While all our books are special to me in one way or another, certain releases carry with them an extra-special frisson. I like to think our two King Aroos and the Cartoon Monarch volume, for example, help call attention to these unfairly-neglected strips and their exceptional creators (Jack Kent, Otto Soglow). Books such as Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, as well as our Little Orphan Annie, Steve Canyon, and Terry and the Pirates series always energize me because they reflect the research I and others have done at Boston University, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and other sites. I always hope our readers will get as much of a thrill out of seeing reproductions of rarely-seen Christmas cards, notebook entries and sketches, advertising art, and personnel correspondence as we get from touching and examining the originals.
The third in our series of LOAC Essentials, collecting the 1933 Polly and Her Pals dailies, gives me the equivalent of a frisson double whammy.
As scholars with bigger brains than mine have often stated, Polly‘s creator, Cliff Sterrett, is among those most often-neglected in the pantheon of great comic strip impresarios. Who can read this new collection of the whacky antics of the Perkins clan, including the delightful Christmas sequence that rounds out the book, and not be both utterly charmed and duly impressed with the unique artwork and impressive storytelling and characterization skills on display?
Not only do I hope this Polly Essentials will help shine a deserved spotlight on Cliff Sterrett’s talent, I have fingers crossed readers will enjoy my essay, titled “The Downeaster.” It represents the scratching of a thirty-year itch.
I became a Polly and Her Pals devotee from my initial introduction to the strip in the pages of the late, much-missed Nemo magazine. When I discovered Sterrett had spent several years residing in Ogunquit, Maine—a town roughly sixty miles from where I grew up—I became fascinated by the possibility of learning more about him and the “artists’ colony” with which he was reportedly involved. Time passed, Nemo suspended publication, no further significant information on Sterrett’s Ogunquit years was forthcoming, and at the time I perceived no outlet for any writing I might do were I to research the subject.
Once we decided to reprint Polly Sundays in our oversized “Champagne Edition” format, Jeet Heer expressed to Dean his desire to write the text feature for that particular book. I admit I winced a bit at that news, but as I told Dean, I had a full plate in front of me at that time, and it would hardly be fair of me to play “dog in a manger” and keep such a plum assignment for myself. If you read Jeet’s exceptional article in our Eisner-nominated 2010 Polly and Her PalsSundays volume, I think you’ll see why I had few regrets over that decision.
Still, when we obtained the 1933 Polly dailies and put it on the schedule as part of our Essentialsline, I wasted no time laying claim to that writing assignment! I did my research, wrote my article, and edited the galleys before we shipped the book to the printer … and I was sky-high all the while.
I’m still sky-high whenever I look at my copy of the completed book. If I’ve done my job properly, you’ll finish reading this article and have a significantly-improved understanding of what the Ogunquit artists’ colony was all about and how Cliff Sterrett fit into it. (You’ll also see a piece of Sterrett original art we found that was produced for the artist’s Maine-based friends and neighbors!)
If our latest LOAC Essentials whets your appetite for more Polly and Her Pals, you’ll be glad to know we’re planning a future “Champagne Edition” of surrealistic Sterrett Sunday pages from 1928 to 1931. To help tide you over until then, here’s a sampling of some later 1938 PollySundays from a batch of clipped strips I recently acquired for my own fun and entertainment. (A year when Polly was going brunette!)
Click on strips for larger versions…