Word balloons

The Zippy from the 19th thrusts us into the world of word (or speech) balloons (or bubbles):


Caricaturist James Gillray is the star of this strip, in which the figures of Griffy and Zippy are drawn in Gillray’s style in panels 1, 2, and 4.

(An earlier Zippy on speech balloons appears in a 12/13/10 posting on this blog, with a link to the Wikipedia article on the subject.)

On Gillray, from Wikipedia:

James Gillray (13 August 1756 or 1757 – 1 June 1815) was a British caricaturist and printmaker famous for his etched political and social satires, mainly published between 1792 and 1810.

Gillray has been called “the father of the political cartoon”, with his works satirizing George III, prime ministers and generals. Regarded as being one of the two most influential cartoonists, the other being William Hogarth, Gillray’s wit and humour, knowledge of life, fertility of resource, keen sense of the ludicrous, and beauty of execution, at once gave him the first place among caricaturists.

A famous Gillray, with a caption but not speech balloons:


The world being carved up into spheres of influence between Pitt and Napoleon — “probably the most famous political cartoon of all time, it has been stolen over and over and over again by cartoonists ever since.”

But here’s one with speech balloons:


This one needs considerable backstory, provided here:

With the rapid disintegration of the Peace of Amiens in the face of Napoleonic military build-up in the spring of 1803, the King suggested to Parliament the adoption of additional defences. This was debated on 9 March, when the advocates of peace, led by Addington, Fox and Sheridan, rejected such plans as unnecessary and denounced any move towards the resumption of war. This anti-war stance is the subject of Gillray’s biting satire. Set on a cliff-top looking out to sea, a recumbent and dishevelled Britannia, having just awoken to the danger, cries out for assistance. She is supported by Addington and Hawkesbury, who offer her only platitudes. The scene is enveloped in thick, black fog, and in the background, in the midst of it, Fox, holding his hat before his eyes, declares he ‘can’t see any thing of the Buggabo’s!’. Beyond the fog, however, the French fleet is visible, led by Napoleon (who is shown without a torso, that is, a ‘Nobody’). It descends in droves upon the English coast. At the centre of the composition is a brutal lampoon of Sheridan, represented as a grotesque Harlequin holding a club inscribed ‘Dramatic Loyalty’ and a shield with the image of Medusa, thus suggesting him, mockingly, as a Harlequin version of Perseus rescuing Andromeda. Ridiculous in his mock-heroic posture of defence of Britannia’s honour, his Harlequin costume is a reference to Sheridan’s career in the theatre, but also suggests that his and his colleagues’ parliamentary performance is no better than a farce. (link)

Gillray famously spoke (what he saw to be) truth to power — as does Zippy in the last panel of #1.

And then there’s Podsnappery in the title. From the Oxford Dictionaries site:

The characteristic behaviour or attitudes of Dickens’s Mr Podsnap; insular complacency and blinkered self-satisfaction.

And on the Dickens, from Wikipedia:

Our Mutual Friend, written in the years 1864–65, is the last novel completed by Charles Dickens and is one of his most sophisticated works, combining psychological insight with social analysis. It centres on, in the words of critic J. Hillis Miller, “money, money, money, and what money can make of life.”

[and among its cast of characters is] Mr John Podsnap – a pompous man of the upper middle class … who is smug and jingoistic.

Podsnap: an excellent Dickensian name.



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