Many of the chapters in this book had earlier, somewhat different incarnations in The Comics Journal, where they appeared in book reviews as lengthy historical and critical digressions in the manner of Thomas Macaulay, with whose approach I was afflicted very early in my career as a commentator on the arts of cartooning. All of these essays, however, have been re-worked and amplified in order to integrate them into the more- or-less cohesive (not to say comprehensive) aesthetic history that appears on the following pages. The first chapter expands on an article that I wrote for a special comics issue of The Journal of Popular Culture (Spring 1979). And some of the chapters (on The Gumps and syndication and on Joseph Patterson and on Milton Caniff) are taken from an unpublished biography of Caniff that I completed in 1989. But much of the material herein has been written expressly for this book--the chapters on illustrators and on the gag comic strip since 1950, for instance. The section on Bud Fisher and Mutt and left was also written for this volume, but it appeared prior to this in the premiere issue of Inks: Cartoon and Comic Art Studies ( February 1994), a scholarly journal published by the Ohio State University Press.
I am particularly grateful to Gary Groth, editor of The Comics Journal, who has kept my byline in print for nearly twenty years; to M. Thomas Inge, who prompted me to tackle a book on this subject and whose appreciative reading of my work and perceptive comment on it have always been edifying as well as gratifying to me; and to my wife Linda, who, years ago when I had all but given up drawing cartoons, encouraged me to write about the comics, little guessing then how many of my quondom spare hours would subsequently be spent in passionate study of the medium and in devoted pursuit of the right words to describe its workings.