A handsomely mounted presentation for one of the 20th-century’s landmark cartoons.



First volume of a worthy project to reintroduce the world to the gang at Gasoline Alley.

In a move as ambitious as Fantagraphic’s encyclopedic reissuing of the entire Peanuts line, Drawn & Quarterly has inaugurated an ambitious series that will eventually reprint the entire Gasoline Alley strip, as written and drawn by the late Frank King. The series is edited and designed by the estimable Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan, 2000), who obviously owes a lot of the inspiration for his nostalgic renderings to the work of fellow Chicagoan King, an influential early-20th-century cartoonist. The lengthy and learned introduction by Jeet Heer provides valuable insight into King’s life, particularly important since his strip was highly autobiographical. Far from being a tortured artist, he grew up uneventfully in Tomah, Wis., and afterward held a series of increasingly respectable and well-paid drawing jobs, culminating with the 1919 launch of Gasoline Alley in the Chicago Tribune. Heer draws connections from various incidents to their later appearances in the strip, and Ware liberally sprinkles the text with a wealth of old family photos. Gasoline Alley is pure Americana, set in a neighborhood where all the men are infatuated with their automobiles, tinkering with and talking about them endlessly. Disrupting the calm murmur of shoptalk is Skeezix, an orphan left on the doorstep of the chubby and friendly Walt, one of the Alley’s only unattached men. The sections of the strip included here (from 1921 and 1922) follow Walt’s attempts to raise the kid on his own. They also deal with the attentions of Mrs. Blossom, the beautiful, newly single woman who’s catching the eye of the Alley’s men and worrying their wives. It’s all as innocent as can be, but given to occasional melancholy and strangely addictive: the characters actually change from day to day, and they even age, an unthinkable thing for most stuck-in-amber cartoons.

A handsomely mounted presentation for one of the 20th-century’s landmark cartoons.

Pub Date: June 15, 2005

ISBN: 1-896597-64-5

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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Gorgeous and troubling.


Cartoonist Kuper (Kafkaesque, 2018, etc.) delivers a graphic-novel adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s literary classic exploring the horror at the center of colonial exploitation.

As a group of sailors floats on the River Thames in 1899, a particularly adventurous member notes that England was once “one of the dark places of the earth,” referring to the land before the arrival of the Romans. This well-connected vagabond then regales his friends with his boyhood obsession with the blank places on maps, which eventually led him to captain a steamboat up a great African river under the employ of a corporate empire dedicated to ripping the riches from foreign land. Marlow’s trip to what was known as the Dark Continent exposes him to the frustrations of bureaucracy, the inhumanity employed by Europeans on the local population, and the insanity plaguing those committed to turning a profit. In his introduction, Kuper outlines his approach to the original book, which featured extensive use of the n-word and worked from a general worldview that European males are the forgers of civilization (even if they suffered a “soul [that] had gone mad” for their efforts), explaining that “by choosing a different point of view to illustrate, otherwise faceless and undefined characters were brought to the fore without altering Conrad’s text.” There is a moment when a scene of indiscriminate shelling reveals the Africans fleeing, and there are some places where the positioning of the Africans within the panel gives them more prominence, but without new text added to fully frame the local people, it’s hard to feel that they have reached equal footing. Still, Kuper’s work admirably deletes the most offensive of Conrad’s language while presenting graphically the struggle of the native population in the face of foreign exploitation. Kuper is a master cartoonist, and his pages and panels are a feast for the eyes.

Gorgeous and troubling.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-63564-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.


Design veteran Chwast delivers another streamlined, graphic adaptation of classic literature, this time Mark Twain’s caustic, inventive satire of feudal England.

Chwast (Tall City, Wide Country, 2013, etc.) has made hay anachronistically adapting classic texts, whether adding motorcycles to The Canterbury Tales (2011) or rocket ships to The Odyssey (2012), so Twain’s tale of a modern-day (well, 19th-century) engineer dominating medieval times via technology—besting Merlin with blasting powder—is a fastball down the center. (The source material already had knights riding bicycles!) In Chwast’s rendering, bespectacled hero Hank Morgan looks irresistible, plated in armor everywhere except from his bow tie to the top of his bowler hat, sword cocked behind head and pipe clenched in square jaw. Inexplicably sent to sixth-century England by a crowbar to the head, Morgan quickly ascends nothing less than the court of Camelot, initially by drawing on an uncanny knowledge of historical eclipses to present himself as a powerful magician. Knowing the exact date of a celestial event from more than a millennium ago is a stretch, but the charm of Chwast’s minimalistic adaption is that there are soon much better things to dwell on, such as the going views on the church, politics and society, expressed as a chart of literal back-stabbing and including a note that while the upper class may murder without consequence, it’s kill and be killed for commoners and slaves. Morgan uses his new station as “The Boss” to better the primitive populous via telegraph lines, newspapers and steamboats, but it’s the deplorably savage civility of the status quo that he can’t overcome, even with land mines, Gatling guns and an electric fence. The subject of class manipulation—and the power of passion over reason—is achingly relevant, and Chwast’s simple, expressive illustrations resonate with a childlike earnestness, while his brief, pointed annotations add a sly acerbity. His playful mixing of perspectives within single panels gives the work an aesthetic somewhere between medieval tapestry and Colorforms.

Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60819-961-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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