Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blog 12: The Dark Side of Digital,
The Graphic Textbook Model,
& Concluding Remarks

The Dark Side of Digital
In 2007 alone, 1,288 x 1018 bits, or 161 billion gigabytes of digital content were created, stored, and replicated around the world. In lay terms, that’s 3 million times the amount of information in all the books ever written, or twelve stacks of books reaching from the Earth to the Sun, or six tons of books for every living person. It would require 2 billion of the highest-capacity iPods to store all of that information.
                                                ―John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, Born Digital, 185

            Ouch! That’s a lot of data. Why we are saving every Twitter tweet is beyond me. Not that I do not understand the technology, mind you, it is just that the whole act of saving them seems so…narcissistic. According to Frida Ghitis, Google has kept every email its users have ever sent or received, along with every chat using Google Talk, and every conversation using Google Voice. From your calendar to your contact list, Google saves it all, and “can even track searches on your computer when you're not logged in for up to six months.” (Ghitis, 2012) Scary! Unfortunately, they are not the only ones and the whole idea of your entire cyber life being available to “who knows who” has such an air of “Big Brotherliness” to it. With all that data waiting to be accessed there is a lot of potential for bad things to happen, which is odd for a company such as Google whose motto is “do no evil.” In the digital landscape there is neither a past nor a future, since all information is accessed simultaneously. That means the sins of the past not only never go away—they are always in the present. So, other than going completely offline, what is the answer?

The Right to Be Forgotten
            In January of this year the European Commission for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship proposed a privacy reform called, “The Right to Be Forgotten” (le droit à l’oubli—or the “right of oblivion”). (Rosen, 2012) It is the digital equivalent to, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” It is based on the belief that once a criminal has served their time, and has been rehabilitated, the slate is wiped clean (which is a basic tenet of every Abrahamic and Eastern religion). There are certain free speech issues associated with this law that are well above my pay grade, but I agree with the idea that if I delete personal data from the digital landscape it should be gone forever, and not saved forever. So, how does this figure into the topic of graphic eTextbooks? Quite simply, it has to do with the “cloud” and who has access to information.

The Cloud

            “Cloud computing” is simply where multiple devices simultaneously share the same application platform over a network (like the Internet). Back when I was a computer programmer everything was written, stored, and run on a mainframe, and all of the information was entered through a “dumb” terminal (which was nothing more than a monitor and keyboard). For example, this blog is not on your computer; it is on an application platform somewhere, and you are accessing it via the Internet. Most of you are using Foxfire (35%), Explorer (25%), or Safari (21%) for your web browser, while 63% of you are using Windows PC compared to 28% on a Mac. Most of you are from the United States, followed by Germany, Russia, and other Western European countries; however, there have been visits from Brazil, Australia, Canada, India, Vietnam, and South Africa. Oh,…and how do I know all this? Well, Google owns Blogspot, and collects all the data for me.

            The point is, just like this blog, digital textbooks are on a cloud somewhere, and students need to access them. Granted, you may have a pdf of a book or two saved on some device, but there are copyright problems with that. One of the downsides to digital publishing that still persists is that piracy is too easy. You only have to look at the music industry and Napster to see how that played out. There is a fine line between free access to all information, and the creators of graphic eTextbooks getting paid their fair share. After all, whether it is physical or digital, the contents of a book are still the intellectual property of its creator(s). [Note: As of October 5, 2012, Google settled a seven-year legal battle with McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin, John Wiley & Sons, and Simon & Schuster over illegally digitizing their books.] If creators do not get paid for their efforts then there is no incentive to create more books. Digital Restriction Management codes (which restrict digital textbooks to only one device) are too restrictive. One solution that I prefer is for colleges and universities to purchase site-licenses, thus making eTextbooks accessible to students through their libraries.

            While students would not own eTextbooks the eNotes that they take should be theirs indefinitely. Peter Meyers suggested all tablets come with styluses, the ability to take notes, or highlight passages, and the ability to provide a “passage-quoting bulletin board.” (Meyers, 2011) To this list Alexandra Samuel adds collaborative annotating, persona management (privacy settings), social note sharing (access to social media from within the eBook), and the ability to add visuals to the notes. (Samuel, 2011) The Kno tablet is already doing most of this (click HERE then scroll down the article to watch the demo videos). In fact, Kno tablets also allow social sharing of notes, so if you miss a class your friend’s notes will immediately show up in your eTextbook. This “tablet” is actually a full-bore computer, so reading, note-taking, surfing the web, social networking—namely, multi-tasking—is all available to the user in one device. Presently, prices are steep ($900 for the double-screen version, & $600 for the single), and the duel-screen model weighs 5.6 pounds, but those should both come down if they want to stay competitive. Otherwise, expect all of their bells & whistles in the next ipad rollout.

“Dark Editing”

            Another problem with digital content is reliability. What none of you probably know is that I have made changes to every blog entry I have posted. Most changes have been minor such as adding links, and adding highlights, but I have also added and deleted text. On one occasion I changed the name I had originally referenced to “Charles Schulz” because it was a better choice for illustrating my point. I doubt if anyone knows what the original name was, and since the change was made within an hour of the original posting, it is highly unlikely there is a backup of it anywhere. I refer to this as “Dark Editing.” How do we validate the material in a digital landscape where there is only the present? Without a hard copy as proof of the past, how do we know the digital information we are quoting as a source will be the same tomorrow as it is today? To further illustrate the point, a friend of mine noticed that in a digital edition of Moby Dick several chapters were missing. Missing! And nowhere in the indicia, or on the title page, or on the website did it say it was an edited or abridged edition. “Truth” has always been subjective, but in the digital age it is also ephemeral. After all, what is a cloud anyway, but an amorphous, ever-changing wisp that eventually disappears completely?

Digital Natives and the Gatekeepers

            For Digital Natives, those born in 1980 and afterwards, the digital landscape is an integral part of their lives. For the rest of us, the Digital Immigrants, we can remember a time when phones had cords, and computer screens were black & white. In preparing for this blog entry I watched the first two episodes of the television show, Revolution, which takes place fifteen years after all the power goes out globally. One Internet entrepreneur laments his loss of wealth, and a mother still carries around her cell phone because locked inside are pictures of her long-gone children. At no time did anyone mention the loss of all that knowledge, but for some reason they want you to believe that without electricity we would be knocked back to living in Colonial times. One of the staples of spy shows of the past couple decades has been the electromagnetic bomb. Explode one within a major capital city, and that nation’s infrastructure and economy collapses. It is entertainment, so it is meant to be dramatic; however, the real threat to Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants is access, and the real power lies in the hands of the Gatekeepers.

            We know that it is possible for countries to block the Internet, or portions of it. The euphemism is called “filtering,” and it is the same principle as software controls parents put on their children’s computers, but on a larger scale. The greater concern is that, under the guise of “protecting its citizens” any country can frame the narrative for its people, especially those who never travel abroad. Not only that, but the Gatekeepers can designate specifically what knowledge a person may have access to and for how long. Without physical books it is therefore easier to create a caste society where some people have access to knowledge while others are left ignorant.

            When information on a cloud (mainframe) is completely blocked and certain people are no longer permitted access to fundamental knowledge, as in a caste society, I have begun calling this form of injustice “Clear Skies Censorship.”

Modeling the Graphic Textbook

            So, what does my model for graphic textbooks look like? Well, like this!

            All graphic narratives are made up of three parts. They are the script, the art, and the history of the medium. All three of these spheres are the same size because all are of equal importance. This model also encompasses people such as Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Jeff Smith, and all the others who both write and illustrate their stories because there is always a balance between text and imagery. The history of the medium is vital because it includes all that has come before to get us to where we are. If the creators study the writers, artists, and graphic narratives that have come before them; the better prepared they will be for creating their own graphic narratives. Each of these three spheres overlap, with the rich tradition of storytelling, and at the core of this is where graphic narratives emerge. For educational graphic novels and graphic textbooks, all of this fits into a sphere of pedagogy. This model does not advocate a specific style of writing or art, and is international in its scope. Nor does it advocate a specific format or software/hardware platform. What it does portray is the importance of the content; that storytelling is at the core of all good graphic narratives. After all, we all love a good story.

[Note: For educational purposes, I am also including a blank diagram so anyone can fill it in with whatever language they choose.]

Concluding Remarks

            Back in Blog #1 I wrote, “It is my opinion that one day introductory-level educational graphic textbooks for college students will be the norm rather than the exception.” I believe that. There is a fear that the educational system cannot keep up with changes in digital landscape. Graphic eTextbooks can help make learning fun and enjoyable, without diluting the information. This is not a juvenile art form. It is a hybridized, verbal/visual, problem-solving, engaging art form that entertains as it educates. As Ray Bradbury once wrote, Intellectual snobs will no doubt be shocked. Those with widespread, happy tastes will accept, as I accept, this new form.” (Bradbury, Autumn People, 1965)

            Finally, using comic books in the classroom is not a new concept, and began, to my knowledge, around the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics in 1938. The following was written by Milton Schwebel, professor emeritus of the graduate school of applied and professional psychology at Rutgers University as well as dean emeritus of the graduate school of education of the same institution. Professor Schwebel was also the founding chair of American Psychological Association's Advisory Committee on Impaired Psychologists for eight years, and founding editor of the APA divisional publication, Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology for seven years. It is the earliest account that I have found regarding the use of comic books in the classroom, and it validates my belief in the benefits of using graphic narratives for teaching undergraduate students.

Recent attention to the use of comic books in schools drove me to the search engine Google, where my query of the phrase yielded 682,000 English pages. [In] the late 1930s, when, as a high school substitute teacher in Troy, N.Y., I was called upon to teach a course in English for students in a low-status vocational program. […] To my dismay, I discovered that the chief literary fare in this so-called class in English consisted of comic books. As a recent graduate of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. —then an all-male institution of about 800, with a proud record of well over a century of teaching the liberal arts and science — and with a major in philosophy, I had nothing but disdain for this folly and for the elderly teacher, now ill, who had created it.

Fortunately for me, she was absent for a month, during which time I came to see that my arrogance had blinded me to her creativity. These boys and girls, all from working-class families, many of them children of immigrants, were devouring the comic books, and were reading for pleasure for the first time. Some of them had moved from comic books to Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Jack London, and they enjoyed discussing Oliver Twist as much as Superman.

The wisdom of this experienced woman taught me that there are numerous ways to get children hooked on books and learning. In the many ensuing years, the lesson I learned from her influenced my teaching at the college, university, and postdoctoral levels. I discovered that it didn't matter whether an instructor lectured, led discussions, or used role-play or any other procedure, provided the students—no matter their age—were engaged. It's not surprising that educational research has substantiated that principle.

                                    Milton Schwebel, Education Week, February 20, 2008
            I wish to express my deepest appreciation to everyone for reading this blog; especially to all of those who shared their thoughts, critiques, and personal stories with me. While this is the end of this blog it is not the end of my research!
            After all…I still have to finish my dissertation, graduate, and get a real job!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Blog 11: Manga as Textbooks,
How Japanese Manga began in a French prison in 1832

            In September 2004, one of Japan’s leading manga authors, Takemiya Keiko, was approached by a medical university to write an educational manga depicting surgical procedures (see technical instruction comic – Blog 5). Kyoto Seika University professor, Makino Keiichi explained, “Manga can exaggerate details in a way photographs can't.” Additionally, illustrations have another advantage over photography in that they can key in on a specific subject or event, simplify it, and delete any extraneous elements that would interfere in the clearness of the information they are conveying. Dr. Su Soon Peng, associate professor of English in University of Malaya, believes that ‘The reader should not see the graphic form as a full and accurate version of the original text. A comic cannot capture the full essence of the original text.” (Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, 2004) While I will concede this point to a degree, only in that I feel it is impossible to adequately adapt certain works graphically (Lord of the Rings, The Metamorphosis, etc.), I do not feel that it is possible for any author to adapt Art Spiegelman’s Maus strictly to text, and still “capture the full essence of the original.” So what do manga-style graphic textbooks do better than text-only books?

            Dr. Eric Luczaj, a professor in Miami University’s Department of Computer & Information Technology uses Manga Guide to Databases (2009) as an optional text in his database class. According to Dr. Luczaj, while the book does not contain as much depth as a traditional textbook it is a good introduction to the subject. “It makes the material accessible to students by putting a difficult subject into a format that was not so academically dense. Not all students learn in the same way, and I like to have as many options available to them for learning the material.” (Luczaj, 2012) Not so coincidentally, Manga Guide to Databases is one of several manga textbooks the Virginia Department of Education's Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) at Virginia Commonwealth University recommends to its faculty.

            Manga Guide to Databases is one of a series of educational textbooks produced by No Starch Press. Other books in the series include: Manga Guide to Molecular Biology (2009), Manga Guide to Calculus (2009), Manga Guide to Relativity (2011), and Manga Guide to Regression Analysis (coming 2013) to name a few. These EduManga books are translations of a bestselling series in Japan, co-published with Ohmsha, Ltd., of Tokyo, a publisher of science and engineering books. All of the books are written by accredited authors, lending to the credibility of the content material. For example, Mana Takahashi, the author of Manga Guide to Databases is a graduate of the Tokyo University where she teaches Economics, and Dr. Masaharu Takemura, the author of Manga Guide to Molecular Biology has written several books on biology, and lectures on biology, molecular biology, and life sciences at the Tokyo University of Science.

            In Blogs #1 & 3 I mentioned the attitudinal instruction “manga” comic,  Japan Inc., An Introduction to Japanese Economics (University of California Press, 1988. 313-pages), by Ishinomori Shōtarō (1938–1998). “Manga” Nihon keizai nyumon (1986), as it was titled in Japan, was the “trigger for the growth of educational manga for adult readers.” (Murakami & Bryce, 2009, 49) In “Manga as an Educational Medium” (The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Number 10, 2009, 47-55), Satsuki Murakami and Mio Bryce, both from Macquarie University, NSW, Australia, believe that it is manga’s (sequential art’s) hybridity of the visual and linguistic that makes this artform such a powerful learning tool (see Blog #7 for my take on Duel Coding Theory and sequential art). The following is Murakami’s and Bryce’s review of the literature, which I am reprinting here for the benefit of those who do not have access to the article.

Many scholars have shown those hybrid texts of the verbal and the visual help readers’ efficient understanding and learning. For example, using Dual Coding Theory, Paivio (1986) explains that our cognitive system consists of two parts, the verbal system and the non-verbal systems, which are processed through different channels. When images or figures match the verbal input, they are encoded by both the verbal and non-verbal systems, thus promoting memory more strongly than in the case of verbal or visual input alone. Anderson and Bower (1973) likewise state that memory of verbal information is enhanced when relevant visual images are provided. Larkin and Simon (1987) also emphasize that the ability to process information is enhanced when text is augmented with pictures. McCrudden, Schraw, Lehman & Poliquin (2007) further showed that the underlying cause-and-effect in sentences are understood more easily when there are visual clues of the cause-and-effect. Moreno and Mayer (1999) also demonstrate that multimedia is effective for learning.

Using the abovementioned approaches, Tamada (2008) asserted the effectiveness of manga as an educational tool. Likewize, Murata (2008) found that manga promotes readers’ effective understanding by spelling out the thematic focuses in the illustrations. Additionally, Hasegawa (2002) demonstrated that manga can be read in a shorter time and give a stronger impression than conventional text books.

            William Spencer Armour refers to the use of manga for educational texts as “The Rise of ‘Soft Power Pedagogy.’” (Armour, 2011) Armour asserts that there are multiple ways of knowing, and that there is validity and value in different approaches. Armour also believes that integrating different approaches “results in a more complete understanding of complex issues.” (Armour, 2011, 128) In “The Graphic Novel: a ‘Cool’ Format for Communicating to Generation Y” (Business Communication Quarterly, Volume 72, Number 4, December 2009, 414-430), Jeremy C. Short and Terrie C. Reeves feel that the “dense, pompous, and largely impenetrable writing” of business negatively impacts learning, and that the “graphic novel format would allow our field to keep pace with other disciplines while incorporating a more accessible format and has the potential to influence society while simultaneously utilizing a more engaging medium appropriate for today’s generation of business students.” (Short & Reeves, 428) Essentially, all of this is identical to the conclusions drawn earlier by Luczaj.

            Much has been said regarding the benefits of, and need for using a combined visual/verbal artform in helping students learn. So when will we finally see a full-blown graphic textbook meant for teachers to build a class around? When will graphic textbooks no longer be considered “optional,” but rather “primary” textbooks?

Charles Wirgman and the Beginning of Manga

            Those who know the history of Manga have heard the name, Charles Wirgman (1832–1891) before. Wirgman was a graphic journalist/news correspondent for The Illustrated London News. Wirgman arrived in Yokohama in 1861, just two years after it opened as Japan’s first international port of commerce, and lived there the rest of his life. In 1862, Wirgman began publishing his monthly illustrated humor publication, The Japan Punch, which satirized the Europeans living in the protected Kannai ("inside the barrier") district of the city. Unfortunately, that is pretty much the extent of what most people know about Wirgman. However, how Wirgman arrived in Yokohama, and how European visual social parody became such a huge influence on Japanese culture is an amazing journey that began thirty years earlier in France.

Subversive Imagery and the “Liberty of the Crayon”

Following The French Revolution of 1830, freedom of the press was restricted, and political caricatures were deemed more seditious than words because of their visceral nature and broad appeal. It was perceived that the illiterate populace, referred to as the “dark masses,” was “highly susceptible to subversive imagery.” (Goldstein, 1998, 785) Surprisingly, illustrations were not subject to pre-publication censorship restrictions the same way text articles were, but post-publication prosecutions were profuse. From 1831–1835, there were 736 prosecutions brought against the press, yet over 60% of these ended in acquittals.” (Goldstein, 1998, 789)

            La Silhouette (1829–1831) was one of the publications targeted by the monarchy. La Silhouette was the first French publication to give text and illustrations equal importance. It was the prototype for political satire publications, and was co-founded by French caricaturist, Charles Philipon (1800–1861). Originally intended to be politically moderate, La Silhouette became increasingly liberal, and in the 1 April 1830 issue Philipon furtively inserted an unsigned caricature of Charles X of France dressed as a Jesuit. The image caused a scandal due to the strict government censorship laws that prevented the publishing of caricatures of politicians. The paper’s manager Benjamin-Louis Bellet (not Philipon) was sentenced to six months in prison and fined 1,000 francs. La Silhouette was financially crippled, but before he was fired, Philipon began a second political satire newspaper, La Caricature (1830–1835). (Goldstein, 1998, 789)

            Censorship of the press grew more intense, and so too did the punishments. In its early years La Caricature was seized close to thirty times post–publication for its caricatures, which resulted in ten prosecutions. French historian, Paul Thureau-Dangin (1837–1913) believed that Philipon was “one of the most dangerous adversaries for [King Louis-Philippe].” (Goldstein. 2000, 143) For his cartoon depicting the king plastering over the promises of 1830, Philipon was sentenced to six months in prison and fined 2,000 francs. (Goldstein, 1998, 790) At his hearing Philipon stated that his drawing was symbolic and that since the royal insignia was not present in the illustration, the figure was not actually the king. Furthermore, arguing that the court had no control over the “liberty of the crayon,” Philipon drew his infamous, four panel sequence, Les Poires (The Pears), transforming the face of Louis-Philippe into a pear. Philipon asked the court if the resemblance between the king and the pear meant that artists could no longer draw the fruit? (Childs, 51) While the exercise did not help his case, the iconic Les Poires, which was also French slang for “simpleton,” became a derogatory icon among political caricaturists for Louis–Philippe’s July Monarchy.

There is one aspect of the Louis-Philippe 4-part sequence that, as far as I know, has never been broached. Beginning in 1827, Swiss schoolmaster, Rodolphe Töpffer (1799–1846) began creating sequential narratives or “picture stories” that he shared with his friends and students. Töpffer has long been considered the Father of the Comic Strip with the publication of his first album, Histoire de Monsour Jabot in May 1833. However, Charles Philipon’s 4-panel Les Poires (redrawn left by Daumier) appeared in La Caricature a year-and-a-half earlier on 24 November 1831. Though it was never intended to be a new artform, Les Poires is actually the world’s first published sequential newspaper comic narrative; technically making Philipon the “Father of the Comic Strip.”

            Philipon, along with other non-violent criminals, was placed in the "Pavilion of Princes" section of the Sainte-Pélagie prison in Paris. In this bizarre judicial form of incarceration, Philipon not only edited La Caricature, but also continued producing political cartoons from his prison cell. It was not uncommon for journalists to reserve their favorite cells ahead of time, or to be taken to court from jail to answer censorship charges for articles written while in prison. Other than being besieged by fellow inmates to draw their portraits, Philipon weathered his “captivity” well. It was while he was imprisoned that Philipon, with the help of one of his most prominent artists, Honoré Daumier (1808–1879), (who was at the time confined for his caricature, Gargantua) conceived of his next publishing venture. (Goldstein, 1998, 794; Spencer, 26; Passeron, 67-72) Philipon, along with his brother–in–law Gabriel Aubert, created a third illustrated newspaper, Le Charivari (meaning Hullabaloo in English, 1832–1937). The publication dealt primarily with social commentary, thereby evading many of the censorship problems that plagued La Silhouette and La Caricature.

            Philipon (left) was following in the tradition of pictorial satirist and social critic, William Hogarth (1697–1764), and his publications had a tremendous impact on nineteenth century illustration and painting. Other French artists who began their impressive careers with Philipon included J. J. Grandville, Paul Gavarni, Achille Jacques-Jean-Marie Devéria, André Gill, Henri Monnier, Charles J. Traviés, Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, and Paul Gustave Doré, who lived with Philipon after he moved to Paris at the age of fifteen.

            In 1832, Philipon undoubtedly knew that censorship laws would become increasingly more constrictive, and they did. By focusing on social commentary, he had hoped to not only avoid further fines and incarcerations (which, unfortunately, did not happen), but also speak to a broader readership (which, thankfully, did happen). Since Le Charivari was not politically driven, it did not polarize potential subscribers against it. This type of broad market appeal would become the basis for not only the Illustrated Press, but modern news reporting as well.

            The influence of Philipon’s publications reached beyond the borders of France. In England, journalist and co-editor Henry Mayhew, co-editor Mark Lemon, printer Joseph William Last, and wood-engraver Ebenezer Landells (who apprenticed under Thomas Bewick, the man who redefined wood engraving for the nineteenth century) created their own illustrated review of social eccentricities titled, Punch (1841–1992; 1996–2002). Mayhew, an avid reader of Le Charivari, conceived of Punch while he was living in Paris, avoiding his creditors back in England. It was decided that Punch would take a “comedy of manners” approach to humor, abandoning Regency caricatures altogether, and focus wholly on the foibles of the upper class. As an acknowledgment to its source, and probably conceived as a marketing strategy as well, Punch was subtitled, The London Charivari.

In the wake of the Fieschi Plot, designed to assassinate King Louis-Philippe, censorship of the press reached its apex, and freedom of the press was, essentially, eliminated in France (until 1881). Many political caricaturists turned their skills to social commentary to avoid prison. Daumier, one of the leading satirists of his time, abandoned political parody entirely and focused on caricatures of Parisians. This abrupt shift away from overt political satire towards a more subtle critique of French society brought about a close examination of bourgeois life that surfaced in the Realist movement that emerged during the mid-nineteenth century. It was in this climate of oppression that the weekly French newspaper, L’Illustration was born just one year after the stunning success of The Illustrated London News in 1842.

Charles Wirgman and The Japan Punch

In 1862 illustrator and humorist, Charles Wirgman published his first issue of The Japan Punch, eventually producing 220 issues during its twenty-five-year run. (Cooper, 484) Wirgman had lived in Paris in the early 1850s, and his cartoons share a stylistic resemblance to some of L’Illustration’s leading cartoonists/social satirists such as: “Cham,” “Marcelin,” “Stop,” “Randon,” and Töpffer. Wirgman was a freelance correspondent for L’Illustration and a staff artist for The Illustrated London News. In 1857, after the death of The Illustrated London News’ correspondent Arthur V. Johns, Esq. H.C.S., Wirgman was sent to China to cover the Second Opium War. Following the war the multi-lingual Wirgman went to Yokohama where he not only acted as a mediator and translator between Europeans and Japanese, but also played a vital role as a mentor and teacher of Western-style oil painting to Japanese artists. Yet Wirgman’s most notable contribution to the world of illustration was The Japan Punch.

Based on the original British magazine, Punch, Wirgman’s The Japan Punch was a humorous, satiric periodical intent on lampooning the politics and society of Yokohama. Although it was intended for Western audiences, The Japan Punch made its way into the hands of Euro-curious Japanese for whom political satire became another cultural import. The Japanese loanword, ponchi-e (meaning Punch pictures, or satirical sketches) is directly attributed to The Japan Punch and became that language’s first loan-word for cartoon. (Duus, 996) Publication of intellectually stimulating and funny drawings with underlying, sometimes hidden, meanings became so popular that it spawned several Japanese versions including: Eshinbun Nipponchi (1874, three issues) by Kanagaki Robun (pseudonym) and Kawanabe Kyosai; Kisho Shimbun (1875) by Hashizume Kinzo and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi; Marumaru Chinbun (1877–1882) by Nomura Fumio; and Garakuta-chinpō (1879) (Meech-Pekarik, 179; Schodt, 1996)

By the 1890s, the word, ponchi-e took on derogatory connotations, and was replaced by the word, Manga. (Gravett, 21) Wirgman was a valuable observer to the opening of Japan to the Western world during the late-nineteenth century Meiji Restoration, and spent three decades chronicling in print the political and social evolution of that country. Through the influence of The Japan Punch, Wirgman became one of the fore-fathers of the hugely popular Japanese graphic narrative format called Manga. What began as a discussion in a French prison in 1832 between two artists developed into a Japanese art form that has become a multi-billion dollar international phenomenon.

The Exporting and Importing of Visual Culture

            Le Charivari created a paradigm shift in publishing that changed the direction of graphic storytelling, and created a cascade effect whose impact resonated internationally. Punch came to America by way of the many tourists and (especially) artists who traveled to Europe in the latter part of the nineteenth century. One such artist, Robert Henri (aka Robert Henry Cozad 1865–1929), shared them with The Philadelphia Four (William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John French Sloan), all of whom would go on to form the core of the Ashcan School, or, to use the less deprecating title, the Urban Realists.

            Several of the Urban Realists taught at The Art Students League in New York, and it is not surprising that their style of socio-cultural representational art came to influence Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), and many other twentieth century artists who studied there. For American visual satirists, Punch was also the forerunner of Harvey Kurtzman’s (1924–1993) incredibly popular and widely influential Mad magazine. Comic books and graphic novels are part of a rich visual culture history that ties back to Hogarth, Le Charivari, and Punch.

Topics for Discussion

1) What other Manga textbooks that have not been translated into English can be adapted into undergraduate graphic textbooks?

2) What is missing from this research?

Next Blog: The Dark Side of Digital, The Graphic Textbook Model, & Concluding Remarks

Addendum: Unpublished Information About Charles Wirgman

            The following is new information I uncovered regarding Charles Wirgman while working on my Master’s Degree in History of Art. It is unpublished, but I shared it with Wirgman scholar, Professor John Clark, a member of the Art History and Film Studies department within the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sydney, Australia. Some of this material was referenced by Dr. Clark in a paper he delivered in 2011 at the Wirgman exhibition in Yokohama (the paper has since been published in Kindai Garon). Since this information has only tangential meaning to my dissertation on graphic textbooks, and since I do not plan on developing a paper about it, I decided to make it available here for other Wirgman scholars to use (please credit appropriately). While researching Wirgman, I found the writings of both Professor Clark and Jozef Rogala invaluable. I also saw that there were holes in the research. Three things remained unknown about Wirgman: 1) With whom did he study with in Paris; 2) When did he move to London and how did he end up working for The Illustrated London News; and 3) What prompted his being selected to go to China as a news correspondent?

            One watercolor titled “My academy dinner/March 3d 1854” I believe answers the first question. The piece illustrates Wirgman sitting by himself at a makeshift table eating his meal. Wirgman’s reference to “My academy” rather than to a specific academy is a significant clue. It is also important to note the date because the Paris Salon made its selections in the spring. Rather than portraying himself surrounded by a whirlwind of confusion and chaos, which would be the norm for students in the academy or the atelier of a named artist prior to the Salon opening, Wirgman is alone. There is no documentation for Wirgman ever receiving formal artistic education because, I believe, he was never accepted into a studio; however, I am certain he worked for the weekly newspaper, L’Illustration in some capacity.

            The answer for the first part of question two was found by accident. While looking through copies of L’Illustration for another project I came across a Wirgman illustration dated eight months after he painted “My academy dinner.” Wirgman’s first credited illustration as a “correspondent” appeared on 11 November 1854. For the next two years L’Illustration published several illustrations by Wirgman. The amount of work he produced for L’Illustration would not have been enough to support him, and after June of 1856, his contributions ceased. It was probably around this time that Wirgman began working for The Illustrated London News.

            The Illustrated London News (ILN) employed dozens of artists and craftsmen around the clock to make its weekly deadline. Among ILN’s leading correspondents during the 1850s were E.A. Goodall, J.A. Crowe, J.W. Carmichael, and R. Landells. While the names of these distinguished correspondents appeared in print under their illustrations the majority of the newspaper’s images were uncredited. Though it is impossible to conclude beyond all doubt that Wirgman produced some of these uncredited pieces for ILN prior to his leaving for China, several illustrations, similar to Wirgman’s style, begin to appear in ILN shortly after he arrived in London. It was not uncommon for L’Illustration and ILN to use the same prominent freelance artists, such as Gustave Doré (1832-1883) or Edmund Morin (1824-1882), but it may have been unusual for a staff artist to be permitted to work for the competition, which may explain the abrupt cessation of Wirgman’s art in L’Illustration. If these Wirgman-like illustrations are indeed Wirgman’s, and if he was on ILN’s staff, then it would help to explain why he was chosen to go to China, since it is inconceivable for ILN to have sent someone without having previously worked with them, and known what they were capable of producing.

             Though no documents exist to confirm precisely why Wirgman was sent abroad in 1857 to cover the Second Opium War, we may conclude that he was probably selected to fill an immediate vacancy due to the death of Arthur V. Johns, Esq. H.C.S., one of ILN’s Graphic Journalists reporting from China. The obituary for Johns appeared in the 11 April 1857 issue of ILN along with his final illustrations. While publication of the obituary appeared after Wirgman left for China it must be remembered that notification of John’s death would have arrived well before the paper received his drawings, and had them made into engravings.  The fact that Wirgman could draw and was fluent in English, French, German, Italian, and Dutch, knew Latin and Greek, and could write in Spanish and Portuguese made him the perfect foreign correspondent. At just twenty-four, Wirgman left for the war and the Far East.

Analysis of Wirgman’s Art

            By examining Wirgman’s sketches and watercolors critically, we can conclude that he did not have a sophisticated understanding of the basic principles of perspective. This lack of comprehension on the part of Wirgman is further affirmation that he never received formal art training. A thorough knowledge was crucial in nineteenth century representational art, and painters such as Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904) hired a professional perspectivist to help design his paintings (Note: the perspectivist left Paris due to the Franco-Prussian War and never returned, which is why the perspective in Gérôme’s paintings after Pollice Verso is sometimes off). While some people look at Wirgman’s work for ILN and remark on his skill as an illustrator, others look at his cartoons for The Japan Punch and marvel at the dichotomy between the two styles and the talent needed to produce both. However, we cannot use Wirgman’s illustrations for either ILN or L’Illustration as a means to gauge his artistic skill because the process used in creating the printed image obfuscates the original artist’s contribution.

            Due to the great distance Wirgman could only send drawings back to ILN, which were then redrawn onto the woodblocks for engraving. While the basic idea for the image was Wirgman’s it was the responsibility of the transcriber to correct for any design or perspective problems. By comparing a Wirgman sketch and watercolor with the accompanying ILN wood engravings we can see how much of the art was redrawn, and just how little Wirgman knew of perspective. The following images are from (1) A Sketch Book of Japan By C. Wirgman, Yokohama: R. Meiklejohn & Co., circa 1884; (2) Watercolor by Charles Wirgman, circa 1864; and (3) Japanese Party at Meals (based on a sketch by Charles Wirgman), The Illustrated London News, 23 July 1864.

            If Wirgman did not have formalized art training then how was he able to become proficient enough to find work as a Graphic Journalist? It has been said of Wirgman that he was merely a talented amateur and there is considerable merit to that allegation. One of the unanswered questions in nineteenth century visual culture relates to ascertaining the factors that contributed to the proliferation of artists during the last quarter of the century. While formal art education was not available to young, middle class children, used copies of illustrated newspapers were plentiful. Children who like to draw will find anything to copy and the lure of scenes of battles and faraway lands that were portrayed so vividly, so dramatically in the illustrated press were like manna to the imaginations of youthful artists. For disadvantaged children, born during and after the 1830s, The Illustrated London News and L’Illustration were, undoubtedly, their first art primers. Though unintentional, the art in these weekly, illustrated newspapers achieved a greater purpose than merely being a vehicle to sell commodities and inform the public. These black & white illustrations were the provenance for the increase of artists in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Wirgman, like many others of his generation, appears to have learned his craft by copying illustrations. This type of top-down learning would explain his lack of understanding of the basic underlying principles of perspective and why his art appears to be that of a “talented amateur.”

            On the back of Wirgman’s 1876/1877 sketchbook, written fifteen years after he arrived, he wrote, “There are some countries one gets tired of but Japan is as fresh today as it was the first time Punch saw it, and charms as much.” (Clark, 2001, 75) Wirgman truly loved Japan, even though he was almost assassinated several times! After all of his European friends eventually moved away in the early 1880s, Wirgman stayed until his death in 1891. Of his art, it could be said of him that he was the proverbial “big fish in a small pond.” As a talented amateur it is unlikely he would have ever amounted to much had he stayed in Europe; however, in Japan he was needed, he was useful, he was admired, and he played a considerable role in establishing relations between “foreigners” and his adopted home.

            Of Wirgman’s contribution John Clark wrote: “Despite its limitations, his work has always remained as the first significant body of drawings and paintings by a Western artist working in Japan with which Japanese were in contact.” (Clark, 1990) After hundreds of illustrations, countless paintings, tinted photographs, and thousands of pages of caricatures, Wirgman’s legacy lies not just in his skill as an artist, but in his ability as a teacher as well. Today, Wirgman is considered “the patron saint of the modern Japanese cartoon,” and a ceremony is held annually at his grave in Yokohama. (Schodt, 40) On the grave are inscribed the Bard’s words: “He was a man of infinite jest,” in remembrance of good old Punch. Though forgotten by Western audiences, Charles Wirgman should be remembered as a major contributing force in shaping Japan’s visual culture.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Blog 10: The Origins of Prejudice Towards Illustration,
Debunking Fredric Wertham,
Will Eisner’s Artistic DNA Revealed


            Bear with me. I will get to Fredric Wertham and Will Eisner in due course. To combat prejudice we must first know where it came from. The prejudice towards comic books began with a prejudice towards illustration, and that began with a prejudice towards women!

The Commodification of Poetry

Public elitist prejudice towards illustration began with Charles Lamb (1775–1834). Lamb was a well–known English essayist, poet, dramatist, novelist, and critic who counted among his friends and contemporaries, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) and William Wordsworth (1770–1850). (Cengage, 2002) In his sonnet, “To Samuel Rogers, Esq., on the new Edition of his ‘Pleasures of Memory’” (The Times, December 13, 1833), Lamb vehemently opposed the inclusion of illustrations in the book. (Lamb, 1904)
                                    When thy gay book hath paid its proud devoirs,
                                    Poetic friend, and fed with luxury
                                    The eye of pampered aristocracy
                                    In flittering drawing–rooms and gilt boudoirs,
                                    O'erlaid with comments of pictorial art
                                    However rich or rare, yet nothing leaving
                                    Of healthful action to the soul–conceiving
                                    Of the true reader yet a nobler part
                                    Awaits thy work, already classic styled.
                                    Cheap–clad, accessible, in homeliest show
                                    The modest beauty thro’ the land shall go
                                    From year to year, and render life more mild;
                                    Refinement to the poor man’s hearth shall give
                                    And in the moral heart of England live.

            Lamb (image left) lambasts Rogers’ illustrated edition as being decadent, ostentatious, and abhorrent to the “true reader.” However, Lamb regards the earlier, “Cheap-clad” edition as being morally superior because it is “modest.” Lamb’s outrage at the extravagant inclusion of pictorial art in books it appears comes out of the Puritanical rhetoric of his day. (Wood, 172) This yearning for a simpler, idealized existence was an essential element of the Romantic Movement, whose literary origins in Britain began with the publication of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems in 1798. Lamb sent Rogers a conciliatory letter, claiming that his objection to the book was due to his prejudice against illustration. Lamb felt that the “sister arts” (i.e., the “feminine arts”) should never be intertwined, and that literary works, such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, should never be acted out, or illustrated, because the concretized visuals that ensued represented a corruption of the imagination, since they tied the daughter of the house of Capulet down to the “authentic face of Juliet.” (Wood, 172)

The “Cheap-clad” edition of The Pleasures of Memory was originally published in 1792, and sold 30,000 copies, establishing Rogers’ popularity. (Cengage, 1999) Yet, Rogers’ skill as a poet never rose to the level of his peers. In comparison to other poets such as Lamb, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, Rogers’ popularity waned so dramatically in the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century that his 1828 edition of Italy was a publishing failure. Nevertheless, Rogers, who was independently wealthy, expanded the work, commissioned illustrations from J. M. W. (Joseph Mallord William) Turner (1775–1851), Thomas Stothard (1755–1834), and Samuel Prout (1783–1852), and remarketed the lavishly illustrated edition of Italy two years later to “wild” success. (Cengage, 1999) Based on this strategic business model, Rogers commissioned Turner and Stothard to create illustrations for a new edition of The Pleasures of Memory. Essentially, Rogers used the illustrations to fool “The eye of pampered aristocracy” into believing that his boorish text was worthy of the art that embellished it.

Since Rogers’ was a minor poet of vanity publications the idea that he was financially capable of commodifying his books to the point of spectacle, and profiting from that, must have galled Lamb, who grew up poor and worked for a living. (Cengage, 2002)  Lamb was a talented “egotist,” who was described as “nervous, easily excitable, and emotional.” (Mair, 156–157) While on the surface Lamb’s apology appears sincere and is cloaked in his Romantic aesthetic, it can also be read as a passive-aggressive rationalization conveniently masking his true feelings towards Rogers’ marketing tactic. Had the illustrations in The Pleasures of Memory been inferior, the thought that Lamb harbored a hidden agenda towards Rogers could never be considered, but Turner and Stothard were two of the best artists of their time, and their illustrations, “However rich [and] rare,” were (and are still) collectable in and of themselves.

Both Turner and Stothard attended The Royal Academy of Arts in London, and both have paintings hanging in The National Gallery (The recent exhibit, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, ran from 14 March – 5 June 2012). Though he mainly worked as a painter, Turner contributed illustrations to such books as Scott's Poetical Works (12 volumes, 1833), The Southern Coast of England (1849), and the aforementioned Italy, all of which still command prices in the hundreds of dollars in the collector’s market. Turner was one of the most highly respected artists of his time, and The Turner Prize, an annual award organized by the Tate gallery and presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50, is named after him. Turner’s paintings became a seminal influence on the Impressionists, especially Claude Monet (1840–1926), who carefully adopted his techniques some 30-40 years later. One only has to look at Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant, 1872 – above right) and compare it to Turner’s Chichester Canal (1828), or The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to Her Last Berth to Be Broken up (1838 – above left) to see the enormously apparent influence.

Stothard was a prolific illustrator contributing to special editions of The Pilgrim's Progress (1788), The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, (2 volumes, 1790), Vicar of Wakefield (1792), and The Rape of the Lock (1798). Of his art it was written, “…into even the slightest and most trivial sketches he infused a grace and distinction which render them of value to the collectors of the present time.” (1911 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica) Stothard’s illustrated books are still highly collectable, and even the later, 1820 edition of Robinson Crusoe commands prices beginning at $2,800.00.

It is not inconceivable that Lamb would object to the value–added aspects associated with the commodification of poetry. If Lamb had not known  Rogers and if  Rogers had not been a wealthy, influential, generous patron of poets, perhaps Lamb’s critique of The Pleasures of Memory might have placed the blame for its failings where it belonged: on the author and not the artists. While there was, undeniably, a Romantic sensibility at work here, it was actually Lamb’s misdirected lack of honesty and selfish sense of social preservation that began the elitist prejudice against illustration.

Verbal vs. Visual: “The Frivolity of the Times”

In 1844, eleven years after Lamb’s letter, The Quarterly Review posthumously published an article by former editor, John Murray (1778–1843) simply titled, “Illustrated Books.” Curiously, the article champions the work of Stothard and Turner, the two artists Lamb disliked, but finds fault with the majority of the artists of the time and their facility to properly illustrate the text. (Murray 191-192) The critique is understandable considering the growing demand for illustrations quickly outgrew the talent pool of skilled artists and engravers. Murray believed that illustrations best served travel and history books because “in the case of accurate views of authentic portraits, the pictured representation conveys to the mind a more clear and accurate knowledge than any verbal description could by any possibility communicate—when a single glance of the eye will at once impress on the mind the accurate idea of form which is impossible for a blind person to obtain.” (Murray, 193) This concession, regarding the capability of illustration to both “illuminate” the text and convey information through the use of graphic visuals, unfortunately gets lost in Murray’s essay. While he mentions the positive natural consequences ensuing from the publication of illustrated books such as an increase in demand, a greater supply, a lower per copy cost, and an increase in jobs, Murray predominantly dwells on the negative aspects of their popularity. (Murray, 191-192)

Murray decried “the rage for ornamented, or as they are now termed, ‘Illustrated’ or ‘Pictorial’ editions of books,” and referenced Christian Edward who, twenty-six years earlier, commented that decorated books were nothing more than a “superfluous and meretricious” exemplar of “the frivolity of the times.” (Murray, 168: Edward, 32) Murray’s main complaint was that the pictorial arts, which were once included in books as visual aids, “now bid to supersede much of descriptive writing,” and that the text of many books had become subordinate to “their so-called illustrations.” (Murray, 171) For Murray, illustrated books and magazines were “low utilitarian” because they sought to impart “the greatest possible amount of knowledge at the least possible expense of time, trouble, money, and, we may add, of intellect.” (Murray, 171)

To support his case against illustrated books, Murray quoted Horace: “Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem, Quam quæsunt oculis subjecta fidelibus, et quæ Ipse sibi tradit spectator.” (Horace’s Ars Poetica, II. 180-182), which means, “Less vividly is the mind stirred by what finds entrance through the ears than by what is brought before the trusty eyes, and what the spectator can see for himself.” (Boulton, 174) On the surface, it is an insignificant quote in which Horace is actually referring to a stage performance and not the graphic visual arts; however, it appears to have been deliberately left incomplete for the masses. Horace’s entire passage, which would have been known to the higher-educated, concludes with, “Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic, incredulous odi.” (Horace, Ars Poetica, II. 188), or “Whatever you thus show me, I discredit and abhor.” (Boulton, 174) The inclusion of Horace’s quote appears to be nothing short of a craftily hidden declaration of war on illustration by elitists.

To Murray, illustrated books represented a “superficial knowledge” that pervaded not just the country, but the whole world. Illustrations in books, newspapers and magazines were becoming more powerful, more seductive—more popular—than the written word. Murray unhesitatingly balked at the idea that these “Gems of Art,” which was the “artistic slang of the day,” were now labeling books with the words “with illustrations designed by,” and “engraved by” in their advertising, as if to indicate that the crayon and burin of the artists were quickly becoming mightier than the quill of the writer. (Murray, 190) Yet, rather than call upon writers and poets to rise to the challenge by creating works equal to or better than the art that accompanied their texts, Murray took the indolent, underhanded approach by chastising illustrated books as a “partial return to baby literature—to a second childhood of learning”, thus beginning the “juvenile” pejorative that has stigmatized illustration for centuries. (Murray, 171)

It is Nothing More than Masculine vs. Feminine (Veritas Nuntiavit)

A year after The Quarterly Review article saw print, William Wordsworth seized upon Murray’s “call to war” and published his sonnet, “Illustrated Books and Newspapers.”
                                         Discourse was deemed Man's noblest attribute,
                                         And written words the glory of his hand;
                                         Then followed Printing with enlarged command
                                         For thought—dominion vast and absolute
                                         For spreading truth, and making love expand.
                                         Now prose and verse sunk into disrepute
                                         Must lacquey a dumb Art that best can suit
                                         The taste of this once-intellectual Land.
                                         A backward movement surely have we here,
                                         From manhood, —back to childhood; for the age—
                                         Back towards caverned life's first rude career.
                                         Avaunt this vile abuse of pictured page!
                                         Must eyes be all in all, the tongue and ear
                                         Nothing? Heaven keep us from a lower stage!
In his sonnet, Wordsworth (right) bemoans the written word’s fall from grace (“sunk into disrepute”) to become the servant (“lacquey”/lackey) of the mindless public’s increased “taste” for illustration (“dumb” meaning both silent and inane). He not only reiterates Murray’s “juvenile” pejorative (“back to childhood”), but claims that the popularity of illustrations is a degenerative return to a time when cavemen painted on walls (“caverned life’s first rude career.”). Wordsworth seeks to further debase illustration by associating it with the “lower stage,” which exposes his fear of feminine subversion on the “masculine” art of writing.

            According to Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, (pictured left) “illustration theory in the nineteenth century assumed a hierarchical model for image/text relations based on a sexual paradigm.” (Kooistra, 2007, 396) Furthermore, the “superior” verbal arts were considered masculine, powerful, intelligent; while the pictorial arts, referred to as the lesser arts, were aligned with the feminine attributes of “imitation, sympathy, charm, grace, and beauty.” (Kooistra, 1995, 9-10) Ideologically, for Wordsworth, the combination of verbal and visual in the same book, or worse, on the same page, personified an unnatural relationship between the sexes. The fact that illustrated books sold better than and were more popular than text-only books, physically manifested a construct that was in direct opposition to a man’s masculinity, his power base, his value structure, his station in society, and his sense of self. 

For writers of the Romantic Movement era, such as Lamb, Murray, and Wordsworth, illustrated books attacked their masculinity, their sense of superiority, their popularity, and, since the payment for illustrations had to come out of the cost of producing a book, their financial security. In his essay, Murray tipped his hand at his own gynophobia when he wrote about the Annuals, which were women-centered publications “written and largely (though not exclusively) by women for women.” (Kooistra, 2007, 396)  With sales driven by a growing, prosperous middle class rife with young, semi-educated brides-to-be, publishers pumped out various illustrated gift books such as The Juvenile Forget Me Not, The Juvenile Keepsake, and the Juvenile Scrap-Book, all, unfortunately, making ample use of the youth-oriented adjective. (Renier, 17-19) Murray contended that the Annuals were nothing but “nonsense,” and that he was “[happy] they are nearly extinct” because so much money was “wasted on their production.” (Murray, 192) Curiously, Lamb (who openly detested them), Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Walter Scott (1771–1832) all contributed to the Annuals. (Renier, 9) Since the publication (and ever-increasing popularity) of illustrated books could not be stopped, they were something to be feared and denigrated. Therefore, the pejoratives such as “superficial,” “frivolous,” and “juvenile” began not because they were truly deserved, but because a few prejudicial, frightened, elitist men needed to find some way to convince themselves that they were still superior.

The Foundations of American Illustration

Illustration in America initially progressed more slowly than it did in Europe. The most prominent illustrated magazines of the time were Scribner's Monthly: An Illustrated Magazine for the People (1870–1881), which became The Century Magazine (1881–1930), Harper's Monthly Magazine (1850–present), later renamed Harper’s Magazine (or just Harper’s), and the forerunner of HarperCollins Publishing, Ladies' Home Journal (1883–present), Collier's Weekly (1888–1957), and McClure's Magazine (1893–1929). These magazines employed some of the most notable nineteenth century American illustrators including John La Farge (1835–1910), Winslow Homer (1836–1910), Elihu Vedder (1836–1923), Thomas Nast (1840–1902), Henry François Farny (1847–1916) Arthur Burdett Frost (1851–1928), Edwin Austin Abbey (1852–1911), Howard Pyle (1853–1911), Robert Frederick Blum (1857–1903), Joseph Pennell (1857–1926), Benjamin West Clinedinst (1859–1931), Edward Windsor Kemble (1861–1933), Frederic Sackrider Remington (1861–1909), and Charles Dana Gibson (1867–1944) among others. Many of these artists simultaneously pursued careers for print as well as galleries, since the “caste distinction between ‘Fine’ and ‘Commercial’ art as yet scarcely existed.” (Reed, 1984, 10)

Because there was no prejudice against illustration, the reach and influence of these artists was vast and varied. Nast, who created the images of the Republican Elephant and the Democratic Donkey, also drew “The Tammany Tiger,” which helped bring down the Tweed Ring; Remington chronicled the American West; Vedder painted murals in the Library of Congress; Farny, while on assignment for Century Magazine, introduced Sitting Bull to General Grant; Kemble illustrated the works of Mark Twain; the “Gibson Girl” personified the look of the “ideal” American sweetheart; Pyle (“The Father of American Illustration”) began The Brandywine School; and Clinedinst painted President Theodore Roosevelt and Admiral Perry’s portraits. (Reed, 1984, 10-43)  These were the magazines and artists who formed the foundation of the Golden Age of Illustration in America, which lasted from the 1880s until The First World War. 

Illustration and the Prejudice of Modernism

            In 1927, Thomas Craven (1888–1969) wrote “The Decline of Illustration,” which appeared in the October issue of American Mercury Magazine. As an art critic, Craven was known to be caustic, judgmental, opinionated, and, due to his popularity, highly influential. “My pet abominations,” Craven once wrote, “are artists who have to go abroad to find time to paint and think there’s nothing at home worth painting; critics who have just discovered modernism; artists ditto; …and I have a prejudice against women who paint.” (McMahon, 1931, 40) [Note: Craven is probably referring to Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986)] Craven’s approach to “inspiring admiration” among his readers for the artists he liked was to slander the artists he disliked. (McMahon, 1939, 37) Therefore, while “The Decline of Illustration” was intended as a call for better painters and illustrators, its mixed message set the tone for a heightened prejudice against American illustration that has lasted almost eighty-five years.
Even though Craven thought Abbey, Vedder, La Farge, Blum, and Homer were “outstanding Americans”, he felt Gibson was “inept,” “limited and mediocre;” and that Pyle, “the most significant” illustrator of his time, eventually “succumbed to popular evils, [and] ended a prolific hack.” (Craven, 204) Craven continued his essay by denouncing the works of N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth (1882–1945), Harvey Thomas Dunn (1884–1952), Howard Chandler Christy (1873–1952), Harrison Fisher (1877–1934), J.C. (Joseph Christian) Leyendecker (1874–1951), Maxfield Parrish (1870–1966), Dean Cornwell (1892–1960), and Rockwell Kent (1882–1971) some of the most popular illustrators of the early twentieth century. (Craven, 205)

Instead of the more popular artists and publications, Craven preferred illustrators whose works appeared in “radical or subsidized magazines.” (Craven, 206) Ironically, most contemporary art historians consider many of these individuals Fine Artists rather than illustrators. Among the twentieth century “illustrators” Craven admired were John French Sloan (1871–1951), Boardman Robinson (1876–1952), George Wesley Bellows (1882–1925), William James Glackens (1870–1938), Jerome Myers (1867–1940), and George Benjamin Luks (1867–1933) because their works depicted “scarifying irony, humor, sincerity, and artistic intelligence.” (Craven, 205)

Craven claimed that the decline of illustration was due to the emergence of photography, the seduction of advertising to lure away great illustrators, and the importation of the “old” prejudice against illustration by the cult of modernism. (Craven, 206-207) What Craven did not take into consideration was that because the increase in the use of photography in publishing since the First World War eliminated so many jobs, illustrators had to turn to advertising to earn a living. Unfortunately, even though Craven alleged “the whole world of modern art was no good,” because he deemed the artists “morally corrupt and even dishonest,” he could not see the damage he himself was doing to illustration. (McMahon, 1934, 26) By eviscerating the artists people knew and cherished in a public forum, he perpetuated and popularized the “old” prejudice against illustration throughout the general population. By his hand Craven not only turned the public against illustration, but also reinvigorated and fortified modernist’s continued prejudice against it.

Fear Mongering in the 1950s

Okay, we are finally here! The problem with critiquing Fredric Wertham in the 1950s was that an attack on him was seen as an attack on children. There was; however, one comics creator who got it right—who “nailed” the problem. Unfortunately, he was never consulted during the Congressional hearings.

With chapters titled “Design for Delinquency” and “I Want to be a Sex Maniac,” Fredric Wertham, M.D. (1895–1981) effectively sensationalized and popularized his infamous “mental hygiene” condemnation of comic books, Seduction of the Innocent. (Wertham, 1954) Essentially, some comic books of the 1950s were no different than the Penny Dreadfuls of the 1800s, but, the witch hunts and paranoia of the 1950s prompted by rampant McCarthyism fear mongers needed a scapegoat for anti-social teen rebellion and comic books were an easy target. After Seduction of the Innocent’s publication in 1954, comic books that sensationalized sex, violence, and horror came under heavy governmental scrutiny.  However, not everyone agreed with Wertham’s findings. One Oxford University Press reviewer considered Seduction of the Innocent to be “polemical rather than scientific in approach and presentation,” and that “the unsystematic nature of the data presented [should] argue against giving this book serious consideration.” (Mischler, 1955, 115) Without hard scientific evidence, the reviewer for The Library Quarterly wrote that “Wertham comes close to using in this book one of the features that is essentially wrong in the comics, namely, an arousal of feelings, an absence of balanced judgment, an appeal to violent emotions, rather than an appeal to reason,” and concluded, “methinks this psychiatrist asserts too much.” (Bettelheim, 1955, 129)

While both reviewers acknowledged violent and sexually explicit comic books were problematic for young children, they also felt Wertham was attacking a symptom rather than the underlying problems of society. As Claywood pointed out in School Library Journal, Wertham’s solution to eliminate comic books was simplistic, owing more to “high-brow tastes in the 1950s than about the psychology of young people.” (Claywood, 48) “Our cry should be for better education,” wrote Bettelheim in The Library Quarterly, “better supervision, better living conditions for youth, and not against comics. Sin is eradicated not by preaching or legislating against it, but only by making virtue readily possible, enjoyable, and rewarding.” (Bettelheim, 1955, 129) Regrettably, in the absence of any other studies, Wertham was considered the leading expert on comic books in his field, and he leveraged that position as a celebrity du jour.

Wertham chose to demonize a form of entertainment rather than deal with the root cause of society’s problems probably because comic books were an easily-accessible, tangible target, or perhaps because on some level he knew that the difficulties associated with growing up were vastly beyond his, or anyone’s, ability to solve. Unfortunately, Wertham never interviewed Harold Rudolf “Hal” Foster (1892-1982 – seated right), the creator of the comic strip Prince Valiant (1937–present). Had he done so, he may have found that root cause. As a lecturer at a women’s club meeting in 1949, Foster was asked by one of the members whether or not “the industry didn’t need a house-cleaning” because she felt some comic strips had a “bad influence” on children. Sharp as ever, Foster replied, “Let’s say the average youngster spends a half hour a day on the comics. If that half hour can undo the good that parents are supposed to do in the other 23½ hours, madam, whose fault would you say that was?” (Howard, 109) Seduction of the Innocent nearly destroyed the comic book industry, and permanently scarred a generation’s perception to their positive educational possibilities because Wertham knew it was easier to blame the presses instead of the parents.

Will Eisner’s Artistic DNA

While illustrations and comic books are two separate mediums, they share a common history. Over the past two centuries, graphic storytelling has progressed from single illustrations that accompanied a text to the utilization of multiple panels of sequential art to convey meaning and information. As with illustration, graphic narratives fought against their own prejudices, but these two bodies of art share a common artistic lineage. Many of America’s representational artists can trace their artistic roots to the French Academy—and so can Will Eisner! In fact, we can trace Eisner’s Artistic DNA to nine Prix de Rome-winning painters including Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825).

If we think of the rolls of teacher/student in terms of parent/child we can trace an artist’s Artistic DNA back through time over many generations. Eisner studied at the Art Students League of New York under the famous anatomist, George Brandt Bridgman (1864–1943 - image right). Now this is where it gets fun [Note: PdR, YYYY indicates a Prix de Rome-winning artist and the year they won it]. Bridgman was taught by Gustave Clarence Rodolphe Boulanger [PdR, 1849], and Jean-Léon Gérôme who both studied under Paul (Hippolyte) Delaroche. Delaroche was preceded by Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, Jacques-Louis David [PdR, 1774], François Boucher [PdR, 1720], Joseph-Marie Vien, Charles-Joseph Natoire [PdR, 1721], François Lemoyne (Le Moine) [PdR, 1711], Louis Galloche, and Louis de Boullogne II [PdR, 1673] whose father, Louis Boullogne the Elder, was one of the fourteen original founders of the French Academy in 1648. However, that is not the most remarkable aspect of Eisner’s artistic pedigree because this lineage of teacher-to-student also traces back through Jean Bardin [PdR, 1765], Gabriel-François Doyen [PdR, 1746], and Charles-André van Loo [PdR, 1724] to Leonardo da Vinci and beyond. This means that anyone who ever took a class from Eisner, or has been taught by a student of Eisner's, is connected to this lineage as well! 


In terms of pure illustration, I have also created an Artistic Family Tree for James “Doc Savage” Bama. Bama studied at The Art Students League under Frank Joseph Reilly (1906–1967), and it is that connection that ties him not only to 17 Prix de Rome-winning artists, but to the Father of American Illustration, and founder of the Brandywine School of Art, Howard Pyle (1853–1911) as well!

Illustration and graphic narratives share a rich heritage. Admittedly, not all commercial art is an award-winning piece, but then, neither is all fine art. Each piece, regardless of who made it or why it was made, should stand on its own merits. Prejudice towards the Arts, such as the type perpetuated by Lamb, Murray, Wordsworth, Craven, and Wertham, is nothing but jealously and fear masking itself as elitism. A continued prejudice towards illustration and graphic narratives is a continued prejudice towards women. While we may have forgotten the origin of that prejudice it is still there nonetheless, and it has no place in the Twenty-first Century.

Topics for Discussion

1) Can you trace the prejudice towards illustration back further than Charles Lamb? If so, what caused it?

2) Who took classes from Will Eisner, and are they working as artists today?

Next Blog: Japanese Manga began in a French prison in 1832