Suspended Animation
Suspended Animation
by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter

Check-out Michael Vance Comic books for sale

June 16, 1999

Reviews in this issue:

Gasoline Alley - Ghost In The Shell
Fringe - Hola Tahlequah, OK!

Gasoline Alley

    Frank King created Gasoline Alley as a single-panel comic 'strip' in 1918. The cartoonist focused on the country's obsession with automobiles until Alley evolved into a family oriented strip when Skeezix, an orphaned baby was left on Walt Wallet's doorstep in 1921. Even among family strips, it was almost unique in its use of "realistic time" as opposed to condensed, lengthened or nonexistent time used in most fiction. Frank King's characters aged.  

    King was born in 1883 and began as a cartoonist at the Minneapolis Times newspaper in 1901. After several unsuccessful strips created in Chicago, King launched Bobby Make-Believe in 1915 and then his masterpiece, Gasoline Alley.  

    King's quiet and reality-based storylines and simple, design oriented art are among the best in the history of comic strips. His distinctive characters and often emotional storytelling gained the cartoonist a large and dedicated adult audience as his cast aged, and one generation replaced another, in Alley.

    "Skeezix" was the baby word with which the orphan named himself after his adoption by Uncle Walt. As the most popular character in Alley, Skeezix is also an excellent example Of the strip's real-time approach to its continuity. Popular characters seldom age in strips, and almost never die. But Skeezix grew up, married, took Over Uncle Walt's business, had his own children, and eventually attended Uncle Walt's funeral.

    Today's popular For Better or Worse comic strip owes much of its storytelling style to both Skeezis and Frank King.

    King died in 1969, but Alley was continued under different cartoonists.

    Comic book appearances included: Gasoline Alley (1929, Reilly & Leo Publishers), Gasoline Alley; (1959, Star Publications); Popular Comics (1936--'48, Dell); and Super Comics (1938-'49, Dell, #117 all Alley). An excellent selection was published in the Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics.

    King's work is highly recommended. Some older comics are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are best sources. Prices vary; shop around.

Ghost In The Shell

    We've got Trouble right here in Suspended Animation City. That starts with T and rhymes with Z and has nothing to do with G. If that make no sense, then neither does Ghost In The Shell at times.

    Why it occasionally makes little sense is also a problem. This is a Japanese "manga" (comic book) translated into English. It could be that the translation is inept, or that the cartoonist is simply obscure, or that these problems stem from cultural differences in storytelling.

    Ghosts... premise is... anyone's guess. It appears that a clandestine government agency battles the theft of robotics technology or the 'ghosts' that inhabit the semi-robots, robots and rare whole humans that inhabit this future Japan.

    Who is whole or semi or robotic is an unintentionally well kept, confusing secret through most of this series. The heavy use of technobabble at times in describing this robotic technology and ghosts further muddies the plot. Outside of these glitches, Ghost... is entertaining and well written.

    Just as jarring as its technobabble and premise is Shirow's art. Although this seems a cultural influence, most of it is an unsettling mix of very cartoonish and realistic styles. As example, realistic human bodies are topped by very cartoonish faces. Imagine Michelangelo's David with Dagwood's head.

    Ghost... is such a mishmash of fascinating art and idea muddled by infrequently inept storytelling that clear recommendation is Impossible.

    And that starts with an I and rhymes with Why Bother?, and most, outside of well-heeled manga fans, shouldn't.

    Ghost In The Shell #s 1, 2, 5-8 are 42 to 48 pages in length and priced at $3.95 each. Published by Dark Horse Comics and written and drawn by Masamune Shirow. The translation was done by Fred Schodt and Toren Smith. It is available in comics shops and by mail.


    Published by Caliber Comics, Fringe is obscure psychobabble about reality and illusion slurred by mind control. Weakened by poor lettering, barely serviceable art and garbled visual storytelling, at least it all happens in the mall!!

Hola Tahlequah, OK!

    Welcome to Suspended Animation readers in Kid's World (Tahlequah, OK). Drop us a line!

    Questions? Comments? A comic you wish reviewed? Write: 1427 S. Delaware Ave., Tulsa, OK, 74104. Or email c/o

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