Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The History of Irish Comics Part 1: Before the 20th Century

By Patrick Brown

You know what? I love learning about things that happened in the past. Seriously, I have a history degree, read stuff (wikipedia...) all the time, and enjoy discovering about people and events from the past. I also love comics (and wrote my final history paper on the evolution of Canadian comics), so I was excited to pick up this volume that claims to cover 19th century Irish comics.

Of course, my first disappointment was finding out that there really weren't any Irish comics in the 18th and 19th centuries. This shouldn't have surprised me as there weren't really any comics anywhere until the early 20th century. Instead what's we're presented with is a fairly well researched (there's a reference section with actual books listed!) piece on Irish political cartooning.

While what's here is interesting, I think it definitely benefits from already having some knowledge of Irish (and British) politics during the time covered (which I guess everyone in those countries got in school?). Without context as to why the cartoons were created and who they were about it can be a challenge to figure out why some of them are funny.

Despite this, the several pages of reprinted political cartoons are pretty rad. It's interesting to see the different styles that were used to create these pieces, and I would have enjoyed more discussion of the actual art styles used by the artists. I'm guessing that information might be a bit hard to come by unless you're willing to read piles of old political magazines and figure out who inspired who.

Overallit's a pretty neat little zine, and my only real complaint is that the work coverd isn't what I would define as "comics". Brown does delve into defining the concept in his introduction, but while he has decided that political cartoons count, I'm pretty much of the opinion that there have to be at least two images in a sequence in order to constitute as a comic. However, as an intro to 19th century Irish political cartoons? It does its job fine, and I'll have to check out part 2 for when Brown (presumably) gets around to some actual comics.

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