Thursday, September 9, 2010


It’s a veritable renaissance, you fools!!! Take advantage of it while you can!!!

For much of the 20th Century, the American newspaper comic strip was an important part of our culture. During the heyday of the art form, strips were printed much bigger than they are now. On Sunday, each strip would get a full page or half-page on sheets that were already bigger than what we get today. Plenty of room for beautiful and detailed art work. Plenty of room for dialogue to help move along often complex plots and establish fascinating characters.

Today, modern strips (and there are a number of good ones) can’t reach the same level of magnificence because they’ve been shrunk, chopped up and (on Sunday) squeezed down to five or six strips per page. Innovative panel design such as was seen in Captain Easy or Prince Valiant Sunday strips are gone, since strips must use standard panel sizes so they can be more easily shoved into their sixth of a page.

But we’re in a Golden age nonetheless, because several different publishers are currently reprinting the classic strips in beautiful volumes.

We’ve got the Complete Terry and the Pirates, by Milt Caniff.

We’ve got the first 15 years of Dick Tracy, by Chester Gould, with more to come.

We’ve got the Phantom, by Lee Falk; Captain Easy, by Roy Crane; Prince Valiant, by Hal Foster; all coming out in formats large enough to properly show off the art work. And it’s often breathtaking art work. That’s not an exaggeration. I was just reading volume 2 of Prince Valiant. Several of Foster’s beautifully illustrated panels literally made me gasp when I looked at them.

There’s also Little Orphan Annie, by Harold Gould; Alex Raymond’s Rip Kirby; and Gasoline Alley, by Frank King. E.C. Segar’s complete run of original Popeye strips are four-sixths published, with the rest coming soon. And about half of a planned 25 volumes reprinting all 50 years of Peanuts is out. Hank Ketchum’s Dennis the Menace is running amok again in reprint volumes.

Run out and sell your car, your TV and your children so you can buy all these volumes. Well, maybe not your children, because you’ll want to share these with them. Sell your annoying second cousin Eustace to the nearest Arab slave dealer and use these funds to buy comic strip reprints.

Actually, slave-trading aside, it’s an often painful decision for those of us who aren’t wealthy (and don’t have room on our shelves for everything) to decide what to get and what not to get. But I work in an art college library, so I can at least make sure I have access to a lot of this stuff via that route.

And that may be a route for you to take as well. For instance, all six volumes of Terry and the Pirates (the best adventure strip ever) can run up to quite a bit of money even with online discounts. If you can buy them yourself, you won’t be sorry--they are a perfect synergy of art and writing, telling stories you'll be happy to revisit over and over again.. But they’re also worthy additions to your public library. So if you can’t buy them yourself (though, really, would anyone actually miss cousin Eustace?), there is the option of requesting that your library get them.

While you’re at it, request that they add my books to their collection as well, would you? Heck, being able to read the greatest comic strips ever plus my prose? We really are in a Golden Age, aren’t we?


  1. Wish they'd get busy and do Alley Oop!

  2. That would be nice. I don't think anyone has ever done a chronological reprint of Alley Oop before. (Not totally sure of that, but even if there was one once, it's long out of print.)


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