For a long time the way that you would find an old newspaper comics was to go to the library and look through actual copies of the newspapers that the library had collected and sorted. Eventually, libraries moved to microfiche, which was a better way to store the data since it lasted longer and took up less space, but a pretty poor way to look at old strips. Once the libraries convert ot microfiche in the sixties and seventies, they no longer had a need for the originals. Fortunately Bill Blackbeard obtained the entire newspaper holdings of several libraries. Eventually he too ran out of space and donated his vast collection to the Ohio State University Cartoon Library.
Which is where Russ Cochran comes in. He has browsed through these old newspapers from the turn of the century, scanned some choice strips, and collected them in a new series called “Sunday Funnies.” You can see 96 pages of comics in each issue, all of which are printed at the original size.
First of all, this is a brilliant idea. Comics pages used to be huge, and rarely can you see these Sunday panels in the size that they were intended to be read. By printed them in a large “newspaper” not only can Cochran present these strip in their original size but also in a format that wouldn’t be cost prohibitive or too large to be manageable. Furthermore, because he scanned them from the newspapers and not from originals, they are presented in the way that they were read by everyone.
The first thing that struck me about these comics were how large they used to be, from back in the day they were used to sell papers. (This raises an interesting thought for this series: will the issues become smaller and smaller, shrinking gradually as the comics did?) Also, because I generally do not read comics that are this old, I was bound to discover a few surprises.
I had never really read Gasoline Alley before (expect for the occasional appearance on The Comics Curmudgeon) and was drawn into this series (there are several Sunday sequences presented.) I can honestly say I’ve never read an Alley Oop strip before, but found it quite humorous. Tarzan struck me as much more interesting (and not as wordy) as Prince Valiant. I had seen Crazy Quilt before, and while I like the novelty of the strip – six or so stories drawn by different artists that wander around the page – I’m still more struck by the idea than the content. And for all the attention that Krazy Kat gets (there are some of those here), it’s nice to see Stumble Inn, another Herriman strip.
However, by far the biggest treat for me was the inclusion of several pages of Dudley Fisher’s Right Around Home. Every since I saw a collection of them in the last Hogan’s Alley I was clamoring for a collection that would present them in a larger size. Here they are, in full color and in all their glory. A woefully unknown strip and still one that I wish the OSU Cartoon Library should collect to follow up the excellent Billy Ireland collection.
I’ve always been interested in those who collect clippings of strips instead of getting the reprints (if they exist). Those I think like to see the strips as they were originally presented to readers in printed color instead of black and white reproduced originals (or worse, colored digitally.) I find these strips, despite a little wear and tear, to have a certain charm too them that I don’t think would exist if Cochran had reproduced the strips from original artwork.
I haven’t had the chance to read the second issue yet, but Cochran promises that it’s even better than the first.
You can order Sunday Funnies at Cochran’s website.