Monday, June 09, 2008
Comics Legend Cliff Sterrett - From 1999
If family situations dominate American comic strips, cartoonist Cliff Sterrett certainly created a unique and dominate family.
Sterrett was born in 1883, and attended the Chase Arts School in New York. He became a newspaper staff artist in 1904, but yearned to become a cartoonist.
In 1912, Sterrett created four different comic strips, eventually choosing Polly as his life's work. It began as Positive Polly, focused on the daughter of his comics family, and became Polly and her Pals as its cast broadened.
Sterrett created a whimsically "big-foot" or abstract style of art unmatched in comics, especially on his Sunday pages. He is remembered with fondness for occasionally satirizing modern art with distorted perspectives and odd, surreal landscapes and settings.
Subtlety was not always its forte, but it is notable that Polly's parents were diminutive compared to their daughter and son, a subtle, visual comment on their relationships.
Sterrett was also adept at dialog and characterization, and had a keen insight into human nature and the dynamics of family life.
Sterrett discontinued Polly in 1958, and died December 28, 1964, a true master of his art.
Although very popular in newspapers, Sterrett's work was not heavily reprinted in comic books. Polly & Her Pals appeared in the first and last issue of Comic Monthly (Embee Dist. Co.), the first monthly newsstand magazine. Comic Monthly bore little resemblance to today's standard comic book format, and was released in January of 1922, predating the first comic book by many years.
The Complete Color Polly and Her Pals #s 1 & 2 was published by Fantagraphics Books. A collection was also released by Remco/Kitchen Sink.
A sampling of Polly was featured in The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics.
The work of Cliff Sterrett is highly recommended.
Some older titles are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are best sources. Prices vary; shop around for the best values.
-- Michael Vance