Another cartoon luminary of the past has joined IDW’s Library of American Comics with the announcement of Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and The Little King, a survey of Otto Soglow, the New Yorker minimalist who created The Little King, a much-admired character that influenced such design-heavy cartoonists as Ivan Brunetti and Chris Ware.
Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and The Little King is a long-overdue examination of the unique pantomime cartoons of Otto Soglow, who entertained millions for more than fifty years and whose influence remains current in the works of Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Ivan Brunetti, and others. To be published in February by IDW’s Library of American Comics, this compendium features 432 pages of Soglow’s most famous creation, The Little King—plus the complete run of The Ambassador, the strip that preceded the King in the comics pages.
Soglow began experimenting with eliminating unnecessary lines while at The New Yorker, where he created The Little King in 1931. Lured by William Randolph Hearst, Soglow moved to the Sunday comics section with The Ambassador until his contract with The New Yorker ended in 1934. The Little King remained a Sunday funnies mainstay until Soglow’s death in 1975.
“After reading more than 2,000 of his comics in researching this book,” says Dean Mullaney, the book’s Eisner Award-winning editor and designer, “I have a greater than ever respect for Soglow’s ability to convey a tremendous amount with very few words and in deceptively simple lines.”
Ohio State University professor Jared Gardner, who serves as contributing editor and has written the Introduction, notes that Soglow “began his career as a radical artist publishing in The New Masses and The Liberator; a decade later he was working for William Randolph Hearst and creating advertisements for Pepsi Cola and oil companies. The Little King, Soglow’s most famous creation, is born out of the tension between his political idealism and his professional ambitions.”
Much of the humor in The Little King is aimed at puncturing pomposity and, as Ivan Brunetti points out in his Afterword, Soglow accomplishes it with drawings that are tightly composed, exquisitely timed, carefully structured pieces of machinery. “His process of streamlining is at the root of why his cartoons have a timeless sophistication and elegance, and continue to entice new readers and cartoonists. It’s high time for such a fitting tribute to this cartoon monarch.”
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.