In the 1920's, comics were widely read by children and adults alike. Somehow, a collective amnesia ensued after WW2 in the Western world, and comics were increasingly demoted to "kid's stuff" and regulated as a potential threat to the child's development. (In Japan, comics were reborn as the modern manga instead, but that's another story.)

One of the most popular comics in Finland was the homemade "Junnu", written by Veli Giovanni (humour editor of the popular weekly Suomen Kuvalehti) and drawn by Alexander Tawitz and Poika Vesanto (who introduced speech bubbles)and later by Arnold Tilgmann. The following page is an example of A. Tawitz's artwork from 1929. It's a meta comic discussing readers' opinions of Junnu's personality - should he be nice or naughty?

Junnu, the protagonist, was a young man with a prominent nose and an eternal crush on the pretty Alli. Nice guy Junnu's everyday adventures recycled some ancient comic strip themes: his awkward attempts at romance would annoy Alli, which gave the dandy rival Tip-top-Olli an advantage. Junnu's little helpers, the mischievous twins Niku and Naku, would often cause more shenanigans. The Junnu stories are like a realistic version of Donald Duck's triangle drama, of course created many years earlier.

Junnu appealed to both children and adults. Junnu merchandise included a china set, a toothbrush set and tableware.

Junnu strips have been republished in the anthology Laikku 05 - Kotimaiset kuvasarjat 1900-1945. (Review in Finnish)


Sessue Hayakawa

Sessue Hayakawa, originally uploaded by punalippu.

The Japanese-born Hollywood star in the silent film His Birthright from 1918.


John Held Jr.

The Jazz Age cartoonist par excellence, with a handsome doggy (from the Condé Nast archives, which for some reason won't work in my browser right now).

"Show Monsieur the sights?"

"Show Monsieur the sights?", originally uploaded by punalippu.

Very early cartoon by John Held Jr. in The New York Times, 1920. His style would develop in a completely different way during the twenties.

You can compare samples of his early and later work here.


Hero of the (r)Evolution

During 1925, Watson Davis (1896-1967), Science Service managing editor, took numerous photographs while covering the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes trial as a reporter. In what was dubbed "The Trial of the Century," Scopes was tried and convicted for violating a state law prohibiting the teaching of the theory of evolution.

Nice glasses and boater. What's up with the stylish scientists 80 years ago? See previous post.

The Scientific Gaze

Mildred Adams Fenton (b. 1888) trained in paleontology and geology at the University of Iowa. She coauthored dozens of general science books with her husband, Carroll Lane Fenton, including Records of Evolution (1924), Land We Live On (1944), and Worlds in the Sky (1963).

She looks fantastic. I want to draw her.


Thragnar the Troll King and Dame Guenevere

By Frank C. Pape; from Jurgen by James Branch Cabell (1919).

I first found this picture more than 15 years ago in a German book, Lexikon der Symbole by Wolfgang Bauer, Irmtraud Dümotz and Sergius Golowin. It was used to illustrate (ironically, I assume) the threat of modern society against the sacrosanctity of the family...

Funny if you have read the original story, which it was used to illustrate. It is in the public domain, I believe; the entire text can be read at the University of Virginia's website dedicated to Cabell.


Even more Japanese doggies

All black and white, of course. I'm beginning to think that the colour combination has a deeper meaning. Some of the doggies look like inuhariko (lucky papier mache dogs). Please click the picture for more information.

More Japanese Puppies

As a fan of black-and-white Japanese dogs, I was thrilled to find these images.

Cover of the Legend of the Eight Dog Warriors (Nansou Satomi Hakkenden), epic Japanese novel written in the period 1814-1842. (Image source)

The dog theme derives from the origin myth of the eight warriors; besieged by his enemies, warlord Satomi promises his daughter Fuse-hime in marriage to the warrior who can break the siege and bring him the head of his enemy. His faithful dog Yatsufusa obeys. In the strange marriage, Fuse-hime remains a virgin but becomes miraculously pregnant. Mortally ashamed, she kills herself, but her eight sons' (puppies?) spirits fill the jewel beads of her rosary and disappear. Eventually, the sons of Fuse-hime are born of human parents around the country, and the novel tells the story of their exploits and final reunion.

Yatsufusa and Fuse-hime. (Source)

Edit. The dog's name, Yatsufusa (八房), means literally "eight spots". According to the novel, he was reared by a tanuki (raccoon dog, a badger-like canine with a reputation for supernatural mischief) in the village of Inugake in the Minamiboso area. Tourists can visit important locations of the novel as if it were historical fact; there is even a memorial for Yatsufusa and the tanuki (read about the Hakkenden tour in English and Japanese).


Ukiyo-e Puppies

One of Goldenbird's most popular characters (if not THE most popular ever) is Mochi, a little (though she seems to be growing at an alarming speed) puppy of shady Japanese origin.

Mochi is a 10-week-old Akita-ken (秋田犬), precocious and cheerful but also very sensitive. The Akita breed has a complicated history; back in the 1910-20's, it didn't exist in the shape as we know it today. Mochi's black-and-white colouring is evidence of that. Today, the Japanese breed standards exclude white dogs with black markings (pinto). This was not the case 100 years ago. There was no breed standard - but there was a growing notion of the Akita dog as an uniquely Japanese breed that deserved to be preserved. In 1931, the Akita-ken was declared a natural monument. The first official breed standard wasn't published until 1934.

The large hunting dogs of the Akita prefecture had attracted the attention of the Meiji emperor. In a famous and widely spread photograph, two Akita dogs are presented to the emperor. Both are black with white markings or vice-versa. This colouring was later judged to be un-Japanese, as a result of interbreeding with large, imported dogs from Europe and probably also China and Korea. Interestingly, recent studies on the dog genome have shown that the Akita, in spite of being a modern "reconstruction", retains ancient genetic material which makes it unique among breeds.

The group of 14 "ancient" breeds defined by this study includes mainly East Asian dogs such as the Shiba, the Chow, the Shar-Pei and the Siberian husky, which makes me believe that the "foreign" heritage in the Akita could be East Asian rather than European. Indeed, Tatsuo Kimura mentions in his "History of the Akita Dog" that as early as "A.D. 358, black pinto dogs resembling Japanese dogs of today are said to have come from Korea". "Ancient breeds" are human constructions - the natural state of dogs is to have puppies with any available and fit mate. The back-breeding of the 20th century Akita to an idealized primitive state is an impossible project. The result is certainly an attractive dog, but it is not any more authentic than the discarded bloodlines.

Old woodcuts from the Edo period and the Meiji era show that Japanese artists found pinto dogs attractive and worthy of depiction. These puppies are not necessarily Akitas; there are several smaller spitz-type breeds in more southern parts of Japan, such as the Shiba-ken and the Shikoku-ken, which might have been available as models.

Puppies by Hokusai Katsushika

A Winter Scene by Chikanobu (1890)

Playful Puppies by Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889)

Two Puppies Playing by Koga Iijima (1900)

Yoshioka Ichimisai’s daughter Sono (from the series Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety of Our Country) by Kuniyoshi (1842-1843) (See the Kuniyoshi Project)

Mother, Child and Pups by Utamaro (1753-1806)

Puppy Playing With Geta (EDIT: at closer inspection it appears to be a zori) by Seiho Takeuchi (1906)

Puppies and Snail by Sekka Kamisaka (1909)

These last puppies represent two of the standard colours for Akita-ken today. The third permitted colour is the impressive brindle. The pinto pattern is permitted in the American Akita standard. This breed descends from dogs that were imported to North America (and Europe) before the implementation of the modern Japanese standards.

For most people in Japan today, a pinto Akita looks unfamiliar. The black-and-white Akita lives on as a small lucky papier mache figurine: Inuhariko (犬張り子), a gift for expectant mothers and newborn babies. I like to think of Mochi as Mayann's own live inuhariko.


Northland Akitas: Akita Learning Center (Lots and lots of interesting information)
The New York Times - Science
The Daily Yomiuri/Yomiuri Shimbun

Art galleries:

Arts and Designs of Japan
Japan Print Gallery
The Kuniyoshi Project



The Finnish Valentino

This is a tinted version of a photo found in an article by Anu Koivunen on the concepts of stardom and women as consumers of film and filmstars in the 1920's, which features our favourite Finnish Tatar in a major role.

Under the name Teuvo Tulio, Theodor Tugai became an influential film director who put a passionate stamp on the Finnish film industry in the 1930's and 1940's. His early career as "the Finnish Valentino" is less well known. In Mustalaishurmaaja ("Gypsy Casanova", 1929), the 16-year-old Tugai plays Gypsy leader Manjardo. Koivunen describes how the camera focuses on him as on a beautiful object, with closeups of his half-shut eyes. His makeup and costume are chosen to accentuate this - dark skin, enhanced lips, jewellery, accentuated waist, occasionally shirtless... You get the picture.

But to be a desirable object for women - paradoxically put his masculinity into question. Watching and looking is an act of power, to be looked at is to become passive, traditionally feminine. But Manjardo does both. In the movie plot, he is a fiery character who is forced to accept an arranged marriage. He is an ethnic other who is both attracive and repellent (although his love interests in the movie are all "Gypsies", too - Koivunen hints that it would have been less acceptable to show "Finnish" women openly desiring a man). Two women, Glafira and Akris, fight for his attention, but the film finds a more conventional solution - Manjardo ends up with the motherly and caring Esmeralda, who tends to his wounds.

Next time, I will write more about the reception of Tugai's film persona among film critics, and the decline of the "Valentino" type.

Anu Koivunen: "Näkyvä nainen ja 'suloinen pyörrytys'", Vampyyrinainen ja Kenkkuniemen sauna - Suomalainen kaksikymmenluku ja modernin mahdollisuus ["Vampire Woman and the Sauna of Kenkkuniemi - The Finnish 1920's and the Possibility of Modernity"] Ed. Tapio Onnela, SKS, Helsinki 1992

Cross-posted at Chirayliq


The Waitress

Cover of the magazine Ukiyo (うきよ), 11/1921. (Found here)

The word ukiyo is probably familiar to many in the compound ukiyo-e, "images of the floating world". Ukiyo means thus floating world, but the cover reveals through subtle hints that this is a new world - the old-time bijin (美人 - "beautiful person", the female subject-object of countless ukiyo-e woodcuts) has changed into a modern girl (モダンガール), a waitress at a Western-style café.

(Waitresses at Café Printemps, 1922; source)

That is my guess; the little clues consist of her laced apron combined with a fresh blush, a matching comb and a coquettish gesture. She resembles the Taisho era popular image of the café waitress, which still lives on in Japanese pop culture. For a basic introduction to the café boom in 1910's and 1920's Japan, see Elise K. Tipton's article "Pink Collar Work" in the excellent journal Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context.

(Two Taisho era waitresses; more images here)

In some ways, the café waitresses carried on the geisha tradition of providing inspiring company, selling a romantic fantasy over a cup of coffee or tea. Because they were associated with modernity and Westernization, but perhaps even more because their customers were poor students and aspiring intellectuals, the waitresses were often ridiculed and depicted as prostitutes (and some of them doubtlessly had to be; their salaries were extremely low, and Tipton has some interesting stories about waitresses trying to organize themselves and join the labour movement). (Some examples of cartoons here.) Today, the "maid café" fad plays on similar strings - it is the fleeting dream that is desirable, not the fulfillment of desires. In this case, nostalgia enhances the value of the fantasy. Because the 21st century waitress is no longer a threat to the social order, the early 20th century waitress is seen as an innocent and plucky character in a historical romance. She is even desirable (and marketable) as a costume, like other characters from bygone times: the samurai, the ninja, the courtier.

A Taisho waitress costume from a contemporary costume rental service.

Gekkan Manga-Man

月刊 マンガ・マン
("Monthly Manga-Man")
Published in 7/1930, Tokyo.
I would love to know more about this publication. (Found here)


Sinekli Bakkal

Truth always beats fiction, but this time, fiction beats fiction... or maybe I'm just so fine-tuned to the 1920's and -30's that this is bound to happen.

One of the main characters of my comic Goldenbird is a fledgling Catholic deacon and Venetian native called Falco Peregrini. Some weeks ago I made a goofy "what-if" drawing where he is dressed up like a Turkish (late Ottoman era) scribe, inspired by the popular song "Katibim". I just love to play dress-up with my characters...

Today I was googling around for references to the name "Peregrini", which is pretty rare as an alternative spelling for Pellegrini. And what do I find? Sinekli Bakkal, a Turkish novel from 1935, dealing with typical Modernist issues of emancipation, faith and Westernization. The main character is the Italian pianist Peregrini, an ex-priest (!) who has left the "cold spiritual climate" of the West. In late 19th century Istanbul, he learns to know Rabia, a hafiza (reciter of the Holy Quran), who shares his love for music and artistic beauty, as well as the preference for simple life and the common people under the oppressive regime of the Sultan.

The writer Halide Edib chose a very independent path for the protagonists of Sinekli Bakkal. Instead of going with the flow of cultural Westernization, so politically correct for Turkey during the Atatürk years, she chose to show "Easternization" as a path to personal fulfillment and freedom. Rabia is an independent and well-respected woman due to her artistic skills and learning; the unbeliever Peregrini converts to Islam, and they marry... happily ever after? I don't know - I haven't read the novel myself (goes on the never-ending list)....

Screencaps from the 1967 movie version, found on a Turkish forum. Rabia is played by Türkan Soray and Peregrini by Ediz Hun (the guy who looks like Omar Sharif!). Note the fez (outlawed in 1925).

There's a mixed bag of literary analyses and articles online:
Nationalist Theory in the Writings of Halide Edib (Duygu Köksal)
An Epic for Peace (Hülya Adak)
Das Patriarchat entlässt seine Töchter (11/10 2008, Neue Zürcher Zeitung)
Memoirs of Halide Edib (Google Books)

I haven't found a discussion of Halide Edib's choice of the name Peregrini yet, but I'd like to think that she had similar thoughts as I: Peregrinus means wanderer (or stranger) in Latin, and it is the source for the word pilgrim in many languages.


Summer in Germany (1927)

Summer in Germany (1927), originally uploaded by Susanlenoxx.

It's winter and I'm growing nostalgic...