Ephemeral landscapes: of the page, past and future . . .

"Pre"history -- the fencing manual

A search for the "first" word-and-picture combinations and sequences is often found at the beginning of the older (pre-1980s) comics histories. The first comics are on cave walls at Lascaux, or on tomb walls in Egypt, or on Mayan palaces, etc., etc. (Hogben 1949, Blanchard 1969)

McCloud (1993) rests his theory of origins on the Bayeux Tapestry, late in the 11th century. The earlier French histories of comics (Blanchard) or of more general graphics (Massin 1973) show manuscripts with speech and thought tags from the 11th to 13th centuries.

Many current critics (especially Americans) tend to discount ignore such explorations of pre-industrial origins as marginal, resting comfortably with the so-called "invention" of the modern form in New York newspapers around 1900.

So it is with trepidation at the inevitable barbs (swords?) of critics that I nominate fencing manuals as not-very-astonishing precursors for action sequences in comics (LaRocca 1998). When comparing these graphics to recent comics, either the individual panels or in serial form, what might be most troubling is that the old ones are more convincing and compelling depictions of frozen action than the new ones.

Meyer, 1570

Capo Ferro, 1610

Paschen, 1664

Kahn, 1739

Elektra: Assassin, 1990

On to the more "conventional" ancestors. . .

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