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Cartoon Cornucopia: The J. Arthur Wood, Jr. Collection of Cartoon Art
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Comic Strips

In breadth and depth, few private collections of comic strips compare to that of Art Wood. Historians argue about when the comic strip began, but few disagree that Richard Outcault's enormously popular character, Mickey Dugan, better known as the Yellow Kid was a commercial revelation to publishers when it was introduced in 1895. Immediately, they understood what this new genre would do for sales and reduced their reliance on reprints of cartoons from such popular periodicals as Truth, Puck, and Judge and employed staff artists to create popular comic strips. Since then, men and women with a certain genius have reshaped the medium. This selection of comic strips is representative of thousands of original drawings in the Wood collection that chronicle the development of this indigenous American art form.

Richard F. Outcault (1863-1928) created the enormously popular Yellow Kid in 1895 for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. The first commercially successful comic strip, Outcault's creation revolutionized newspaper humor pages. In fact, it proved so successful that William Randolph Hearst lured him away to the New York Journal. This example is one of two extremely rare Yellow Kid originals in the collection. The original drawing varies from the published version in spacing of objects, especially the aerialist, and the number of references to hair. It was published within weeks of Outcault's move to Hearst's newspaper and contains numerous references to the switch.

Image: see caption below
Richard F. Outcault,
Mc Fadden's Row of Flats - Inauguration of the Football Season in McFadden's Row
, 1896.
India ink over graphite underdrawing with scraping out on bristol board. Variant of that published in the New York Journal, November 15, 1896.
Image: see caption below Richard F. Outcault,
The Yellow Kid. He meets Tige and
Mary Jane and [Buster Brown]
, 1907.
Pencil, ink, and watercolor.
Published in the New York American Examiner, July 7, 1907.

This spectacular piece by Richard Outcault features the introduction of two great comic strip characters, Mickey Dugan, also known as "The Yellow Kid," and his immensely popular successor, Buster Brown. Here we can see the adoption of what became the standard Sunday format - twelve regularly spaced panels crowded with detailed drawing and text. In this story, Buster Brown, the twelve-year-old scion of a Manhattan family in the wealthy Murray Hill neighborhood heads to the tenements of Hogan's Alley in a dream. In a nod to another great comic strip of the period, Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, Outcault has Buster Brown wake up from his nightmare and resolve not to slumber. Outcault guided the engravers by coloring only the new elements in the comic strip.

Americans, caught up in the woes of the Great Depression, immediately took to Chic Young's humorous daily reminders that love, not money, conquers all. The featured character of a new comic strip by Murat Bernard "Chic" Young (1901-1973) Blondie Boopadoop entered the world on September 8, 1930. The comic strip floundered until Young decided to have Blondie fall deeply in love with Dagwood Bumstead. Desperate to wed Blondie, in spite of his father's objections to her lowly social status, Dagwood went on a hunger strike until the elder Bumstead grudgingly accepted their relationship, but refused to continue to support his son. The couple married on Friday, February 17, 1933, and Dagwood, now disinherited, stripped of his wealth and family connections, was nonetheless blissfully happy with his sparkling, vivacious, yet unfailingly practical new bride. Young drew this daily comic strip just weeks before Blondie's marriage to Dagwood, when Blondie was still a carefree, flighty girl.

Image: see caption below
Chic Young,
, 1932.
India ink and blue pencil over graphite underdrawing with paste-ons.
Published by King Features, December 27, 1932. LC-DIG-ppmsca-03350
© Reprinted with permission of King Features
Image: see caption below
Alex Raymond,
Flash Gordon #21
, 1934.
Ink and opaque white over graphite
underdrawing with paste-ons.
Published by King Features, June 3, 1934.
© Reprinted with permission of King Features

The late 1920s and early 1930s were the golden age of the adventure strip in American newspapers. Books, comic books, and comic strips, and later radio regularly featured science fiction and superheroes. Innovative illustrators like Alexander Raymond (1909-1956) used a sophisticated dry ink brush technique almost exclusively at a time when others used the pen, moving away from the "cartoony" style in humorous strips. Masterful writers combined with top illustrators to create lush detail and beautifully composed drawings epitomized by this spectacular Flash Gordon. Late in 1933, Raymond was given the assignment of creating a science fiction strip to compete with Buck Rogers, and along with writer Don Moore created Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim. In this example, Flash Gordon successfully leaps and darts to kill horned tigers while his colleague Thun faces his jailors on Mongo before they turn their attention to their nemesis, Ming the Merciless.

The artistic style and language employed by George Herriman (1880-1944) in his feature Krazy Kat stood out from that of almost every other cartoonist. His playful use of space, language, and gender captured the fancy of his publisher, William Randolph Hearst, who insisted that his papers carry Krazy Kat until its creator's death in 1944. Herriman manipulated space and employed syncopated language at a time when most cartoonists maintained the standard grid format and imitated popular slang. He drew this episode toward the end of his career and his audience, long familiar with Krazy's love of Ignatz and the mouse's brick, would have understood that the punch line was intended to force Ignatz to hurl it.

Image: see caption below
George Herriman,
Krazy Kat
, 1942.
India ink with scraping out over graphite
underdrawing on bristol board.
Published by King Features Syndicate, April 19, 1942. LC-DIG-ppmsca-03340
© Reprinted with permission of King Features
Image: see caption below
Charles Schulz, Peanuts, 1964
Ink brush over graphite underdrawing, with printed overlay on bristol board
Published by United Features, October 5, 1964
Copyright Status: Copyright held by United Feature Syndicate.

Arguably the most influential cartoonist of modern times, Charles Schulz (1922-2000) created in Peanuts the quintessential postwar American newspaper comic strip. Characterized by its spare, lean style and biting humor, the simple strip, with its gentle, sheltered suburban world inhabited by children, became instantly popular. Children became philosophers, offering reflections on human nature. Schulz retired from cartooning and ended the strip in 1999 - the final Peanuts appeared just after his death in 2000. However, Peanuts lives on in reprints and reruns. Here, Linus' campaign for school president coincided with the last month of the 1964 Lyndon Johnson/Barry Goldwater presidential campaign. Linus was expected to win until he invoked the Great Pumpkin.

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  August 29, 2003
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