News about the premier academic journal devoted to all aspects of cartooning and comics -- the International Journal of Comic Art (ISSN 1531-6793) published and edited by John Lent.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Letting the Everyday Speak its Own Power: The Works of Von Allan - A Review Essay

 by David Beard, University of Minnesota Duluth

Canadian graphic novelist Von Allan (a pen name) persistently plays with the tension between the mundane and the enchanted in his work, which is usually self-published. In Love, Laughter, and Loss, Allan funnels the enchanted and the emotionally powerful through stories that emphasize the mundane, sometimes for humorous effect, sometimes for tragic. In Wolf’s Head, probably his best work to date, the fanciful elements of a science fiction tale are masterfully pulled into a grounded, emotionally realistic story about a child grappling with their mother’s legacy. As Allan has moved into nonfiction (both in his public writings for the Ottawa Citizen and in participating in the documentary I Am Still Your Child), he continues to pull us deeper into the everyday, hoping to find the meaningful, and the tragic, therein.

 In Love, Laughter, and Loss, Allan works through two modes of storytelling. In the first half of the book, he inverts our expectations of fantasy storytelling. Traditionally, we have read high fantasy like the Lord of the Rings and then seen those gorgeous fantasy worlds translated, often unsuccessfully, into the tropes and tricks of roleplaying games. The “halflings” in Dungeons and Dragons are a way to recreate the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings without violating copyright; role playing games are like a strainer, sucking the depth and elegance from high fantasy so that it can be brought to a table with dice and miniatures.

 In his stories, such as “The Cowardly Clerics of Rigel V,” Total Party Kill,” and “The Two Magic-Users,” Allan tells us stories that begin with mundanity of role playing games. What would, in high fantasy, be the story of two wizards becomes the story of “two magic users.” In starting from the limitations of the tabletop roleplaying game, Allan makes us chuckle at the deflation of the genre.

 That same tendency (to start with the mundane) also undergirds Von Allan’s attempts to show us tragedy in Love, Laughter, and Loss. In a story about the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft (“When I Find You Again, It Will Be In Mountains”), Allan begins with a simple dream of lost love. It’s only at the end of the dream that we see that the dreamers are actually spacecraft. Similarly, “I Was Afraid For My Life” begins as a story about a boy and a dog, only in the last pages revealing its powerful statement on race, violence, and policing.

 In all of these works, Von Allan’s commitment to pulling the fantastic and the tragic into the everyday makes it easier for him to tell a story that creates a laugh or packs a punch.

 Wolf’s Head is a stronger work than the bits and pieces collected in Love, Laughter, Loss, and so deserves a closer look. Wolf’s Head begins, in a way, where “I Was Afraid For My Life” leaves off, and its introductory page is remarkable in that it uses texture to convey the energy of the moment. The figure in the foreground is angry, and the play of texture behind her propels her forward. The lines radiating from something like an explosion of color represent, in texture, what she is feeling inside: Lauren Greene’s anger is propelled by the structural racism and violence inherent in policing, especially after the events of 2020 in Minneapolis. Her conscience won’t abide her participation in that system, and so she quits.

 I love this panel because it really shows the nuanced ways that Allan uses both the extraordinary and the simple to communicate. In a longer work like Wolf’s Head, the interplay between the fantastic dimensions of his stories and the tiny details of life in his art are what makes his voice unique in contemporary comics.  

 When Lauren finds a new job, Allan deploys those same texture techniques (crosshatching and some computerized spotting) to create a muddy picture of the place where Lauren now works. Instead of being propelled forward, Lauren is caught in the muck and darkness of her new life.

Allan introduces us to Lauren’s mom with the same techniques. I absolutely adore this first image of her mom (all solid colors and dark, thick lines), in sharp relief against (again) the complex textures of the apartment hallway and doorframe. On first, quick read, it’s possible to miss the oddly shaped musical note coming from her bag.

 That “bag” is the touch of the extraordinary in the Wolf’s Head story. Lauren’s mom works as a janitor in a research & development firm (Advanced Research Projects Corporation). The singing shoulder bag is actually a shapeshifting machine, an ARPC invention that has achieved self-awareness. It protected Lauren’s mom from an explosion at the factory and becomes her companion and guardian. When Lauren learns about her mom’s self-aware machine (and the goons from ARPC who want it back), she and her mom get into a fight about what to do next. Their reunion is possibly the most touching moment in the book. The goons kidnap Lauren to get at her mom. While Lauren’s mom is interrogated, she passes away from a heart attack, and Lauren is left with the self-aware machine and the ARPC goons in hot pursuit. The machine protector steps up and saves Lauren from the ARPC.

Wolf’s Head is at its best in the small things – Lauren’s search for meaning after leaving the force, her reunion with her mother. The story of the self-aware machine is the tiny twist that helps bring Von Allan’s gift for bringing the everyday into view. It’s difficult not to read this touching, loving mother-daughter relationship in Wolf’s Head without a sense of Von Allan’s interest in mental illness in families. His 2009 work, the road to god knows, is no longer in print, but the narrative arc (of a mom separated her from her child) resonates.

 In the road to god knows, the separation between child and parent is more painful than the separation in Wolf’s Head. In the latter, Lauren’s mom finds and comes to care for a sentient machine – anything, including reconciliation with Lauren, is possible in such a story. In the road to god knows, parent and child are ruptured by an illness that cannot be removed, only struggled with.

 In an interview with the CBC after Allan won recognition as a “trailblazer,” we learn that his late mother had schizophrenia; in other of his writings, he has addressed mental illness. In interview and essay, Von Allan’s penchant for crafting a picture of a realistic world helps him communicate the complexities of living with mental illness. In his writings for the Ottawa Citizen, Allan (writing under his real name as Eric Julien) shares his relationship with his childhood friend,David Thomas Foohey. Allan lays the facts of Foohey’s life on the table for the reader: his struggles living with older, blind parents who divorced; his struggles losing those parents (in 2004 and 2008). His depictions of Foohey’s attempt to grapple with mental illness are straightforward:

In Dave’s case, the medication emotionally “flat-lined” him. He phrased it this way: all of his emotions, not just the sad ones, were shunted off. Not sad, not filled with loss, but equally missing out on happiness and joy. There was just nothing at all. As a result, Dave gave up on the medication. He never did try another.

No hyperbole, no drama – whatever emotion you draw from Foohey’s story, you draw from the straightforward presentation of Dave’s story.

 Allan knows that his power as a storyteller comes from letting the everyday speak its own power, whether in the short stories of Love, Laughter, Loss, in the longer works (the road to god knows and Wolf’s Head), or nonfiction essays like “Dave’s Story.” Across his diverse works, by placing his focus on the everyday, Allan makes me laugh, makes me sad, and gives me hope.


Von Allan Studio website:

“Julien: Dave's Story — and the Agonizing Dilemma of Mental Illness.” Ottawa Citizen July 4, 2022

Love, Laughter, Loss. Ottawa: V. Allan Studio, 2021.

the road to god knows. Ottawa: V. Allan Studio, 2009.

Wolf’s Head. Ottawa: V. Allan Studio, 2021.

 “Trailblazers: Eric Julien.” CBC Interactive. March 23, 2019

I Am Still Your Child. CatBird Productions 2017

“Childhood Innocence” Does Not Need Rescuing Here : Growing Up Graphic book review

reviewed by Cecilia Garrison, 
California Institute of Integral Studies

Alison Halsall. Growing Up Graphic: The Comics of Children in Crisis. Ohio State University Press, 2023.

Growing Up Graphic: The Comics of Children in Crisis is a refreshing and honest assessment of the importance of accurately and frankly acknowledging that childhood innocence is a Western invention. And also, that children, no matter where they are from or who they are, deserve to see themselves depicted in comics and can use the graphic narrative medium as a means to develop a broader and more realistic world view. Alison Halsall, fresh off the success of her edited volume The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader winning the 2023 Eisner Award for Best Academic/Scholarly Work, writes Growing Up Graphic with four objectives in mind. First, Halsall aims to explore comics and graphic narratives as a medium heavily invested in representing the reality of the social, political, and cultural experiences of childhood and youth. Graphic narratives, she argues, are a particularly useful means of sharing these experiences across national and cultural borders, because the “unique verbal/visual interface” (28) of these narratives seems to translate across the borders more easily. The second objective is the navigation of comics for young people throughout, within, and around “discourses of nation, belonging, ableism, and identity” (3). Young people are shaped by the communities and countries in which they live, and the politics of those spaces, and they deserve to have a space in that discourse. Third, she observes and contends with the trend in children’s publishing to diversify published content, providing young readers in the Global North with a more intersectional lens through which to see the world when consuming media. Comics and graphic narratives for children use the personal and the local to aid young readers in understanding broader narratives. And finally, she considers the readers themselves as a source of tension. Halsall meets all her stated objectives with aplomb and a frankness that makes the book hard to put down.

            Halsall’s text refutes the harmful ideas that comics and graphic novels are somehow lesser and should not be consumed by children or young people because of supposedly harmful and corrupting influences. This idea has existed for decades; today’s censorship of LGBTQ and African-American graphic novels echoes Fredric Wertham’s 1950s crusade against comics. However, Halsall argues that the world in which we all live requires more and more of children, particularly in terms of communication and critical thinking skills. Visual literacy, comprehension, and interpretation are increasingly necessary aspects of communication. More libraries, schools, and curricula for young readers find the navigation of graphic texts to be a valuable means by which students and readers can develop these and other skills, while also developing a love of literature, art, and reading from a young age. Not only do graphic narratives provide opportunities for young readers to develop the aforementioned skills, but the particular graphic narratives Halsall addresses in Growing Up Graphic (which include such titles as War Brothers by Sharon E. McKay, Leila Abdelrazaq’s Baddawi, 7 Generations by David Alexander Robertson, and several of Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels, including Guts and Drama) provide young readers with new and engaging opportunities to learn about human rights discourses, world events, and ways in which children are and can be active agents in the world around them, providing the groundwork for those readers to become more empathetic, compassionate, and culturally aware.

Furthermore, Halsall questions the Global North belief that childhood and youth are and must be innocent – that children should be protected from anything that may burden the innocence of their youth. Childhood, Halsall argues, is a largely Western concept, and that the Global North conception of childhood as something which should be stable and protected is in conflict with the experiences of hundreds of thousands of children both within the context of Western societies and beyond. This conflict is present throughout all five chapters of Growing Up Graphic.

In her first chapter, Halsall explores the use of childhood in war, bringing the reader through an analysis of Michel Chikwanine’s Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, Sharon E. McKay and Daniel Lafrance’s War Brothers: The Graphic Novel, and Jean-Philippe Stassen’s Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda to ask readers to reflect on the ontology of victimhood, the lives of those – especially children – who are caught up in wars not of their own making, and the impacts of power, control, and change. She calls upon these texts to defamiliarize standard historical narratives and the ideas of childhood, as they instead point out that history is far rifer with personal and political violence and trauma, and that childhood “transforms in relation to war, a social and political crisis” (34). The children involved in armed conflict cannot be seen from the Western perspective of childhood as brimming over with innocence, they are shown through these narratives to be complex; neither agents nor at-risk victims, but perhaps both at the same time. They can be agentic without being responsible, vulnerable without being entirely victimized, etc.

This vein of complicated agency continues into the second chapter, with a question of how graphic narratives about immigration, diaspora, and refugees, such as Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman’s Zenobia, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, Matt Hyunh’s “The Boat,” Reinhard Kleist’s An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yusuf Omar, Leila Abdelrazaq’s Baddawi, and George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy, can explore migration ethically, rejecting the instinct common in Western literature to represent refugees and immigrants as “passive victims waiting to be ‘saved’” (58), instead exploring them as fully complex individuals shaped by the circumstances in which they find themselves. This effort humanizes the refugee crisis and the protagonists of these texts, allowing young readers to ground themselves in another young person’s lived experiences. “Here” and “there” become less disparate as young readers read, and they are able to conceptualize immigrants and refugees as something more than victims without agency, awaiting saving from the Global North.

The theme of agency and refusing to see marginalized protagonists as victims in need of saving continues throughout the text. Chapter 3 of Growing Up Graphic focuses on Indigenous texts from Canada, exploring the way that texts such as Katherena Vermette’s A Girl Called Echo, David Alexander Robertson’s 7 Generations, and Michael Nicoll Yahulanaas’s Red: A Haida Manga explore the healing powers of language and visual storytelling to explore myth and worldview, and address the generations of systemic violence and genocide faced by Indigenous communities. While this chapter addresses and acknowledges injustices, both past and present, the texts analyzed within seek to empower Indigenous youth, providing a narrative that emphasizes cultural affirmation, renewal, and hope while responding to a history of colonial violence. The texts encourage young readers to question historical narratives, resist the erasure of violence and colonialism, and work against the continued racial stratification and systematic injustices. Not only does the use of graphic narrative offer Indigenous writers and readers catharsis and critical reflection, but it also provides non-Indigenous young readers with valuable perspective while not viewing Indigenous peoples non-agentic or their lives and stories as something to be relegated to a history book.

Chapter 4 takes particular umbrage at the concept of protecting the innocence of childhood by highlighting the powerful importance of quality representation of queer identity in texts for young readers, complicating the idea that children must be separated from any knowledge of sexuality. Halsall argues against both an ideal of a stable, protected childhood and a stable sexual and gender identity, acknowledging that both of these concepts are likely to fluctuate, change, and have different meaning for different people over time. She examines texts such as Mariko Tamaki’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, Hubert and Marie Caillou’s Adrian and the Tree of Secrets, and Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please! to understand how they normalize the queer experience, reorienting the narrative of queer media away from the trauma and crisis often associated with queerness to the conflict ubiquitous in young people’s interpersonal relationships. The context of this chapter within the rest of Growing Up Graphic is interesting, because the texts Halsall examines here are creating narratives wherein existing as queer is not, inherently, a crisis. However, the texts themselves are seen as a crisis, as political and cultural groups continue to try to protect young people from anything perceived as sexual. Such groups harken back to “the pervasive myth of the implied Romantic child reader, whose purity is necessarily incompatible with sexual awareness and experience” (131) and consider such texts inappropriate for young readers. These texts, however, are continually and increasingly important for readers, as they seek to orient themselves in relation to the world around them and develop broader views on many issues.

All of the texts encourage perspective taking, empathy, and compassion in their readers, and the fifth chapter’s emphasis on health crises furthers this objective, while also often providing information, awareness building, and consciousness raising about what are often otherwise undiscussed parts of people’s lives, especially when those in the midst of the health crisis are young people. Texts such as Raina Telgemeier’s Guts or Smile, Cece Bell’s El Deafo, and Tory Wollcott’s Mirror Mind: Growing Up Dyslexic provide the creator and perhaps the reader with some measure of control over what can often be a situation in which the person affected has little to no control. Not only does Halsall address the way these texts can normalize experience of bodily difference, chronic and/or severe illness, or mental variance, she also speaks to the way that the texts respond to the silence around many of these conditions, redefine the meaning of health, and affirm the agency of those who may have such a condition, especially in the face of families or medical professionals who may attempt to remove such agency or voice. Halsall returns to the message of refuting the victim paradigm, emphasizing texts that move away from the protagonist needing rescue from their condition. Not only do graphic narratives provide the same benefit of socio-emotional education around disability that they do the other topics discussed in Growing Up Graphic, but Halsall also points out the ways in which graphic narratives as a whole can be an accessible form of learning for those with developmental disorders, learning disabilities, or other conditions that may impact information acquisition, retention, understanding, and/or processing (179). These graphic narratives challenge the idea of children as apolitical and needing protection from troubling topics such as health crises or disability, instead giving children the language necessary to approach medicine and their bodies with agency and information.

Halsall leaves the reader anticipating more – more comics and graphic narratives, more from comics studies, more from Halsall herself, and, unfortunately but realistically, more children in crisis. She concludes with an impact statement about how the COVID crisis has highlighted discrimination in a variety of forms across the globe and the unequal distribution of safety and power across homes and nations, and the ways in which graphic narratives are already being used to address various aspects of the pandemic. Still Halsall asserts, the children don’t need protecting from the realities of COVID any more than they do from other world crises, they need understanding, information, an outlet, and compassion. From an explosion of digitally available comics about the experiences of people during the course of the ongoing pandemic, to being used to provide information about mitigating the risks of the virus, Halsall anticipates that COVID comics will continue to prove all the ways in which comics provide young readers with a humanizing glimpse into the experiences and challenges faced by young people all the world over.

Ian Gordon remembers David Kunzle

David Kunzle  (April 17, 1936 – January 1, 2024) 

by Ian Gordon


Vale David Kunzle. I received the news from Roger Sabin when I was in London in early January. As it happened I was at Cambridge, his undergraduate university, the day before I heard and on my return to London walked pass his doctoral home at the Courtauld Institute of Art. 


David was a formative influence on my work. Like many comics fans at the time I first encountered David through his 1974 introduction to and translation of Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart’s How to Read Donald Duck. The red-hot prose of that work is best understood as a visceral reaction to the vicious Pinochet regime and the comics analyzed had been altered by the Chilean publishers who were not sympathetic to the Allende socialist government. But my engagement with David’s work only came later. In 1989 I decided to do my doctoral dissertation on comic strips. In that same year the University of California Press announced the forthcoming publication of the second volume of his The History of the Comic Strip and I sought a venue to review it since at $110 it was beyond my graduate student budget. Michael Kazin at Tikkun, who I had met at the Smithsonian, said no, but suggested the American Quarterly. At first Charles Bassett, then the book review editor, said no but after he received a volume from the University Press of Mississippi, Joseph (Rusty) Witek’s Comic Books as History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar, he said yes provided I did a combined review. Somewhat miffed that this fellow Witek had used a version of the title I wanted for my dissertation I said yes. In preparation while waiting for Volume 2, which only came out in mid 1990, I studied Volume 1 closely after previously only having given it a cursory read. I remember this well because I was traveling home to Australia and borrowed a copy from the University of Sydney library and read about a third, lugging it between Sydney and Melbourne and back again. Returning to the USA I spent a week or so in Los Angeles at my grad school friend Charles Shindo’s family home and he borrowed a copy from his alma mater, USC, and I may have even read some of it on the beach. Finally, back in Washington, DC I finished Volume 1 at the Library of Congress and moved to Volume 2 that I had by then received. The review duly appeared in American Quarterly.[1] After completing the review essay I begun the research for my dissertation. In many ways my approach to studying comics was shaped through this review essay. I wanted to use Kunzle’s methods to study American comics and was too sharp with Rusty’s work for not doing quite what I wanted it to do. Stressing the merits of Kunzle I neglected the merits of Witek, something that I later addressed.[2] 


Of Kunzle’s work I had this to say in the American Quarterly


Kunzle's first volume History of the Comic Strip: Vol. 1, The Early Comic Strip, published in 1973, contained an account of the crucial transformation in graphic narrative in late eighteenth century England; "the stylistic revolution in popular graphic art known as caricature" (Kunzie, Berkeley, 1973, 1). Kunzie demonstrated that before Hogarth introduced a comic element in graphic narrative during the eighteenth century, it was primarily concerned with religious, moral, and political themes of a didactic or propagandistic nature. The narrative in Hogarth's panels was also easier to follow than in earlier, more static, graphic narrative. But Hogarth was no caricaturist. Nor did he use speech balloons, contrary to the view held by many comic art historians.' Caricature, a method of capturing a person's essential character by the exaggeration of features in a loose line drawing, entered the public realm of European art late in the eighteenth century. It lent itself to political commentary and to a new style of narrative fiction: the comic strip. Rodolphe Topffer (1799-1846) undertook the first sustained work in the new medium of the comic strip, and History of the Comic Strip: Vol. 2, The Nineteenth Century opens with a discussion of his work.  


Kunzie argues that Topffer and those who followed him, most notably Cham (Charles-Henri-Amedee de Noe), Leonce Petit, Adolphe Willette, and Wilhelm Busch, effected a profound change in graphic narrative. They produced comic strips that aimed to entertain. The works presented not the facile comic strip offerings one so often encounters in the late twentieth century, but extended tales, gathered in albums, that addressed the emerging bourgeois order of Europe. For instance, between 1830 and 1846, Topffer lampooned the pretensions of the petite bourgeoisie on the make, parodied scientific research, and in his final work, derided would-be revolutionists. To tell these stories, Topffer and the others developed new graphic narrative techniques. These included dried pen etching and stunning montage sequences in which the images cut back and forth between protagonists, or ranged over movement through time and space. Kunzle's detailed account of the European development of the comic strip is relevant to an American Studies audience because despite the unique and "specifically American humorous tradition" displayed in early American comic strips (5), their form, and indeed their content, owed much to the earlier European work.  (242-243).  


And, “David Kunzle's History sets a standard for discussion and analysis of the comic art form. He not only recounts the technical and stylistic development of the form but sets it within the cultural matrix of nineteenth century Europe." (246)


For good measure I should note that I saw Rusty’s work positing something that indeed happened and he was ahead of the curve in seeing that possibility and explaining the way it took shape, “Witek's book raises the possibility that comic books may transcend their formulaic nature and produce a new literary medium." (246)


Having finished his second volume David seemed to balk at doing the third volume that he had originally intended. In May 1992 he wrote to the art historian Rebecca Zurier had received a Swann Foundation fellowship for her work on the Ashcan School. He proposed a collaboration on a third volume that would run from 1896 to Krazy Kat stopping short of the adventure strips of the 1930s. Given her path to tenure as an art historian had been mapped out for her in discussions with her Department Zurier could not take up Kunzle’s offer, and she directed him to me. In 1992 just as I was wrapping up my dissertation, I received a letter from Kunzle (see below). Busy with meeting the demand from the graduate Dean of my university that all 200 figures appear in portrait form with full captions, rather than a mix of portrait and landscape, and then with defending the dissertation I did not reply until October. To say I was flattered was an understatement. I was flabbergasted that Kunzle had contacted me and proposed such a collaboration. I of course said yes. So where is that third volume? I said yes conditionally since I wanted to get some publications out before turning to that collaboration. I also hoped to stay in America and was able to do so through some employment at the Smithsonian allowed as gaining work experience under my F1 visa. David replied and we agreed to meet in Los Angeles in 1993 to discuss the volume. I sent him my dissertation.  


In 1993 he graciously collected me at the LA train station and we and his wife Marjoyre had dinner at their UCLA house. I remember the dinner because at one point David excused himself and returned with a rapier and told me about his performance with an Elizabethan troupe. I was unsure if I should engage him with the fork I was using to eat pasta. I am not sure if it was that evening, or perhaps in a letter that I no longer have, that David responded to my dissertation with the comment “was it as bad as that” meaning the mass commodification of comic art in the American comic strip. I now wonder if perhaps he was also asking me to think a little more about comic art that had not been so drastically commodified and perhaps expand my vision from the very real role comics played in shaping consumer culture.  


By this stage though I had decided to return to Australia since long term work was not presenting itself in America. I am not sure exactly what David and I decided on the proposed collaboration or indeed if we decided anything. Perhaps it disappeared as other priorities and the passage of time took us further away from the project. From a letter from Martin Barker sometime in mid to late 1993 I do know that David had been speaking with him to about the project. But as Martin suggested I think David was not as engaged with Volume 3 as he had other work he wanted to do.

In the last ten years or so other scholars have filled some of the gaps left by the absence of a third volume. Beyond my own initial attempts to place comics in a broader development of twentieth century American culture Christina Meyer’s Producing Mass Entertainment, Lara Saguisag’s Incorrigibles and Innocents, and Alex Beringer’s Lost Literacies are all invaluable works that should be read in the absence of that volume. One can hope for many more works like these to plug the gaps. 


Many non-academic readers with an interest in understanding the history of comics have appreciated Kunzle’s work. But that was not always the case. For instance, when I visited Bill Blackbeard in 1991 he dismissed David’s work as simply reproducing every early image he could find and not worth attention. His influence on others was perhaps pernicious since Bob Beerbohm, now very much a fan of the work, told me he had been put off by Blackbeard’s comments. I can only surmise that Blackbeard’s view was colored by a desire to claim comic strips as a uniquely American form and David’s work demonstrating long antecedents of commercial graphic work (and not fanciful connections like hieroglyphics) upset that apple cart. On the scholarly front David was aware of Donald Ault and I do wonder if they discussed Disney. 


David Kunzle encouraged my work especially in the early years when I was trying to make a career. Other scholars like the Australian historian Richard Scully and the British historian Patrick Hagopian, to whom David sent photo documentation of his anti-Vietnam war posters, have mentioned David’s kindness. I was very happy to meet David again in 2017 at a conference in the UK. By then he had returned to the study of comics at a time when more and more scholars had turned their attention to both comics and David’s work. The following year at the International Graphic Novels and Comics conference in Bournemouth I was able to thank him publicly during my keynote address for his help, encouragement, and exemplary scholarship. His gracious nod in thanks was as wonderful as the first letter I received from him. We have lost a scholar of enormous importance.  



David Kunzle has received obituaries at the following sites: 


And a fine memory from Charles Hatfield: 


Letters from Gordon's files

David Kunzle to Rebecca Zurier, May 8, 1992: 

Rebecca Zurier to David Kunzle, June 13, 1992:

Gordon to Kunzle, October 1, 1992:


Kunzle to Gordon, July 1, 1992:

Kunzle to Gordon, November 11, 1992: 

Martin Barker to Gordon, 1993:

[1] Ian Gordon, ""But Seriously, Folks ...": - Comic Art and History," American Quarterly, 43 (June 1991): 122-126. 

[2] Ian Gordon, “In Praise of Comic Books as History: Joseph Witek and Comics Scholarship,” in Graphic Subjects: Critical Essays on Autobiography and the Graphic Novel, Michael Chaney ed., (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011): 244-246.