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Buz Sawyer Volume Two: Sultry's Tiger
posted October 29, 2012
Roy Crane (and his assistants)
Fantagraphics, hardcover, 210 pages, 2012, $35
To get the obvious out of the way, this book has some almost impossibly beautiful cartooning in it. Even for someone like me that finds the basic visual approach of Buz Sawyer
less thrilling than the more rugged, crude cartooning of Crane's Wash Tubbs
work, there are several panels of stop and whistle variety. It's like looking at a photo of someone you always knew was a handsome, striking person and thinking, "My God, they looked particularly great here." There are panels here so striking you almost want to cry that there was a time in the lifetime of many of our parents that cartoonists felt comfortable in making this kind of attempt, confident that at least some sense of what they're doing would make it onto the page. A famous panel where Christy Jameson drinks in the swimming area around her with exuberance and joy is as pretty as anything I've seen on a comics page; it ran on a random Thursday.
The second volume in the Fantagraphics series finds the strip making the transition from war years to its post-World War 2 mix of domestic drama and globe-trotting adventure. It actually drifts for a while in a fashion that's appealing as all hell read in collected form; I have no idea what that must have been like as a daily, but it's hard to imagine that Crane's art would have kept anyone from wanting him to move in any direction other than the one with which he was most comfortable. There's even a surprise death fairly early on, one that's as big a whoa moment as any that took place during that decade. Buz Sawyer
was never the best-written of these kinds of strips, and Buz himself never coheres into a fully-formed character independent of type. But the writing is serviceable, and the overpowering waves of handsome exuding from every other panel are enough for nearly everyone but the most discerning sophisticate to at least enjoy themselves. I had a pleasurable time during my long afternoon in its company, even though I'm not sure I'll ever feel the need to read it again. We've all had days like that, dates like that, and have consumed art like that; this collection is such that you never second-guess your time there.