Histories and criticism of comics note that comic strips published in the Progressive Era were dynamic spaces in which anxieties about race, ethnicity, class, and gender were expressed, perpetuated, and alleviated. The proliferation of comic strip children—white and nonwhite, middle-class and lower class, male and female—suggests that childhood was a subject that fascinated and preoccupied Americans at the turn of the century. Many of these strips, including R.F. Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley
and Buster Brown
, Rudolph Dirks’s The Katzenjammer Kids
, and Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland
were headlined by child characters. Yet no major study has explored the significance of these verbal-visual representations of childhood.
Nominated for the Eisner Award and winner of the Charles Hatfield Book Prize as well as the Ray & Pat Browne Award, Lara Saguisag
's new book, Incorrigibles and Innocents: Constructing Childhood and Citizenship in Progressive Era Comics
(Rutgers University Press, 2018), addresses this gap in scholarship, examining the ways childhood was depicted and theorized in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century comic strips. Drawing from and building on histories and theories of childhood, comics, and Progressive Era conceptualizations of citizenship and nationhood, Saguisag, Associate Professor of English at the College of Staten Island—City University of New York, demonstrates that child characters in comic strips expressed and complicated contemporary notions of who had a right to claim membership in a modernizing, expanding nation.
Ryan Tripp is part-time and full-time adjunct history faculty for Los Medanos Community College as well as the College of Online and Continuing Education at Southern New Hampshire University.