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THE TOPFFER TOMES

The big news in the Forthcoming Tomes Department (FTD) is that the University Press of Mississippi (one of my publishers) is poised to bring out a brace of books that will illuminate an erstwhile shadowy corner of comics history. One is the biography of the man whom many credit with inventing the comic strip form: Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Topffer takes a long look (224 8x11-inch pages) at the 19th century Swiss schoolmaster, university professor, polemical journalist, art critic, landscape draftsman and writer of fiction, travel tales and social criticism who devised the “picture story” narrative form, which now goes by the name “graphic novel.” Researched and written by one of the comics medium’s earliest serious scholars, David Kunzle, the book is available in hardcover ($55) or paperback ($25). Appearing at the same time, a companion volume, Rodolphe Topffer: The Complete Comic Strips (672 11x8-inch pages; hardcover, $65), compiled, translated (for the first time in English) and annotated by Kunzle, includes all eight of Topffer’s completed works plus previously unpublished fragments. Together, these two books will doubtless answer every question anyone may reasonably have about Topffer and the “curious genesis (with an initial imprimatur from Goethe, no less)” of his comic strips “and their controversial success.” Consult www.upress.state.ms.us for details. And once you’ve bookmarked that site, return occasionally to discover when next year Steve Thompson’s biography of Walt Kelly, now in its final revision stages, will appear.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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