Posts Tagged ‘Guy Davenport’

Cartoonists that Never Were: Friedrich Engels


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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A cartoon of Frederick William IV and the Prussian bourgeoisie drawn by F. Engels, 1849.

In recent years, there has been a surge of critical interest in the fact that many major writers were also, on the side at least, doodlers and drawers. Off the top of my head, such writers include Thackeray, Kipling, Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, John Updike and Guy Davenport. There are many critical insights to be gained by thinking of these writers as “cartoonist manqués” (to borrow a phrase from Updike). Thanks to Kent Worcester we can add another notable name to the list: Friedrich Engels, the co-creator of historical materialism. For those not familiar with him, Engels was to Karl Marx what Gerhard has been to Dave Sim. Engels was also a lifelong doodler and sketcher. Many of his letters are filled with drawings. He had an excellent sense of draughtsmanship. I would love to see someone familiar to Engels life and thought do an analysis of his drawings. The website has a vast collection of Engels’ letters, sometimes including the drawings that accompanied them For a sample, page, see here. I’ve posted a few of Engels’ drawings below.


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Pay Attention: Poem Strip


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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The 2009 translation and republication of Dino Buzzati’s Poem Strip (originally published as Poema a Fumetti in 1969) hasn’t received the attention it merits, I think. The book is interesting on a number of grounds: as I’ve noted earlier, it belongs to the tradition of the proto-graphic novel; Buzzati himself was an important writer and artist, and the book makes a fine appetizer for his larger artistic career; the themes and artistic techniques explored in the book are also intriguingly connected with other cultural developments of the 1960s.


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Making Waves


Friday, October 1, 2010

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Watch the sound of the nuthatches. Autumnal Fantasy

While I’m embarrassing myself discussing painting and comics, I should take the time to recommend the Charles Burchfield exhibit at the Whitney to any of our readers in the New York area. It’s only open for another two weeks, and it’s well worth the trip if you’re able. And as Guy Davenport has pointed out, Burchfield made plentiful use of comic-strip-derived symbols for certain visual effects. See above and below for examples.

And feel The Song of the Telegraph

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Jack Kirby Was the 20th Century & other notes


Saturday, March 6, 2010

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Foxhole #1 (1954) by Jack Kirby.

More gleanings from my notebook:

Herriman’s Missing Signature. Michael Tisserand has a question: “Does anyone know (or have any ideas why) George Herriman generally no longer signed neither his daily nor his Sunday comics in their final years? How uncommon is this? Are there any reasons having to do with comics production, or is this a purely personal decision? I also noticed that there were periods of time in Herriman’s early stint at the Los Angeles Examiner where he didn’t sign his comics. These are the only comics in those issues that are unsigned.” Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Jack Kirby Was the 20th Century. Jack Kirby was the immigrant crowded into the tenements of New York (“Street Code”). He was the tough ghetto kid whose street-fighting days prepared him to be a warrior (the Boy Commandos). He was the patriotic fervour that won the war against Nazism (Captain America). He was the returning veteran who sought peace in the comforts of domestic life (Young Romance). He was the more than slightly demented panic about internal communist subversion (Fighting American). He was the Space Race and the promise of science (Sky Masters, Reed Richards). He was the smart housewife trapped in the feminine mystique, forced to take a subservient gender role (the Invisible Girl). He was the fear of radiation and fallout (the Incredible Hulk). He was the civil rights movement and the liberation of the Third World (the Black Panther). He was the existential loner outcast from society who sought solace by riding the waves (the Silver Surfer). He was the military industrial complex (Nick Fury). He was the hippies who rejected the Cold War consensus, and wanted to create their own counterculture (the Forever People). He was the artist who tried to escape his degrading background (Mister Miracle). He was feminism (Big Barda). He was Nixon and the religious right (Darkseid and Glorious Godfrey). He was the old soldier grown weary from a lifetime of struggle (Captain Victory). There was hardly any significant development in American 20th century history that didn’t somehow get refracted through Kirby’s whacko sensibility. Jack Kirby was the 20th century.

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