Issue #1 shipped this week and it is a joy to behold. The first issue features ten pages of Gasoline Alley, six of Alley Oop, four of Tarzan, four of Bronc Peeler, four of Stumble Inn, two of Wee Willie Winkie’s World, and one of Crazy Quilt.
GASOLINE ALLEY: The current “Walt and Skeezix” series (volume five of which shipped recently and covers 1929-1930) reprints dailies only. There was a single volume of color Sundays released a couple of years ago, but it is not comprehensive. Frank King is known equally for his innovative Sunday layout and design as he is for his ongoing narrative in which the characters age in real time. The earliest strips are printed in duo-tone red and white, but full color was added after a while. This is easily my favorite feature.
ALLEY OOP: There isn’t a comprehensive collection of Alley Oop dailies or Sundays. My second favorite feature.
TARZAN: The story picks up about a year into Hal Foster’s run. I already have a complete collection of Foster’s and Hogarth’s Tarzan in hardcover, but these Sundays are HUGE!
BRONC PEELER: I’ve seen little of this strip prior to this publication. One of my comic strip anthologies (the Smithsonian collection, I think…?) reprints the episode in which the titular cowboy must shoot his horse, so perhaps some of you reading this have seen it, too. The narrative is supplemented by a portrait in the center of the page along with the poem “Nothin’ but a Hoss.” The strip itself is drawn in a somewhat humorous style, but the portrait (by the same artist) looks almost like a fine water-color painting. Evidently, this format (narrative with a portrait in the middle) was a staple of the strip, because all four examples feature it.
STUMBLE INN: By George Herriman (better known for Krazy Kat), a thematic precursor to Berke Breathed’s Bloom County (the early days, anyway). Herriman must have been an influence on Breathed, because certain aspects of later Bloom Country, and especially its follow-up, Outland, greatly resembled Krazy Kat.
WEE WILLIE WINKIE’S WORLD: An experimental strip in which inanimate objects are imbued with life via a child’s imagination.
CRAZY QUILT: Features highly innovative layout, the front page of issue one.
These strips are reprinted in the original size, a Sunday broadsheet, which is (as I mentioned above) HUGE! The paper stock is thick, non-glossy and brilliantly white, beautifully showcasing the original colors (as well as the slight yellowing of the source paper). Each issue consists of three sections, which are available separately (@ $10) or bagged together ($30).
The second page (inside front cover) is reserved for editorial material, the majority of this issue presenting an overview of the life of the founder and director of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art, Bill Blackbeard. I have known of Blackbeard for many years, but after reading this article, my respect and admiration knows no bounds.
Editor Russ Cochran also provides his e-mail address for feedback regarding future features.
Issue #2 shipped last week, and as much as I liked the first issue, the second is even better. It has switched to a somewhat thinner, cream-colored (rather than stark white) paper stock which allows for better color saturation. Two new features have been added: Connie and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
BUCK ROGERS: Like many of its contemporaries, the Sunday page featured a continuity wholly separate from the dailies, but unique (as far as I know) in this case because it doesn’t feature Buck Rogers at all, but rather Wilma Deering’s little brother, Buddy. Hermes Press will be releasing a second collection of these strips on Wednesday, but the presentation (colors, paper stock and SIZE) is superior in Sunday Funnies. The strips run from the beginning.
CONNIE: I was unfamiliar with this action/adventure strip, but it’s very exciting. The story picks up in medias res, but will sweep you up into it so quickly and completely you will hardly notice.
Crazy Quilt featured the work of five different artists using “highly innovative layouts” (as I mentioned last time). It was chosen for issue one because of its uniqueness, but Russ Cochran doesn’t plan to run any more. I’m glad it was in the first issue, but I’m also glad it’s gone from the second. A different feature of historical interest is included in issue two, the little seen Tales of the Jungle Imps by Windsor McCay. (Yes, that Windsor McCay.)
Regular ongoing features have been announced as being GASOLINE ALLEY, ALLEY OOP, CONNIE and TARZAN.
Remember how much discussion there was of DC’s Wednesday Comics a couple of years ago and how much discussion there was of it? It was a noble experiment to recreate the excitement of the past, but here’s the real thing, baby! Everyone who read and enjoyed Wednesday Funnies should be reading Sunday Funnies.
I think Connie started as a humour strip and became an adventure one. SF sequences appeared in the dailies as well as the Sundays. (Minor Spoilers.) I've seen part of a daily sequence in which she took part in an expedition into space that toured the solar system, encountering monsters and at least one alien civilisation. On returning to Earth she got involved with a hidden city that had been established in the Arctic. Doesn't she travel into the future in the Sunday story?
The strip's artist was Frank Godwin. Pages on him can be found at American Art Archives, Lambiek and JVJ Publishing, among other places. He drew a handful of early Wonder Woman stories. The GCD lists him as having drawn those in Sensation Comics ##17-19, 21 and Comic Cavalcade #2. (The American Art Archives page, to which I owe this point, says #3; presumably this is a mistake.)
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The Digital Comic Museum, in its "Classic Newspaper Comic Strips" section, has a collection of Godwin's Vignettes of Life pages from the later 20s, which satirised aspects of modern life.
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