The consensus agreement from various sources seems to be that he is the first modern comic creator
Born to a father who had been a drawing instructor to the French Royal Court, he pursued a mostly academic career, which allowed him some time to pursue his hobbies. Among them was a penchant for painting landscapes, writing short stories, and sometimes drawing caricatures to amuse his students. Eventually, in 1827, he wrote and drew Histoire de M. Vieux Bois
, a 30-page book, with six panels on each page and a single caption of narration on the top of each one. The story concerned the complicated efforts of a somewhat neurotic man to woo an ordinary woman. It's generally what would be considered a kind of "Woody Allen comedy", today, but undoubtedly drew a lot from the social commentary of, say, Britain's William Hogarth (an 18th century pictorial satirist and editorial cartoonist), and has a lot of commonality with the later Ally Sloop and even Yellow Kid comics of the late 19th century.
Though not originally meant for a wider audience, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (yes, that
Goethe, author of Faust
) persuaded Töpffer to publish. Though he was still somewhat reluctant, at least seven of his stories made it into newspapers. All of the stories dealt with central characters who were in some way trying to achieve something in society, and so became vessels for commentary upon
society. One dealt with a young journalist trying to break into the business, another dealt with an idealistic young scientist trying to offer his enthusiasm to the world, and yet another dealt with an artist's lost sketches ending up in the wrong hands and nearly causing a world war.
But it is his first story (which, somewhat curiously, was not the one first published) that caused the most furor, eventually finding publication in several different languages--English chief among them. The work, known in English as the indirectly translated, The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck
would be published as a book and as a serialized newspaper story. It saw newsstands in 1841 in England and a year later in America. This, many scholars of early comic history say, gives him the nod for first English-language comic book.
Date of Birth:
31 January 1799
Date of death:
8 June 1846Website: http://leonardodesa.interdinamica.net/comics/lds/vb/VieuxBoisSynopsis.asp