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Thursday, June 19, 2014

In stores now: WALT BEFORE SKEEZIX by Frank King

In stores now is Walt Before Skeezix, another compilation volume of Frank King's Gasoline Alley strips, but we've scrambled the order a little bit- this one is technically Volume 0 of the series! And like the other Walt and Skeezix-es, this prequel is designed by Chris Ware (who has called the series one of his all-time favourites), so you know it's a beaut.

Walt Before Skeezix gives the reader a comprehensive look at Frank King's life, with essays, photographs, newspaper clippings, and early sketches, delineating King's evolution as an artist and showing the extent to which his personal life influenced his drawings. My favourite parts were seeing the Kings's vacation photos and all of the hand-drawn valentines Frank sent his wife, Delia, throughout their relationship. She kept them her whole life!

But let's not fail to mention the cartoons, which are the real treasure. Walt Before Skeezix covers the period of 1918-1920, when the automotive boom in America was really taking off. Suddenly pretty much everyone could afford a car, and pretty much everyone was taking cars. At least Walt and his friends were-- these were, after all, Walt's young bachelor years before baby Skeezix appeared on his doorstep.

Walt Before Skeezix is already receiving praise: "Between the adorable language, the window onto early automotive life and the plain fun of reading comics from that era, this volume is a delight for any cultural history buff...The book is delightful on a purely physical level, too, with much thought and expense clearly poured into every detail. It even smells good." NPR

I can confirm that the book does smell pretty darn good. So grab a copy, give it a whiff or a read or both (your choice-we're not judging), and settle in for some good ol' Americana. Gasoline Alley was one of the longest-running and most widely syndicated comics ever, and with good reason. This g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s and historically-important deluxe volume deserves a spot on any comics collector's shelf. 

Bonus: don't forget to check out the inside of the dust jacket!


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