Art Out of Time: Unknown Comic Visionaries 1900-1969
by Dan Nagel
Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2006, hardcover, 320 pages
Thanks go to comics geek extraordinaire Dave Cawley for telling me about this great collection of unknown comic strip and comic book artists, which I immediately checked out of the library. I haven't made it all the way through, but though it goes up to 1969, most of the strips are old-timey, offering a fascinating look at a lost time in comics history, before the medium was defined, cleaned up and codified. Just as with the old pre-code Van Beuren Studio and Fleisher Brothers animated cartoon shorts, when a medium is new its possibilities seem limitless.
From Publishers Weekly:
There are lots of anthologies of the work of the past century's famous cartoonists, but Nadel has done a real service in putting together this collection of 29 marvelous nearly unknown comic strip and comic book artists. Many are reprinted from yellowing newsprint—in a few cases, like Walter Quermann's late-'30s newspaper strip Hickory Hollow Folks, from the only copies of their work still extant. Only a few, like Ogden Whitney's poker-faced '60s comic book Herbie, have ever been reprinted before. Nadel's five categories, "Exercises in Exploration," "Slapstick," "Acts of Drawing," "Words in Pictures" and "Form and Style," sometimes seem arbitrary; the biographical notes at the back are informative but all too brief. Still, it's hard to argue with the comics themselves. Charles Forbell's 1913 newspaper strip Naughty Pete looks like it had a huge influence on Chris Ware; Gustave Verbeek's bonkers formal experiment The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo, from 1904, is still hilarious and sui generis; Rory Hayes's crude but meticulous horror stories from 1969's Bogeyman Comics, the most recent pieces here, were decades ahead of their time. Contemporary cartoonists—and their fans—have a lot to learn from the freewheeling, witty, try-anything-twice artistic attitude of the pieces Nadel's assembled.