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Walt Before Skeezix (Walt and Skeezix) Hardcover – June 10, 2014
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“Walt Before Skeezix [is] a charming road trip to the past.” ―NPR
“Even before Skeezix, this volume reveals Frank King as an ambitious cartoonist eager to burst beyond the limitations of a weekly single-panel car strip.” ―AV Club
“This latest volume demonstrates that King had mastered that easy cadence and benevolent outlook even before Skeezix arrived, when the strip still centred around a cast of automobile enthusiasts who congregated in a Chicago back alley... King instills the proceedings with his signature brand of kindly, leisurely warmth, and true fellow-feeling.” ―The Globe & Mail
About the Author
One of the pioneering giants of American comic strips, Frank King was born in Cashton, Wisconsin, in 1883. He joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune in 1909. Almost from the start of his career, King's cartoons were frequently featured on the front page of the paper. He made his lasting mark in 1919 by creating Gasoline Alley, which became one of the most widely syndicated and read strips in North America until King's death in 1969.
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Top customer reviews
What we're really getting here is Frank King learning and experimenting with creating comics. King became one of the great comic storytellers and one of the cleanest artists but this is not the Frank King of later years. That is not to say the book isn't a fascinating read from an historical or sociological standpoint but as pure entertainment it doesn't compare to King's later output. Walt Wallet is nearly unrecognizable in the beginning with creepy bugged out eyes and it isn't until somewhere around August of 1919 that he starts to look like the Walt we all know. September is the first appearance of anything resembling a storyline.
In the introduction it's mentioned that in many ways these comics show Frank King learning on the job but his evolution is quick and dramatic evident almost on a weekly basis. By August 24th the comics went from weekly to daily although still presenting just a single large frame. In September, King started experimenting with multiple frames but the frame sizes are still all over the place and he even briefly tries out a circular frame. I would be lying if I said I loved this collection nearly as much as I enjoyed the Walt and Skeezix books. These are Frank King's humble beginnings. This book is thick as a brick and easily thicker than the Walt and Skeezix books but since a significant portion of the pages are a single frame you can actually read through it fairly quickly. The presentation is top notch with a lot of fascinating material on Frank King and for a completionist like myself I really wanted to see the earliest Gasoline Alley comics. For fans of Gasoline Alley who've never read these early comics I would suggest keeping your expectations in check and you'll likely enjoy them more.
These strips run from late 1918 thru 1920. The First W&S volume covers 1921 and on. The strip started out as a single panel strip focusing on a bunch of car nuts. Even from the first we see the GA gang- Doc, Bill, Avery, and Walt. Over the next few strips the characters become clearer. There where several other characters, mostly unnamed, who appeared in the first strips. There was Joe, the guy with the steam car, and the guy who doesn't have a car. But slowly it whittle downs to the base four, with occasional appearances of their wives.
We first see the strip get away from being purely about cars with the guys doing other stuff: going the beach, eating out, playing golf, etc. This leads to a long sequence where the guys plan and then go off on a summer camping trip without the wives. As noted, this leads up to the long summer vacation trips that would happen later in the strip.
Its also interesting to see the strip start out for a long time as a single panel comic before it moves to a more expected multi-panel comic.
And like the other collections, we get articles on King and the strip, and lots of artwork from his sketchbooks. We learn more about the real-life basis for the characters and what alleys in Chicago were like at the time.
This collection may not be for everyone, but if you enjoyed GA and what to see its true beginning, check this out.