DescriptionA lost, early classic of the graphic novel, now back in print for the first time since 1930. William Gropper was one of the great American cartoonists and illustrators of the twentieth century. A student of George Bellows and Robert Henri, he was a prolific newspaper cartoonist, WPA muralist, Guggenheim Fellow, and committed political activist--the first visual artist called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, after which he was blacklisted (though he got revenge with his pen). He was also a master of visual storytelling, best seen in his only full-length narrative work, Alay-Oop. First published in 1930, just as Gropper was coming to the height of his powers, this lost classic of the graphic novel presents an unusual love triangle: two circus acrobats and the honey-tongued schemer who comes between them. In page after page of charming, wordless art, Gropper takes us from the big top to bustling New York streets, from a cramped tenement apartment to the shifting landscape of a dream, as his characters struggle with the conflicting demands of career, family, and romance. A timeless and surprisingly modern yarn--with backflips aplenty.
New York Review Comics
June 25, 2019
5.6 X 1.1 X 8.1 inches | 1.25 pounds
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About the Author
William Gropper (1897-1977) was born on the Lower East Side of New York City into a working-class Jewish family. While enrolled at the avant-garde Ferrer Modern School, he studied under the artists George Bellows and Robert Henri, and after high school attended the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts (now the Parsons School of Design) on a scholarship. Following graduation, Gropper became a staff cartoonist for Morning Freiheit, a Yiddish newspaper, where he worked for two decades. He also contributed work to left-wing periodicals such as The Rebel Worker, Daily Worker, and World, and founded the leftist magazine New Masses. In 1953, Senator Joseph McCarthy had Gropper blacklisted, as he believed Gropper's widely disseminated painting William Gropper's America was inspired by Communist ideas. In 1970, Gropper published The Shtetl, a series of color lithographs depicting Jewish village life. He died in Manhasset, New York. James Sturm is a cartoonist and the author of The Golem's Mighty Swing, Market Day, and Off Season. He is also the cofounder of The Center for Cartoon Studies and Seattle's alt newsweekly, The Stranger. His writings and illustrations have appeared in The Onion, The New York Times, the cover of The New Yorker, and in the pages of several children's books. He lives in Vermont. Sammy Harkham is a cartoonist and the editor of the influential comics anthology Kramers Ergot. He lives in Los Angeles.
"Gropper's book is redolent of popular jazz and Hollywood movies, part backstage melodrama, part tenement fable, drawn in a post-Cubist style at once gritty and insouciant. . . . His line is loose and fluid; his humor is sly; his designs are strikingly economical." --J. Hoberman, The New York Times Book Review "That Gropper manages to bestow characters moving through a relatively simple plot with such rich inner lives is even more impressive considering the story is purely visual, relying solely on his wonderfully expressive brushline to evoke the feelings of the lovers' journey from the glitz and glamor of the circus tent to a rundown tenement apartment ... this gorgeously drawn, touching story is sure to linger with anyone who reads it." --Library Journal "Now that 'the graphic novel' is no longer just a marketing euphemism for A Very Long Comic Book, I've begrudgingly come to terms with the term--especially since it allows anomalous treasures like William Gropper's 1930 story in pictures a new chance to be discovered. Gropper, a founding editor of the New Masses, was probably the most revered left-wing American Political painter and cartoonist of his day, but the low-key love triangle at the heart of Alay-Oop has little to do with, say, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed Gropper's aunt when he was a kid and helped radicalize him--and that surreal horse in the woman aerialist's dream chapter has way more to do with Freud than with Marx. The book is a witty social realist graphic novel of life among working-class variety performers--or maybe it's a graphic ballad, with its surface simplicity. But the story gains in depth on repeated viewing--and each viewing is a delight, as Gropper's cartooning masterfully reveals character through expressive gestures in efficiently observed spaces. He tells his story with a bold, graceful, and athletic brush line--somehow both light and weighty--that soars and swings across the pages until the artist, and the woman at the center of this tale, land firmly on their feet." --Art Spiegelman