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Cham - The Best Comic Strips and Graphic Novelettes, 1839–1862


The Best Comic Strips and Graphic Novelettes, 1839–1862

By David Kunzle
Hardcover : 9781496816184, 538 pages, 338 b&w and color illustrations, March 2019

The first modern study of the inexhaustibly humorous, masterful French creator


Cham, real name Count Amédée de Noé and a serious rival to Daumier, may have been the epitome of a célèbre inconnu, a famous unknown. He is one much deserving, at last, of this first account of his huge oeuvre as a caricaturist.

This book concentrates on his mastery of the important newcomer to the field of caricature, which we call comic strip, picture story, and graphic novel. The volume features facsimiles of nearly twenty of these from 1839 to 1863 and ranging from one page to forty (this last a parody of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables). In addition, summaries and sample illustrations of twenty-seven “minor works” demonstrate that Cham is by far the most important specialist of what was then a new genre in Europe.

Born to an ancient aristocratic family, Cham was from early on wholly dedicated to an art considered far beneath his class. Starting as a disciple of the father of the modern comic strip, Swiss Rodolphe Töpffer, Cham soon launched out on his own, evolving an original form of comedy, his own comédie humaine, farcical, absurd, and parodic. His productivity was legendary and comprised all the known genres of caricature, the full-page cartoon lithograph, the thematic seasonal group, weekly and monthly humorous comment (much like the daily newspaper cartoonist today), and a feature called the Revue Comique, which made him the supreme graphic journalist of his day.

Hitherto unknown correspondence reveals an attractive personality who was fond of animals and who honored a low-class woman he eventually made his countess. Vaunted comics scholar David Kunzle has created a fitting tribute to Cham’s impact and genius.


"I highly recommend David Kunzle's new Cham : The Best Comic Strips and Graphic Novelettes, 1839–1862. It's erudite but readable, with great reproductions. "

- Cynthia Rose, The Comics Journal

"David Kunzle is the main authority on the history of the comic strip, a history in which Cham holds a significant position. "

- Henri Zerner, Print Quarterly, XXXVII, 2020, 3

"Kunzle’s books bring the comics of yesteryear magically back to life. If you take the time to read them, you’ll be transported to a nineteenth-century playground where painters, illustrators, and early cartoonists built an industry that continues to thrive today."

- Michael Taube, syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor,

"Kunzle has to be commended not only for doing the enormous work of wading through Cham’s exceptional overproduction in order to choose his most representative work, but also for providing English translations of the French text. This volume is truly a laudable initiative and a remarkable achievement that should be celebrated, based on painstaking original research. It continues, if not completes, the series of books on significant graphic artists of the same period curated by Kunzle, including two volumes on Rodolphe Töpffer and one on Gustave Doré, and that positions the University Press of Mississippi as one of the most significant publishers in comics studies worldwide."

- Vittorio Frigerio, Paradoxa