Found in the Collection: The Tall Circus

As esteemed comics librarians, we here at the Cartoon Library pride ourselves in our ability to share our knowledge with the greater blogosphere by highlighting bits and pieces of comics history. However, occasionally we come across a page of comics or a single cartoon in a collection that is so striking (and hilarious) outside of the context of a larger work, that we cant help but want to show you and ask what you think.

Thus is the case with the image below, a single page from an unidentified comic by Paul Kirchner and Ralph Reese. Let’s call it The Tall Circus. A drum and brass band who appear incredibly tall as their shtick by wearing stilts, playing to their adoring audience of beatniks and hippies. As the crowd rushes at the end of their performance, all 5 band members simultaneously run into a tree branch (in true cartoon humor), revealing their actual modest height as the stilts fall away. The hippies in the background seem to transform instantly into an angry mob, until the band plays on and proves that they are indeed just as talented even when they are… less… tall.

Original art by Paul Kirchner and Ralph Reese. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

We love this page, and hope you will too. If any readers know what comic it is from, please share in the comments section!

Detail of original art by Paul Kirchner and Ralph Reese. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

-Caitlin McGurk


  1. The Tall Circus is a great name for a psychedelic rock band!

    Could that possibly be the same Paul Kirchner who did The Bus for Heavy Metal? I think it must be.


    • I think it is, Matt! But I can’t find reference to him working on anything like this. I’d love to read the whole thing. Or maybe it is better not to know.
      Ah, the mystery.


  2. OK, so maybe this is related. Short Circus was a band on The Electric Company:

    And The Electric Company apparently spun off into a comic series described here:

    “Spidey Super Stories: Short pieces featuring the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man and cast members from the show. Stories involved the web-masked super hero (Danny Seagren) foiling mischievous characters involved in petty criminal activities such as burglary or assault. Unlike the comic strip, Spidey was never seen out of costume as his alter-ego, Peter Parker, and he spoke via speech balloons that the home audience had to read. It debuted during Season Four and was the basis of a spin-off comic book, Spidey Super Stories, an easier-to-read comic that was produced by Marvel Comics from 1974 to 1981.”


    • We’ve got a WINNER! Jason, I think you nailed it- excellent detective work.
      …And we have 43 issues of Spidey Super Stories featuring the Electric Company here in the library to dig through.

      Now I’m thinking I should start regularly crowd-sourcing some of our more random treasures here on the blog.
      Thanks, Jason!

  3. There was also an ELECTRIC COMPANY magazine from the same folks (not Marvel) who produced SESAME STREET MAGAZINE, which I believe was the more likely venue. Note that the art isn’t proportional to comic book size, but magazine size. Also, the lettering is by Reese, rather that one of Marvel’s in-house letterers, and it isn’t relatively oversized. SPIDEY SUPER STORIES did feature black and white strips on the inside covers, but they weren’t generally done on Craftint board, to the best of my recollection.

    • Ah-ha! The plot thickens.
      Unfortunately, we don’t have any issues of Electric Company magazine in the library for me to dig through, though your observations make a lot of sense. It does seem like the Electric Company were only minor characters in the issues of Spidey Super Stories I’ve come across- there aren’t many pages that solely feature the band.

      A free specialized tour for you, should you ever visit the Cartoon Library!

  4. That was the second page of a two-page story that appeared in “Electric Company Magazine,” published by the Children’s Television Workshop.” The kids, called “The Short Circus,” were a regular feature and the story is titled “A Tall Story.” It appeared on pages 18-19 of the May 1974 issue. I have the magazine in my files.

    Ralph Reese and I did several jobs for Electric Company Magazine. He got the assignments, I penciled them, and then he tightened up my pencils and inked them. I assisted on the inking, ruling lines, filling in blacks, etc. He worked on a duo-tone board on which you could bring up a light or a dark screen tone depending on which of two chemicals you brushed on.

    • Fantastic! I’m honored that you’re reading the blog, Paul- it’s so delightful to have a piece identified by one of the creators himself.

      Thanks for all of the information. This will most definitely add some weight to the previously sparse catalog record.

  5. Hi,
    I work here at the BICML cataloging and its been brilliant to see the response to Caitlin’s post. We’ve updated the record and encourage readers of the blog to help us improve ANY records they may have more information about. Our art database is at
    Crowdsourcing is the way to go! Information from artists enhances what we do so much… thanks Paul and everyone!

  6. Oh man! How great to hear from the source. It was still fun digging around trying to identify the characters. And I’ll still lend my services if another mystery needs sleuthing.

    Onward and upward!

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