We are back once again True Believers, Once more we travel down into the inky black abyss. Hundreds of hand carved stones beneath our feet are worn from the an age since time immemorial, when the first Root Beer Party Monks first carved this path. At the bottom we come to a vast labyrinth of tunnels branching off in every direction. Through the hand hewn tunnels we wander ever deeper into the womb of the earth. Finally we arrive at monolithic armored doors which open before us, the steady pace of slowness of their opening betraying their antiquity and mass.
Contained within is a chamber so vast it’s dimensions seem beyond the scale of the earth to contain. There is a seeming infinity of shelves extending beyond the field of vision in every direction. Even glancing upwards we can’t make out where the shelves end and the earth begins. Each bookcase is lined to bursting with the greatest treasures in the history of mankind. This is the repository for the sum of all human knowledge and achievement. Over in the corner are the lost papyrus from the library of Alexandria, to the left are the scrolls from the Xianyang Palace and State Archives. All of humanities greatest accomplishments reside here, for this is The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.
Today we are to review one of the more modern classics of comic history, the Root Beer Party Monks have already fetched the requested volume and reposed it upon one of the study tables. Today we will look at Gasoline Alley: The daily comics from 1964 – 1966 by Frank King and Dick Moores.
It was at this time that Dick Moores first took over as the primary writer and artist of Gasoline Alley, a comic started by Frank King in 1918. What started as a one panel strip which focused mainly on cars soon became one of the most successful and longest running comics in history.
The unique aspect of Gasoline Alley is that there is a passage of time in the continuity of the comic. The characters get older and life passes along in real time. There are a few characters which defy this concept, but for the most part the main characters, the Wallet family is seen in a generational sense now. The main focus of the comic has passed from one generation to the next as life in small town America becomes more modern with every passing year.
This is the main point and charm of Gasoline alley, it is a representation of life in small town America, There is a suburban charm to the strip which permeates through the years. It’s closest comic would be For Better or For Worse, another strip which borrowed the same concept and shows the life of a family and town trough time.
These comics represent an interesting glimpse into life during the 20th century, or at least what the ideal of life in the 20th century was like. It is sort of an idyllic outgrowth of life in the 1950’s with the nuclear family, but in reality this mythos extends much further back than the 1950’s as expressed in this comic. We can see that ultimately it is the family unit which is the center of the universe in this comic, a relationship which has become much more strained and vague in the modern world with the passage of time.
During Moores run in this volume we are introduced to many comic adventures and an ever growing cast of characters as each person must define what is right and wrong in their own way. It is definitely a morality play of sorts in which the good guys are often challenged and win at least a moral victory in the end. During these two years many of the secondary characters are brought into the foreground and better defined as the cast extends beyond the main family and begins to include the rest of the townsfolk as main characters. What were originally almost props to the main storyline and characters soon took on dimension and depth as the world of Gasoline Alley was fleshed out into a community.
Even at this point we see the social dynamic of the family unit changing as it stretches to include a much larger world view. Gasoline Alley has a soft, gentle humor to the strip which invites the readers in to invest in the complexity and depth of the characters, the storylines are used as ways of furthering the development of the characters and are almost situational comedy in simplicity. This is a comic that you come to for the characters not for imaginative plotlines. Much like an Archie comic, it is the interaction between the characters which is the drive of the story. They are people you would want as your neighbors and your friends. This is a comforting world where even strangers can rely on a good Samaritan.
It is a rare thing for a comic to shift from original creator to a new author and still be relevant, Frank King choose wisely in choosing Dick Moores, who not only took up the comic, but made it even better. I would highly recommend this book for any serious collector of comics. The pages will fly by as you witness the passage of time for the Wallets and the whole gang.
We now return the volume to the Root Beer Party Monks who will take it back to the preservation room to be returned to it’s spot in the vast collection. Frank King & Dick Moores may rest assured that their creation will reside forever in The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives. They can be assured a place in the history of humanities greatest endeavor, comics. So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.