Sudiacourt – University of Copenhagen

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Steven Surdiacourt: Dissident voices: from Franquin's graffiti to Huber's Totenkopf

Pointing out the fundamental baroque character of (early) comic book creation - i.e.  "the practice of transgression of any frame that threatens to ossify the form" - Thierry Smolderen in his Naissances de la bande dessinée (2009) reminds the reader of André Franquin's playful marginalia. These graffiti signal the porous boundaries between word and image (an effect of the particular intermedial form of the graphic narrative), while commenting on the depicted events. In this respect Franquin's drawings in the gutter belong to a long tradition of critical (and comical) reflexivity that can be traced back to Winsor McCay. The adventures of Herriman's characters Krazy and Ignatz, for example, were originally conceived to accompany The family upstairs as a kind of narrative footnote.

The aim of this paper, however, is not only to explore the use of marginalia throughout the history of comic books, but also to use this tradition as a reading key to understand Markus Huber's short story Ein Ausflug nach Saturnia (2000). This story is 'haunted' by the caricatural legless skeleton, little Walter, who speaks only in quotes from Walter Benjamin's Einbahnstraße (1928). Although his graphical rendering identifies little Walter as - in a literal sense - a marginal character, he also belongs to the diegetic world, since the other characters speak to him. With this metaleptic construction (little Walter simultaneously being part of both the diegetic and the extradiegetic universe) Markus Huber, as I will argue, once again realizes the baroque programme of comic drawing by the transgression of the narrative frame.