Lynd Ward

by John Holbo on October 18, 2010

It’s nice to see Lynd Ward getting full Library of America treatment [amazon]. Steven Heller’s piece in the Times brings it to my attention.

Ward’s books have been available in cheap Dover editions for at least a few years. But I’m sure this new edition will be extra lovely. I pick up old Ward-illustrated stuff when I can snag it. Last year I was pleased to get a 1934 edition of the Ward-illustrated Frankenstein for not too much. (Usually it’s kinda pricey.)

This kinda stuff:

Obviously Ward in the Library of America is yet another round in the never-ending ‘hey, comics aren’t for kids!’ graphic novel chorus. (Last year Spiegelman, who edited this new Ward edition, edited an anthology of Classic Children’s Comics [amazon] with the tagline: ‘comics: not just for grown-ups anymore!’) But recently I read quite a good and really very comprehensive history of book illustration, David Bland’s The Illustration of Books (1962), that really brought home to me how much attitudes have shifted. Here is what Bland has to say about Ward: “Lynd Ward is best known for his ‘novels in wood-cuts’, the first of which was God’s Man in 1929. It is interesting because, like Masereel’s books, it consists entirely of pictures without any text.”

He has a bit more to say about Masereel. Indeed, in the very first paragraph of chapter 1, “What Is Illustration?”, he warns against him. “Undoubtedly there is this danger [of bastardization] with the drawing that takes upon itself to elucidate the text, and perhaps even more so with a book like Masereel’s Passion d’un homme, which consists only of pictures and has no text at all. Here, however clear the story is, the illustrations have too much to carry in the way of literary connotation, too much to explain.” And that’s that. For Bland, despite his impressively wide-ranging interests in all manner of book art, despite his freedom from any sense that pictures in books is ‘kid’s stuff’, comics remains very much ‘the invisible art’, to borrow the subtitle of McCloud’s Understanding Comics – which really was an apt subtitle, once upon a time, hard as it is to remember that these days.



Anderson 10.18.10 at 7:00 pm

No slur on Ward, but LOA has been following an increasingly Warholian editorial policy. In the future, everyone will have 10 lines in a LOA anthology.


John Holbo 10.19.10 at 3:55 am

What could be more American than that!

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