Proto-Graphic Novels: The Prequel


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In the aftermath of Jeet’s recent post on “proto-graphic novels,” the inimitable Eddie Campbell has generously agreed to let us post his excellent review of an A. B. Frost collection, Stuff and Nonsense, and Rodolphe Töpffer’s Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck. The essay originally ran in the 260th issue of The Comics Journal, from May/June 2004. As usual, Campbell’s voice is unmistakable, and his ideas are ignored at the reader’s peril.

Jeez, I’m making this sound too frightening. It’s actually quite funny. As the Coca-Cola company so memorably put it: Enjoy.

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8 Responses to “Proto-Graphic Novels: The Prequel”
  1. Anonymous says:

    With all the 'proto graphic novelists' cited – what about William Blake's interweaving illustrated poems? he designed the whole package. He was the Kirby of the 18th century!


  2. mp says:

    I have to second Guber's nod to William Blake (as well as the suggested Blake/Kirby connection- just take a look at that Bible portfolio)! The poetic tends to be given short shrift, alas…

    Recently I've been interested in exploring the idea of 16/17th cen. Emblem Books as proto-comics. While not particularly focused on linear narratives, they do represent a fairly sophisticated marriage of text and image.

    Literature In the Light of the Emblem

  3. Frank Santoro says:

    I sort of agree but I'm keeping quiet cuz I'm afraid Eddie's gonna get on here and fuck shit up, haha.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Re: Blake

    -Entirely Handmade products
    -Out of step with his times (an artisan at the start of the industrial age – but he still plied his trade in the commercial world)
    -Wild, convoluted internal mythology (that he expected us to catch up with … and eventually we did)
    -Non-'realist', 'fantastic', but bursting with life and authentic emotion.
    -Deceptively 'childlike'.
    -Political but mystical (both of which got him into trouble)
    -Respectful of tradition but powerful enough to create his own
    -Welding image and text together into a coherent whole.

    I nominate him as the patron saint of cartoonists – he has an awful lot more in common with Kirby, Ditko, Schulz, Ware etc. etc. than he does with 'academic' poetry or painting…

    … and he's way more fun and rewarding to read/look at than Toppfer is these days…


  5. Anonymous says:

    ps. Lynda Barry's 'What it Is' got me thinking this – I couldn't help but think of 'Songs of Innocence and Experience' as soon as I saw it on the shelf.


  6. Anonymous says:

    … or Ron Rege's 'Against Pain' – which I bought on the same day! There's also Panter, Crumb, Corben, Moebius and Alan Moore who get more 'Blakean' the more I look at 'em.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Crumb's big ass wimmen is Blakean? Good god you academics give me a pain!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Haven't you seen the asses on Blake's angels?


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