This is an unusual comic collection in that it is actually a novelization of a storyline from Chic Young’s comic strip Blondie. This is a small novella published for young readers and similar to the popular line of big little books except they are larger. They come illustrated with scenes taken from the comic strip, but are for the most part text.
In this collection/novel we have Dagwood discovering his love of magic after he sees the great illusionist Murko. He goes about his usual daily bumbling and seeks out Murko backstage in order to learn a magic trick. Murko and his trope play a trick on the ever naïve Dagwood and cause him to believe he has learned one of the magicians secrets.
Needless to say, when he tries to replicate the illusion for his family and friends he fails and is the joke of the neighborhood as well as feeling the jealous fury of Blondie who doesn’t believe that Dagwood was backstage with Murko at all. Dagwood storms out and goes for a long walk.
Hijinks ensue as Dagwood’s wandering leads him to the den of some counterfeiters and the rest of the story is the crazy antics of Dagwood and Blondie as they try to uncover the mystery of the counterfeiters and return their lives to the normal crazy antics that have made the strip a staple of the comics page for 85 years.
These types of books as well as the big little books were a great way and in many cases the only way for people to keep up with the continuity of the comic strips in the early to mid part of the last century. Comic strip collections in book form were rare if not non-existent as comics were seen as a disposable medium, but for many, comics were an important part of cultural life, and before radio and television took over the continuity markets, comics were the talk of water coolers, smoke breaks and general office conversation.
Chic Young as well as many other comic creators were millionaires in a time when most people were making $5 a day as a good wage. So this should indicate to anyone the importance that comics once held in the cultural development of the 20th century.
The novel is well adapted and well paced keeping a good balance of suspense and comedy, there are a few mentions of gag – a – day summaries in the flashbacks as well as the dreams which are rather ingenious ways of incorporating daily gag strips which fall out of the continuity of the strips overarching storyline.
For fans of the classic comics, these books can be picked up pretty cheaply on e-bay or in used book stores. Some people place high dollar values on them, but just ignore those and keep looking, they are out there. This collection was published by Whitman publishing in the 1940-1950’s and incorporate many of the great continuity strips like Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Brenda Starr and Red Ryder. They are a great way to read comics in an unusual format.
The big little books I mentioned for some reason are almost identical in everything but size to these books, but for some reason command astronomical prices. So for the comic collector on a budget, these are a great way to collect your favorite old time comics without going broke, and to this day they are still the only way to collect many of the great classic comic strips which have not seen publication in strip form. I highly recommend these books and as always True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.