Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Polly, Dora, Flash and their pals

© Michael Chevy Castranova

So have you looked IDW’s recently released “King of the Comics: 100 Years of King Features”? At 300+ pages, it’s packed with newspaper comic strips the syndicate started by William Randolph Hearst in 1915 published over years. Older strips you’ve heard of, strips maybe you used to read and plenty I confess to never having seen before.
There’s the graceful “Dumb Dora” (by Chic Young before “Blondie”), silly “Happy Hooligan,” the Yellow Kid — from whence the name yellow journalism was derived — and “Boob McNutt” through “Bringing Up Father,” “Barney Google (before the strip devolved into “Snuffy Smith”), “Polly and Her Pals,” “Flash Gordon” and “Jungle Jim” to “Rip Kirby,” “Steve Canyon” (never as fun, I always thought, as “Terry and the Pirates”) and “Mutts.”
Famous, wonderful strips and many, many imitators of those famous strips.
The book also has plenty of photos of the cartoonists, sidebars on movies, animated cartoons and comic books inspired by these strips, and essays on various genres.
I admit my favorites are the adventure strips. The excellent cartoon style but serious tone of “Red Barry,” “Buz Sawyer” and “Little Annie Rooney” are all delightful — even if each hoped to cash in on more popular strips at the time (“Dick Tracy,” “Terry and the Pirates” and “Little Orphan Annie” respectively).
And speaking of adventure strips, chapter 365 of “Slipped” takes us right back into the thick of the action with our hero, the Scarlet Sparrow, dashing head long into danger — with no weapons, no plan and no backup. You know, her usual method of operation.

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