Rich Kreiner’s Yearlong Best of the Year: Hogan’s Alley #16

Posted by on April 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Today you’d need a pretty exhaustive roster of cartoonists before you’d find the name of Jay Irving. Irving created two bigfoot cop strips Willie Doodle and Pottsy and was a cover artist for Collier’s Magazine in the ’30sand ’40s as well. As Rob Stolzer puts it in the most recent issue of Hogan’s Alley, Irving “reached the heights of the cartoon field, becoming a star for a national magazine, and felt the lows when equal success later eluded him.”

That right there, that ferreting out of interesting subjects (or subjects made interesting) is a major attraction of Hogan’s Alley. Or, to borrow the words of Irving himself (on another project entirely): As the Alley offers “a wealth of beautiful material, and presented properly limned, it should be extremely rewarding.”

As implied by the magazine’s name (the stomping grounds of Outcault’s The Yellow Kid), Hogan’s Alley starts with the underlimned wealth of comic strips and expands to regularly host sections on comic books, animation and editorial cartooning. Like The International Journal of Comic Art reviewed here last week, it’s hard to capture the scope and angle of the publication’s included articles without resorting to listing. As was the case with I.J.O.C.A., any given reader should find intriguing and entertaining essays while more catholic and open-minded grazers will find themselves more rewarded still.

By length alone, the centerpieces of issue #16 are the substantial interview with Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis and an extended look at Song of the South — “How Disney Made It, Why You Can’t See It” — from its origins in the works of Joel Chandler Harris (as popular as Twain in the day!) to current perspectives on the film’s artistry and content.

Every issue of Hogan’s Alley features a bounty of reprinted strips. Standouts here begin with a generous helping of “the queen of all media” circa 1950, My Friend Irma. Star of radio, movies and early TV, this “dumb-but-sexy blonde with a heart of gold” had a newspaper strip, originally done by a creator “unable to write a joke,” and then later by Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo. The piece includes a gallery of both versions for contrast as well as a sampling of a later Lee/ DeCarlo strip, Willie Lumpkin.

In another piece, Bill Blackbeard traces the attempt of William Randolph Hearst to “double” the number of comics in his funnies sections with “toppers,” second strips by the same artists running along with their signature titles. The largess here is a trove of less celebrated creations from the likes of Chic Young, Milt Gross, Rube Goldberg, Cliff Sterrett, Percy Crosby, George McManus and E.C. Segar among others.

A regular feature, “Stripper’s Guide,” this time out addresses a lot of fundamentals and mysteries for the non-collector. The best exhibits a side-by-side comparison of the same strips in different formats and differing lengths as determined by a newspaper’s space allocation and the varying number of “drop panels.” It also explains why there is no “best” format for Milt Caniff’s Sunday Steve Canyon.

Then there’s a piece on Chester Gould’s injection of Shakespeare into Dick Tracy (Yeah, me neither!), the entrepreneurial skills of Marge Buell in furthering Little Lulu’s commercial success, and the evangelical life in Riverdale as found in 19 Archie books from Spire Christian Comics (“Ethel … is the character with the most flaws who can believably find God as the missing piece from her life”).

Hogan’s Alley does an all-around terrific job of covering its turf with a welcome and appropriate mix of sobriety and silliness. A regular feature, “Deja Viewed,” juxtaposes drawings and punch lines of uncanny similarity. Other usual forums include reviews, letter columns, a query for working cartoonists and, this time, three pages of character drawings done by creators with their eyes blindfolded. As is the norm, this issue presents a lively package wherein a good time seems possible for all.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.