Quite simply, Noel Sickles' 1930s run on the comic strip Scorchy Smith is the ur-text of American adventure cartooning. Though Roy Crane's Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy led the way, Sickle's single-handed and seemingly off-handed advancement of using ink and brush-based chiaroscuro to define shadows, forms, figures, compositions and objects revolutionized and galvanized entire generations of cartoonists.

The first cartoonist who utilized Sickles' new technique was his friend and colleague Milton Caniff, who applied it to his Terry and the Pirates strip, with amazing and classic results (Caniff's writing and strip characters were better, so the graphic advancement in his strip brought the quality of comic strips to a whole new level). Nearly every major adventure cartoonist afterwards applied Sickles' new techniques to one extent or another, far too many than can be listed here: Jack Kirby, Carmine Infantino, Don Heck, Alex Toth, Lee Elias, Wally Wood, Will Eisner, Frazetta, Johnny Craig, Frank Robbins, George Tuska, Alex Raymond...

Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles reprints every Scorchy Smith strip Sickles drew, including strips before he started and after he left. That's only the second half of this very heavy and large, nearly 400-page book. The first half functions as an excellently researched biography by Bruce Canwell accompanied by hundreds of beautifully reproduced color and B&W illustrations, ads, paintings, sketches, comics and graphics of all kind by Sickles through his long career. Jim Steranko wrote the introduction.

I cannot recommend this fine book enough; it's an essential, foundational reference and document for any serious reader of comics and scholar of the art of cartooning. The only small compaint I have is the binding developed for the book isn't adequitely strong enough for the weight of the pages the book holds.Though I was very careful, the end papers began to tear away from the book. A book which weighs 6 and a half pounds needs much stronger binding, especially at $50.