictures), is not pictured here.

After appearing in film, comic strips and radio, Mickey Mouse would head for comic books and then for television. If he was a sensation before he got to TV, he was a star of a whole new level when kids could tune in on TV after school.

Debuting in 1955 and continuing off and on for the next two decades, The Mickey Mouse Club quickly became the most popular afternoon children’s network television series ever, and introduced the “Mouseketeers” to the American viewing public. The series progressed through several incarnations, with a number of famous cast members, from ‘50s Mouseketeers Annette Funicello and Cubby O’Brien to more recent soon-to-be-superstar players Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.

In 1995, Mickey made a long overdue return to theaters with his first cartoon short feature in over 40 years, Runaway Brain, and merchandising continues unabated.

Disney, ever good stewards of their characters, frequently updates the character to (re)introduce him to whole new generations.

NOTE:1948’s hardcover, Walt Disney’s Mickey and the Beanstalk (Whitman #804), is not pictured here.

If you’d like to know more about Big Little Books, check out The Big Big Little Book Book – An Overstreet Photo-Journal, which is an amazing compendium of information and images about Big Little Books and other publications associated with the form. It’s full color, 272 pages, and it’s packed with the history of these little classics. And it’s only $19.95!

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