Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Coming this November,it's Classic Comic Strips Month!

You learn something new everyday,folks;I just found out that November is National Classic Comic Strips Month,saluting one of the best and earliest forms of American art.

To highlight some of the collections that are available,Fantagraphics has teamed up with a few of their friends in the same field to put out a cool promo sampler to showcase each company's set of comic strip gems.

The other companies include Checker Publishing,which has Little Nemo,Flash Gordon and B.C. by the late great Johnny Hart,Drawn And Quarterly, who has Walt and Skeezix and Moomin and IDW who has Dick Tracy,plus Terry and the Pirates on their roster. The sampler should be available in most comic book shops and called Comic Strip Masterpieces,with plenty of reproductions of such oldies but goodies like Gasoline Alley,Popeye,Steve Canyon,Dennis the Menance and The Yellow Kid.

Fantagraphics is also promising a follow-up to Unseen Peanuts,which I was lucky enough to pick up during the last BEA. Unseen Peanuts is a collection of never before published and/or reprinted Peanuts strips that Fantagraphics decided to put out for free,as part of the Free Comic Day celebration.

All of this is pretty sweet,in my opinion. One of my family's favorite rituals was for one of us(mainly me,as I grew older)to go out on a Sunday morning and pick up both the Daily News and the New York Times,plus a batch of rolls and donuts for all of us to share. We kids loved the Daily News on Sunday,due to the huge comic strip section which wrapped up the newspaper in a glowing glove of colorful squares filled with faces. Other papers had big Sunday strip sheets,too but not like the Daily News.

One of the strips that I really loved back then was Dondi,about a orphan boy being raised by his uncle Ted,getting into all sorts of dramas and adventures. I recall one of the storylines having to do with Dondi helping a little boy hide out,since he and his family were illegal aliens( some things never change,do they?). Turns out that Dondi is getting the compilation treatment from Classic Comics Press,which should have the first two volumes out by this November. Talk about your perfect timing there!

The comic strip might not seem as glamorous as it's flashier big brother,the comic book(or it's arthouse cousin,the graphic novel)but it is still one of the most important and still vitally creative forms of art being performed today. Comic strips are truly democratic-randomly ask ten people what their first exposure to illustations were,outside of a storybook,and most of them will say the comic strip either in the daily paper or the Sunday(probaly both).

Strips can be easily compared with haikus,which has set boundaries but are not bound by the rules of the format. By looking back at the artists of yesteryear,we can see the paths they cleared for such innovators as Bill Watterson(Calvin and Hobbes),Aaron McGruder(The Boondocks),Patrick McDonnell(Mutts) and Lynn Johnson(For Better or for Worse). It's due to the devotion and artistic energy that folks like these and many others that keep the comic strip alive and well,inspiring people like my sister to go out there and make their own satirical statements on the world. Online comic strips are another avenue of exposure for up and coming cartoonists and hopefully,we'll be seeing the likes of the Original Nutty Funsters in print someday.

So,don't forget to celebrate Classic Comic Strips Month,by checking out not only some of the best of the past but keeping a lookout for the current and future cartoonists at work. You might just be pleasantly surprised at what's out there.

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