Rodolphe Töpffer advises shaking off reality, ditching logical drag.

I’ve lately enjoyed trawling the back catalogue of Matthias Wivel’s Metabunker writings. Matthias is an always insightful critic and thinker possessed of a generosity of spirit so often lacking in high-brow comics criticism. There shall probably be a chunk of links forthcoming.

For now, I was particularly struck by this 2007 review of a monograph concerning Rodolphe Töpffer, the 19th century comics pioneer. Specifically as it includes a quote dating back to 1845 in which Töpffer offers advice to a fellow proto-cartoonist. The quote is stunning in just how early and completely it encapsulates the idiosyncrasies and unique potentials of the classical (read archetypal or mythic) approach to the comics medium.

“…for purposes of invention and composition you must likewise, if you wish to catch any action of the hop, begin by shaking off as far as possible the yoke of reality, and the logical drag of some conventional succession of events, in order to charge more into an area of livelier, quicker, and easier relationships, those that the mind grasps between pictures bound to an idea; and then the graphic contour, with its power of illusion, almost never fails to gel into a whole with enough continuity of likeness, the bold or crazy, the fantastic or even absurd. Here again the truth of the idea, the charms of the intention, the apt, witty, or novel observation, may be stitched onto this slight fabric, becoming more relevant and more valuable than [literal] truth as such could ever be.”

Mind = blown and all that.


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