Monday, 26 April 2010


We seem to be in a Golden Age of classic newspaper strip reprints. Publishers such as Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly have been giving us deluxe collected editions of classics such as Thimble Theater, Steve Canyon, Little Orphan Annie among many others.
IDW publishing have also entered the field with their Library Of American Comics series including collections of Bloom County, Family Circus and, best of all, Jack Kent's sublime King Aroo.

For those unfamiler with the titular King, Aroo is the monarch of the mythical land of Myopia. Other residents of the postage stamp country are Yupyop, Lord High Almost Everything; scientistProfessor Yorgle; Mr. Pennipost, the kangaroo mailman with almost an endless pocket; Mr. Elephant, the memory challanged pachiderm and Wanda Witch, who pushes a cart with a sign that says "Spells and Curses, 5¢".

Much like Walt Kelly's Pogo, Kent's strip delights with its sophisticated puns and wordplay.

Here's what The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics has to say...

King Aroo is one of the most celebrated strips of the recent past in the comics, but celebrated largely among devotees of comics, and appealing largely to the members of the readership that loved Krazy Kat, Barnaby, Pogo and Little Nemo. The King was the creation of Jack Kent, born in Burlington, Iowa, in 1920. It was probably Kent's lack of formal art training that led to a loose-lined art style, with panels full of characters and activity. It was surely his innate artistic ability that kept those panels from looking cluttered. The strip began in 1950 in national syndication but was discontinued after a few years. It was kept on in limited syndication until 1965 by Stanleigh Arnold's small Golden Gate Features.

IDW plans to reprint the complete run of King Aroo, with this first volume publishing every daily and Sunday strip from 1950 through to 1952. The reproduction is crystal clear, shot from Jack Kent's original syndicate proofs, provided by his family. Edited by, and with an insightful foreward by, Dean Mullany and with a brief introduction by the legendary Sergio Aragones this collection is an absolute delight for every one of it's 360 pages.

If I have one niggling complaint it's that the Sunday strips (in black & white rather than the original colour) are collected in their own section at the back of the book, rather than in strict chronological order with the daily strips. But that's such a minor quibble it seems churlish to mention it.

For about £29.99 ($40 US) it's a marvelous introduction to one of America's finest (and, until now, hardest to find) newspaper strips.
If your local comic store doesn't stock it, get them to order it for you. Trust me, you won't regret it!

Roll on Volume 2!

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