The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 93 | “Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and The Little King” reviewed

Leaving Proof 93 | “Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and The Little King” reviewed
Published on Sunday, March 25, 2012 by
From the back cover

A big book for a Little King!

This compendium includes more than 400 cartoons—THE LITTLE KING from each of its five decades, plus the complete run of THE AMBASSADOR and a wide array of book illustrations, advertisements, and early works. Plus, Soglow’s life and career is examined in a thoroughly original and enlightening introduction by Jared Gardner.

Otto Soglow began his career as a radical artist publishing in The New Masses and The Liberator; a decade later he was working for William Randolph Hearst and creating advertisements for Pepsi-Cola and Standard Oil. The Little King, Soglow’s most famous creation, was born out of the tension between his political idealism and his professional ambitions.

CARTOON MONARCH: OTTO SOGLOW AND THE LITTLE KING is a long-overdue examination of the unique pantomime cartoons of Otto Soglow, who entertained millions for more than fifty years and whose influence remains current in the works of Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Ivan Brunetti, and others.

Publisher, Creative Team, Format, and Pricing Details

  • Publisher: IDW Publishing/The Library of American Comics
  • Year Published: 2012
  • Stories and Art by: Otto Soglow
  • Editor and Designer: Dean Mullaney
  • Associate Editor: Bruce Canwell
  • Art Director: Lorraine Turner
  • Contributing Editor and Introduction: Jared Gardner
  • Format: 432 page full-colour hardcover (collects various The Little King and The Ambassador strips as well as book illustrations, advertisements, and early works)
  • List Price: US $49.99 (digital review copy provided free of charge by the publisher)
What I Liked

Given the fact that scans of Otto Soglow’s The Little King comic strips can be readily perused on King Features Syndicate’s DailyINK online comic strip subscription service and in various cartooning and comics-themed blogs, one would think that a hardcover collection of select Soglow strips would be—at best—supplementary reading, a handy and well-appointed offline alternative for the times when the dedicated Soglow fan finds him or herself without an Internet connection. One would be wrong to think that Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and The Little King is a mere collection of comic strips, though. The volume also collects the full run of The Ambassador (the first book to do so, I believe), advertisements, book illustrations, and boasts a lengthy and very thorough introduction written by Ohio State University professor and comics scholar Jared Gardner that doubles as a comprehensive biography of the famed The New Yorker cartoonist. Despite having read my fair share of The Little King strips over the years, I had very little biographical knowledge of Soglow coming into reviewing the book and going through Gardner’s thoughtful discussion of Soglow’s politics, pragmatism, personal circumstances, and unfulfilled ambition to be an actor certainly provided new insight into his minimalist, pantomime comic strip work.

What I Didn’t Like

Not a thing. A flawlessly executed archival volume, this is as good as it gets as far as comic strip compilations go.

The Verdict

Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and The Little King continues IDW Publishing and The Library of American Comics’ streak of putting out top-notch archival comic strip collections. The introduction by Jared Gardner elevates the volume from a simple hardcover repackaging of comic strips to an insightful and comprehensive reference and Otto Soglow biography. Highly recommended reading, a must-buy for Soglow fans and an excellent resource for those looking to learn more about Soglow and his work.

The “Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and The Little King” hardcover is on sale now

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2 Responses
    • I’ve never heard of, or seen these strips.  But I really like the two that are linked.  There’s a nice simplicity to them.  Funny and entertaining but they don’t try to hit you over the head with the joke or point.  Also makes you pay attention.  If you quickly look it over, you’ll miss the good stuff.

      • After the Korean War, Soglow’s The Little King was largely overshadowed by later King Features Syndicate mainstays like Charles Schulz’ Peanuts and Johnny Hart’s B.C.. Personally, I’ve only actually seen his strips in vintage copies of The New Yorker and more recently, in cartooning blogs.

        You’re spot-on about the humour in his work being subtle… it’s a quality that can be traced back to his days as an illustrator and cartoonist in various radical, left-wing publications. I do think that the subtle pantomime style might have fallen out of favour with comics strip readers by the 1960s or so, to be replaced by more verbose strips such as the aforementioned Peanuts that relied as much on verbal humour as visual comedy.    

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