Marvel Mystery Monday: Little Lizzie, from copyright infringing to copyright bending

Like other companies in the years between the Golden Age of super-heroes and their revival in the Silver Age, Marvel tried any number of other genres, from westerns to romance to science-fiction. In some areas, particularly the westerns and sci-fi comics, Marvel’s creators excelled far beyond many of their competitors (in quality, if not sales figures), but they weren’t quite as original with some of the also-ran genres.

Take Little Lizzie, for example, she sure seems familiar, and it’s not nice to imitate someone with a lot of friends.

Background:

Little Lizzie was one of many humor mags Marvel was trying out. Mind you, this wasn’t the Marvel Comics we know today, but publisher Martin Goodman tried several names out before Marvel finally stuck, and when Little Lizzie premiered in 1949, the company was called “Marvel.”

Not that this little innovation made much of a difference, seeing as the comic was visually ripped off of the very popular (and still recognizable) Little Lulu. LL even had a chubby boyfriend/rival, though Marvel’s version was a money-grubbing tightwad named Stingy MacDingy (that’s din-gee, not ding-ee). And the similarities didn’t end there.

The series was cancelled after only five Stan Lee and David Gantz-created issues, but Goodman’s people tried again in 1953 with a new company called Atlas Comics and a new Little Lizzie series by Howie Post. This one was still very familiar (as we’ll see in a moment), but at least Lizzie looked a lot less like Lulu by this point. She lasted for three issues.

The story:

In the original series, Little Lizzie spent most of her time with Stingy MacDingy, the stingiest boy in town (get it?), either trying to win his affection monetarily or trying to one-up him. She was a smart kid, but not above needing an angel on her shoulder to look after her.

Gee, that sounds familiar…

Anyway, she and her mom and popsie kept busy with the usual little kid antics, even tying up baby Oswald Lumpkin when she was hired to babysit the poor tike (despite calling Oswald’s mother “Mrs. Lumpkin,” it seems Lizzie’s dad is referred to as “Mr. Lumpkin” in a later issue, and “Lizzie Lumpkin” does have a ring to it).

The later series seems to star the same girl with the same parents, but she’s gone from black-haired to redheaded and the chubby kid she hangs out with is Oscar (who’s pretty grouchy), along with a whiz-kid named Benny and a younger kid named Pee Wee Plunkett.

There’s a lot more variety in these comics, with less repetition (no more “stingy” jokes) and less obvious “homages” to Little Lulu, but like Lulu, Lizzie babysits the younger blond boy.

Lizzie also seems a lot craftier than she used to be, not just tricking the boys out of all their money (and playing a piano cross-handed while doing it), but Gazeebo the gorilla as well!

Abilities:

Black-haired or red, Lizzie is one smart cookie, and pretty entrepreneurial too, as every scheme she came up with earned her enough for at least an ice cream!

Why hasn’t the character shown up again?

As usual, Marvel’s humor characters have been left in the dust…

How could the character be brought back?

… but there’s hope! Whether Lizzie is a member of the Lumpkin family or simply knew them growing up, it seems a sure bet she’s related to Willie Lumpkin by now!

Lumpkin was one of those names Stan Lee liked to throw around a lot (like Forbush), so Willie has a pretty good-sized extended family. And if they are related, we’ll know where good-looking red-head genes come from!

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