Nonsense in the Early Comics

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Nonsense was one of the central ingredients in the comics supplements of the early 1900s. This should not be surprising as the children’s literature of the age had its roots in the great classics of the previous century and comics were incresingly being addressed to children, after starting out as a “vulgar” pastime for uneducated adults.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice books were obviously the dominating influence and several strips were clearly influenced by them, from Alice in Funnyland (1901-1903) – only slightly related to the original – to Winsor McCay’s classics, Little Nemo in Slumberland and Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend.

Edward Lear’s limericks also supplied a model of text-image integration which could be easily imitated and lent itself to endless replication with slight variations, just what was needed by a medium bound to a strict publishing schedule. The continuing interest of the public for the limerick, in addition, guaranteed the participation of many would-be poets who could hope to see their compositions published.

The first strips presented here are both limerick sequences, though quite different from each other: JP Benson‘s The Woozlebeasts follows Lear’s example and provides a series of unrelated poem-picture sets (six per week) while Gustave Verbeek’s The Loony Lyrics of Lulu is a more typical comic strip and presents a new, but highly repetitive, story every week which contains a limerick, sometimes authored by the readers.

3 comments on “Nonsense in the Early Comics
  1. Femke Mulier says:

    Dear Sir, Madame,

    On the following website I have found a picture of a drawing with a cat and an owl and a Dutch saying: http://mlkshk.com/p/65U3

    It is said it comes from your website and it is made by Jacob Labotz. I’am researching Dutch tile panels with a cat and an owl and the same saying. I’m very much interested in the background of the drawing. How old is it and where did you find it? I wasn able to find any publication on Labotz

    I really hope you can give me information and I’m looking forward to your reply.

    With kind regards,

    Femke Mulier
    The Netherlands

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