[Worldkings] Top 100 pioneers in all fields (P. 15) Rodolphe Töpffer (France): The world's first comics artist


(Worldkings.org) Rodolphe Töpffer was a Swiss educator, writer, painter and cartoonist, considered by many to be the father of modern comics.

Rodolphe Töpffer (31 January 1799 – 8 June 1846) was a Swiss teacher, author, painter, cartoonist, and caricaturist. He is best known for his illustrated books (littérature en estampes, "graphic literature"), which are possibly the earliest European comics. He is known as the father of comic strips and has been credited as the "first comics artist in history."


Paris-educated, Töpffer worked as a schoolteacher at a boarding school, where he entertained students with his caricatures. He collected these caricatures in books; the first of them, Histoire de M. Vieux Bois (The Story of Mr. Wooden Head), was completed by 1827 but not published until 1837. It was 30 pages, each containing one to six captioned panels. It was translated and republished in the United States in 1842 as The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck. The stories were reproduced by autography, a variation of lithography that allowed him to draw on specially prepared paper with a pen. The process allowed for a loose line, and was quicker and freer than the more common engraving process.

The comedic story was not originally intended for publication, but Rodolphe continued to create others in his spare time to entertain his acquaintances. Notable among them was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who in 1831 persuaded Rodolphe to publish his stories. Seven of them were eventually published in newspaper form across Europe, but Goethe would not live to see them. The seven comic books include Histoire de M. Jabot (1831), Monsieur Crépin (1837), Histoire de M. Vieux Bois (1827), Monsieur Pencil (1831), Histoire d'Albert (1845), Histoire de Monsieur Cryptogame (1845), and Le Docteur Festus (1831).

An image taken from "Histoire d'Albert" comic book

All seven are considered satirical views of 19th century society and proved popular at the time. In 1842, Rodolphe published Essais d'autographie. On 14 September 1842, the Histoire de M. Vieux Bois was first introduced to a United States audience as The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck. It was published in comic book form as a supplement to that day's edition of Brother Jonathan, a New York City newspaper edited by author John Neal (25 August 1793 – 20 June 1876). It has come to be considered the first American comic book and, according to several Robert Beerbohm articles published in Comic Art and the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, the inspiration for an entire U.S. genre of nineteenth-century graphic novel.

The University Press of Mississippi published an English translation of his full-length stories as well as previously unpublished works in 2007.

Rodolphe is considered alternatively the father or at least an important precursor to the modern art form of comics. He is also considered to be an influence to younger comic artists such as Wilhelm Busch (15 April 1832 – 9 January 1908), creator of Max and Moritz.


According to Wikipedia

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