Craig Yoe’s latest book is a beautiful love letter to the comic book legacy of Otto Messmer/Joe Oriolo’s Felix The Cat. As usual, Yoe has produced an art book that is unto itself a thing of art, a 226 page celebration of Felix’s four-color career. Previously John Canemaker covered the animated films and David Gerstein collected selected Sunday newspaper strips. Here, Yoe focuses on the Dell/Toby/Harvey periodicals created by animators Messmer, Oriolo and Jim Tyer. The book itself is lavishly produced (which is standard for Yoe’s publications) starting with the classy black and white cover – a clever contrast to rainbow-hued Messmer end papers and content to come. It begins with a 35-page introductory text, liberally illustrated with original Messmer/Oriolo art, rare photographs and odd-ball historical material (my favorite is a 1925 Photoplay magazine spread featuring a Ziegfeld Girl teaching Felix the latest dance craze, The Black Bottom). And then the real fun begins: twelve choice Felix stories, originally created between 1946 and 1954.
The Felix comic stories were always quite “trippy” (to use the 60s expression), usually starting off normally then drifting into worlds of giants, oversized talking vegetables, robots, magic carpets and trips into space. The artwork is always imaginative and very cartoony. This is a wonderful tribute to a cartoon super-star’s most neglected – but still significant – work. As far as I’m concerned, Yoe’s Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails is another must-have.