Walt & Skeezix: 1923-1924

By Frank KingA selection of frames form the cartoon strip Gasoline Alley
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1896597997

This is the second book in this remarkable series collecting the years 1923 and 1924. Despite the title, this is actually the long-running and highly acclaimed Gasoline Alley strip. It has been reframed through its lead character, Walt, and his adopted son, Skeezix, whom he discovers abandoned on his doorstep at the beginning of the previous book. 

This volume covers the actual adoption, and plays out the mystery of the mother who has given him up. There are several moments of high drama, not least a kidnapping, and all this in a humour strip! But it’s not all about Walt and Skeezix’s relationship. The strip began as a celebration of the motor car and those that liked to tinker with them, and all that remains. We even have a race, from New York to San Fransico, between Walt and his friend Avery in his antiquated vehicle.

Most striking about the strip is that what you’re reading is 100 years old, and yet the characters are completely relatable, from Walt’s bumbling affection of Blossom to Avery’s penny-pinching ways. 

Unlike Peanuts and most other strips, where characters never age, Walt & Skeezix plays out in real time. We see Skeezix develop, his speech become more accomplished, and his actions become the centre of many a gag. This creates a changing dynamic that the characters can react to in a way absent from almost all other strips.

Naturally, there are some elements of the strip, not least the depiction of Walt’s housemaid Rachel, that most certainly have not stood the test of time. However, bearing in mind this is ten decades old, there’s still so much to enjoy in this genuinely classic strip.

And if you liked that: There are several more volumes available.

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