We are now up to the seventh volume of Drawn & Quarterly's comprehensive reissue of Frank King's Gasoline Alley comics featuring Walt & Skeezix (1921-59)! By this point (1933-34), King has been drawing the strip for over a decade and a certain maturity was setting in: a car that was Walt's pride and joy in earlier strips now appears battered and worn, Skeezix is an adolescent up to new hijinx, and Walt's glamorous wife Phyllis puts on weight and then struggles to "reduce." The realities of the Depression seep in, as destitute relatives come to stay, and fraudulent schemers provide comic relief. These realistic themes impart a world-weariness to this era of Walt & Skeezix that might make it more familiar to readers of contemporary graphic novels than King's earlier work. In D&Q Executive Editor Tom Devlin estimation, this is when the series gets good!
As with all the editions of this series, vol. 7 comes complete with an essay, timeline, and scrapbook of notebook clippings and archival material. This volume's essay is by New Republic editor Jeet Heer (who also co-edited the book, with Chris Ware and Chris Oliveiros)!
Chris Ware also contributes a timely, thoughtful note about racism in early comics. While not exonerating King or his peers, Ware nevertheless emphasizes that King frequently made an effort to humanize his non-white characters -- more than most cartoonists of his day.