Chicago (?): Blue Ribbon/Pleasure Books (?), ca. 1935. Stiff card. Near fine. Item #20328 .
Two sheets of card joined by a paper spine enclosing a folded card sheet with a Pop-Up of Flash in a sword fight with Prince Barin. Pencil and ink with gouache and overlaid with a fixative. On the outer cover, in ink, is the number "3." and what appears to be a sketch of the Pop-Up mechanism. In pencil is the word "Proto type". The card enclosed has partially separated from the artwork showing what appear to be preliminary pencil sketches.
Blue Ribbon Books was founded in 1930. In 1932, a Blue Ribbon executive, Eugene Reynal, took an idea that had been successful in England and introduced it into the US as Pop-Up books. The Pop-Ups were created by Harold B. Lentz. According to Publisher's Weekly, Lentz made copy after copy until he was satisfied that the finished books would permit constant opening and closing without crushing the folded pieces and destroying those that did not.
In late 1934 and early 1935, Alex Raymond, the inventor and illustrator of Flash Gordon, published a Flash Gordon series titled The Tournament of Mongo. This tale has Flash enduring one deadly contest after another. Finally, on February 17, 1935, Flash and a masked swordsman, later discovered to be Prince Barin, engage in the Dance of the Poisoned Daggers. This story line was taken up in the Blue Ribbon/Pleasure Books Pop-Up book, The Tournament of Death, published in 1935. This original artwork is based on that episode, just after Flash unmasks Barin.
The artwork is unsigned, but then neither are the three Pop-ups in the Blue Ribbon title nor is an illustrator credited beyond Alex Raymond. Based on our research, we believe this was intended as one of the Pop-Ups but replaced by the Banquet Scene; in the alternative, the Blue Ribbon book could have been planned for more than three Pop-Ups, and this would have been one of them. Because it is unsigned, we cannot state that it was actually done by Alex Raymond (unlikely) or Harold Lentz (likely), but surely must have been done under supervision by or license from either or both. We welcome any information collectors may have regarding this piece.
The artwork is age-toned but in fine condition with the Pop-Up mechanism well preserved. The outer spine has partially split, but is firm and as mentioned, there is a partial separation of the pieces, but they are still firmly attached. Unique.