An overdose of books this week as quite a few decent ones have turned up.
First off is one that I’ve not started to read yet as its a normal book about comics The Pirates and the Mouse by Bob Levin relates the tale of Dan O’Neill, a popular underground comix artist who fell foul of Disney over his use of their characters. His comix The Air Pirates used Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a `30’s comic style.
Unfortunately for O’Neill he also included a lot of sex, drugs and swearing. This is what incurred Disneys wrath ( as opposed to the satire that Elder and Kurtzmann used in their version in Mad) and landed O’Neill in a protracted First Amendment court batle with Disney that he ultimately lost. All copies of the Air Pirates were pulped and its hard to find one now. You can’t even get to see it on the net, and thats a place where practically anything is available.
A good account of the underground comix scene at the time, and how big corporations will go to any lengths to protect their property, the book is published by Fantagraphics in hardback and is priced £16.99
Next up is another collection from Fantagraphics. I’ve always believed that its important to understand the history of comics and where they come from. DC and Marvel do themselves a great deal of good in reproducing their Golden and Silver Age stuff (even if they are quite expensive), but there is even more that is available and should have a wider audience.
The newspapers in the early twentieth century were a hotbed in creativity for the artists of the comic strip and the likes of E.C.Segar (Popeye), Harold Grey (Little Orphan Annie) and George Herriman (Krazy Kat) showed in as little as four panels a lot of the problems and situations the ordinary people found themselves in during that time.
The latest volume of Krazy Kat and Ignatz the Mouse contains the full page comics 1929 to 1930 from the Hearst papers, when Herriman was at his height. The scenery in the land of Coconino County may change panel by panel as always but one thing remains constant. Ignatzs search for a brick to aim at Krazys head. Parallels can be made between the two antagonists and Itchy and Scratchy, but the comic strip has a less frantic pace and funnily enough more realistic violence (mostly down to Offisa Pup. Some things never change). Its not to everybodies taste of course and some of the nuances (coming from an earlier age as it does) may go over some heads, but a worthy edition to anyone interested in the history of comics. Price should be about £9.95
Lastly and again from Fantagraphics is The Frank Book by Jim Woodring. All I can say is that I want some of what Woodring is on. Out in hardback,priced £27.99.