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Monday, December 23, 2019

The Sun, The Idea, & Story Without Words

by Franz Masereel, David A. Berona (Introduction) 

Publisher: Dover Publications (August 21, 2009)

Softcover, 224 pages

Amazon Listing 

These are reprints of three of Frans Masereel woodcut novels from the 1920s. While inspired by ancient techniques, he also inspired other artists and a new fad of the old craft sprung up in the 1920s. Unfortunately, the Great Depression ended the fad as it ended so many other things. It must be pointed out that these graphic novels came before the advent of Superman, and they are mainly commentaries on the condition of man.  
Many people have an idea that old-time literature was filled with Victorian era attitudes and forced to be a squeaky clean as 1950s Tv. Not so. Sexuality and nudity are openly discussed (or displayed) in these stories.  
from The Idea
The SunMasereel’s second woodblock novel is a take on the ancient myth of Icarus, of a man trying to reach the sun and failing miserably. Though this is set in a “modern” context (modern for the 20’s, it’s fairer to say, industrialized context). What’s interesting is that the author puts himself in the story and all of the action is the result of a dream he is having. Along the way, he tries to reach for the sun people, society in general, drag him down, away from his dreams and ambitions. However, his ultimate failure seems to suggest that the people suppressing him were right to do so. An interesting start, but far from his best work.  
The Idea. In this the author comes up with the titular ideal, personified as a naked woman, and sends it out into the world. Once there this idea (perhaps meaning the naked truth) is mocked by society. They attempt to tame it, to clothe it as something else, and suppress it through the court. She perseveres and is championed by those who need help, who are downcast in society. Despite a constant war on the idea, she survives by expressing herself in print, in newspapers, in music, in film, and on the radio. She succeeds and fails simultaneously. Eventually she returns to her creator, only to find he has created a new idea. She is then replaced and takes her among history.  
from The Idea

Story Without Words, the third woodcut novel is a simple tale about a man who tries to win the love of the woman. She refuses his advances until the man threatens to kill himself, after which she submits and then he discards her. How this story stands out is the use of background imagery to display the man’s various attempts and the woman’s reactions, similar to medieval morality woodcuts to teach the illiterate masses. Again, the story is simple, but also timeless. 

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

from Story Without Words

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