Absurd and brilliant comics designed to be read right-side-up as well as upside-down

From 1903-1905, a Japanese-born, Dutch artist named Gustave Verbeek turned America's Sunday funny papers on their collective head.

That's when Verbeek drew 65 episodes of "The Upside Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo" for the New York Herald, all of which are reproduced in their full size and original colors in The Upside-Down World of Gustave Verbeek. Influenced in no small part by the 19th-century Japanese joge-e drawings he saw as a child, Verbeek created six-panel comics designed to be read right-side-up, then flipped over so that his silly, Punch-and-Judy-style story lines could be continued when read upside-down. More than a century later, one can almost hear the fluttering of newspapers across Manhattan on Sunday mornings.

Drawing an image so it would be reasonably comprehensible when read in more than one direction was not the only optical trick up Verbeek's sleeve: Also included in Upside-Down World are examples of the artist's 1905-1914 Herald strip called "The Terrors of the Tiny Tads," which follows the antics of a handful of young scamps as they cavort through dreamy landscapes filled with drivable hippos, elephants that double as hotels, and monkeys with the bodies of backgammon boards. More modern in appearance than Lovekins and Muffaroo, the Tads are charming, if mischievous, imps, looking a lot like forerunners of the scamps inked decades later by Maurice Sendak.

The Upside-Down World of Gustave Verbeek

by Peter Maresca (editor)

Sunday Press Books

2009, 120 pages, 10.6 x 16.1 x 0.8 inches

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