T here's a beautiful collection of Frank King's Gasoline Alley sundays on the subject of Walt Wallet's annual Autumn walk with Skeezix at Roger Clark's art website.
And they are shown at a huge size too, which is something we so rarely see. (via Comics Reporter).
There are 38 beautiful pages celebrating the changing colors of nature and the disappearing American countryside. Here's a panel, left, from November 11 1934.
And if you're looking for more after that there's a much smaller selection at Bugpowder. The panel below is from August 25 1929 and the subject is still nature.
I'm glad to see the selection based on a theme other than the dream pages that are occasionally rounded up as appealing examples of the series. Lovely as those pages are , and they are certainly that, they are often presented, along with Krazy Kat and Polly and her Pals as the last flourish of fading pictorial beauty in the Funnies in the tradition of MaCay's Little Nemo. The real treasure in Gasoline Alley is elsewhere. It is in the sheer length of its attention to ordinary daily life in America in the first half or the twentieth century (it lasted much longer than that of course, but one always feels that its heart was in those years even when the events weren't). One of the best observers of the strip has been Donald Phelps, in an essay that appears in his Reading the Funnies:
"The kind of American epic, in muted tones, which King was to propose can be traced very early on, in affectionate fiddling with perspective; it emerges in King's work as a way , not of questioning the gravity or stance or aspect of the material, but, rather, of refreshing the reader's appreciation of it. Not of "penetrating" the ordinary, but of manipulating it, with a long-time tinkerer's patient adroitness. Ordinaryness is a given of Gasoline Alley's world; something not to be converted, but to be endured as gracefully, stoically, playfully, as circumstances, and one's moods and talents, allow."
(Phelps' writing itself invites the kind of analysis this fellow attempts in a review, at sensesof cinema.com, of the book just quoted)
The true appreciation of this great strip demands a reading of it as a daily event, not just a sunday day-off special. And Drawn and Quarterly are doing us the service of providing it. I have just noticed that I have not yet bought the second volume, and there's a third almost upon us.
One thing I love about the earliest weeks of the strip is that there is always one day in the week, not always the same, when it appears as a single-panel comic, a large panel in which each of the characters would be simultaneously giving his opinion on some aspect of motoring or car maintenance. The syndicates would soon do away with such irregularities in the great homogenisation of the comics format that was still to come, and in our own times the McCloudians would absurdly tell us that King was working in a different medium on those days. The one on the open page is from March 16 1921. If you look closely you'll notice I've pencilled 'weds' beside the date. I guess I might be the only person to whom such trifles matter.
These gorgeously produced books give the work an appreciation appropriate to this era of the 'graphic novel.' The cuttings were mainly provided by Joe Matt who was interviewed about his involvement in the New York Times of January 14 2007:
Comics: See You in the (Restored, Reprinted) Funny Papers
"'A NIGHTMARE,' Joe Matt sighs. 'All those years, all that money, all that work. None of which I’ll ever get back.' Mr. Matt, the graphic novelist best known for his absurdly self-centered autobiographical comic “Peepshow,” is sitting in a prefab booth at Daily Donut in Los Feliz, a neighborhood spot favored by quiet elderly customers and infrequent rushes of teenagers seeking afterschool snacks. He is speaking of his quest for the perfect collection of Frank King “Gasoline Alley” comic strips, from 1921 to 1960. Mr. Matt, who owns no home, car, computer or cellphone, estimates he has spent upward of $15,000 on his mission since 1994.
“I found dealers in comics magazines and ordered the years I wanted,” he says. “A year runs about 312 dailies, of which you can get about 290 or more. Times that by 40, at $50 each. And there’s always missing strips. I’d have to order the same year again and again just to get a few missing days. God help you if you drop them, because you have to sort 300 undated strips by story line. Then I found that different papers ran the strip at different sizes, or with better printing presses. It was maddening.”
His collection forms the bulk of “Walt & Skeezix” (retitled from “Gasoline Alley” for licensing reasons), a decade-long, multivolume reprinting of Mr. King’s complete works published by D&Q (Drawn & Quarterly). (Volume 3 arrives in June.)"
Isn't this a good time to be around?
Labels: classic strips(1)