Stripper’s Guide Bookshelf: Nick Cardy – Comic Strips

Nick Cardy: Comics Strips
by Sean Menard and Nick Cardy
Frecklebean Press, 2007
No ISBN listed

I know Nick Cardy mostly from his comic book work of the 1970s (those dark days before I discovered newspaper comic strips), and though I recognized at the time that he was an excellent artist, there was something indefinable about his style that I found offputting. It just didn’t hold any appeal for me.

So I ordered this book with some reservations, but I was very curious to know about Cardy’s earlier comic strip work. I knew he had few credits – a six month run on Tarzan and a short while ghosting Casey Ruggles, and I wanted to know if there was more that had escaped my research. I also understood from the description that the book included an extended interview with the artist, and I’m always up for getting some behind the veil information on syndicates and comic strip production.

First the good news. Cardy’s work on the comic strips presented here is wonderful stuff, far superior, I think, to his comic book work. At his best (unfortunately on strips that were never published!) he seems to be influenced by Hogarth and later Raymond and it is slick stuff indeed.

The bad news is that you better really like the art, because nothing else about the book has much merit.

Let’s start with the Tarzan reprint section which it says is Cardy’s complete run. First of all the quality of the source material is wildly uneven. Some of it looks to have come from beautiful proofs, other strips are muddy enough that they must have come from microfilm. Tarzan is not a particularly rare strip so I really think the people responsible could have looked a little harder for good source material. Second is that we get the end of one story and the beginning of a second. This makes for a pretty uninvolving, if not downright confusing, read. I understand that the idea was just to print Cardy’s Tarzan strips, but the author should have either reproduced the stories from beginning to end or at least provided synopses of the portions not reprinted.

The book also reprints two Cardy strips that were never successfully syndicated, Major North and Adam Pierce (three weeks of the former, four of the latter). Cardy’s art is fantastic on both, but, hoo boy, were the syndicates right to turn down these stinkers. The writer of Major North had no feel at all for comic strip pacing and plotting so the story is an absolute unreadable mess. Adam Pierce, on the other hand, flows just fine, but the strip is about scientists and the writer had no grasp at all of anything scientific – a sixth grader with a D average could correct the embarrassing basic scientific gaffes made in this strip.

A third tryout strip, this one a pantomime titled Mr. Figg, is presented here from bad photocopies (the original art was long ago lost). Cardy says elsewhere in the book that he is no writer, and these strips assure us that he’s correct in his estimation.

Six weeks of Cardy ghosting on Casey Ruggles follows, containing two separate story fragments with a six month gap between the fragments. Again, nice art but were we not meant to read this material?

The book is filled out with 16 pages of a “Lady Luck Gallery”, a batch of miscellaneous Cardy pages thrown together. Why not a complete story? Didn’t want to buck the trend I guess.

Okay, so the strips aren’t really worth reading. How about that interview, though? Well, the interviewer obviously has very little interest in newspaper comic strips, so the discussion constantly veers off into Cardy’s comic book work (which, I assume, was probably well-covered in a previous book, The Art of Nick Cardy). About the only really interesting tidbit we learn about Cardy’s strip work is that he apparently pencilled the ultra-rare Batman strip in 1971-72, the one that was produced by Ledger Syndicate after their contract dispute with DC Comics. Could you tell us about that, Nick? Well, probably, but the interviewer couldn’t care less. He’d much rather discuss Black Canary’s fishnet stockings.

So if you’re a big fan of Cardy’s art this is a book you’ll want. Everyone else might be better off to take a pass.

5 comments on “Stripper’s Guide Bookshelf: Nick Cardy – Comic Strips

  1. Too late! I ordered it!

    I can’t say enough about the new complete Rarebit Feind, though. Have you seen it yet? And the article about dream strips by Alfredo Castelli is wonderful as well.

  2. I probably won’t order it (the Rarebit Fiend one) just because so much of it is on a CD or am I wrong?
    does anybody know whether the publisher has any plans of ever having the complete run on paper?

  3. To play the books advocate, let me say that for me it doesn’t feel as if most of the book is on CD. It feels as if you have a huge book with even more added on the CD. To have a 400 page book at that size for that cost in that quality is amazing – to get all the other scans a bonus. I also found out that the CD includes all the color strips from later in the run as well. One could grumble that those could have been better reprinted in color in the book. I too like complete collections, but my pet peeve is why do they always have to start at the biginning? Why not start in the middle (especially if a strip had to find it’s quality) and fan out to both sides. Or why not highlight certain years if you know you are going to get there (I’m still waiting for Pogo’s Hysteria).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *