Graphic Witness Four Wordless Graphic Novels by Frans

10 thoughts on “Graphic Witness Four Wordless Graphic Novels by Frans Masereel Lynd Ward Giacomo Patri and Laurence Hyde

  1. says:

    This volume contains four wordless graphic novels as well as an introductory essay by George Walker and afterword by Seth Some of these works were suppressed for political reasons because they were produced at a time of struggle the 1930s and one of them contains a scene that was for me at least too graphic The decapitation by the struggling protagonist of Wild Pilgrimage of the sadistic overseer with the killer holding up the decapitated head afterwards This was too much for me since it reminded me of the horrible decapitation on video of the American in the Mid East years ago which was so horribly shocking at the time and such cruelty is still so shocking Right after the protagonist commits this grisly murder though he is in turn shot in the head by a cop and the final image shows him on the ground with the stylized industrial plant in the background and his a woman grieving in the middle distance He had never managed to last at any job he had and his end was just as miserable as his entire working life had been The art work throughout the book is top notch each page contains one image created by linocuts using various tools the process of producing such prints is explained in the introduction The fact that there are no words makes no difference; these stories can be read in any language Some of these works are akin to a movie storyboard the action flows and the reader or viewer can imagine the dialog exactly as one can fill in dialog in a silent movie There is no need to hear every line of dialog because the action carries along the plot This is even so in these novels without words This is a form of graphic novel which is not prevalent today although the form was uite common years ago The wordless novel format was ideal for stories critical of the bosses or the oligarch All of the stories in this volume have some sort of social message It is no wonder these works were banned under various regimes not even allowed in the US at various times I mentioned above the one scene in the four novels that I thought contained gratuitous violence; the remaining scenes do not contain this level of grisly violence although lynchings are also portrayed in Wild Pilgrimage The working struggling ordinary person is the hero or even an entire people The final work deals with the residents of Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific which was evacuated before it was blown up by a hydrogen bomb by the US The residents had to leave their idyllic paradise Some who did not are then shown once the bomb goes off with portions of their bodies flayed away and other horrible ends as they and all the wildlife around them all die in the blast It is possible to read the book rather uickly since there is one image per page one stark image that could actually stand alone as a work of art The works are page turners since the reader wants to know what will happen next to the hero These are works that are certainly eye opening they uestion the fundamentals of the capitalist system and militarism No wonder they were suppressed

  2. says:

    This book edited by George A Walker collects four wordless novels or picture novels of the early twentieth century The picture novel is a form that flourished largely between the two world wars and was then forgotten except for a few devotees most of them comics creators who saw in these visual narratives the forerunners of the modern graphic novel And as the graphic novel has risen to prominence so the picture novels have been recovered As the title of Graphic Witness implies the authors of these picture novels conceived of themselves as moral chroniclers depicting in vivid and iconic imagery the evils and passions of their time Walker’s superb introduction charts a global movement that begins in Europe around the Great War arrives in America in time for the Depression and finds its way to Japan after World War II before working its way back to the West The creators of this new form were broadly men of the left protesting the brutalization of the worker under capitalism the inhumane conditions of the modern metropolis and the statecapital war machine that set the workers of the nations at each other’s throats The political ambiguities of this interwar working man’s leftism with its idealization of blood and soil and its fearadulation of the feminine is discussed in my review of Lynd Ward’s Gods’ Man On top of that Walker’s introduction also includes a set of informative sidebars on the techniue of wood linoleum or lead engraving as employed by the creators of the picture novelsA brief afterword by the Canadian cartoonist Seth reflects on the relation of these picture novels to comics and later the graphic novel His conclusion is a complex one the picture novelists themselves he says were obviously influenced by silent film and at pains to distance their work from the vulgar comic strip; yet their abortive ambition to create adult narratives using seuential art has been realized today in the form of the graphic novel—which is aesthetically in continuity with the comics tradition going back to the Yellow Kid that the picture novelists eschewed This nuanced and somewhat counterintuitive interpretation seems right to meTo the books themselvesFrans Masereel The Passion of a Man The Belgian artist Masereel later a friend of George Grosz and praised by Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse is considered the first major figure in the picture novel tradition This brief narrative which goes from a man’s birth in poverty to his execution as a revolutionary is an allegory for the suffering of the individual in the modern world Its title and its title page evoke the Passion of Christ as an analogue for man caught in the industrial machinery though as one image in the narrative makes clear by showing a cross hanging behind the court that sentences the hero to death official Christianity is on the side of the oppressors Masereel’s images are blocky and primitive almost medieval as befits his point of view on the subject matter; though broadly Expressionist there is none of the modernist stylishness that will characterize later artists’ styles in their own woodcut novels The hero is at several points refreshed by women—from his mother who breastfeeds him behind a fence in her urban outcast state to a lover who oedipally propositions him by displaying her own breast—and by nature and study—he decides to lead a revolt against the capitalists after brooding in the forest and then reading a book never named— The Communist Manifesto? Bernie Sanders’s platform? The narrative’s brevity and simplicity are at once its strength and weakness it tells the moral truth without subtlety or pretension yes but are Masereel’s nobly suffering poor women broodingly thoughtful working heroes and bloodthirsty capitalist fatcats an adeuate representation of the modern? The point is not to chide Masereel for lacking political nuance—which is not a legitimate aesthetic criterion—but to note the loss of interest that comes from his retailing of cliches His ideas of good and evil are so utterly received rather than imagined that the book fails to live up to its passionate title Lynd Ward Wild Pilgrimage This is a surreal version of the story one finds in Masereel and in Ward’s earlier Gods’ Man irritatingly mis titled God’s Man throughout Walker’s introduction In this version of the “oppressed worker escapesrevolts” narrative the worker’s fantasy seuences are printed in red in distinction to the black ink that predominates Ward’s woodcut techniue is polished owing as much to Art Deco as to Expressionism with fine lines and iconic figures Such artifice pleasingly contrasts with the novel’s “wild” depiction of nature as a free but threatening space—including the sexual nature of men Ward’s superiority over Masereel and the other artists in Graphic Witness is indicated by Wild Pilgrimage’s final red printed dream seuence in which the worker hero attacks the fatcat capitalist and decapitates him only to find that he is holding up his own head Which is to say what if the external enemy posited by socialism and fascism alike is not external at all but is rather the resentful projection onto others of our own appetites? And how many sociopolitical movements of today would have to grind to a halt if their partisans seriously asked themselves that difficult uestion? It is this psychological insight that sets Ward above the other merely political practitioners of the picture novel collected in this volume He is less a witness than a prophet Giacomo Patri White Collar This a kind of pamphlet sponsored by organized labor hammers home a fairly simple allegory about the economic fragility of the middle class and the conseuent benefits to that class of allying with the workers’ movement One imagines an organizer distributing it today to graduate students in the humanities Patri’s linocut art is as clear as it needs to be if sometimes far too literal as when a chain store helpfully called “Chain Store” drives the protagonist’s small shop out of business The message remains relevant—if not necessarily unimpeachable—but this is propaganda not art Laurence Hyde Southern Cross This book the only post WWII text collected here protests the testing of nuclear weapons at Bikini Atoll and the conseuent despoiling of that island’s environment and disruption of its inhabitants’ lives But Hyde’s beautiful art—especially in his depiction of marine life—is in service to a sentimental allegory about “noble savages” that undermines rather than reinforces the book’s political message would it somehow be better to nuke the Atoll if its inhabitants were a population of office workers or dare I say leftist woodcut novelists? Lovely art thoughIn conclusion this is a valuable historical compilation but its contents with the exception of Wild Pilgrimage mostly belong to the history of propaganda rather than to the history of art—a timely warning to today’s politics besotted generation of the dangers of political art even as it also reminds us of lost possibilities for visual narrative A blurb by Neil Gaiman on the back cover speaks of “the genius of Ward Masereel Patri and Hyde“ but on the evidence of these four books only Ward seems to merit such praise

  3. says:

    Each one of these exuisitely rendered vignettes is full of depth character hardship beauty and profundity All with out one word to process The linocuts are so detailed that the reader easily perceives movement and form This book also contained one of the most beautifully crafted introductions I have ever seen I think I will have to purchase this one Repetitive reading is in my future

  4. says:

    There’s a brand new Lynd Ward anthology out ‘Six Novels in Woodcuts’ from the Library of America It includes the justly acclaimed ‘God’s Man’ as well as five other wordless picture books from this great American artist It’s edited and introduced by Art SpiegelmanI found out about ‘Six Novels’ in the New York Times where Steven Heller rather dismayingly notes that the work ‘collects all of Ward’s books’ That’s terribly inaccurate and does a disservice to Ward’s profuse output especially as an illustrator of children’s books Even if Heller means only works where Ward is the sole author he ignores two fabulous children’s books the 1953 Caldecott Award winning ‘The Biggest Bear’ still in print and another wordless novel the incredible ‘The Silver Pony’ Ward was also working on a new wordless novel at the time of his death in 1985 which has been published in its unfinished stateWard’s work is extraordinary and deserves this place in the canon My library however has not yet stocked ‘Six Novels’ a situation which I hope will be remedied soon But when I searched for it I noticed the library did have ‘Graphic Witness’ a nice 2007 compilation of four pioneers in engraved wordless picture books who heavily influenced many of today’s graphic novelists including Ward’s ‘Wild Pilgrimage’ While it doesn’t have an editor with Spiegelman’s cachet George Walker contributes an excellent introduction where he draws on his own expertise as a woodcut engraver and illustrator And there’s an afterword by Seth‘Graphic Witness’ allowed me to finally view the seminal ‘Passion of Man’ a mere twenty five woodcuts that track a life story and a politically charged tale of the disenfranchised working class Franz Masereel produced this highly influential and powerful German work in 1918 and it sets the stage for three American stories Ward’s 1932 piece ‘White Collar’ by Giacomo Patri from 1939 and Laurence Hyde’s 1951 ‘Southern Cross’ All are great examples of beautiful relief printing socially conscious art and wordless story telling Hyde’s critical recounting of the atomic bomb test on Bikini Atoll was an especially wonderful surprise for me If you admire Spiegelman or perhaps are a fan of Eric Drooker who collaborated on the movie ‘Howl’ and created some amazing wordless books himself ‘Blood Song’ and ‘The Flood’ you should take a turn through ‘Graphic Witness’ And anytime you see Lynd Ward’s name on an older children’s book like ‘Johnny Tremain’ check him out A national treasure

  5. says:

    This collection contains four wordless novelsDie Passion eines Menschen The Passion of a Man 1918 25 pages Masereel was a Belgian artist who worked mainly in France and was published mainly in Germany This book is the biography of a labor leader from birth through childhood working as a child laborer being fired being arrested for stealing food becoming a radical leading a strike and being executed Told in 25 woodcuts this was the first of the wordless novels mostly in an Expressionist style which influenced the later development of the graphic novel It is probably not a coincidence that the genre began around the same time as the silent cinema came to maturity as both were attempts to narrate stories through visual images alone; although the novels outlived the silent screen continuing into the fifties their period of popularity was primarily the twenties and thirtiesLynd Ward Wild Pilgrimage 1932 102 pages Another story of a worker who becomes a farmer then returns to the factory to fall in a labor conflict told in alternating real and dream seuencesIn addition to his adult works Ward was also an author and illustrator of children's books who won a Caldecott medal for illustrating his own book The Biggest BearGiacomo Patri White Collar Novel in Linocuts 1938 128 pages Another wordless novel this one deals with the story of a white collar worker an advertising illustrator who loses his job and his prosperity during the depression and learns to consider himself as part of the working class movement It was used as an organizing tool for white collar union efforts at the timeLaurence Hyde Southern Cross A Novel of the South Seas 1951 122 pages Probably the last or among the last works in the wordless tradition of Masereel until the tradition was rediscovered in the present age of the Graphic Novel It tells the story of the evacuation of the Bikini Atoll for the atomic tests

  6. says:

    It's not warm and fuzzy I sought it out because I really liked the Arrival and was looking for wordless graphic novels This book is actually a compilation of four socio politically focused graphic novels by four different engravers done at different time between 1918 and 1951 They take on the subjects of racism class justice nuclear testing and It's a great read especially for anyone who loves art The beginning of the book talks about the techniues and tools used to make the engravings and how tools and materials can create very different and distinct signature looks The stories are not heartwarming There are no happy endings but given the timeframe they were written it's understandable They were commentary It would a great companion to teaching Grapes of Wrath or Metropolis

  7. says:

    The first wordless stories I read were by Eric Drooker Bloodsong but after reading Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics it is clear that telling stories through pictures has a long thousands years old tradition think Bayeux tapestries etc So is Drooker doing a graphic novel? Beckett bemoaned in Malloy? I gotta use words when I talk to you Not sure it matters except to academics how these things get categorized but the four wood cut based stories archived in this stunning collection make it clear you don't need words to tell powerful stories about important issues Amazing stuff highly recommended

  8. says:

    Each one of these novels is utterly brilliant To have them all together in one volume is an important study on the similarities and distinctions between some of the 20th century's early wordless woodcut authors George A Walker's overview provides fantastic insight into the techniues and tools that these and other artists used to make their work And the work itself makes the reader thirsty for

  9. says:

    I want to give this 5 stars but as I didn't have time to actually read everything that is take in the story and spend time with each page I don't feel like I can give it the full 5 stars Maybe soon when I finish the book In any case some of the most beautiful art I've seen and a very interesting look at the beginning of comics

  10. says:

    Four masterful graphic novels laboriously created through various print making techniues It is fascinating to realize how old some of these works are although they have an incredibly modern look and message

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Graphic Witness Four Wordless Graphic Novels by Frans Masereel Lynd Ward Giacomo Patri and Laurence Hyde If you care about graphic novels you need this book New York Times best selling author Neil GaimanGraphic Witness features rare wordless novels by four great 20th century woodcut artists European and North American The stories they tell reflect the political and social issues of their times as well as the broader issues that are still relevant todayFrans Masereel 1899 1972 was born in Belgium and is considered the father of the wordless graphic novel Graphic Witness includes the first reprint of his classic work The Passion of a Man since its 1918 publication in Munich American Lynd Ward 1905 85 author of the provocative Wild Pilgrimage is considered among the most important of wordless novelists Giacomo Patri 1898 1978 was born in Italy and lived in the United States His White Collar featured an introduction by Rockwell Kent and was used a promotional piece by the labor movement Southern Cross by Canadian Laurence Hyde 1914 87 was controversial for its criticism of US H bomb testing in the South PacificAn introduction by George A Walker places each wordless novel in its context and examines the influence of these works on contemporary culture including film comic books and contemporary graphic novelsGraphic Witness will appeal to readers interested in social issues printmaking art history and contemporary culture

  • Paperback
  • 423 pages
  • Graphic Witness Four Wordless Graphic Novels by Frans Masereel Lynd Ward Giacomo Patri and Laurence Hyde
  • George A. Walker
  • English
  • 01 October 2016
  • 9781554072705