Andrew's Reviews > Polly and Her Pals: Complete Sunday Comics 1925-1927

Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett
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's review
May 29, 11

bookshelves: comic-strips
Read in May, 2011

This volume beautifully reproduces Cliff Sterrett's gorgeous Sunday Polly and her Pals pages from 1925-1927, just as it says in the title. It doesn't reprint the series from the very beginning (although it does reprint two strips a year for each year leading up to 1925, to show a thumbnail of Sterrett's artistic development).

The book starts with 1925, because it was a crucial year for the development of the strip, and Sterrett's work. In the summer of 1925, he took a six-month sabbatical. Before he left, the strip was a very funny, very well-drawn domestic comedy. After his return, the art took on an increasingly surreal look, taking a great leap forward. In its stylization, it is reminiscent of George Herriman's Krazy Kat, but more accessible.

(While the book doesn't reprint all the strips done by ghost artists during that sabbatical, it does present a representative sample. This is the complete Cliff Sterrett Sundays from 1925-1927, after all.)

A very few of the strips read as products of their time, relying on fads of the day, or using the sorts of unfortunate racial stereotypes that were all too common in that period. Most, however, are timeless, and the very best are works of genius.

The book features fabulous reproduction, mostly from syndicate color proofs. The images are sharp and clear and clean, and the colors are gorgeous. Looking at these pages, which once filled the entire newspaper page, it's clear how much comic strips have lost in the past 80 years. Comic strip scholar Jeet Heer provides context with a biographical essay that is detailed without being dry and boring.

Polly and her Pals is a classic that doesn't seem to get much discussion today. Hopefully, this book, and promised future volumes, will correct that.
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