Figuring out George Carlson
October 16, 2013 1:42 PM   Subscribe

"In the year 8113 A.D., the most remembered cartoonist of our time may not be any of our currently revered comics creators. Not Winsor McCay, George Herriman, Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, or Chris Ware. As incredible as it may seem, long after the last comic books of our time have crumpled into dust, the cartoonist of our era that People of The Future will dig (perhaps literally) could be a guy named George Carlson — an under-appreciated, largely overlooked cartoonist, illustrator, game designer, and graphic artist extraordinaire" -- In a two part series for The Comics Journal Paul Tumey explains why George Carlson is the best cartoonist you've never heard off.
posted by MartinWisse (10 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect TCJs Futurescope is on the blink. Still, interesting stuff.
posted by Artw at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2013

Absolutely wonderful. Thank you MartinWisse.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:03 PM on October 16, 2013

Carlson is indeed under-appreciated and largely overlooked, but overselling someone who's a hidden treasure doesn't exactly help things. Shit, I could be the most remembered cartoonist of our time in 8113, for whatever bizarre reason, even though I can't draw.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:32 PM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Carlson seems to me less like a particular lost genius and more like a figure for a panoply of genres long since lost to the American comic book which TCJ, to its credit, wants to recover. I'd probably put up something like Basil Wolverton's comedy strips or the serialized bits of McKay's Little Nemo as a representative of the genre. Carlson is a good writer and artist, but the technical skill of those two and others unmentioned just isn't there in his work.

I don't know that he's the best such figure, though; even the three tales of his in the Smithsonian Book of comic-Book Comics resort to very similar narrative strategies, and "The pie-Eyed Prince of Pretzelberg" stuff is the weakest of the lot. There's a fairly visible influence from Carl Sandburg's Rutabaga Stories in Carlson's work, too; it's a fine pedigree, but not quite the freewheeling inspiration of a George Herriman, an E.C. Segar, or a Walt Kelly.
posted by kewb at 2:43 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Very good post. I didn't know about him, although as a kid we had the Uncle Wiggly books and even the Uncle Wiggily game, featuring Big Bad Pipsisewah and Skeezicks!
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:01 PM on October 16, 2013

This guy is definitely right up TCJ's alley, and definitely is satisfying for the sort of comics heads that are all about recovering their pedigree as working fellers in the newspaper scheme of things, but it's not for me.
posted by beefetish at 3:03 PM on October 16, 2013

I read some Uncle Wiggily books as a kid handed down from my father's 1940s childhood, but not sure if they were the Carlson-illustrated ones.
posted by larrybob at 4:15 PM on October 16, 2013

Actually, pretty sure my dad's Uncle Wiggily books were illustrated by Lansing "Lang" Campbell.
posted by larrybob at 4:18 PM on October 16, 2013

In the year 8113 A.D., the most remembered cartoonist of our time...

Why would the warring intergalactic robo-gods care about the crude art forms of one of the ancient extinct slave-races?
posted by dgaicun at 5:53 PM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

the three tales of his in the Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics

My Grandfather had the Smithsonian Book of Comic Book Comics (and the Newspaper Comics one, too-- I've got 'em both now) and every summer when I visited I'd make a beeline for that book. Those George Carlson stories left me feeling very unsettled as a kid, as if I was sneaking a peek into an entirely different dimension in which everything I thought I knew about comics and even physics no longer applied.

Fast-forward 30-odd years: now I'm an adult and I still love comics, especially weird comics (I recently read The Man Who Grew His Beard and it blew my mind). Maybe Carlson sunk into my subconscious... In any case, I still find his comics unsettling but I look forward to reading this article and learning more about the man.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:11 AM on October 17, 2013

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