Walt Before Skeezix
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
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The prelude to the Walt and Skeezix series offers a portrait of a country in transition
Walt Before Skeezix collects the first years of Frank King’s beloved comic strip Gasoline Alley—one of the most widely read and syndicated strips of its time, which is still syndicated today. These comics, produced between 1919 and 1920, focus primarily on Walt Wallet and his friends as they engage with the then-novel automobile sensation that was sweeping the nation.
This period of the newspaper strip is especially fascinating as a historical time capsule, charting a moment in America’s past when horses and buggies shared the road with cars, and when the country was making the transition from rural farmers to urban, industrialized society.
King was a pioneering American cartoonist who changed comics forever by setting his strip in contemporary America and having his characters age. These lavish volumes pay tribute to the evolution of his style and storytelling. Designed and edited by the world-renowned cartoonist Chris Ware (Building Stories), Walt Before Skeezix includes a wide-ranging introductory essay from the noted comics historian Jeet Heer, the coeditor of Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium, and an essay by Tim Samuelson, the cultural historian for the city of Chicago, about how Chicago’s history is reflected in King’s newspaper strip.
One of the pioneering giants of American comic strips, Frank King was born in Cashton, Wisconsin, in 1883. He joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune in 1909. Almost from the start of his career, King’s cartoons were frequently featured on the front page of the paper. He made his lasting mark in 1919 by creating Gasoline Alley, which became one of the most widely syndicated and read strips in North America until King’s death in 1969.
"Walt Before Skeezix [is] a charming road trip to the past." —NPR
“Even before Skeezix, this volume reveals Frank King as an ambitious cartoonist eager to burst beyond the limitations of a weekly single-panel car strip.”—AV Club
“This latest volume demonstrates that King had mastered that easy cadence and benevolent outlook even before Skeezix arrived, when the strip still centred around a cast of automobile enthusiasts who congregated in a Chicago back alley... King instills the proceedings with his signature brand of kindly, leisurely warmth, and true fellow-feeling.” —The Globe & Mail