Okay you can mark off one more from the list of great comic strips without a deluxe reprint series: Percy Crosby’s Skippy is getting the Library of American Comics treatment. The whimsical childhood strip was immensely popular in its day — the film version starring Jackie Coogan was nominated for four Academy Awards — but Crosby eventually ran into severe personal problems and spent the last years of his life in a mental hospital.
Despite Crosby’s sad story, the strip remains a much loved gem that influenced the great kid strips like Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbes, and Cul de Sac. Library of American Comics Series co-editor Dean Mullaney sent along a swell preview of the first volume, which is due next summer.
IDW Publishing and the Library of American Comics are proud to announce a new archival hardcover series that will reprint, for the first time, the complete legendary Skippy comic strips by Percy Crosby. THE COMPLETE SKIPPY will be co-edited by Jared Gardner and Dean Mullaney, with an ongoing biography by Gardner, and designed by Lorraine Turner. The premiere volume, containing the daily comics from 1925 through 1927, will be released in summer 2012. ￼
“Percy Crosby caught lightning in a bottle and learned how to draw with it,” wrote Jules Feiffer in a 1978 appreciation. Milton Caniff marveled, “Boy, there’s nothing faster than watching Skippy run the way Crosby drew him.” Debuting in 1923 in Life magazine, Skippy moved to the comics pages in 1925 and soon became a sensation, published in twenty-eight countries and fourteen languages. In 1931, Skippy became the first comic strip to see its film version win an Academy Award. Crosby continued writing and drawing the feature until 1945.
Crosby was also heralded as “the greatest apostle of motion in the field of art” by Edward Alden Jewell, art critic of The New York Times. Crosby’s artwork has hung in the Louvre in Paris, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, and the Tate Gallery in London, among other venues, but it is his work as a cartoonist, as the creator of Skippy—the philosopher man-child— for which he’s best known.
Today Skippy can be seen as the spiritual ancestor to Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes, among many other kid strips. Crosby influenced cartoonists from Charles Schulz to Walt Kelly to Garry Trudeau, and perhaps more than any other cartoonist before him, brought philosophy and politics to the American newspaper comic strip. In the end, it would be his outspoken political and philosophical beliefs that would place him increasingly outside the mainstream of 1940s American culture, ultimately leading to his exile from comics and his forced incarceration in a mental institution for the last sixteen years of his life. As a result of his tragic end, Crosby’s remarkable contributions to American culture have been largely eclipsed, until now.
The series is produced with the full cooperation of Skippy, Inc. and the Crosby estate. Joan Crosby Tibbetts, Crosby’s daughter, who has waged a 50-year campaign to keep her father’s legacy alive, said, “I’m delighted that the complete Skippy will be published at long last. For years, Skippy fans and namesakes have written me, wanting to see more of their favorite character, and now I can tell them their wishes are granted.”
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.