King Aroo Vol. 1 by Jack Kent

Posted by on October 29th, 2010 at 12:23 AM



King Aroo Vol. 1
Jack Kent
IDW; 360 pp.; $39.99
ISBN: 9781600105814

With IDW’s King Aroo, the oblong shape of the book accommodates three daily strips to each of 342 7.5×9.5-inch landscape pages, providing a spacious showcase for cartoonist Jack Kent’s simple, low-key albeit fully fledged art, pulsing gently with visual gambols as well as verbal whimsies. Kent’s son and heir, Jack Jr., has made available some original art and a hoard of unblemished syndicate proofs for the tome, and Bruce Canwell couches the entire production in an informative and entertaining context, an introductory biographical essay embellished with a generous array of illustration from Kent’s early life and career. Delicious.

An early reprint of the strip, the 1953 paperback from Doubleday, was introduced by the celebrated critic Gilbert Seldes, a critic who is revered in our milieu for a celebrated chapter in his book, The Seven Lively Arts of 1924 wherein he extolls George Herriman’s not-yet-famed Krazy Kat as high art, not infantile scribbling. Addressing himself to King Aroo, Seldes begins by reminding us of Herriman’s “personal fantasy” which “had projected his vision into something well-night universal.” And then he gets to Kent:

“Jack Kent brings to the small company of fantasists the primary faculty of being able to create a compact universe that adheres strictly to a logic of its own. The personal center of this comic cosmos is King Aroo himself; his court, cabinet, and royal entourage consists of one individual, Yupyop, who at times is and at times is not a Yes- (or Yop-) man…. You are going to see the pictures and wherever you turn you will find a characteristic series, whether it is Yupyop misreading his book of magic and turning the guinea pig into a moose instead of a mouse or the King fighting a most reluctant dragon and being disappointed because — in spite of the storybooks — no beautiful Princess comes to reward him with her hand. It is typical of Kent that presently the Princess does arrive and typical also that she came to borrow a cup of sugar.”

King Aroo, like another sublime instance of the cartoonist’s art, Barnaby, ran only a short time — just 15 years; and this volume begins with the first release on Nov. 13, 1950 and ends two years later. The compilation includes Sundays as well as dailies; the Sundays, which regale us with a different continuity than the dailies, appear in a separate section rather than being integrated with the weekday offerings. All, a boon to historians (and a persistent editorial policy of IDW in all its reprint volumes), dated with month, day, and year of publication. The second volume of what I hope is a “complete King Aroo” publishing project will be out in November.


Click each image for larger version.





Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , ,

One Response to “King Aroo Vol. 1 by Jack Kent”

  1. vollsticks says:

    I’m so happy to see that this is being reprinted. I recently bought the Comics Journal Special Edition volume two and there’re some gorgeous King Aroo Sunday pages with Tom Devlin’s article. It was my first exposure to Jack Kent but I instantly fell in love with his drawings! Although there’s a substantial amount of comics to accompany the piece I was left wanting more so this is great news to me! Wonderful, exuberant cartooning at it’s best and the examples you’ve posted look even better than the stuff in the Journal. Thanks Mr. Harvey!