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King of the Comics: One Hundred Years of King Features Syndicate Paperback – November 6, 2018
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Krazy Kat! Popeye! Flash Gordon! Beetle Bailey! Blondie! Prince Valiant! Hagar the Horrible! Barney Google and Snuffy Smith! Baby Blues! Mutt & Jeff! Zits! Juliet Jones! Buz Sawyer! Steve Canyon! Bizarro! Hi & Lois! Maggie & Jiggs! Johnny Hazard! There are simply too many to list!
This book is a centennial birthday bash hosted by Dean Mullaney, Bruce Canwell, and Brian Walker, with contributions by Brendan Burford, Lucy Shelton Caswell, Jared Gardner, Ron Goulart, Jeffrey Lindenblatt, Carl Linich, Paul Tumey, and Germund von Wowern. More than just comics, it's a celebration of the profound impact that King Features has had on popular culture!
From the earliest days when William Randolph Hearst first added cartoons to his newspapers, comic strips have had a profound impact on popular culture. With the consolidation of Hearst's various distribution channels in November 1915, King Features was born. A century later the world's largest syndicate leads the way in the 21st Century and beyond.
NOMINATED FOR TWO 2016 EISNER AWARDS: BEST COMICS-RELATED BOOK and BEST PUBLICATION DESIGN
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- Publisher : Library of American Comics; Reprint edition (November 6, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 308 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1684053390
- ISBN-13 : 978-1684053391
- Reading age : 14 - 17 years
- Item Weight : 13 ounces
- Dimensions : 9.31 x 0.89 x 12.06 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #745,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Anyway, what we want to know here is how’s about the book, huh? Well, as with every LOAC book, it’s beautifully designed and packed of information and a large selection of strips. Don’t worry, the biggies are here too. Samples of Popeye, Bringing up father, Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, Mandrake, The Phantom, Steve Canyon, Polly and her pals, the Katzenjammer Kids, Blondie, the Lone Ranger, Henry, Krazy Kat (phew), need I go on? King Features had the best strips, though getting all of them in a single book would be a daunting (if not impossible) task. Especially those form the early years, where strips could change in a couple of months or in the middle of their run. But we get the best known, and even some I had never heard of before like the surrealistic “The Squirrel Cage” by Gene Ahern (pre-dating Crumb’s Mr. Natural by more than three decades), the whimsical “Tippie” beautifully drawn by Edwina Dumm, and many toppers that haven’t been seen since, well, since they appeared in the papers back then.
Since this is the whole story of King Features, it does go up to our days, so we get also the modern strips, some that still exist these days (though it’s the older ones I was most interested in). So we get Hi and Lois, Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey, and more modern strips like Mutts, Zits, Shoe, etc. They are all here, folks, in a sturdy 300+ page hardcover book, printed on thick matt paper.
So far it’s a winner.
Now we get to the letdowns. Yawn, I’m kinda tired of saying this over and over again, but it’s still printed too small. Don’t get me wrong, the modern strips are even bigger than what they look like now in the papers, but the ones from the early years of the 20th century are sometimes impossible to read (I dare anyone to be able to read the daily strips of “Abie the Agent” the way they are printed here—I pulled out a magnifying glass and still couldn’t read ’em, as the letters are all smudged either from the bad printing, or the fact that they were reduced down so much). Back in the old days, these strips ran across all the paper, as broadsheets, five times larger than what you get here. I even have a suspicion that this book was meant to be printed at a larger size (maybe to one of their “champagne-sizes” as the Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim volumes), as even the accompanying text seems to be smaller than 9 pt. What gives? Did the publisher nix the idea, and say that it had to printed at a smaller size? I dunno, and really don’t care. It’s just that, fellas, it would’ve been so much cooler at a larger size (not only for us older readers, but so that the kids can see what they are missing today).
That said, I love this book, and though I received it a couple of days ago, haven’t finished reading it, but am already halfway through. If only some of the strips within weren’t printed so small that you can’t even read what’s inside the word balloons (and it gets tiring straining your eyes after a while).
By the way, didya notice that in the endpapers at the beginning of the book the Krazy Kat strip is printed twice?
Other than that, I recommend it, even to guys like me who own other similar books. Some strips we’ve already seen reproduced countless times, but there are many I hadn’t seen before.
This book has a different emphasis than _The Comics_ by Brian Walker or _The Comics_ by Jerry Robinson. This book is specifically an archival history of King Features Syndicate newspaper comic strips and related matters. It goes into deeper detail on certain specific comic-strip-related topics than the other two books. Some related promotional materials are pictured, such as posters or brochures advertising King Features strips to newspapers and the public. This book emphasizes earlier 20th century decades, when both newspaper comic strips in general and King Features ones in particular were at their most popular and influential.
Because this book is specifically about King Features, some of my all-time favorite comic strips are not covered. For example, you won't find any evidence of _B.C._ by Johnny Hart or _The Wizard of ID_ by Brant Parker and Hart, nor will you find any _Calvin and Hobbes_ strips by Bill Watterson. Despite this, just about every other popular or influential newspaper comic strip was carried by King Features at one time or another. Almost all the well-known comic strip greats are represented, often with more sample strips than can be found in either of the two _The Comics_ historical tomes. Major strips such as _Blondie_, _Bringing Up Father_, _Popeye_, and others are often covered several times across the different decades in multiple chapters of this book. Also, many more obscure King Features strips that didn't make the cut into either Robinson's or Walker's histories can be found here. A few of the example strips are repeats from the other two books but most of the examples are unique to this book.
Like the two _The Comics_ tomes, this book is organized into chapters about each decade. But unlike those two tomes, the structure of this book allows for a deeper look into some narrower topics than the other books. For example, space is given in the text to Al Brodax's involvement with Saturday morning television cartoon shows of the 1960s, like _The Beatles_ and _Cool McCool_. Sidebar articles by comics experts explore some topics those other books neglect or even ignore, such as The National Cartoonists Society or Toppers.
A notable example of this book's enhanced focus is it devotes a lot of space to Hearst's Screwball comic strips. After viewing the multiple examples of many different screwball strips and reading the related Paul Tumey expert sidebar article, I now eagerly anticipate Tumey's more thorough book _SCREWBALL!_ currently scheduled for September, 2018 publication.
With few exceptions, newspaper comic strips are pretty much an obsolete art form. This book is one of several still-available archival comic strip history books. I recommend this, along with:
_The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art_ by Jerry Robinson
_The Comics: The Complete Collection_ by Brian Walker (also published as two separate volumes, _The Comics: Before 1945_ and _The Comics: Since 1945_)
_The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics_ by Bill Blackbeard and Martin Williams
_100 Years of Comic Strips_ by Bill Blackbeard, Dale Crain, and James Vance (also published as _The Comic Strip Century: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Art Form_).
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Reviewed in Brazil on April 22, 2019
Difficile en à peine plus de 300 pages de rendre compte de 100 ans d'histoire - plus en réalité, car ce livre remonte à la naissance de l'empire Hearst et à la naissance de son créateur - et de dizaines et de dizaines de personnages de BD, de dessinateurs et de scénaristes aux influences déterminantes.
King Features n'a pas eu dans son écurie des séries fondamentales telles que Terry & The Pirates, Pogo, Peanuts ou Calvin & Hobbes, mais on a l'impression en parcourant ce livre qu'elle a eu tous les autres tant l'effectif est nombreux !
Proposé par l'éditeur IDW dans sa collection "Bibliothèque des Comics Américains", ce "beau livre" raisonnablement épais, à la couverture cartonnée protégée par une "dust cover", au beau papier couleur ivoire, haut et large comme un album de BD franco-belge, présente en 8 chapitres plus une introduction l'histoire du magnat de la presse William Randolf Hearst, de sa passion pour la BD et de sa firme King Features. L'accent est placé sur la première moitié du XXème siècle, les 70 dernières pages traitant des années 1950 à aujourd'hui. Chaque chapitre comporte un court essai illustré, suivi de nombreuses pages reproduisant des exemples de strips ou pages du dimanche, en couleurs ou en noir et blanc, aussi conformément que possible aux originaux.
Ce qui frappe, dans les premières années, celles où se créait la BD avec le Yellow Kid (publié par Hearst) etc., c'est la créativité des scénaristes et dessinateurs, avec en particulier Winsor McCay, George Herriman et Cliff Sterrett mais également tant d'autres que l'on découvre avec cet ouvrage, tels que par exemple Harry Hershfield en précurseur de MAD et des Dingodossiers. Si quelques personnages anciens ont eu aussi une carrière en France, tels que les Katzenjammer Kids ou Popeye, bien d'autres n'ont pas franchi l'Atlantique ou ont en tout cas été vite oubliés.
Les reproductions des pages du dimanche, aussi précis qu'ait été le scan et aussi "propre" qu'ait été la page de journal d'époque (parfois la planche encrée originale), souffrent souvent d'un format plus petit que l'original. Jusque dans les années 1930, l'époque était aussi à "charger" les pages, avec un souci ergonomique et esthétique moindre qu'aujourd'hui. Certains styles graphiques ou certains contextes sociaux sont désormais très datés. En contrepoint, les Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff et même Hal Foster qui se refuse à utiliser les phylactères paraissent à jamais "modernes". Idem John Prentice et Frank Robbins.
Dans les années plus récentes, les humoristes Mort Walker, Dik Browne et leur descendance, Patrick McDonnell, Jerry Scott et Jim Borman sont ceux qui me plaisent le plus, sachant que le "strip" d'aventure a complètement disparu du paysage et que l'espace proposé dans la presse à la BD s'est réduit comme peau de chagrin, tout comme le lectorat de la presse papier. En cela, ce livre présente bien entendu son lot nostalgique, bien que la BD reste aussi dynamique, d'une autre façon qui passe notamment par les webzines ou webséries, qu'à l'âge d'or des King Features.