Children of the Yellow Kid

From Library Journal: Harvey, a comics historian (The Art of the Comic Book) and a regular columnist for the Comics Journal, briskly recounts the history of the American comic strip, just over a century old. He ably discusses the major stylists, from Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon) to Brian Bassett (Adam), and notes in passing how comics have reflected both the newspaper wars and reigning social mores. Harvey is aided in his discussion by fellow comics scholar Brian Walker, the son of Mort (Beetle Bailey) Walker. Harvey’s most interesting subject is cartoonist Walt Kelly, and the discussion of the satirical uses of the comic strip Pogo is sharp. Most of the rest of the history presented here is not new, but this reviewer can’t recall when it has been presented between two covers before. The selection of illustrations is inviting, and although the information presented is a bit sketchy, it does give the reader a feel for American comics of the last century. From Booklist: The catalog of a 1998 exhibition at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum traces the 100-year evolution of American newspaper comics through 130 examples of vintage and recent strips. What distinguishes it from other historical collections of comic art is that nearly all its illustrations are reproductions of artists’ original drawings–a few of them at full size–that reveal the pencil sketches underneath, corrections, and artists’ notations. These examples show how the art form developed, from primitive efforts like The Yellow Kid and Happy Hooligan to Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, and other adventure strips of the 1930s to the visually simple but otherwise sophisticated efforts that dominate the medium today, such as Dilbert and FoxTrot. An out-of-chronology chapter documents “socially conscious” strips ranging from Little Orphan Annie and Pogo to Doonesbury. Although the illustrations are, appropriately, the main attraction, comics scholar Harvey’s informative text could stand alone as perhaps the most knowledgeable succinct history of the medium ever written.

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