So you'd like to...

read old newspaper comic strips

A guide by Thelonious "music, philosophy and math" (West Coast, USA)

Products sampled from this guide:
The American newspaper comic strip is in many ways a unique and fascinating medium. Much fine work has been produced in this form over the years and it is a genre well worth exploring. Here are some places to start.


The Essential Collections
Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics is probably the best single collection out there. Blackbeard and Williams did a fine job collecting and introducing and the reproductions are excellent. The collection covers the 1890's through 1950's well with only a smattering of later strips. This is the best place to start for a general overview. It includes a good sampling of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Polly and Her Pals as well as a healthy selection of Popeye, Alley-Oop and Gasoline Alley (including a wonderful tour through modern art "from the inside"). (Tip: search on "Smithsonian Newspaper Comics" as there are several editions out there which may be cheaper)

They followed up with "The Comic Strip Century" which has been reprinted as 100 Years of Comic Strips with a rather garish and ugly cover. As it's a follow-up to the Smithsonian volume above, there is no overlap and makes a great supplement - it's all the stuff they couldn't fit into the other book, but wanted to.

Brian Walker's two collections The Comics: Before 1945 and The Comics: Since 1945 (now available in a single volume The Comics: The Complete Collection) offer generous helpings of comics and some decent commentary. A minor theme throughout these two books is strips that relate to the comics medium itself, such as a Family Circus strip in which Grandma recalls the comic characters of her youth (Happy Hooligan, Krazy Kat, Mutt and Jeff, etc.) while Billy is thinking of modern strips (Peanuts, Garfield, etc.). This gives these books added depth in that the comics are commenting on each other and their place in our lives. There is very little overlap with the volumes above and the choice of strips is very fine. Being more interested in the earlier strips, I have a greater fondness for The Comics: Before 1945, but that's just me.


History with reprints
America's Great Comic-Strip Artists: From the Yellow Kid to Peanuts is a very good introduction to a number of the major comic-strip artists with bios and a little analysis. Perhaps a bit light on reprints for my taste, but well worth checking out. Richard Marschall is a name to trust.

Masters of American Comics is a lovely book focusing on a handful of artists and reprinting a good deal of work. The text (essays by a number of different authors) varies greatly in quality. This book accompanies a museum exhibition designed to elevate these artists into the canon of fine art.

Children of the Yellow Kid: The Evolution of the American Comic Strip is another exhibition catalog that contains many reprints. Worth checking out.

The comics: An illustrated history of comic strip art was disappointing. The reproduction is mediocre, the choice of strips is iffy and the you get too few examples of each strip. Hopefully the revised edition The Comics: An Illustrated History Of Comic Strip Art (due out soon) will be better, but I'm not holding my breath.


Single Strip Collections
I can't list everything here, so I'll just list some of my favorites and things I consider essential.

Krazy Kat - My favorite, my son's favorite, the critic's favorite - you can't get away from Herriman's Krazy Kat. Admittedly some people just don't get it. It's oblique, strange, nonsensical and repetetive. Even when it appears to be plot-driven, it usually isn't. Personally, I find that in reading Krazy Kat, it takes me four or five strips to get into the rhythm and to re-enter Coconino County, but once I'm there the joys are plentiful. There is something about Herriman's seemingly endless variations on the "mouse-hits-cat-with-brick-and-gets-thrown-in-jail-by-dog" theme that gives these strips a timeless quality (and one can see a modern equivalent in Chris Ware's work - it's no coincidence that he's designing the covers for Fantagraphics). Fantagraphics has reprinted all the Sunday strips starting with Krazy & Ignatz 1925-1926: "There Is a Heppy Lend Fur Fur Awa-a-ay" (Krazy & Ignatz) and continuing. The color strips start with Krazy & Ignatz: Komplete 1935-1936 A Wild Warmth of Chromatic Gravy. This series picked up where the old Turtle Island/Eclipse series left off Geo. Herriman's Krazy and Ignatz: The Komplete Kat Komics, Vol. 1, 1916 and now they've gone back and reprinted the early years as well, so the entire run of Krazy Kat is currently available. You can get some collections of the Krazy Kat daily strips like this one Krazy & Ignatz, The Dailies. Vol 1. 1918 -1919 and others (search the internet for the Pacific Comics Club series) but they are of less interest than the Sunday strips. A good overview and bio is also available: Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman which reprints lots of strips (Sunday and daily) from across many years.

Winsor McCay - Of course, his triumph is Little Nemo: 1905-1914 (Evergreen) (and search for other reprints as they come and go - e.g. Little Nemo in the Palace of Ice and Further Adventures). Graphically stunning and filled with extraordinary dream-logic that is quite compelling, this is one of the all-time masterpieces of comics. Not to be missed, however, is Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend (Dover Humor) which is geared more towards adults and features some interestingly Freudian insights, though this Dover reprint only scratches the surface of this beautiful strip. Even better, if you can afford it is The Complete Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (1904-1913) - a truly marvelous book and the edition we Rarebit Fiends have been waiting for - huge reprints of much of the strip (and the complete surviving strip on CD-ROM) with lots of great supplementary material. Failing that you could try Dream Of The Rarebit Fiend: The Saturdays as well - more affordable, but Checker's quality is generally not too good. As a supplement to that, there's Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (Definitive Volume) which is shoddily reproduced but cheap. A nice cross-section of McCay's non-Nemo work can also be found in the excellent Daydreams and Nightmares: The Fantastic Visions of WInsor McCay, 1898-1934 - a stunning large-format book that reprints a wealth of material. See also Winsor McCay : His Life and Art which reprints lots of good stuff. Also available, but really only for completists like myself is the series that begins here Winsor McCay: Early Works, Vol. 1 (Early Works). The reproduction in this series is fair to poor and most pieces have been so reduced in size that they are hard to read. Nevertheless, it includes much material not available elsewhere - much of it wonderful.

Polly and her Pals - If you can find The Complete Color Polly and Her Pals, Vol. 1: The Surrealist Period, 1926-1927 or The Complete Color Polly & Her Pals, Series 1, Vol 2: 1927-1929 snap them up!. This is a very amusing and often surreal strip from the 1920's and 30's. Sterrett was clearly influenced by modernist trends in art (e.g. cubism) and incorporated them into his strips. There are a few items reproduced in the compilations above but they'll only whet your appetite for more. Now reprinted Polly and Her Pals: Complete Sunday Comics 1913-1927 (Polly & Her Pals)

Gasoline Alley - a very sweet and gentle strip currently being reprinted in Walt and Skeezix: Book One, 1921 & 1922 (Walt & Skeezix) (Bk. 1) and subsequent volumes. This is an extremely long-form "graphic novel" telling the life stories of its characters over decades. The notable feature of the strip is that the characters aged in real time so that the baby Skeezix becomes a boy, a teen, a young man, an adult as Walt moves from young adult into middle-age and beyond. The Sunday strips were generally not part of the continuing story line and often emphasized graphic artistry. Drawn & Quarterly (Volume 3) has some wonderful Gasoline Alley Sunday pages. Really some very fine stuff with innovative art.

And there are many many more out there (more coming out all the time). Don't forget Maggie and Jiggs Jiggs Is Back and Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea or Pogo, Vol 2 or Popeye, Vol. 1: I Yam What I Yam

And of course, the medium didn't die after 1950. There's Peanuts: A Golden Celebration: The Art and the Story of the World's Best-Loved Comic Strip and Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace 1951-1952 (Vol. 1) (Dennis the Menace) as well as The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994.

One should not neglect magazine cartoons such as Cartoons of the Roaring Twenties and Cartoons of the Roaring Twenties: 1923-1925 as well as The World of Chas Addams and The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker and The Best of Gahan Wilson or Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons (Three-Book Slipcased Set) or Nuts

Products mentioned include:
The Essential Collections
1.  Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics  by Smithsonian Institution
Used & New from: $1.75
5.0 out of 5 stars   (5)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
2.  100 Years of Comic Strips  by Bill; Crain, Dale; Vance, James, Editors Blackbeard
Used & New from: $10.99
5.0 out of 5 stars   (2)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
3.  The Comics: Before 1945  by Brian Walker
$45.00 Used & New from: $3.74
4.5 out of 5 stars   (6)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
4.  The Comics: Since 1945  by Brian Walker
Used & New from: $0.26
4.7 out of 5 stars   (13)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
5.  The Comics: The Complete Collection  by Brian Walker
$29.17 Used & New from: $9.33
5.0 out of 5 stars   (15) | 1 customer discussion
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
6.  The Comics: Before 1945  by Brian Walker
$45.00 Used & New from: $3.74
4.5 out of 5 stars   (6)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
History with reprints
7.  America's Great Comic-Strip Artists: From the Yellow Kid to Peanuts  by Richard Marschall
Used & New from: $0.01
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
8.  Masters of American Comics  by Paul Karasik
Used & New from: $4.91
3.9 out of 5 stars   (13)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
9.  Children of the Yellow Kid: The Evolution of the American Comic Strip  by Robert C. Harvey
Used & New from: $3.41
4.3 out of 5 stars   (3)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
10.  The comics: An illustrated history of comic strip art  by Jerry Robinson
Used & New from: $0.29
5.0 out of 5 stars   (3)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
11.  The Comics: An Illustrated History Of Comic Strip Art  by Jerry Robinson
Used & New from: $46.00
5.0 out of 5 stars   (3)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
Single Strip Collections
12.  Krazy & Ignatz 1925-1926: "There Is a Heppy Lend Fur Fur Awa-a-ay" (Krazy & Ignatz)  by George Herriman
$15.90 Used & New from: $5.00
4.8 out of 5 stars   (13)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
13.  Krazy & Ignatz: Komplete 1935-1936 A Wild Warmth of Chromatic Gravy  by George Herriman
Used & New from: $6.72
4.9 out of 5 stars   (9)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
14.  Geo. Herriman's Krazy and Ignatz: The Komplete Kat Komics, Vol. 1, 1916  by George Herriman
Used & New from: $3.00
5.0 out of 5 stars   (1)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
15.  Krazy & Ignatz, The Dailies. Vol 1. 1918 -1919  by George Herriman
Used & New from: $200.00
4.8 out of 5 stars   (5)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
16.  Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman  by George Herriman
Used & New from: $8.83
4.9 out of 5 stars   (17)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
17.  Little Nemo: 1905-1914 (Evergreen)  by Winsor McCay
Used & New from: $49.42
4.4 out of 5 stars   (17)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
18.  Little Nemo in the Palace of Ice and Further Adventures  by Winsor McCay
Used & New from: $8.78
4.1 out of 5 stars   (7)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
19.  Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend (Dover Humor)  by Winsor McCay
$9.73 Used & New from: $0.15
4.7 out of 5 stars   (9)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
20.  The Complete Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (1904-1913)  by Ed.) Winsor McCay; (Ulrich Merkl
Used & New from: $899.99
5.0 out of 5 stars   (2)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
21.  Dream Of The Rarebit Fiend: The Saturdays  by Winsor McCay
$17.00 Used & New from: $2.36
3.7 out of 5 stars   (6)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
22.  Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (Definitive Volume)  by Winsor McCay
$16.59
3.7 out of 5 stars   (6)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
23.  Daydreams and Nightmares: The Fantastic Visions of WInsor McCay, 1898-1934  by Winsor McCay
Used & New from: $17.50
4.3 out of 5 stars   (3) | 1 customer discussion
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
24.  Winsor McCay : His Life and Art  by John Canemaker
Used & New from: $54.33
4.6 out of 5 stars   (8)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
25.  Winsor McCay: Early Works, Vol. 1 (Early Works)  by Winsor McCay
$16.97 Used & New from: $0.70
4.2 out of 5 stars   (5)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
26.  The Complete Color Polly and Her Pals, Vol. 1: The Surrealist Period, 1926-1927  by Cliff Sterrett
Used & New from: $15.66
5.0 out of 5 stars   (2)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
27.  The Complete Color Polly & Her Pals, Series 1, Vol 2: 1927-1929  by Cliff Sterrett
Used & New from: $34.99
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
28.  Polly and Her Pals: Complete Sunday Comics 1913-1927 (Polly & Her Pals)  by Cliff Sterrett
$50.03 Used & New from: $44.99
5.0 out of 5 stars   (8)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
29.  Walt and Skeezix: Book One, 1921 & 1922 (Walt & Skeezix) (Bk. 1)  by Frank King
$24.63 Used & New from: $6.45
4.7 out of 5 stars   (26)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
30.  Drawn & Quarterly (Volume 3)  by Chris Oliveros
Used & New from: $3.99
4.5 out of 5 stars   (2)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
31.  Jiggs Is Back  by George McManus
Used & New from: $2.33
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
32.  Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea  by Bruce Canwell
$39.36 Used & New from: $18.38
4.7 out of 5 stars   (7) | 1 customer discussion
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
33.  Pogo, Vol 2  by Mrs Walt Kelly
Used & New from: $2.61
3.7 out of 5 stars   (9)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
34.  Popeye, Vol. 1: I Yam What I Yam  by E. C. Segar
$21.85 Used & New from: $9.36
4.9 out of 5 stars   (33)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
35.  Peanuts: A Golden Celebration: The Art and the Story of the World's Best-Loved Comic Strip  by Charles M. Schulz
Used & New from: $0.01
4.7 out of 5 stars   (53)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
36.  Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace 1951-1952 (Vol. 1) (Dennis the Menace)  by Hank Ketcham
$22.45 Used & New from: $1.29
4.7 out of 5 stars   (11)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
37.  The Complete Calvin and Hobbes [Box set]  by Bill Watterson
Used & New from: $66.44
4.8 out of 5 stars   (917) | 22 customer discussions
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
38.  The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994 [Box set]  by Gary Larson
Used & New from: $115.50
4.8 out of 5 stars   (367) | 15 customer discussions
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
39.  Cartoons of the Roaring Twenties  by R. C. Harvey
Used & New from: $7.94
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
40.  Cartoons of the Roaring Twenties: 1923-1925  by R. C. Harvey
Used & New from: $3.37
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
41.  The World of Chas Addams  by Charles Addams
Used & New from: $3.98
4.9 out of 5 stars   (24)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
42.  The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker  by Robert Mankoff
Used & New from: $1.55
4.3 out of 5 stars   (115)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
43.  The Best of Gahan Wilson  by Gahan Wilson
Used & New from: $0.97
4.4 out of 5 stars   (14)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
44.  Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons (Three-Book Slipcased Set)  by Gahan Wilson
$52.94 Used & New from: $42.34
4.8 out of 5 stars   (20)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
45.  Nuts  by Gahan Wilson
$15.82 Used & New from: $0.01
4.4 out of 5 stars   (11)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist

More Actions

Discover more about this author
 See all of their So You'd Like to...guides
Make your own guide
 Create a So You'd Like to...guide
View your page on Amazon.com
 Go to Your Profile page

Customer Discussions about products in this guide
Discussion Replies Latest Post
Are there any differences 0 Dec 11, 2011
 
   

About this Guide

 

Author

Thelonious "music, philosophy and math" (West Coast, USA)
Qualifications: longtime Coconino County resident
Last updated: 10/19/12
Report abuse
    

More So You'd Like to...

 

   

More Listmania!

 

25 Books for Visual Journalists 25 Books for Visual Journalists

25 Books for Visual Journalists: A list of 22 items by Richard Hernandez "Koci"

Can't Believe I Haven't Read These Yet Can't Believe I Haven't Read These Yet

Can't Believe I Haven't Read These Yet: A list of 10 items by Art Turner

Academics Versus Superheroes Academics Versus Superheroes

Academics Versus Superheroes: A list of 40 items by Cheese Steak Jimmy

Visual Thinking Visual Thinking

Visual Thinking: A list of 19 items by Laurence E Musgrove

Interdisciplinary Brain Melting Interdisciplinary Brain Melting

Interdisciplinary Brain Melting: A list of 9 items by M. Fox