Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tom Noddy’s Christmas Nightmare 1891 [1]

Yesterday’s Papers. Today’s Views.
Beginning our series is
Huib van Opstal, from the Netherlands.

“Repeats abound. Eyeballs popped out in a hip Dream of the Rarebit Fiend page by Winsor McCay in 1906, and eyeballs popped out in a hip “Big Daddy” Ed Roth drawing from the 1960s. It probably does not make McCay the inventor of this gag though. Ideas go back like falling dominoes. Ideas are often like ticks in a row. Two examples showing close resemblances for instance, are probably just a link in a chain which, no doubt, and in due time, will prove to be much, much longer. Ideas can go way back, and can easily circle the world. For example, when Winsor McCay published a weird Rarebit episode solely filled with offensive violence, in 1906, the Spaniards Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali respectively were only six and two years young. But uncontestedly, their 1930 surrealistic short film L’Age d’Or, was scripted from A to Z from this strip episode. American newspapers reached Spain too, an early Spanish Blackbeard may have saved the strips in them. There’s plenty of work to do for researchers...”

 [ As I said about dream strips, in a 2008 review HERE. ]

 George du Maurier strip, engraved by Swain Sc
In 2007 I was delighted by a huge book plus DVD, republishing Winsor McCay’s complete Dream of the Rarebit Fiend strips by German researcher Ulrich Merkl. Then, in early January 2012, Belgian-French researcher Thierry Smolderen surprised us all with his unveiling of old strips he found in The Graphic and The Illustrated London News magazines. A pile of long forgotten, realistically drawn pages, by different artists from the Victorian age. Well done realism in strips – long believed absent –, finally back on our radar! Thierry’s recent thrilling announcement of it in Yesterday’s Papers can be read HERE.

Shortly afterwards, a super enthusiastic Thierry showed a kaleidoscope of samples at the Platinum Afternoon, a public presentation at this year’s Angoulême Festival international de la bande dessinée 39, in France.
 Four pages of “Tom Noddy’s...”

Beautiful samples they were, and some of them gloriously coloured too. To me it felt like a wake-up call. Back at work again, only weeks later, serendipity was in the air when I suddenly spotted these flying leaves. Four old pages out of Punchs Almanack published in late 1891, with an amazingly weird dream strip about a certain “Tom Noddy”, a barefoot dreamer with umbrella, dressed only in his top hat, pince-nez, white nightshirt and Jägers, cigar-smoking, absentmindedly roaming the muddy streets of a dark and sinister London, full of graphic visual effects...  
A strip written and drawn by George du Maurier (1834-1896), in fourteen drawings with numbered cryptic captions, fully titled “Tom Noddy’s Christmas Nightmare, After Cold Mince-Pies for Supper.
George du Maurier
Printed in two separate (!) parts, in the opening section of The Christmas Number of Punch and Punch’s Almanack for 1892, published in London, Great Britain. Foreshadowing Richard Outcault’s The Yellow Kid (1895) by four years. Foreshadowing Winsor McCay’s Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (1904) by thirteen years, and his Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905) by fourteen.
Young American authors Outcault and McCay both saw and read this surrealistic strip, I think. Issues and bound volumes of Punch were spread worldwide from day one. Artists and painters in the Victorian age loved illustrated magazines for inspiration. Struggling young Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh even built private shows in his room with the hundreds of pages he saved from The Graphic and The Illustrated London News.

Is Tom Noddy’s (1891) by George du Maurier a seminal work in the history of pictorial storytelling? Yes, it is. Plus, comparing the original pen and ink drawings signed “du Maurier” with the printed engravings signed “SWAIN SC” is truly awesome!

Tom Noddy’s Christmas Nightmare, first panel
  Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, last panel
Do see the final two pages of Tom Noddy’s Christmas Nightmare here soon – plus more info on various aspects of this story. Below is the first installment of two pages. 

Huib van Opstal

Tom Noddy, page one
 Original pen and ink drawing, fifth panel
  Tom Noddy, page two

1 comment:

  1. Huib, thanks for the insights, your views on comics always fascinates me. Twas great catching up with you in Angouleme this year - and next, yes?