It’s said that success has many fathers and failure but one. I’ll willingly accept the role of parent for the present work (and hope for something at least in the middle of the two possibilities above) and just as happily admit that there are many who deserve my gratitude for their role in helping me shepherd this project from inchoate idea to finished manuscript. I am sure that there are many that I will forget here, but I can assure you that even if a name that should not be is omitted, when it comes to this thing here there are no small roles only … well, there are no small roles.
I once again thank Herman Lebovics; though his later role in the process was more inspirational than anything else, his work on museums and national identity remains my clearest model as a historian and scholar. Getting to this point has been a long trek, and I have benefited from the kind words and sharp ideas of many. If Lebovics is something of a model, Richard Kuisel was an early guide, and I will remember his admonition that the evidence must always speak for itself. I have been lucky these past few years to have had the support of my colleagues in the Department of History, Political Science and Geography at Nassau Community College (NCC). I hope the entire department understands that I could easily thank them all, but I will make specific mention of Spencer Segalla, whom I have known since our days together at Stony Brook University and with whom I have exchanged ideas on French identity, student behavior, and assessment, all while we furtively asked each other about the progress of our respective first books. Department chair Phil Nicholson has always been unflagging in his support, and I have long appreciated and admired the catholic breadth of his knowledge and depth of his understanding. Finally, I thank our secretaries, Ms. Sugar and Mrs. Geri— where would I be at NCC without the both of them?
Outside the familiar confines of my home institution(s) I have many to thank, first among them John Lent, who has taken an interest in my work (p.x) from the start. There have been many others along the way but rather than try and remember a list of them let me mention here Laurence Grove. He has provided insightful comments on my work as it appeared in the pages of the International Journal of Comic Art, and our electronic correspondence over the past few years has been invaluable in terms of filling in gaps in my knowledge of BD scholarship specifically. I must also thank him and his colleague from the International Bande Dessinée Society Wendy Michallat for their gracious help (at a late hour) with the 1930s images of Le Journal de Mickey and La Semaine de Suzette that are so important to chapter 2 of this work. It is with their permission that I use these images from their personal collection and the archives of the IBDS. Their work on the history and significance of the medium is among the best examples of BD scholarship available, and I have frequently benefited from conversation, correspondence, or simply reading their work. In presenting my work in myriad forms at various conferences my ideas have always benefited from their public airing, and I should make mention of the encouragement and thoughtful critical analysis I have received in these forums from Charles Hatfield, Nicole Freim, and Joelle Neulander. I am very grateful for Seetha Srinivasan, without whom the University Press of Mississippi likely would not have the formidable comics scholarship publishing section that it does—and in my case, it was she who first thought that my work “would make an interesting contribution” is how I believe she put it. And now that she has moved on to a much-deserved retirement I should thank her able stand-in, Walter Biggins, who has borne my delays with much understanding and (even better) good humor. I’ll presume that it was a combination of their good judgment that sent out the manuscript in its earlier stages to the anonymous reader who very thoughtfully commented on the work in its entirety. The whole of it was made much stronger by the reader’s insightful critiques and suggestions. Lastly, the careful handling of Anne Stascavage and Shane Gong and the deft touch of copyeditor Debbie Self made the whole of the editorial process virtually painless while Randall Scott provided an index and much more. A first-time author could not have asked for anything more.
My research has been helped along at various points by a number of people. I should mention Brian McKenzie, who helped me navigate the shoals and eddies of the bureaucracy of both the Archives Nationales and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and (cycling enthusiast that he is) made sure that I witnessed Lance Armstrong’s fourth consecutive victory in the Tour de France in the summer of 2002. Of all the staff help at the various archives I visited that summer, I have to mention those at the relatively small Centre des (p.xi) Archives contemporaines in Fountainbleu as those who likely made my second research trip worth the price of admission. In this I thank head archivist Didier Leclercq—who was surprised then that an American was in France to study the politics of BD—and his chief assistants Arlette Lagrange and Christine Petillat, who made sure that I always made the center-provided mini-bus back to the train station at the end of the day and allowed me free rein to copy whatever I wanted on my own and pay what seemed to me, after some days of frustration, only a nominal fee at the end of my time there. Back in New York, I did a fair amount of work in the Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Arts, Prints, and Photographs, New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations. Here again I should mention the help I received from Ann Aspinwall, Nicole Simpson, and Margaret Glover, all of whom not only tracked down the illustrations and journals I asked for but pointed out other resources of which I was entirely unaware. It is courtesy of this archive that I include the important caricatures of Philipon and the Dreyfus-era journal Psst … !, particularly figures 1.1 “Les Poires”; 1.2 “The Replasterer”; 1.3 “A quatorze millions! …”; 1.4 “Ch’accuse … !”; 1.6 “Coucou, le voilà”; and 1.8 “At the Races.”
Sections and pieces of this work have appeared previously in various places. Discussion of the Muhammad cartoon affair and Vichy-era politicization and censoring of BD journals that make up parts of the epilogue and chapter 4 appeared in “Today’s Right to ‘laugh at anything’ was once Vichy’s Comic Concerns: The politicization of Bande Dessinée under Pétain,” Contemporary French Civilization (Winter–Spring 2009). The research and ideas that make up chapters 1 and 2 appeared as “What Your Children are Reading!” in the International Journal of Comic Art (Fall 2004), and the historical analysis of the 16 July 1949 Law showed as “Vive la France, Now Who Are We?” in the same journal (Fall 2009). It is with the permission of the journal publishers and their editors, Larry Schehr and John Lent, respectively, that the work appears here now.
Finally, friends and family have long made this journey a bit less arduous and certainly less lonely. As always the Vessels clan serves as an example by dint of simply being who they are, and as I have said before, the support of my parents, who have often asked what I studied but never why, has been among the most important moorings in my life. The folks from the Samizdat reading group have kept me sharp and interested in more than just what is between these covers. Christin Cleaton, Mark Coleman, Ari Grossman, the already mentioned Brian McKenzie, Sahak Saraydarian, and many others all (p.xii) played important roles in helping me fashion this project in its early stages. My closest friend, Jon Faith, still reminds me that intellectuals don’t live in the ivory tower alone, while Robert Saunders continues to force me to think about big ideas in detail and detailed ones in broad form. My greatest debt and deepest thanks, however, go to Lena Jakobsson. Throughout, she has borne my frequent moodiness, my common petulance, and my constant obstinacy with a grace and good humor that I can only presume comes from more care, kindness, and love than I deserve. My writing is sharper because of her eye, my life richer because of her heart. This work is only possible because of her support and is for her.