Written & Illustrated by Basil Wolverton
Published by Fantagraphics
If you’re a Basil Wolverton fan, you’ll want to pick this book up. If you’re not, or are mostly unfamiliar with his work, Culture Corner is not the ideal place to start. Culture Corner was a half-page gag strip created by Wolverton for various Fawcett comics publications, including Whiz Comics and others.
Each half page has Wolverton’s narrator, Croucher K. Conk, Q.O.C. (Queer Old Coot), introducing a daily dilemma – the need to trim unruly eyebrows, how to prevent the loss of a hat on a windy day, how to cure flat feet, etc. After presenting one or two comic possibilities that fail for similarly comic reasons, Wolverton solves each problem with an even more outlandish possibility.
Culture Corner is one of Wolverton’s earliest professional works, begun in the mid-1940s. As such, the gags aren’t as fully developed as later, legendary Wolverton strips, and the freakish figures he’s famed for haven’t yet achieved their full gory glory.
It’s a Basil Wolverton strip, though, so Culture Corner still looks great, and is packed full of outrageously exaggerated anatomy and grotesquery. The gags may have some humor for younger readers, but there’s not much there for adults. Given the lack of existing original artwork, Fantagraphics’ reproduction is quite good. The right-hand sheet shows a strip as it appeared in Whiz or a contemporary, while the left page reproduces (when available) Wolverton’s original sketch of the same strip. There are few variations between the two forms, though the occasional editorial interference or self-impelled revision does offer some minor insight into Wolverton’s creativity.
The pencil drawings appear clear and clean, showing readers just how developed Wolverton’s line work was at the beginning of his career. The published strips have color runs and misprints, as well as heavy, primary color schemes (universally) common to comics of their time. The printing, however, is good throughout. Wolverton fans will certainly appreciate having this material in as good a form as presented here.
The book also includes a section of rejected (by Fawcett or Wolverton himself) strips in pencil form, a must-have for Wolverton aficionados.
Culture Corner remains a curiosity in comic book history, rarely remembered, rarely seen, but Basil Wolverton’s status as an important figure in humor cartooning is unimpeachable. Thus, anybody wanting to understand the development of the medium and the evolution of comedy cartooning should pick up Culture Corner to see how Wolverton began the road to comic book legend. Most of the strips have never been seen by today’s readers, and the sheer number of unpublished penciled sketches makes this book a true rarity and a must-have.