Was the first serious graphic narrative a memoir?

George Elliot Clarke, Nova-Scotian born author, poet and academic, who now teaches literature at the University of Toronto, wrote about graphic novels (narratives) in his March 21st column in The NovaScotian (The Sunday Herald). He describes these narratives as “…illustrations that are themselves stories, plus plot-and-character-developing words that spell out what the pictures alone cannot….”¬† I’ve only seen a few of these graphic novels, and that was recently, too. Didn’t know they existed before January of this year! I love the idea of them – while mostly¬† seem to be impervious to their popular charms.

That said, I am interested in the book that Clarke mentions, Maus (1986), by Art Spiegelman, “a Pulitzer-prize winning memoir of the author’s parents’ survival of Nazi Europe….” Clarke says this memoir “is often considered the first serious graphic narrative.” But in fact, he continues, “there was an earlier work: Dino Buzzati’s Poem Strip…a bizarre concoction…[and] Essentially a rewrite of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice…[where] we see Orfi – a rock star – descend into the subterranean hell of Milan, in search of Eura, his beloved. They meet but just as the myth insists, they also part.” Etcetera! Not so sure about this one, but the Speigelmen memoir, definitely.

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