As contributing editor Jared Gardner notes in his introduction, Otto Soglow’s Little King is a monarch who sits stiffly on the throne but bursts into life at the sight of a hotdog stand or at the approach of a rowdy mob. He is a man of the people who has somehow found himself on the wrong side of the palace steps, but he makes the most of it, trying to do right by his office and find what pleasures he can at the absurd outer reaches of his daily rituals. It was often said that Otto Soglow resembled his creation, and he did nothing to disabuse people of that notion as he regularly performed in character throughout his career. As is explored in this volume, the resemblance was more than merely physical: like his most famous creation, Soglow was a man whose origins and political sensibilities were always with the working man on the street—and even the angry mob. Yet while he began his career as a radical artist publishing in The New Masses and The Liberator, a decade later he was working for William Randolph Hearst and creating advertisements for Pepsi Cola and oil companies. The Little King is born out of the tension between his political idealism and his professional ambitions.
Much of the humor in The Little King is aimed at puncturing pomposity and, as Ivan Brunetti points out in his Foreword, Soglow accomplishes it with drawings that are tightly composed, exquisitely timed, carefully structured pieces of machinery. “His process of streamlining is at the root of why his cartoons have a timeless sophistication and elegance,” writes Brunetti, “and continue to entice new readers and cartoonists. It’s high time for such a fitting tribute to this cartoon monarch.”