Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Töpffer/Rodolphe Töpffer: The Complete Comic Strips

By McKinney, Mark | European Comic Art, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Töpffer/Rodolphe Töpffer: The Complete Comic Strips


McKinney, Mark, European Comic Art


David Kunzle, Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Töpffer (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007). xii +207 pp. ISBN: 978-1-57806-948-4 (paperback, $25.00)

Rodolphe Töpffer, Rodolphe Töpffer: The Complete Comic Strips, compiled, translated and annotated by David Kunzle (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007). xv + 650 pp. ISBN: 978-1-57806-946-0 (hardback, $65.00)

A new book of comics scholarship by art historian David Kunzle has always been a landmark event, and these latest two volumes are no exception. Together, they help consolidate the important place of Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846) in the history of comic strips, and make the Swiss (Genevan) cartoonist and early theoretician of comics better known to readers of English. The son of a painter and caricaturist (Wolfgang-Adam Töpffer), the cartoonist engaged in a wide variety of other professional and artistic activities. He wrote prose fiction and travel literature, ran a private school for boys, taught literature at university and engaged in political journalism. Over the last dozen years or so, French-language scholars have laboured hard to give Töpffer the place that they feel he deserves, by commentary on his work and through the republication of six of his eight comic books.8 By contrast, until now English readers have had far less access to Töpffer. The publication of these two volumes has done a great deal to change that.

However, even before these two books, publications by Kunzle had been the main English-language sources on the early comic strip, and had been consulted by scholars in France and elsewhere, who delved into the history of the comics medium. In Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Töpffer, Kunzle reworks and expands upon his previous scholarship on Töpffer and nineteenth-century comics.9 Kunzle gives us a fascinating account of the cartoonist's life and its connections with his work. He shows us Töpffer moving from liberalism to conservatism during the course of his life, and describes the importance of Swiss patriotism and Genevan identity in Töpffer's worldview, at a time of Napoleonic imperialism and great social upheavals and transformations (revolutions, workers' strikes, cholera epidemics, the advent of mass tourism).

Father of the Comic Strip includes nine chapters. The first provides a richly contextualised and synthetic reading of important satirical themes, which Kunzle traces through Töpffer's comics: soldiers, war and absolutism; the ravages of cholera; bureaucracy; crime and punishment; the absurd; religion; peasants and the countryside; duelling; suicide; and the follies of science. Chapter 2 - on 'Goethe, Töpffer, and a New Kind of Caricature' - argues for both the novelty of Töpffer's art and its immediate consecration by Goethe. Chapters 3-6 provide fascinating, art-historical readings of the eight comic books by Töpffer: Jabot, Crépin, Vieux Bois, Festus, Pencil, Trictrac, Cryptogame and Albert. Especially in chapters 4 and 6, Kunzle situates Töpffer's comics with respect to his theoretical writings on the art form, particularly the 'Essai d'autographie' and 'Essai de physiognomonie'. Chapter 7 elaborates on two motifs that recur throughout the study: the amateur stance of Töpffer the cartoonist; and the 'genesis [of the comics] in the schoolroom'. These motifs undergird a core thesis of Kunzle's perspective on the genial, artistic contribution of the Swiss artist: that the lack of professional seriousness and the youthful imagination of Töpffer, inspired by the enthusiasm of his young students (but also stemming from his desire to distract himself from the tedious aspects of teaching), allowed him to produce works that were, and are still, fresh and funny, despite his increasing political conservatism as he grew older. Kunzle even suggests that precisely these elements - and poor eyesight, which prevented Töpffer from becoming a painter - are responsible for his invention of the comic strip. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Töpffer/Rodolphe Töpffer: The Complete Comic Strips
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.