I’ve mentioned before that the Spawn is a fourth-generation fantasy and sf reader, and at least a third-gen comic reader. Because my dad was interested in a wide range of art, from Michelangelo to Norman Rockwell, comic art was taken seriously when I was growing up. When I was in fifth grade, I finished second in the city in a 4-H public speaking competition. My topic was a consideration of comics as an American art form to be taken as seriously as jazz. I mentioned (thanks to the reading Dad had pointed me toward) work like Burne Hogarth‘s Tarzan and Herriman‘s Krazy Kat, both of which I had read in collections my dad had snagged in the late 60s and early 70s — I’m pretty sure I still have the Tarzan collection in my garage, but Krazy Kat must have come from the Nashville Public Library.
Another comic artist whose work I saw in reprints, although only rarely, was Winsor McCay. In the strange concatenations of childhood memory, I somehow associated his work with Aubrey Beardsley, whose John and Salome hung in our home. My only explanation for this is the black-and-white composition of Beardsley’s work and the reprints I had seen of McCay’s, and perhaps the use of line, although I wouldn’t have had that term — cut me a break; I wasn’t even ten yet. I did eventually divorce the two, but I remembered McCay’s work well enough to catch the allusions on a Genesis album a couple of years later, and as the years have passed, I maintain quite a bit of fondness for his work when I happen across it.
Consequently, I was delighted to see an appreciation of McCay and his work at City Journal. Stefan Kanfer offers a nicely executed overview of the man and his work, noting along the way that McCay’s work may approach Disney’s in its significance, although it’s much less known these days. It’s worth your time — check it out.