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Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics$
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Gavin Parkinson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381434

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381434.001.0001

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date: 16 December 2018

André Breton, Rodolphe Töpffer and the Automatic Message

André Breton, Rodolphe Töpffer and the Automatic Message

(p.40) 2. André Breton, Rodolphe Töpffer and the Automatic Message
Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics

Barnaby Dicker

Liverpool University Press

For his seven groundbreaking comic strips, published between 1833 and 1846, Rodolphe Töpffer developed a method very similar to Surrealist automatism. Giving an account of his approach in his 1846 Essay on Physiognomy, he wrote ‘The picture-story has the unique advantage of springing, so to speak, from intuition,’ and that ‘a single page by a man who is competent in his subject – by the mere fact that it emanates directly from his mind – is an infinitely, incomparably … reliable criterion of his moral and intellectual faculties.’ Taking up André Breton’s insistence on historicising automatism, this chapter examines Breton’s and Töpffer’s complimentary notions of automatism and shows how they can illuminate one another, as well as the endurance of such methods in more recent SF comics, including Moebius’s Upon a Star (1983). The link between the comic strip format and Surrealist automatism is further strengthened by their shared concern with, and exploration of, the graphic interplay between drawing and writing. The chapter closes by looking at Breton’s and Töpffer’s respective conceptions of the ‘page,’ both as the unique object worked on by the artist/writer and as the mass-reproduced object handled by the viewer/reader.

Keywords:   Collage comics graphic Minotaure mediumism

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