The Origins of Comics by Thierry Smolderen (Author), Bart Beaty (Author, Translator),

By Thierry Smolderen (Author), Bart Beaty (Author, Translator), Nick Nguyen (Author, Translator)

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From this source, his little graphic actors sprout to bring the thoughts of the author to life. And if (verbal) language is a part of these festivities, it is because it shares the same energy, the same verve, the same freedom, much like the pen strokes themselves: cursive, incomplete, bouncing, lively. Töpffer always took great care in leaving some visible clues to remind the reader that his paper pantomimes were not the product of the “other kind of doodle”: the imitative, rational, conventional kind.

No philosopher, scientist, or man of letters at the time could scorn this culture of sketches and diagram (Bender and Marrinan 2010). Töpffer also knew that such awkwardness of expression (in which he saw the very signature of spirited creation) was present in art from faraway places and times: the graffiti at Pompeii, the naïve illuminations of medieval manuscripts, the statues on Easter Island . . The question of “doodles” thus became one of the cornerstones of Töpffer’s art theory (Töpffer 1998, 256–264).

11 Rodolphe Töpffer, Histoire de M. Pencil, 1840. Progress, which Töpffer liked to describe as a phantasmagoria, is represented in Mr. Pencil as a malicious zephyr whose disastrous effects are relayed by blind, and therefore infinitely stupid, mechanisms. The telegraph becomes an emblem of these chain-reaction phenomena (also assimilated to contagious diseases and rumors) that constitute, to his eyes, the true syntax of progress (and of progressive action). For all that, the author of Mr. Vieux Bois never lost sight of the formidable coherence of the system that he denounced.

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