The Golden Collection of Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics Edited by Craig Yoe

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The Golden Collection of Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics
Edited by Craig Yoe
Yoe Books

craigyoeklassickoolMo Willems, bless his heart, sums the matter up perfectly in his rather brief intro, “with no one else watching, opportunities abound to stretch, experiment, and just have fun.” I’ve only met Willems once—I moderated a panel at the Brooklyn Book Fair a few years back, featuring him and Kyle Baker, and while the kids’ book author is nothing if not a straight shooter, I can’t really say for sure whether he would take it upon himself to deride the hand that feeds him—certainly he wouldn’t in an intro to a fairly lighthearted collection such as this.  But it seems that such opportunities to “experiment and just have fun” are increasingly fewer and far between in an ever more heavily regulated industry.

There’s certainly something to be said for keeping prurient material out of the hands of youths, but between the increasingly easily offended powers that be and a tendency to “stick with what works,” when it comes to, well, all mass media endeavors, particularly those aimed at younger audience (or so it seems to this, admittedly somewhat casual observer), kids comics largely aren’t what they used to be.

Of course, it bears mentioning that there are certainly some great titles out there—heck, given the output from places like Graphix, Top Shelf, and First Second, the last few years seem to ushered in something of a minor kids comics renaissance.

And, as ever, it’s easy to romanticize the “carefree” nature of a bygone era, particularly with a book like The Golden Collection of Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics sitting one one’s lap. Editor Craig Yoe, after all, has proven himself quite the curator, when it comes to forgotten gems and curiosities, both through his work with publishers like Fantagraphics and Abrams and more recently by way of his Yoe Books imprint on IDW.

Such romantic notions may well be a big selling point for a book like this. After all, given its hard cover, oversized dimensions, and $35 cover price, the target audience really seems to be adults who grew up with much of this material, some through first printings (though in some cases, like The Yellow Kid, that’s probably a bit of a stretch) or through floppy reprints. It will in a few cases, no doubt, make it down to the young generation, by way of some thoughtful, urbane parents, but most likely wouldn’t even begin to consider the possibility that such a volume could compete with cable TV and video games.

The “curiosities” element comes into play here not only through the oft-outlandish subject matter of these strips, but also from the artists chosen by Yoe. The editor parades a number of artistic luminaries who made names for themselves far away from the world of fuzzy animal comics—Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Harvey Kurtzman, Basil Wolverton, and Frank Frazetta, who proves himself a master of this form, as well.

Even those artists whose better-known work, in some respects wasn’t all that far removed from these strips—Dr. Seuss, Carl Barks, and Walt Kelly—are on display in surprising ways. Given these choices and Yoe’s supplementary footnotes, the editor really does seem to have older audiences in mind here.

At its core, Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics is a celebration of what was, occasionally is, and, given the perfect storm of artistic abilities and publisher freedom, still can be.

–Brian Heater

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