Tuesday, October 02, 2007
An Illustrated History
I have better regular readers than I deserve. I've not been particularly blog inspired and have been otherwise busy for several days, and appreciate the loyalty of all six of you.
When I was a teenager trying to figure out how these things called "comics" were made, my local public library was a lode of meager treasure. The "treasure" was big, beautiful books about cartoons, comic books and comic strips, some written by or including information straight from the creators themselves. It was a meager trove because the library only had about five of them. I knew exactly where they were, had a favorite chair by a window next to their shelf, and spent hours reading and re-reading the same five books. I mourned when one was checked out and mourned more as, one by one, they were pulled from circulation over the years.
Of course those were the pre-Internet Dark Ages. Now we have the miracle/curse of eBay, which is where I stumbled across one of those jewels from my youth and bought it for less than its 1974 cover price of $15. It's The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art by Jerry Robinson, and I'm pleased to say it still holds up. It offers a terrific overview and sampling of newspaper comics from 1896 to the then-present. It's probably where I first saw Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo" and Herriman's "Krazy Kat." Best of all, it contains full-page essays by Milton Caniff, Lee Falk, Charles Schulz, Mort Walker, Chic Young, Hal Foster, Walt Kelly, and others that I remember absorbing through my pores as a kid.
Do kids ever actually spend afternoons hanging out at the library anymore? (Maybe they never did; maybe it was just me. Little freak....)
I met Jerry Robinson at Comic-Con in 2006 and wish I'd remembered to mention this book to him instead of whatever lame hero worship I managed to stammer out. He's had a heck of a career, from his very early contributions to Batman (creating or co-creating Robin and the Joker) to editorial cartoons to syndicated comics to, obviously, comics historian. Maybe someday I'll get another chance to thank him. This book was important to me and I'm thrilled to be reunited with it.