It’s an exciting time for fans of the classic American comic strip. A few small, quality-minded publishing houses are issuing handsome new reprints of some of the glories of the genre — including, from Drawn and Quarterly Press, the start of a complete run of Frank King’s masterpiece Gasoline Alley. Volume two has just appeared, continuing the adventures of Walt, a genial car nut, and bachelor, who one days finds an infant on his doorstep and decides to keep and raise him.
King began his domestic epic in the 1920s (the strip premiered in 1918 but the kid didn’t appear at Walt’s door for a couple of years) and kept it going into the 1950s (when he turned it over to other artists), allowing us to watch the child, named Skeezix, grow up in real time. The strips of the early years constitute a sweet, sharply-observed paean to single parenthood and, more importantly, a deeply-felt celebration of the joys of fatherhood without equal in American art.
The strips have been unavailable for years, and never presented in complete form — check them out and cherish a rare treasure from our culture’s not-so-distant past.