My Mum recently sent me a small book of Buster Brown comics that I think I bought in maybe 1981. I remember that we were on a family vacation and that both of my brothers were along. Somehow this book and the Lost Colony (Roanoke, NC) are all knotted-up together in my memory. Mum took the book away from me at some point during that trip because I was practically apoplectic with laughter and it was annoying her. (I did get the book back after the vacation was over.)
This was the panel that made me come un-hinged. Please excuse the scan. My scanner is just about an inch too short to capture the entire image.
It seems strange that these comics from 1903-1904 would make me laugh so hard. I guess funny is funny, no matter what the year! My Pop loved the comics. I grew-up surrounded by big anthologies of Buck Rodgers (a favourite for rainy days, the book was the size of a table), Krazy Kat, The Katzenjammer Kids, early Bat Man, Pogo, Terry and the Pirates, etc. My favourite Sunday comic was The Phantom. I loved how the image of the skull would appear on the bad guys faces when they got punched! I guess that reading all of those older comics gave me more of an affinity for them I guess.
I loved the style of Richard F. Outcault the creator of Buster Brown. I love all the little details he added into his work. I especially liked how he drew animals. Some of his adult figures seem a little stiff (especially when not angry), but I chalk that up to the strip being about the adventures of a boy and his dog. The parents are necessary, but not essential.
There’s great details to look at and read in these comics, that I think are missing in some modern printed comics. Now, by comic I mean the printed strips in the paper, not modern comic books (that I also enjoy quite a bit, I might add). There are some draw-backs. Racism and sexism being the biggies that make me happy I don’t have to live in a society in which those types of things are the norm. That aside, you can’t just skim Buster Brown. You have to take your time and read every word, every expression on each of all the character’s faces, otherwise, you miss 9/10th of the funny bits. Tige the dog is a dead give-away every time. The expression on his face is usually what the reader is thinking at the time.
(Translation from Latin to English from the drawing below: “Experience teaches. It is always the same. To err is human.“)
As an artist, I can’t help but reference Buster Brown (knowingly or unknowingly) in my artwork. It, and other comics (like the ones listed at the beginning of this post) made a definite impact on my creative process, my esthetic choices — and the way I choose to interpret the world around me through my artwork. Now I know that anyone can read Buster Brown and use it as creative fodder for their own artwork. I don’t think that I’m in any way special by having read and enjoyed these comics. I suppose they’re just so comfortable and familiar because I’ve known them for so long. They’re part of my vernacular, both visual and written.