July 16th, 2008

The Zombie

Platinum Recording

July 15 -  So, can you guess who has a new solo entry on Wikipedia?  If you said "you, John," well...no.  Not yet...but you're getting warmer.  The answer is Crusty Bunker, of course!  Yes, I guess it's time for your weekly Crusty Bunker Update.  Borrowing heavily from some of the same sources I consulted, with a healthy dose of The WOMP-Blog Archives thrown in for fun, comes a brand-spanking-new reference page dedicated to the mercurial '70's comic book inker.  Check it out HERE.  Now I really have to get that Bunkers page up and going.  I have no idea when I'll have the time to do it, but I hope to have it rolling by the MCBA FallCon in October.  In fact, as this year's convention giveaway freebie, I may put together some sort of Crusty-themed booklet.  Maybe.  I've also got some other VERY exciting stuff in the works, so I may be promoting that instead (and, as per usual, I can't even tell you what I'm talking about...yet).  OK, OK; enough side-tracking.  Let's get back to the "...Of The Day Theme" of Platinum Age comic books.  In the years after earlier cartoonists, like the pioneering George Cruikshank (1792 - 1878), had shown that there was some considerable market for collections of cartoons, that next generation began to see such publications as part of a career plan (even if only as a nearly unattainable ideal).  I guess that the difference between the Victorian Era comics market and the interstitial Platinum Age stuff is the evolution of the comic strips themselves.  Earliest cartoon books are assemblages of individual illustrations.  Beginning with The Yellow Kid, the concept of continuing characters became predominate, and, soon thereafter, standard use of sequential panels changed how comics collections could be formatted.  While some books, like the gigantic Charles Dana Gibson folios, presented each "panel" of a story as its own page, most Platinum Age books had to solve the problem of how to reformat standard newspaper pages in less unwieldy sizes.  Based purely on my own observations of these books (as seen either in my own tiny collection - just ten - or in my lifelong hauntings of antique and vintage book stores), it really seems as though publishers and printers were experimenting with and refining what would eventually evolve into what we think of as comic books.  Some are full-sized behemoths - great-granddaddies of the coffee table book (remember, the standard newspaper was HUGE at that time).  Others were scaled down, but still proportionally the same as the source material (usually full page artwork).  Finally, in the late 1910's, most such attempts narrowed down to two formats, which dominated the market for the next twenty years or so; a long (twelve to fifteen inches) book which reprinted daily comic strips either one complete strip or two panels per page (which reprinted a full strip across opposing pages when the book was open), or the more popular square-ish book (about ten inches by ten inches, but not always - ever? - exactly square) which shuffled comic strip panels into a two-above-two-below layout (although some had larger two-to-a-page panel layouts as well).  The "Sorta Square Book," employing a variation of the six panel strip-reprint pages of later "true" comic books, was as close to "standard" as anything during that time.  They all featured simple, colorful cardboard covers, a quick message from the cartoonist, and a couple months' worth of daily strips printed on stocky pulp paper, all bound with staples and a dark fabric binding tape.  Most also came in either a plain version, or a fancier collectors' version, which often included a dust jacket.  Although this standardization made Sorta Square Books more easily collectible, it also limited the artwork inside to mostly uniform panel by panel presentations.  Even artistically vibrant strips, like Bringing Up Father, seem truncated and shallow in this format.  Unlike earlier Platinum Age books, then, it seems as though the emphasis of the Sorta Square Book was on collecting popular storylines, not presenting great art.  I suppose that makes sense, as the explosion of comics strip popularity was due, in part, to the Soap Opera factor.  What were Mutt and Jeff scheming to do now?  How would Popeye escape the Goons?  Would Dick Tracy catch Stooge Viller?  Story drove that era, and it would be decades before the art would seem equally as important again.  Ugh.  I think it's time to call it a night.  More Platinum comics discussion later.  Here are your Platinum Age Comic Book Characters of The Day for - July 13 - Smokey Stover, July 14 - Hans Katzenjammer, and July 15 - Fritz Katzenjammer!

Hans und Fritz get der backensides tanned, vot?