Markley’s Fevered Brain: A Strip a Day Will Keep You Entertained

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

Recently, as in the last few weeks, a number of great newspaper strip collections have been published. These range from Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon to Jose Luis Salina’s Cisco Kid to Leonard Starr’s Mary Perkins On Stage. I have long said there is a world of great stories in the pages of newspapers from years gone by that most of us have no idea exist. Fortunately a number of publishers have taken up the task of reprinting a number of these classic strips, and I am going to look at five recent releases. Of course, you should check www.westfieldcomics.com for availability of these titles as some of them are brand new. As great as these five books are, and as much as I commend these publishers for taking the time and effort to get these strips in print, they are but a very small percentage of the comic strips that are out there, not to mention the strips that have been lost to time. Also, since most of these strips are not about superheroes, the audience they appeal to is very limited, so I encourage you to try one of these books if you are looking for something different than the latest massive crossover or the newest re-launch gimmick.

Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim Vol. 1

Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim Vol. 1

First off I would like to discuss the first volume of IDW’s collection of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim. Alex Raymond is one of my favorite illustrators and Flash Gordon is one of his best loved works, although Rip Kirby is my favorite. This new collection from IDW is a huge oversized book in full color collecting the Flash Gordon Sunday strips from 1934-1936. It is fascinating to watch Raymond develop as an artist and draftsman as these strips go on. The early Sundays are a little stiff and you can see Raymond evolve from his work on the daily Secret Agent X (later X-9, see further down in this article) to his later work where his style evolves into a beautiful lush style that rivals Hal Foster. I think this is due to the space he was given on a Sunday only strip and the time it allowed him to have to produce it versus a daily strip. These Sunday strips were double the fun in that the main section of the strip was science fiction adventure with Flash Gordon but the top third of the strip was an ongoing Jungle Jim strip also by Raymond. This is the first time that the Flash Gordon strip has been reprinted with the Jungle Jim strips intact. The Jungle Jim strips have been reprinted in the past by Pacific Comics Club and Street Enterprises, but this is the first time they are reprinted the way they were intended. Flash Gordon has also been collected in the past by Kitchen Sink Press, Checker Press and others, but this is by far the most beautiful collection and the reproduction is the best I have seen of this material. There is also a lot of historical material about the strip and Alex Raymond. The book is a bit pricey, but it is worth every penny.

Cisco Kid Vol. 1

Cisco Kid Vol. 1


Next is the first volume of the complete collection of Jose Luis Salina’s Cisco Kid (or at least that is the plan.) This first volume collects strips from 1951-1953 and are beautifully restored in glorious black and white by Classic Comics Press. There is almost three year’s worth of daily strips by Salina collected here. It is a great book in that is shows an American audience what a fantastic artist Salina was, but he has never gotten a great deal of fan attention. Perhaps it’s because he is from Argentina that American fans have overlooked him, or maybe it’s because Cisco is not as well-known as some of the other characters. There are eight complete stories here all written by Rod Reed. Once again there is a lot of historical information about the strip, the O Henry story that the character is named after, and the history of Cisco. (There is very little connection between the O Henry story and the Cisco Kid comic strip and the very popular TV show of the same name in the 1950s.) As with the Big Ben collection that Classic Comics Press released earlier this year, this is a beautiful collection of a rarely seen – outside of a few reprints by Street Enterprises – newspaper strips with fast passed western stories with truly beautiful art. As a special bonus there is an introduction by Sergio Aragones.

Pogo Vol. 1: Through The Wild Blue Wonder

Pogo Vol. 1: Through The Wild Blue Wonder


Fantagraphics Books, who publishes some of the best collections in the world (see their Prince Valiant collections), have released the first volume of what is planned to be a 12 volume set reprinting the complete Walt Kelly’s Pogo. To be honest, I have never been a huge fan of Pogo, even though I loved Kelly’s Our Gang comics (also being collected by and available from Fantagraphics), but I have to say reading this first volume has changed my mind. Friends have told me for years how great Pogo is and they told me that if I read the strips in sequence I would see the beauty of Kelly’s storytelling. Jeff (Bone) Smith has been one of the most vocal supports of Pogo, and so to Jeff, I apologize, you are right, this is a great strip. This first volume has some of the most beautiful reproduction of a newspaper strip you will ever see and there is so much background information about Kelly and Pogo it is almost like taking a college class on Walt Kelly. Reading the strips in sequence (and this is the first time they have been reprinted in order without skipping around) is so much better than the trade collections that were done in the 60s and 70s. As a bonus, the Sunday strips are all in color. If you are like me, and were not a big Pogo fan, give this first volume a try and I think you will find that this is a fantastic strip.

X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan Vol. 3

X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan Vol. 3

IDW also recently released the third volume of six collecting the complete Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan. Yes, this is the same Secret Agent X that Alex Raymond created back in the 1930s except these strips are from 1972-1974. There are over 800 beautifully drawn strips by Al Williamson, who mixed realism with a beautiful style that grew out of the Roy Krenkel/Alex Raymond School of art. This book is worth picking up if only for Al Williamson’s art, but Archie Goodwin’s storytelling is some of the best you will ever read. Goodwin has a style of storytelling that few others have ever achieved. Within these volumes Goodwin is able to tell stories that include an outer space adventure; street gangs in the inner city; an evil Asian warlord who looks a lot like Fu Manchu; to the jungles of South America and the Aztecs. Together Goodwin and Williamson were a tour de force of storytelling that harkens back to the classic days of the adventure strip.

Mary Perkins On Stage Vol. 9

Mary Perkins On Stage Vol. 9


Finally we have Mary Perkins On Stage Volume 9. I include this title because it is the ninth volume in this collection of Leonard Starr’s classic strip. Classic Comics Press has so far has been able to collect every strip since the beginning. While most people dismiss Mary Perkins as a soap opera and it rarely gets much, if any, attention it is actually a beautifully drawn human drama that is both gripping and suspenseful. It is not an adventure strip in the sense of Buz Sawyer or Steve Canyon, but it is an adventure, a human adventure and the art is as good as anything Williamson or Raymond ever did, which is high praise indeed. Classic Comics Press has pledegd to publish the complete run of Leonard Starr’s work on this strip over 15 volumes, and they are over half the way there. If you have never seen Mary Perkins, do yourself a favor and pick up a volume just to be amazed by the beautiful art and production.

This wraps up this blog. This is a golden age of newspaper strip reprints and the five books I have spotlighted here are just the tip of the iceberg. Personally I find it to be so much fun to sit down with one of these books and spend hours in another world, be it on the far flung planet of Mongo with Flash Gordon or the dusty wild west of the Cisco Kid or streets of the big city with Mary Perkins, it is so much more engrossing than many of the monthly comics that come out every week. As always, these are my thoughts only, and do not reflect the opinions of the employees or the company, Westfield Comics. Any thoughts, complaints, agreements or disagreements can be sent toMFBWAY@AOL.COM.

Thank you.

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