We are living in a Golden Age of Comic Strip reprints, and once a month or so, we’re going to shine the Cool Comics Spotlight on some of these nifty collections of some of the greatest comic strips from the heyday of the daily printed page. This week we’re going to tell you about some ambitious long-term series.
First up we have The Complete Peanuts by Charles Schulz. The most successful newspaper strip in the world, beloved by hundreds of millions of fans, and merchandised out the wazoo, Peanuts is getting a long-overdue archive treatment from Fantagraphics Books.
Quoting Fantagraphics here: “50 Years of Art. 25 Books. Two books per year for 12 1/2 years. Fantagraphics Books is proud to present the most eagerly-awaited and ambitious publishing project in the history of the American comic strip: the complete reprinting of CHARLES M. SCHULZ’s classic, PEANUTS. Considered to be one of the most popular comic strips in the history of the world, PEANUTS will be, for the first time, collected in its entirety.
“Each volume in the series runs approximately 320 pages in a 8” x 6 1/2” hardcover format, presenting two complete years of strips along with supplementary material. The series, whose magnificent, Eisner Award-winning design is by the cartoonist SETH, will present the entire run in chronological order, dailies and Sundays.”
This is a beautiful series. The books are compact, but the strips are reproduced large enough for older eyes to enjoy. The design by SETH is classy. This collection, which recently passed the half-way mark in presenting the entire run of Peanuts strips, sets a standard for all other reprints of classic comic strips to live up to.
You can find these at Amazon, or order them through our friends at Taylor Books on Capitol Street. In fact, every book we mention in today’s column can be purchased that way.
Created by Frank King in 1919, and still running today, Gasoline Alley was notable as the first comic strip where the characters aged in real time. While originally a light-hearted satire of the early days of garage culture, the strip mutated into a family drama, almost bordering on soap opera, in 1921, when the main character, mechanic Walt Wallet, found an abandoned baby on his doorstep. The thrust of the strip then became Walt and Skeezix, his adopted child.
The characters, as I mentioned, have aged in real time. Walt recently celebrated his 110th birthday, while Skeezix is in his 80s. New generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren populate the strip, but the main characters are still present.
Drawn & Quarterly have begun the daunting task of reprinting this 92-year-old comic strip from day one with Walt And Skeezix. You can see a PDF preview here. The series is edited and designed by award-winning cartoonist, Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid On Earth).
Gasoline Alley is wonderfully-crafted by the under-appreciated Frank King. This series set the standard for serial entertainment that was followed by other comic strips, radio and television for decades. The fifth volume of Walt and Skeezix will be released this spring.
I’ve mentioned this series before, as a pick in the PopCult Gift Guide, but it’s worth noting again because Dick Tracy was one of the most popular adventure comic strips during the golden age of the newspaper comic strip, plus it’s one of my favorites.
IDW Publishing is reprinting the Dick Tracy comic strip from the very first of Chester Gould’s classic strips from 1931. The volumes are introduced by Max Allan Collins, who spent several years writing Dick Tracy while gaining fame as a mystery novelist and the creator of “Road To Perdition.”
We check in with IDW’s publicity notes: “Finally, the story that changed how readers perceived the “funny pages” is brought together in a manner worthy of the deep admiration felt by fans the world over. IDW Publishing is proud to present a deluxe hardcover series collectiing Chester Gould’s timeless comic strip, Dick Tracy.
“When Gould began Tracy, he saw his strip as a place where morality, headlines and the family could come together for the sake of entertainment. And now, 75 years after the first Tracy strips, IDW re-presents Gould’s massive body of work in its entirety.”
I love this series. The books reprint the original strips two-per-page, large enough for easy reading. We get the Sunday strips, minus color, reduced to a single page, but they serve the purpose well. The early volumes show Gould developing his style and growing into a master story-teller. IDW has recently gotten into the cream of the crop of the Dick Tracy series, reprinting the classic strips featuring grotesque villains like Flattop, Pruneface and The Mole.
With the eleventh volume of The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy scheduled for release soon, this is proving to be one of the most entertaining reads in comics today, even if it was written and drawn well over half-a-century ago.
An extra PopCult bit of bonus info and a tip of the hat to our Facebook friend, Joe Staton, who observed a birthday today by announcing that, starting March 13, he will be the new artist on the current Dick Tracy comic strip. Mike Curtis will be writing the strip, as Dick Locher, the Dick Tracy artist for the last thirty years, retires at age 81.
I’ve been a fan of Joe Staton since his work on “E-Man” for Charlton Comics 36 years ago, and I’ve followed his work since as he drew Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, The Justice Society, The Metal Men and countless others for DC Comics, and more recently I’ve enjoyed his cartooning on Scooby Doo and Archie. According to Joe, “I’ve only been wanting to do this since I was three years old.”