Comic Collection Review: Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett (1933)


This collection is part of the Library of American Comics Essentials put out by IDW.  It is an unusual format in that the book is quite long in length but short in height and each page contains one comic in the format that it appeared in 1933.  These are only the daily strips, not the color Sunday strips which are available in a separate collection.  the Sunday strips contain a different continuity and do not affect the storyline of this collection.

The choosing of this year of strips to reproduce is due to the fact that it was during this time that Cliff Sterrett made pivotal developments to the comic.  During this year the family of moves from the city to a farm which is the setting for the remainder of the comic.

The strip ran from 1912 – 1958 and it was during the 1933 year that the most popular and memorable storyline was written.  This collection covers the entire year, the farm transition beginning on the June 12, 1933 strip and continuing from there on as the city folk adjust to country living.  The tone of economics also took a shift during this time, in the city Polly and Pals rarely ever concerned themselves with money, but on the farm, economics does become an issue, although a minor one.

The strip may come as a shock to many people since it is written in much the same way as most were at the turn of the century, the spelling of words was done phonetically and it is sometimes hard for modern readers to get into strips that are written in this fashion, it kind of takes you out of the comic when you have to sound out a word to figure out what they are saying.  Most of the time, it goes smoothly, but it is an annoyance found in most early comics.

Polly’s comic has a very small cast with limited interaction with outside characters, there are timely references which some may find offensive by today’s standards, The black servants named Liza and Cocoa for one is definitely a product of its time as well as the storyline on the Indian fakir.  One must keep in mind the context of the time in which these strips were written, but they are definitely a window into the views of American society during this time in history.

The strips storylines do hold up today, with reference to Polly’s fascination with passing trends and fashion as it pertains to the “keeping up appearances” of the social classes which still goes on today.  the longing of the urban/suburban class to find happiness in a simpler and more rural setting is another theme which is still being played out today.  We find the urban family ill prepared for the rigors of the rural life, the ideals espoused during the beginning of the transition play out in comical effect, as Polly and her family buy outfits for farm life and parade them around the apartment to the real ineptitude of Uncle’s attempt at hunting and raising “wild” animals.

Polly and her Pals is a great read and a must have for collectors of classic comic strips, but beyond that, it is a chance to witness for yourself the birth and development of the comic strip medium in the 20th century.  Many of the techniques used today were first envisioned and put into practice by these early masters of the medium and everything from advertising to modern dramas and soap operas take their cue from these early comic strips, the narrative art of storytelling with the addition of illustration goes back a long way, but this medium was refined the 20th century and Cliff Sterrett was one of the early masters of the medium.

You can pick this up at Amazon for around $20.00 as well as many other collections of the series which have been published over the years.  I would recommend it to anyone interested in comic strips and the history of comics in general.

Until our next review True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

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