Thursday, July 6, 2017


BUSTER BROWN (Create Space, Printed on February 12, 2017; Softcover)

Collects 70 Buster Brown Sunday strips from 1902-1904.

Writer and Artist: R.F. Outcault

The book's spine does not feature the title. -10% enjoyment on The OCD scale.

The Platinum Age of comics (pre-comic books newspaper strips) is woefully underrepresented in Collected Editions. Buster Brown has two reprint books from the 1970s, but neither are complete. A handful of his strips have appeared in books like Society Is Nix, but comprehensive reprints are nonexistent. This mostly forgotten character doesn't have enough clout to be reprinted today, which is a shame considering that he was an outright phenomenon in his heyday. It seems almost criminal to let historically significant works like this rot in the hands of private collectors or exist as poorly scanned images on a handful of websites on the Internet. There aren't enough people who care about the history of the artform to make any publisher take a gamble and release a collection. If I ever win the Lotto I'll do it.

Imagine my delight when I discovered this collection, a bargain priced print on demand reprint from Amazon's CreateSpace imprint for $9.99. Where do I sign? I was in. Two days later this expectedly low budget affair arrived at my home. I have mixed feeling about this book. It's great to own these strips, but I have 20/20 vision and had a hard time reading the dialogue in spots.

This strip stars your run of the mill well-to-do Victorian child getting into all manner of mischief with his dog, Tige. Then-contemporary fashions and slang are fascinating to me. Societal mores, such as the once acceptable spanking of children, are on full display. Buster Brown's resolutions are usually found after him being on the receiving end of his mother's hand or hairbrush. This is unintentionally funny 113 years after publication.

Buster gets in all sorts of trouble and celebrates every holiday along the way. The whimsical nature of the strip, coupled with Outcault's unintentionally creepy faces, makes for a bizarre read that bleeds charm. I love the fashions and customs of the day (i.e. tea parties, the ash man, etc.) and found a reference to the then-new vaccinations, where people still objected to them out of ignorance. Another famous cartoon strip, Raggedy Ann, was actually the symbol of the anti-vaccination movement of the early 20th century.

This book is a disservice to the genius of Outcault. The stories are great but the subpar presentation prevents me from recommending this book to anyone. I gambled 10 bucks but my advice to you is to find the scans on the Internet that these were swiped from and read them on your device or try printing them out yourself. They won't come out any worse, I promise you.
Junk Food For Thought rating: * out of 5.

The OCD zone- *While this book is wider than a standard trade paperback/ graphic novel, the artwork is shrunk down so much that it is virtually unreadable at times. I can't give a fair rating, so I won't give one at all.
Linework restoration: Awful. Imagine listening to a mp3 that is sourced from a cassette which was recorded off of a record by placing the tape recorder next to the speaker as the record played. You are dealing with this level of loss of fidelity. These strips were originally printed in color. The black and white presentation here is a murky grayscale mess. I have actually located the page where these scans were swiped from for this book. This material deserves better than this book, which any boob could have slapped together using Amazon's CreateSpace imprint.
Paper stock: Lighter weight uncoated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock. 

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