by Jeet Heer
Friday, December 24, 2010
As Evan Dorkin and others have mentioned, we’ve had a flood of good (and sometimes jaw-droppingly great) books that haven’t received anywhere near the recognition that they deserve. In response to this sad situation, I’m going to start a feature called PAY ATTENTION, devoted to recent, new and forthcoming books that deserve to be singled out.
The question of why books get ignored is worth puzzling out. Some personal reflections might be in order: when I worked on the first Walt and Skeezix book, I wasn’t sure how it would be received and was pleasantly shocked at the number of reviews it got, often in very prominent places (Playboy, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc.) It wasn’t just the number of reviews and their high-visibility that was gratifying. A surprisingly large number of the reviews were very thoughtful and responsive to King’s work.
So why did the first Walt and Skeezix do so well in the public notice sweepstakes? A lion’s share of the credit has to go to the fact that Peggy Burns has claims to be the most talented publicist in comics. Chris Ware’s eye-popping design on the book played no small part in making it a volume that couldn’t be ignored, as did the stellar production work of the D&Q staff. But part of the story is also one of timing. We were early in the reprints game. The complete Peanuts series and the Krazy & Ignatz series had already started, which gave a context for people to understand the book. But there wasn’t a lot of other competition around. Frank King had the novelty factor going for him since no one had seen those daily strips in decades.