PERSONAL: Son of Mort Walker (a cartoonist).
ADDRESSES: Home—CT. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Harry H. Abrams. Inc., 100 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011.
CAREER: Cartoonist and writer. Contributor to "Beetle Bailey" and "Hi and Lois" cartoon strips, 1984–; founder and former director of International Museum of Cartoon Art; cartoon history teacher.
(Editor) Mort Walker, The Best of Beetle Bailey: A Thirty-three-Year Treasury, Comicana Books (Bedford, NY), 1984.
(With Dik Browne; and editor) The Best of Hagar, Comicana Books (Bedford, NY), 1985.
(With Dik Browne; and editor) The Best of Hi and Lois, Comicana Books (Bedford, NY), 1986.
(And editor) The Best of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy, Comicana Books (Wilton, CT), 1988.
(Editor) Billy De Beck, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith; Seventy-five Years of an American Legend, Comicana Books/Ohio State University Libraries (Wilton, CT), 1994.
The Comics since 1945, H. N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2002.
The Comics before 1945, H. N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to Children of the Yellow Kid: The Evolution of the American Comic Strip, by Robert C. Harvey, Frye Art Museum/University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 1998.
SIDELIGHTS: The son of Mort Walker, who created the comic strip "Beetle Bailey" and co-created "Hi and Lois," Brian Walker followed in his father's footsteps as a cartoonist. He has also worked on several publications focusing on well-known comic strips and the history of comics. In The Comics since 1945, for example, Walker looks at the recent history of comics. In an interview with Dave Astor for Editor & Publishers, Walker noted that histories of comics prior to World War II abound but that few authors focus on more recent history, which implies that recent strips are not as good. "Comics, while they've changed considerably, are still a very vital art form," Walker told Astor. "They're sophisticated and wittier. The content is stronger. There are many talented people working the last decades."
The Comics since 1945 not only reviews the comics themselves but also delves into the business and artistic aspects of comics, surveying the most accomplished syndicated comics and their creators. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted Walker's decision to focus on the most popular comics, saying he "thus ends up giving more of a history of American taste than of the entire form." The reviewer went on to write, "The whole feels a little too accepting of the dictates of syndication for a mass audience, but it is a solid account of the way various artists have worked within the system." Dan Nadel, writing in Print, felt that the "book is hobbled by clunky writing, some questionable history, and a number of factual errors." Nevertheless, Nadel noted, "it does stitch together a useful sampling of strips encompassing a wide variety of genres."
In The Comics before 1945 Walker looks at the beginnings of comics in the United States, beginning with the publication of the "Yellow Kid" in 1895 and continuing through the next fifty years. He discusses how comics like "Krazy Kat," "Tarzan," "Dick Tracy," "Blondie," and "Lil Abner" became an important part of American life. Walker also examines lesser-known comic strips and their creators, such as "Polly and Her Pals" by Cliff Sterrett and "Barnaby" by Crockett Johnson. The author breaks down his history by decades and places them within a socioeconomic context. The book is illustrated throughout with rare original comics art, and the author's introduction discusses the earlier history of comics in Europe. Writing in Choice, J. A. Lent called the book "an important academic resource." In a review for Library Journal, Steve Raiteri called The Comics before 1945 a "treasure trove" and noted that it "provides an excellent survey of the first five decades of American newspaper comic strips."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2004, Gordon Flagg, review of The Comics before 1945, p. 543.
Choice, March, 2005, J. A. Lent, review of The Comics before 1945, p. 1223.
Editor & Publishers, October 28, 2002, Dave Astor, "Comics History Is by a Comic Writer," p. 29.
Library Journal, January 1, 2005, Steve Raiteri, review of The Comics before 1945, p. 89.
Print, January, 2003, Dan Nadel, review of The Comics since 1945, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, November 25, 2002, review of The Comics since 1945, p. 58.
USA Today, December 2, 2004, Whitney Matheson, review of The Comics before 1945, p. D8.
King Features Syndicate Web site, http://www.kingfeatures.com/ (March 9, 2005).