A new ongoing collection of Frank King’s Gasoline Alley colour Sundays, collecting the first two years of Walt and Skeezix in an excellent introductory volume.
Dark Horse is proud to present the first in a series that will collect all the Sunday pages of the classic newspaper strip, in chronological order! While the daily pages focused on a continuing narrative, creator Frank King reserved the Gasoline Alley Sunday strips for wonderful, inventive interludes in which Walt Wallet, and his adopted foundling son Skeezix, reflected upon the lessons of life and the beauty of nature. Reprinted in full color, using the King family’s collection of proofs, this giant-sized volume collects every Gasoline Alley Sunday strip from 1920 through 1922.
Gasoline Alley is a light hearted look at life, family life really, and how it effects those who live in the alley. I’ve never laughed at loud at any of the strips, but it always puts a smile on my face. A fun, light read.
Being the bachelor of the group Walt is constantly told to get married, and his friends try to set him up, all to no avail. It’s a running gag and gets a bit old when reading it as one continuous volume but once a week I can see the entertainment value.
Frank King had the daily strip going and make the Sunday strip a separate entity, not continuing storylines but providing one off full page coloured strips. Starting off with a different family from the alley it quickly changed to Walt and his doorstep baby Skeezix. The big twist King employed was for the strip to operate in real time: this is punctuated by Walt celebrating Skeezix’s birthday about a year after he was found. Because it’s only three years there isn’t a lot of development going on but we get to see Skeezix age ; at the end of the book he’s a rambunctious toddler.
Automobiles were beginning to take over the landscape, and as they became an affordable option for the working class so did road trips to the new national parks. Walt loves tinkering with his car, the great outdoors and most of all Skeezix, so that’s what the strip focuses on. There’s a strong and full supporting cast that do their job of enhancing the main characters. It’s a slice of life from an era vastly different from our own, yet relationships with family and peers hasn’t changed a bit.
For almost a year the strip ran as a two color affair, finally making the move to four colour in August of 1921. The examples here illustrate King’s excellent choices of textures to get the most from the initial limited palette.
As a 12×16 inch volume it’s an investment at $75 but the production is excellent. Three introductions are provided by Russ Cochran, Jeet Heer and Zavier Cabarga. Cochran is listed as curator and consulting editor, and based on auctions I’ve followed is representing and selling for the King family. Heer has an excellent knowledge of King and this strip and has provided introductions to the Drawn & Quarterly daily strip volumes. Cabarga gives a wonderful look at his restoration process for this volume, showing his work in comparison to the original newspapers and the proof sheet volumes the King family still has. Stitched binding allows the book to lay flat at any page, a real must for this size.
A slice of contemporary 1920’s life is presented, and with that its slang, prejudices and concerns of the day. The style is clean, functional and completely King’s own; I especially enjoy the men’s hairstyles and the range of facial features on all the cast members in the alley. Great stuff indeed.
As an aside, it’s from Gasoline Alley that I took the name for my other, irregular column at Comic Book Daily.
Originally published at Comic Book Daily.