Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Big Announcement
For immediate release
Allan Holtz, well-known in the comic strip fan community for his articles on comic strip history for magazines and books, and for his Stripper's Guide website, announces that his "Guide to U.S. Newspaper Comic Strips and Cartoon Panels" is now under contract to be published by University of Michigan Press. The book is a compendium of the vital statistics about comic strip and panel series that have appeared in American newspapers. A product of over twenty years of research, the books contains information on over 7,000 unique series from 1894 to present. For each feature the title and running dates are listed, along with dates for each artist, writer and syndicate involved. Alternate titles, format and frequency are detailed, along with a list of reprint books.
Unlike previous reference works on the subject, Holtz's Guide takes into consideration the vast amount of misinformation that has been published about newspaper strip history. Therefore he does not include any feature that he hasn't seen himself. "One of the reasons I started working on this book many years ago was that I got frustrated with those references. There were so many mistakes in them. It seemed like every time I looked something up there was no agreement between sources, and many times my own collection, small as it was at the time, would prove the information wrong or incomplete. The worst was when they'd write about some feature and then I'd find out that no such feature had ever actually run in newspapers."
Holtz's plan of attack, after first verifying that features did actually exist in newspapers, was to gather information from all the secondary sources he could find but then verify and correct the information based on primary sources. That meant twenty years of poring over newspapers on microfilm in addition to amassing a huge personal collection of newspaper comics. How much time did he spend in libraries? "There are librarians all across the country who recognize me on sight. My wife hasn't had a proper vacation in twenty years. Any time I have off from work becomes a trip to a library somewhere around the country with wife in tow as research assistant."
Holtz calls the Guide a community effort at heart. "I'd like to make it clear that this work is not the product of one guy. I could never have done it alone. Not only have I built my work on pioneering researchers of the past, I've been lucky to discover a community of dedicated and knowledgeable comic strip fans who selflessly gave time and effort to tracking down information on my behalf." Every piece of data contributed to the listings is credited to the researcher responsible, and Holtz also credits the newspapers and reference works in which each nugget of information was discovered.
The book includes not only mainstream features, but also local features and the products of the ethnic press. "I've done my best to leave no stone unturned, " says Holtz of the project. "I will never be able to call this reference absolutely complete. There are so many oddball newspapers out there, so many local and obscure features, that the well will never go dry.There are always new leads to track down and more papers to review."
So why publish now? "Besides finding a publisher crazy enough to take it on? Many years ago a fellow collector was looking over what I had documented so far -- at the time it was only a 'mere' couple thousand features. He asked how many features in all it might be possible to document. Wanting to impress him I threw out a crazy number -- 7,000. He was suitably impressed and I'd just set myself a very high bar to hurdle. And yet, twenty years later, I hit that crazy number. It's time."
Allan Holtz writes about newspaper comics in Hogan's Alley magazine, the NBM "Forever Nuts" series of classic strip reprint books, and his popular blog, Stripper's Guide (http://strippersguide.blogspot.com). He is a resident of Tavares, Florida.
The release date and price for the "Guide to U.S. Newspaper Comic Strips and Cartoon Panels" have not yet been set. The book is expected to be approximately 800 pages, and images of many of the features will be included on CDs or DVDs sleeved with the book. The title, which was long presumed to include Holtz's well-known "Stripper's Guide" moniker, has tentatively been neutered in deference to the sensitivities of library and school buyers.
I'd like to take this moment to thank all you wonderful folks for the invaluable help you've given me over the years. Like the press release says, I couldn't have done it without you. Two people must be singled out. Their thank yous cannot wait for the acknowledgements in the book:
Jeffrey Lindenblatt. Without your expertise and untiring research on New York newspapers this day would have taken years longer to get here. Not to mention your friendship, cheerleading and constant support. You're the best!
Nancy Goldstein. If you hadn't gone to bat for me with your publisher I have no doubt that my book proposal would still be sitting in slush piles. You are an outstanding scholar and an incredibly generous person.
So now what? Since I live near Orlando, it ain't a trip to Disneyworld. No, I'm taking my wife for a proper vacation, nowhere near any library. We're leaving Monday and we'll be out of touch for two weeks. So, you ask, what the heck are youl going to do without a blog post to read every day? Fear not! I have prepared a special treat for you.
For the next two weeks, Sundays excepted, we're going to have the Stripper's Guide Super-Quiz. Each weekday morning, assuming Blogger's auto-post function doesn't louse things up, you'll get five trivia questions about newspaper comics. They'll range in difficulty from medium tough right on up to mega-expert class, a selection from throughout the range each day. I've tried to pose questions that you can't just answer with a quick Google search. The answers to the week's questions will appear on Saturdays. There aren't any prizes other than bragging rights, so don't be shy. Shout out the answers by hitting the comment button on the posting. Be the first to post the right answer and feel smug all day long. There will be the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, love won and lost, wars fought and peace made.
All the best
Alfredo Castelli, Milan Italy
# posted by Blogger Nancy Goldstein : 7/26/2009 9:05 AM
Will there be fair use images in the book itself or only on the cd/dvd?
DD, the current plan is for the images to be on CD only. The cost of the book, which probably would have been 6+ volumes with printed images (at readable size), would have been astronomical and the production costs would have been through the roof.
I'll warn you that even with this cost-saving measure it won't be a cheap book. But be assured that I'm working with the publisher looking for ways to keep the cost down to something the average Joe and DD can afford.
Off on my vacation in mere hours now, see y'all in a couple weeks.
-Ray Bottorff Jr
- Jon Ingersoll