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Starred Review. In his afterword to this jaw-dropping collection of early, little-known wordless graphic novels, cartoonist Seth asserts that rather than being seen only as a link between early comic strips and today's graphic novels, these stories stand powerfully on their own. The proof is in the stark appearance produced by wood cuts and lino-engraving and the themes in these once-controversial works: social unrest, the plight of the downtrodden worker and the oppression of the weak by the strong. Masereel's The Passion of a Man (1918) tells a modernist Christ story in 25 dark pictures, while Hyde's Southern Cross (1951) is a pastoral tragedy about Pacific islanders caught up in the U.S. Navy's A-bomb testing. Ward's Wild Pilgrimage (1932) is a passionate aria to the human spirit, threatened with crushing death by the specter of soulless factory work and cruel bosses. Patri's White Collar (1939) is the real standout; on the surface it's a simple story about a commercial artist fighting to keep his family going, but ending as a stunning validation of the dignity of man. Handsomely printed and bound and smartly edited, this book sets the standard for how to present anew the important but lesser-known classics of graphic fiction's past. (Sept.)
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[A] treasure trove ... In collecting these rare and seminal works, Walker and Firefly Press [sic] have done an invaluable service exposing newer readers to the form in its infancy. In a market glutted with pituitary cases in spandex, the reintroduction of real life concerns is a necessary tonic. (www.latereviews.blogspot.com)
While the stories are all tragic, the art is spectacular. (Annie Boulanger The Recofd (New Westminster BC) 2007-12-15)
There you have your classic wordless graphic novel -- a high-minded, serious art form that transcends the barriers of language while still telling a story, a visual treat that doesn't get too arty, a political message that packs a punch. No wonder interest in the form is on the rise. (Philip Marchand The Toronto Star 2007-08-19)
Whoever said that a picture is worth a thousand words must have had Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Novels, edited by George A. Walker in mind. These wordless novels by four of the world's greatest woodcut artists are powerfully compelling -- both in their sheer visual impact and in the universal resonance of the stories they tell. They tell of injustice, oppression, and despair, but also of defiant endurance and the dream of a better world. Their striking black and white images are full of meaning and emotion, making this one of the most elegantly engrossing books of recent months. Rush out and buy it, for it is not to be missed! (John Arkelian Artsforum 2008-09-30)
Walker makes the point that these artists were figures of suspicion to J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and other arms of the US government in the first half of the twentieth century. Nothing could speak better of them. (George Fetherling Seven Oaks 2007-12-19)
For the person who loves books and novelty and contemplation. (Lois Cooper Muskoka Today)
This book is a treasure trove for the knowledgeable artist and the historian. (Carol Ohlin Quebec Home and School News)
Provides a rare glimpse into the beginnings of the art form. (Goethe-Institut 2007-09-18)
Themes of social justice predominate, but it is the passion and craft of the artwork that makes the greatest impact. Anyone who is interested in today's graphic novels will find it particularly worth a look, though the appeal of such work is universal. (Alex Good The Guelph Mercury 2007-10-13)
[starred review] [A] jaw-dropping collection ... Handsomely printed and bound and smartly edited, this book sets the standard for how to present anew the important but lesser-known classics of graphic fiction's past. (Publishers Weekly)
Beautiful and large-format collection ... Themes of social justice predominate, but it is the passion and craft of the artwork that makes the greatest impact. Anyone who is interested in today's graphic novels will find it particularly worth a look, though the appeal of such work is universal. (Alex Good The Record 2007-10-13)
[This] collection will have many awestruck and amazed at works few people even know about... The majesty of this book lies in the four stories themselves.... the magnificence of these stories is in their medium. The amount of information communicated in each panel is amazing. (Lance Eaton Curled Up With a Good Book (www.curledup.com) 2007-11-19)
Graphic Witness is a collection of novels ... that say eloquently in pictures what words often struggle to convey. (Ken Simmons The Telegram (St. Johns, NF) 2007-09-30)
Regardless of place or time, these artists speak in a silent way through pure imagery against the oppression of the weak by the strong, and offer some hope for a brighter future ... ambiguities and gaps that beg the reader to fill in the details comprise just one of the great pleasures of these graphic novels, which paradoxically carry a greater power for not using words.... Himself a woodcut artist, Walker clearly and illuminatingly explains many of the intricacies of the art... Walker's insider knowledge of the craft as well as his clear affinity for the spirit of these works makes him the perfect presenter of their art. (Bob artblogbybob.blogspot.com 2008-01-08)
Deeply political, these beautiful, quasi-expressionist woodcut narratives remind us how stark and chilling suffering seemed. (Georgia Straight 2007-10-18)
If you're at all interested in the craft of relief carving, then you really owe it to yourself to get this book. The engravings are simply beautiful, and thankfully the plates are shown large enough that you can see a lot of finer detail. You'll also find that the stories the four artists tell us are timeless. (Canadian Woodworking 2007-12-31)
Walker's introduction gives intriguing technical and sociopolitical insights... All fascinating stuff and, overall, a feast for the eyes. (Anne Desmet Printmaker vol 27 no 1)
A dazzling compendium... In addition to the novels themselves, editor George A. Walker provides a terrific Preface and Introduction....Perhaps the only way this book could be better is if it were the first of a series, for these four works surely just scratch the surface (so to speak) of th e vast number of wordless novels worthy of reprint. (Eric Lorberer Rain Taxi Review)
These four texts represent some of the most important wordless novels of the first half of the twentieth century and their reprinting makes them readily available for the first time in an affordable edition. Those interested in sequential art, printmaking, book art, and the convergence of these forms with social-justice issues should take note of this collection. [It is] indispensable for anyone engaged in the study of comics and graphic novels.... Each of these texts is an excellent example of the wordless novel and its potential to provoke critical thought in its audiences.... In bringing these texts together in a beautifully presented and affordable volume, Graphic Witness has not only done a great service to anyone interested in sequential art, print-making, and book art, but to anyone interested in ways to approach social-justice issues and cultural critique. (Dale Jacobs, University of Windsor Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, V)