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Visitors to the convention can peruse this massive new collection of forgotten masterpieces. Maresca's book collects over 150 color Sunday comics in their original large and impressive dimensions. The comics are from over 50 artists, many of whom you have likely never heard of, but whose work and artistry is as good as the names you are likely to know from this era. This volume is nothing less than a bolt of polychromatic lightning from the past -- a revelation.
In the first 20 years of American newspaper comics, something quite remarkable happened -- cartoonists had extraordinary freedom to create. They could have a new idea in the morning, and see it in print within 24 hours. The anarchy Maresca refers to in his title is apparent in both the rapidly changing forms of comics, and in the thinly veiled attacks on social order that many cartoonists led during this time. The thing to realize is that comics weren't expected to have long runs. Today, it's the norm for a comic strip to run for years, sometimes decades. In the 1900s, cartoonists did something different every day.
|Sunday Press publisher extraordinaire Peter Maresca|
at an earlier San Diego Comic-Con. His other books include
impressive collections of Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay,
and Krazy Kat by George Herriman.
The roots of screwball humor stretch to this work. There's an intoxicating immediacy and power to comics from this time. As modern readers, we miss it, mostly. Our eyes are not trained, our minds not in synch with this earlier, weirder time. The pacing of the comics is too dense, too slow, and moves to visual melodies that are awkwardly new to us. Consider this Raymond Crawford Ewer page from 1912 -- not in the book (I don't want to spoil any surprises for you), but chosen from my own collection:
|The sort of comics you'll find in Society Is Nix:|
Slim Jim by Raymond Crawford Ewer - January 27, 1912
(from the collection of Paul Tumey)
As with Nix's sister Sunday Press book, Forgotten Fantasy, this book also presents a wealth of fascinating original essays about early American comic strips by such noted historians as Peter Maresca, Thierry Smolderen, Richard Samuel West, R.C. Harvey, Brian Walker, Bill Kartalopoulos, David Gerstein, Alfredo Castelli, and Paul Tumey (blush). I was also honored to be invited to be a contributing editor, researching and writing mini-biographies of the 50 or so artists represented in the book.
You can see some of the art in the book, and read samples from the various essays at the Sunday Press site here.
And here's the opening paragraph from my essay, "Mule Kicks: American Screwball Comics Commenced in the Earliest Sunday Funnies" -
A nutty mule named Maud kicks the bejeezus out of everything with democratic chaos, offering both slapstick laughs and a sly attack on conventional society. Frederick Burr Opper’s 1904-1907 Sunday comic And Her Name Was Maud is just one of the dozens of notable early anarchic comic strips that kick-started a type of comedy called screwball—a form of condensed, surreal, escalating verbal-visual exaggeration that picked up steam in the 1920s and peaked mid-century with the Marx Brothers, Rube Goldberg, W. C. Fields, Milt Gross, Bill Holman, Tex Avery, Jack Cole, Spike Jones, Harvey Kurtzman’s Mad and Ernie Kovacs.
The book, a national treasure, will be on sale in late August or early November. Until then, I hope you enjoy this sneak peek .
This is the sort of book that the preservers and celebrators of our culture should be doing, but aren't. Thank God, then, for Peter Maresca. Please give Sunday Press your attention and support.
On another note, I'd like to send out a celebratory CONGRATULATIONS!!! to my friends Frank M. Young and David Lasky for winning a 2013 Eisner Award for their graphic novel, The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song. The book won an award for "Best Reality-Based Work." The winners of the 2013 Eisner Awards were announced July 19, 2013. Frank was also up for an Eisner for Best Writer. That award went to Brian K. Vaughn. Be sure to check out Frank's blogs:
Stanley Stories (An exploration of the work of John Stanley)
Supervised By Fred Avery: Tex Avery's Warner Brothers Cartoons
Comic Book Attic (co-authored with me)
And check out David Lasky's blog:
And you can read many fascinating behind the scenes postings about the making of this Eisner Award winner at Carter Family Comics: Don't Forget This Blog!
I'm very happy for Frank and David. I was around when they started the project. In fact, they worked on the book for several months in my office. It was fascinating to see them sifting through piles of books, papers, recordings and other source material (the book is meticulously researched). I was honored to see the first pages penciled and to read early versions of the book. What was supposed to be a project that would a year of work for the two men wound up taking four years from each. Many sacrifices and hardships were endured to get through the process of creating the book.
Currently, Amazon has this book available for $10 -- a huge bargain.
Here's a photo of the title page of my copy, with inscriptions from the authors:
May you stay Forever Young,