20th Century Black Cartoons Bootsie and Breezy Back In Print

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Nat Getler is a comic book-and-related hero, putting work back into print that had been unduly forgotten, missed out from the canon or in urgent need of archiving. From religious-themed cartoons, to The Green Book, his work as About Comics is always worthy of note. And now he is looking at a Black comics and comic strips from the twentieth century that have, to some degree, been dropped from the collective knowledge.

Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more

There’s a segment of American newspaper cartooning that is all too overlooked. During the 20th century, papers aimed specifically at the African American audience thrived, and with them came their own comics pages, filled with characters that were inspirational and aspirational. There were comics about great Black people in history, and fictional adventures of Black reporters, Black pilots, Black superheroes, Black socialites, and so forth.

Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more

And then there was Bootsie. Bootsie was a scheming, scamming, lazy, womanizing troublemaker who was beloved by his Harlem community. Created by Ollie Worthington, whom Langston Hughes called “Negro America’s favorite cartoonist,” Bootsie was the star of the weekly single-panel cartoon Dark Laughter which ran in Black papers for decades starting in 1935. The series combined a wicked sense of humor with a blunt look at the state of racial relationships in America. Most of these panels have not been seen since their original publication, and those that had been collected were in a book that’s been out of print for over half a century and which costs hundreds of dollars on the collector market. Now About Comics has arranged with Harrington’s widow to be allowed to bring hundreds of these back into print in a pair of new books.

Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more
Bootsie’s War Years: a Dark Laughter collection (ISBN: 978-1-949996-33-3) by Ollie Harrington with a foreword by Qiana Whitted is a 6″x9″ black-and-white 160 page paperback with a cover price of US $18.

Bootsie’s War Years collects cartoons from 1941 through 1946. During this very telling and yet very funny run of cartoons, we see Bootsie first evading the World War II draft, then getting enlisted, trained, sent overseas to fight, and ultimately return as an American vet who still faces the problems of a nation with deeply-seated racism. Annotations explain the terminology and cultural references of the day. The book’s foreword by University of South Carolina professor Qiana Whitted, who has won an Eisner Award for her writing on comics and race, looks at how these cartoons reflect and exemplify the “Double V” campaign for victory both in the war and in the battle for true democracy over the entrenched racial prejudices.

Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more
Bootsie’s Big ’50s: a Dark Laughter collection (ISBN: 978-1-949996-35-7) by Ollie Harrington is a 154 page 8.5″x11″ black-and-white paperback with a cover price of US$18.

Bootsie’s Big ’50s is a big 8.5″x11″ book to show off close to 150 cartoons from mid-1954 to early 1958, including the period when the panel moved from the comics page to be the cover of the magazine section. While still having a lot of Bootsie cartoons, the series also breaks away from him and his Harlem environs to cover topics of the moment such as school desegregation.

Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more
Breezy (ISBN: 978-1-949996-40-1) by Melvin Tapley working as Tap Melvin is a 100 page, 8.5″x6″ black-and-white paperback with a cover price of US$8.99.

But while Harrington may have been the king of the cartoonists in the African-American newspapers, he was far from the only one. Also just released is the first-ever book collection of breezy, a humor strip about a teenager by Tap Melvin. “Tap” is a (rather obvious) pen name for Melvin Tapley, who, in addition to his various comics work, was an illustrator, cover artist, and even a co-publisher of the famous Negro Travelers’ Green Book travel guides which About Comics also reprinted. Breezy Biggins is a smart, playful, and ambitious lad with a typical teenage boy’s fascination with girls and an atypical obsession with baking soda.

Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more

All three books are available for immediate purchase from Amazon. These are not being offered through the direct market distributors; interested shops can purchase wholesale directly from About Comics.Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more

Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more

Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more

Two new books from Black newspaper great Ollie Harrington, and more

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