Stripper’s Guide Bookshelf: Great Cartoonists and their Art

Great Cartoonists and their Art, by Art Wood, Pelican Publishing, 1987 (ISBN 0-88289-476-5). Out of print but available from various sellers on ABE Books website.

This book sat unread on my bookshelf for years. A friend of mine who will remain nameless has nothing but bad things to say about the author, Art Wood, and this book, so I didn’t bother to read it until just recently.

Beyond my friend’s personal dislike of Wood, he poo-poos the book as being rife with errors. And on that count he does have a point. To cite a few examples, Wood talks about Windsor McCay, and says Li’l Abner ended in 1967.

But Wood makes no argument that he is a cartooning scholar. He is rather an unabashed fan of cartooning, and has been since he was a kid. This book is really about his various sojourns to visit with and collect art from his heroes.

Wood started collecting original cartoons when he was 12, and thanks to an indulgent father who encouraged and abetted him, got to visit many cartooning greats. Art would first make contact with cartoonists by mail, asking if he might visit them, and when positive responses were received, dad would take Art on road trips to New York, Washington and elsewhere to make good on the invitations.

Art was not a bit bashful about asking for originals, and the art reproduced in this book, mostly bearing inscriptions to him, speaks to his success. But the real treats are Wood’s reminiscences of his visits with these legendary cartoonists. Wood’s stories are unvarnished – some cartoonists were kind and friendly to a fault, others were gruff, even belligerent. Some are terribly sad – his visits with Bud Fisher and Richard ‘Moco’ Yardley are painful to read.

So if you yearn to know a little bit more about the people behind the pretty pictures, this book is definitely for you. If you take the history lessons with a pinch of salt you’ll find the book endlessly entertaining.

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