Thanks to the wonders of interlibrary loan, I got a copy of Kitchen Sink’s only (as far as I can tell) volume of The Complete Color Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett (1990) covering 1926-1927. This oversize book collects 81 full color Sunday strips (so not quite two years). Contrary to what the title might make you think, the strips are more about Polly’s father Paw than the young woman herself. It’s a domestic comedy that is not very inventive story-wise.
Again, I’m forced to admit that these aren’t entirely to my liking. This is the beginning of what is considered Sterrett’s best years, and on every page the comics look about to break out into something really amazing. Rarely is that potential reached in this selection of strips.
Sterrett’s art is bright, vibrant, and has a certain flat, angular quality that somehow stays fluid. He uses patterns, checkers and polka dots, especially, to great effect. The brightly colored patterns add a sense of movement to a lot of the images. His style of drawing flowers and plants is oddly abstract, that makes them look like something from an alien planet.
At times he distorts the characters and backgrounds in surprising ways. One strip, which I’ve seen reprinted in a few books, has Paw wandering the house wearing Maw’s glasses. Everything (except Paw, we see him, but everything else we see through his eyes) is distorted like a funhouse mirror reflection. It’s a superb strip, showing what Sterrett could do when he started breaking from the norm.
His night scenes are also wonderful: large swatches of black, a jazzy yellow moon that’s always moving about, and the distortion of perception that comes in the dark when one can barely see.