Saturday, 13 November 2010
When, as a kid, I discovered comic shops and independent comics, the newspaper strip collection was still unknown territory to me. As far as I could tell from reading the press, it was all about Alex Raymond or George Herriman, and any reprints were expensive softback books that were a long way in with little jumping on point. To wit, they were likely to stay as unknown territory.
20 years later, I'm a little wiser (only a little), and the quality and breadth of newspaper strip collections is on a whole different level. My wallet has sadly failed to expand at the same speed as this market, so I've had to lose some of my favourite collections along the way. Krazy & Ignatz is marvellous, but I let myself fall a couple of books behind, and I've no idea how many I've missed now.
One of the others that I stumbled upon was Walt & Skeezix by Frank King. Its from a newspaper strip called 'Gasoline Alley', that I don't believe I've ever seen in a British newspaper. Originally based around a group of mechanics, the strip got going when a baby, Skeezix, was left on the doorstep of one of the mechanics, Walt, and he decided to bring him up.
There have now been four collections from Drawn & Quarterly, covering something like 1922-1928. Yes, its an old strip. It's whimsical, its funny, its gorgeous, and the relationships between the characters are beautifully observed.
Its famous for letting the characters age in real time, so I imagine by the end of Book 4, Skeezix must be about 7 years old. But I haven't got that far, which is why it remains an object of desire. I have Book 1, loving designed by Chris Ware, but the subsequent books, even on amazon, are £16 a pop. Unless my national lottery ship comes in, that's something I can't justify springing for.
I know there is probably a comic shop, at this very moment, selling them off cheap to make the shelf space. But I don't know where that shop is, and until I fortuitously wander in on the off-chance, these books will remain, for me, objects of desire.