One hundred years ago today — October 21, 1923 — the first of what was to be a long tradition in Frank King’s comic strip Gasoline Alley was published. The Autumn Walk. Walt Wallet and his foundling son Skeezix drive out into the country and marvel at the wonders of nature in all its season-shifting glory. And Sunday newspaper comics readers were treated to the wonders of what could be done with a comic strip’s design, color and content.
Gasoline Alley debuted in the November 24, 1918 issue of the Chicago Tribune. The color Sunday page was launched October 24, 1920. The first strip featuring a nature walk with Walt and Skeezix was a daily from May 6, 1922, welcoming spring (shown below).
One curious thing about this inaugural walk is that it came out on October 21st. One full month after the autumnal equinox. If King had lived in California, where the leaves turn at this time of year, that would make sense. But he was a midwesterner. Maybe it had more to do with the timing of inspiration and newspaper publishing schedules.
Frank King retired from the Sunday strip in 1951, leaving it to his assistant Bill Perry to continue. King retired from the daily in 1959, turning it over to Dick Moores, his assistant since 1956. Moores and others continued the strip for decades more. Gasoline Alley still appears in papers today and is the longest-running current comic strip.
The best way to see the original ‘Autumn Walk’ pages now is in the excellent Sundays with Walt and Skeezix collection from Sunday Press Books, which reprints the best of the first 15 years of Gasoline Alley Sunday pages at their original size, lovingly restored using the best materials available. Design on this giant 19″ x 24″ book is by Chris Ware. The page was also reprinted (at half the size) in the 2014 collection Gasoline Alley: The Complete Sundays Volume 2 1923-1925 (which we still have in stock at Wow Cool, but probably not for much longer). That series promised to collect the complete Frank King Gasoline Alley Sunday pages, but has not continued past the second volume.
Patrick McDonnell paid homage to the tradition in the October 15, 2023 installment of his comic strip Mutts. You can pay Patrick for a fine print of this comic on Mutts.com.
Go outside. Take a walk. Look around. Connect.