Return of the rambles on Henry Darger


Reading fairytales of Darger’s time, as well as books he was directly influenced by (don’t think I have the patience to actually read all sixteen Oz books though so I’ll just stick to this first one….hear it gets real weird past the sixth one.) But basically all of these are things he would read himself, or were in or around the era of literature. Baring a couple like Oliver Twist and Alice in Wonderland/Looking Glass that I’ve read before.

Things I haven’t been able to look at that influenced Darger:

Heidi, a series of books.

Mutt and Jeff- Little gag comic, not exactly many higher meanings I can get out of it. I thhhhiiink it might’ve had some political elements and criticisms to it but it’s a little difficult finding any resources to read for it.

Little Annie Rooney- Both little Annie Rooney and little Orphan Annie are basically similar comics buuut may have ripped one off the other but regardless they both evolved differently. Annie Rooney is one of the comics that Darger appropriated the most to create his works with, it certainly did have a really great clean visual style through the years although what I had read of it was fairly forgettable.

Little Orphan Annie – Her eyes freak me out.

The end.

Wonder if he read peanuts?

Hope so, it was delightfully morbid.

Joking aside, I read a fair few pages, it’s basically a gag comic which evolved into a weird mystery comic. I was a fan of the original movie adaptation, so I did know what it was before doing all this research.

The Snow Queen- Lovely fairy tale which involves the suffering of a child to essentially to bring back her best friend from the clutches of misery and coldness. She travels, she doesn’t necessarily fight, but she is almost always proactive and a very strong protagonist who doesn’t need to be violent in the slightest. She also has basically the power of innocence which seems to give her a blessing where things will work out in the end although a requirement for this seems to be to make her go through basically starvation first. A character lampshades it in the story itself saying that if she made it known to the child what her powers involved (just simple purity of a child) that is would ruin it, which is interesting because it seems to imply she may become arrogant, perhaps feel she is invincible, should she know that she is protected. Another thing here is that the main characters, barring the damsel in distress (her friend who subverts the trope and is male) are all female. Unless you count the crow and reindeer. So for this book it seems to empathise untouched purity as well as the bonds of a platonic friendship, as well as non traditional gender roles in the story telling which I feel relates rather well to the gun toting children that Darger’s story holds in prime view.

Read The Goblin Market – Is a fairy tale by Christina Rosetti (I love the few poems I have read of hers) talking of the corruption of one of two sisters by what is basically otherworldly creatures. The other sister is uncorrectable in her love for her sister and devotion to saving her life from the doom that befalls those that partake in the foods of the goblin market. Otherworldly creatures appearing friendly, appearing as though they wish to please and to serve and then disappearing once they have left their mark upon their victim, and unless you have exceedingly strong will power despite atrocities committed towards you. Darger goes through uncorrupted children but arguably the plot elements in his story of children in slavery while undergoing horrid working conditions, slaughter, torture, themselves actively fighting and killing people.

Finished Wizard of Oz – Dorothy is a symbol of innocence, all acts of brutality and violence are always played off when it’s someone “bad”, the morality is straight forward (at least in this first book) black and white with little to no depth, the lion, tin man, scarecrow all serve as protectors for the weak little child who in no way ever does anything violent (besides what ultimately kills the west witch), she’s a very weak protagonist because she IS a child however in this case Darger takes the idea of ultimate innocence much like L.Frank Baum twisting to the children actually being proactive because the setting is now in a war where they must protect themselves. The magically getting through situations because of plot continence and armour also seems to be pretty prominent both in Darger’s work and Oz.

Henry Darger by Klaus Biesenbach – Read, goes into his work, his influences, has his work in it (finished, unfinished, tracings and also resources he used or traced from), his biography as well as a wealth of knowledge about the artists similar to him, inspired by him and also tangentially related.

In the realms of the Unreal: Insane Writings – Compilation of poems, need to read.

Reading Uncle Toms Cabin- So far is well written and poignant, I can see why it deeply effected Darger as he created Realms and why he wanted to give more life to Tom and Evangeline. I am reading the children’s addition so I can see the illustrations they used, it’s a little odd but the visual style keeps switching between using tones for the black characters and then using none (most commonly for the female characters and children) otherwise they look like standard etchings with great details and sometimes muddy areas. Haven’t finished it yet but reading the summary on the story has given at least a good frame of reference for me to be able to say a little about it.

going through a different reading list than the one I had found previously…

As for looking at things for story telling, a fair few web comics I read do interactive layouts (which don’t really apply so much to a print book like we need to make but it’s worth looking at) such as Unsounded, which sticks to a cell shaded art style for practicality and is beautifully executed and consistent.

Next is Ava’s Demon which itself is a scene by scene one panel at a time comic, which makes it kinda tedious to read honestly. It’s essentially stills from one of those animation trials which doesn’t have any inbetween but flicks between things, very well polish but the polish actually leads to the characters not being very varied and the expressions are stilted and boring.

Gunnerkrigg Court, which is more a traditional book format online, the creator Tom Siddell never strays from it. Besides that it’s also consistent with art style, updates and a satisfying well tied together plot.

Drowtales which issssss messy and long, inconsistent, consistent, terrible and great. Drowtales has been running for 15 or so years and goes for a long form layout (can be 1 A4 page +, usually is about the length of 3 for most) and updates daily. Artists, help and the like have frequented and the style has changed drastically due to it’s age and the story needing to be told for a very long period. In general this is the issue with a medium like an online comic as sometimes you need to go back to update the quality (Trying Human, another comic I read on and off has done this, completely the first revamp to print as volume 1 and is now in the process of doing volume 2).

Hayakawa Nojiko is a manga artist who writes slice of life stories with gay protagnoists, she’s pretty unique in that her compositions often involve sprawling scenes, fireworks, bubbles popping and opening, I believe one involved a galaxy and she and her assistants rendered that with great skill across several pages. Ribbons trail through the speech bubbles, film falls as the character talks, a man recounts his loneliness and it’s reflected in the background is some abstract and symbolistic shapes.

It’s refreshing is what I’m getting at.

None of it is awfully detailed, but then it’d also be a lie to say it doesn’t look good in the simplicity of line. Particulars of simplicity of line yet complicated through quantity or how they are manipulated does remind me awfully of Darger and of some other sometimes sketchy, lovely artists.

Lastly, a particular type of online comic as well as traditional print comic is manhwa, pretty much it is just like manga in that it is Korean comics just as manga is to the Japanese just comics (same for anime). In the case of manhwa, one of the biggest sharers and providers for the medium online, Naver, display it in long form content. All of the pages of the chapters one after the other and so on. The thing is, because of this format it allows the artist to depict the manhwa more like the story board of a film going scene by scene than like a traditional comic where it will cut suddenly. Motion blur, showing several panels with a change each time, all sorts of techniques are employed because of the lack of limitation of format when it comes to the online world.

Naver prints some of the books as well so I do wonder how they display that without ruining the pacing and effect that all the spacing, white space, etc may have.



KIDS BOOKS aaaand….visual biographies???

Actually I’m not certain I’ve ever seen one. Graphic novels like Maus and Persepolis may count (both of which are brilliant). Tuzki Bunny Emoticon

Reading about kidnappings, major wars and events (odd how the Asian influenza epidemic isn’t mentioned but I suppose they pick and choose these things a lot.) There seemed to have been a lot of theories that Darger murdered the little girl he was obsessed with (Elsie Paroubeck) but it seems a lot of things wouldn’t align in that case and he didn’t have a criminal record, even if he was slightly violent as a child. (That seemed to lessen as he grew up) “Although it is impossible to know what lay in his heart as an adult, one thing we do know is that horrible things were done to children at the Illinois Asylum. ‘There was concrete evidence of torture,’ says Stokes, who has read the transcripts from a highly publicised investigation into the asylum conducted while Darger was there. ‘Children were locked up, chained to their beds in darkness, left to be gnawed by rats.’ The asylum’s director even mentions forcing boys to dress like girls.” <like girls? Maybe he thought girls and boys bits were interchangeable despite gender because of this??? “Henry Darger is the quintessential artist. And this in spite of what Michel Thévoz advises us to remember: “we have rummaged around in the bedroom of a dead man, a man who seems to have done everything he could to protect himself from our intrusion.”** Darger made art for the purest of reasons: out of a need to transform his sadness and pain into something beautiful and dignified. And so, while he is, in a sense, being loved to death, his work locked away in the name of protecting a world treasure, others, alone in rooms suffering travails that only they can detail, look to him as to a beacon of artistic truth. Let the Institutions protect their treasure. Let the scholars and babblers psychoanalyze him. Henry Darger is for the orphan geniuses among us.”

Winnie the Pooh, The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar,The Rainbow Fish, assorted books by Dr Seuss, The Owl and the Pussycat, Poem books, fairytale books and art books filled sometimes with terrible and wonderful illustrations are things I looked at for some layouts from children’s books.

As for art books, I’m not sure what really constitutes as an art book? Definitions seem to say it’s used as an actual piece of art but couldn’t that really count for ALL books?

But I guess it’s books telling /something/ that aren’t quite graphic novels and aren’t quite prose books. Sometimes with really creative actual appearances. I found this one and it does give me a bit of hope for house to lay mine out, as I did consider maybe getting it professionally printed but that might be too costly/time consuming to wait to arrive. I mean, it might be worth handmaking the book itself, then scanning it in and buying one printed version in a different lay out at another date.

Although there don’t seem to be many examples of artists books with very prominent type integrated into the art work. ….She says as she scrolls down a little further and there are suddenly more of them.


These are super neat, one using overlays for the design and one using more simplicity for the overall effect, the first one however seems to have more of a traditional flowing painting layout. The colours for the overlay one also compliment the type and vice versa. These are a couple examples out of a long list, purposely looked at most of them in the results although I was specifically looking for type as that’s one thing I’m really concerned about.

Not sure that any layouts I come out with will be all that creative but it’s communicating the idea that’s most important to a visual biography instead of some whacky gimmick.

Visual style

Planning the book

Printing and producing the book

making the book

(It was hard)

Finish at a later date


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