COMIC BOOK REVIEW: The Biggest Comic Ever?
Here’s a comic book so big it makes those old tabloid editions (Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) look like a Jughead Digest. It measures 16" by 21.25", but even if it’s not the biggest comic book ever published, it certainly is one of the best.
On November 24, 1918, a new newspaper comic strip debuted named Gasoline Alley. It’s still around today, making it the longest continuously published continuity strip – an incredible achievement, as continuity strips have been anathema in the newspaper world for decades. Revolving around the adventures of nonagenarian Walt Wallet and his family and their friends, Gasoline Alley actually didn’t become a continuity strip until Valentine’s Day 1921, when Walt discovered baby Skeezix abandoned at his doorstep. The child wasn’t from Krypton.
The creation of Frank King, Gasoline Alley became known for its solid homespun storytelling and its wonderful characterizations. As part of the strip reprinting craze, Drawn and Quarterly Books has been reprinting these adventures in hardcover under the series title Walt and Skeezix, and I cannot recommend them more highly. But his stand-alone Sunday pages were a work of art. King took advantage of the full size Sunday newspaper page, drifting away from the traditional grid and composing layouts that would stagger the mind – yet, at the same time, move the story cleanly and clearly without abandoning its folkwise environment or, for that matter, succumbing to a standard bigfoot gag ending. They have to be seen in their full-sized glory in order to be appreciated.
And now you can. A full color 96 page tome (and I mean tome), Sundays With Walt and Skeezix, has been published by Sunday Press Books, and it is every bit as awesome as its source material. Since all of the original newspaper pages that exist today are at least somewhat faded, I cannot compare the color in this book to the original – but I can say it look great and a slightly flawed time machine is far better than none at all. The mandatory (and illuminating) introductions and biographies open the book and a paper doll cut-out page is included, but the bells and whistles are totally eclipsed by the enchanting beauty of Frank King’s work.
As I noted, Gasoline Alley continues to this day, first under the direction of King’s assistant Bill Perry, then by the legendary Dick Moores, and now under the pen of Jim Scancarelli, valiantly maintaining a toehold in an artform as ancient as Walt Wallet.
There’s only one problem with this book. At 16" x 21.25", I don’t have a clue where to store it!