Literature

[Comics]

The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley’s Cartoons 1913-1940

Image
J. Caleb Mozzocco

To say they don’t make them like this anymore is a gross understatement. I don’t know if they could make them like this anymore, and I’m quite sure they wouldn’t even if they could. In 1907, 22-year-old Nell Brinkley moved to New York City and began drawing illustrations for the Hearst syndicate of newspapers. Her subject matter tended to be young, attractive women in the latest fashions (not unlike herself).

The Details

The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley’s Cartoons 1913-1940
Three and a half stars
Edited by Trina Robbins
Fantagraphics Books, $30.
Amazon: The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley’s Cartoons 1913-1940

Editor Trina Robbins touches on Brinkley’s biography and the variety and popularity of her work in this big, beautiful book, but the focus is on Brinkley’s not-quite-comics-but-close work.

There are three serials, romantic adventure stories featuring lush, sumptuously designed full-page illustrations with a few paragraphs of text along the bottom, plus a series of lighthearted humor features starring naïve young flappers set to (terrible) rhymes, and a few prose-and-image profiles of real-life women.

It’s a very welcome introduction to an artist whose skills need to be seen to be believed, and an even more welcome reminder that newspapers used to offer readers a lot more than just news and commentary—they also used to offer honest-to-God fine art.

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