The Sugar and Spike Archives Volume 1
It’s difficult to review this series, because it’s been so desired for so long that I’m simply thrilled to finally get this reprint. Sheldon Mayer’s classic kids’ series features two toddlers, Sugar and Spike, who speak to each other in baby talk. While they can understand each other, the adults don’t know what they’re muttering about. Often, their conversation involves their amusing misinterpretation of how the grown-up world works. The result is hilarious comedy, beautifully and skillfully cartooned.
Bill Schelly’s introduction to this Archives volume nicely sums up high points of Mayer’s career and the genesis of the series. The kids were based on watching real babies, which is why their behavior seems so realistic, even though their world is so fantastic. They don’t understand the phone, calling it a “yak-yak box”, but they can figure out how to get the “angry lady” (operator) inside.
Their observations can be quite advanced, as when they psych out their parents’ motivations and how to avoid getting their attention so they can continue their schemes, like destroying the basement workshop. Or when their parents take them to the department store, they think getting lost will get them the toys they want.
One tale is particularly cute, when the babies discover they can talk to other babies, including animals. In this case, it’s a baby lobster, and the parents wind up puzzled how Sugar and Spike learned lobsters come from the water. Another awww-inducing story is the one where they wake up in the middle of the night and wind up recreating a typical day.
I’d only ever been able to read bits and pieces of this series before, so I had missed meeting Uncle Charley, a grown-up who gets kids much better than others of his age. I also hadn’t seen him standing in the corner along with Sugar and Spike when yet another play session goes wrong. Throughout this book, the kids face off with the vacuum cleaner and beach waves and monster nantys and mirrors and police officers. Some of the elements are reflective of the decade, the 1950s, when the stories were written (most obviously the gender roles), but much of the behavior is universal.
Also included are the many “pint size pin-ups” pages, where readers sent in outfits for the kids that are drawn as paper dolls. The first ten issues of Sugar and Spike are reprinted here, and although I wish they’d been made available more affordably (in a color paperback, not a $60 hardcover), reading them simply makes me happy. There are almost 90 more issues to collect, and I so very much hope this series continues so I may go on reading these happy-making comics. In the meantime, whenever I want to smile, I’ll just think “glx sptzl blx”.