Friday, December 23, 2011

Comment: Classic Children's Comics

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
(It's a big coffee table book. It was too large for the scanner.)

As a consequence of helping out Aaron Neathery a little on his Endtown webcomic, I found myself the recipient of one of the coolest Christmas gifts ever - a personalized copy of The TOON TREASURY of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. Spiegelman should be recognizable as the editor on RAW magazine and creator of Maus. He and RAW publisher Mouly got together and shifted through mountains of pre-Comics Code kids comics to distill down to a bare 375+ pages of prime examples of great art and storytelling. Artists in the collection include Walt Kelly (Pogo), Harvey Kurtzman (Mad Magazine), Carl Barks (Donald Duck) and C.C. Beck (Captain Marvel).

(Carl Barks at his best. Donald as a gopher just keeps cracking me up.)

The Treasury is a fast read - you can go through the entire book cover to cover in 4 hours, but it's better to spread it out over several days and enjoy the artwork. There's an amazing diversity in the stories (Little Lulu, Gerald McBoing-Boing, Fox and Crow, and Dennis the Menace) and style (contrasting Carl's Barks' "Donald" with Dave Berg's "Fantasticland Alice"). Nothing, though, can compare with Basil Wolverton's "Foolish Faces".

(Flopper the Frog, from Flip and Flopper.)

I read some of these comics when I was a kid in the 60's, and they're even better now. Although, I wish I could have discovered Dick Briefer's "Frankenstein" a long time ago; there's a lyrical whimsy to the monster that underlies its cartoony style and kid-friendly setup. Don Arr's "Flip and Flopper" is wonderfully twisted as well, with its statement that there are "22 miles of string in an acre of stringbeans". Gotta love that kind of conversion formula.

Of course, what makes the book special is Aaron's signature on the inside cover page, featuring Gustine. But I can't guarantee that you'll get an autograph of your own like this if you order the book off Amazon (order it anyway - who knows, you may get lucky). Highly recommended.

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