Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sundays with Sunday Press

Every Sunday morning, I give myself a little treat.  I read a single page from two extraordinary books published by Peter Maresca's Sunday Press Books, Sundays with Walt and Skeezix and Little Nemo in Slumberland: Many More Splendid Sundays.  The Little Nemo book is the second oversized collection of Winsor McCay's comic strip masterpiece.  The first volume (now out of print) justifiably received a lot of attention when it was first published, as it represented the first time since their initial publication in newspapers that the Little Nemo strips were published in their original size, allowing readers to experience the strips as they were meant to be seen.  It is probably fair to say that reading the strips this way is the only way to truly appreciate the artistry of Winsor McCay.  A Selection of extended adventures are reprinted here, many for the first time, wherein Nemo and his pals are enveloped in the fantastic, shifting dreamscape that is Slumberland.  There will never be another strip like Little Nemo, and Maresca has provided a great service in preserving some of it in this handsomely designed book.

As much as I adore the Little Nemo strips, I actually prefer Sundays with Walt and Skeezix, reprinting, in the same oversized format, the best of Frank King's Gasoline Alley Sunday strips.  While the Gasoline Alley daily strips followed a kind of soap opera structure, with the characters famously aging in real time, the Sunday strips were usually one-offs, often depicting dream or fantasy scenarios that showcased King's extraordinary draftsmanship and sense of design.  In these Sunday strips, Skeezix travels to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus, cavorts with witches and black cats on Halloween (in a strip drawn entirely in silhouette), and observes the changing of the seasons with his Uncle Walt, as well as many other adventures.  Wonderfully, Maresca has recruited Chris Ware, who designs Drawn & Quarterly's Walt and Skeezix daily strip collections, to design this volume as well.  Thus, the book design matches that of the daily series and is a perfect companion to it.  Indeed, the Sundays book is necessary if one is to have a full understanding of King's achievement on the Gasoline Alley strip.

There are a handful of other books available from Sunday Press, with more to come.  All look wonderful, but I think at least one volume of the Little Nemo material and the Walt and Skeezix book are essential.


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