Joe Daly

The giants of graphic novels

Words: SEAN CHRISTIE
Photo (above): Sydelle Willow Smith

Superstar South African graphic novelist Joe Daly picks out the giants of the genre.

HERGÉ

Creator of the Tintin comics

“I discovered the Tintin books at an early age,” says Joe Daly, “and although my perspective on them has obviously changed over the years, I still see them as the pinnacle of comics craft, at least in terms of the rules of visual narrative, knowing how to tell a story with a series of pictures.”

Hergé, whose real name was Georges Prosper Remi, was born in 1907 in Brussels, Belgium, to humble circumstances. He developed a love of cinema from a young age, which influenced the comic strips he would later create. By the time of his death in 1983, Hergé had drawn and written 24 volumes of Tintin, establishing his reputation as one of the great storytellers of all time in any medium.

“A lot of critics have tended to celebrate Hergé’s ability to create memorable characters, but I personally think a large part of the reason his books work so well is that he did all the work on them, everything from conception to drawing to writing,” says Daly. “That gives them this wonderful cohesiveness — the cohesiveness of one person’s vision.”

JIM WOODRING

Author of The Book of Jim, Frank and many more

“When it comes to the graphic novel there are so many routes one can take,” says Daly. “Some have essentially branched into the popular market, and their books have become bestsellers in those terms, and others who are very highly regarded by other comic artists and aficionados seem to have opted to stay in the underground. Jim Woodring springs immediately to mind as an example of the latter.”

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Woodring was born in Los Angeles in 1952, and grew up troubled by grotesque apparitions and an abnormal fear of death. His body of work, starting with the Jim series, published by Fantagraphics from 1986, is crammed full of personal symbolism and dream references — a surrealist world that his peers have applauded but which some readers have found unnerving. 

“With Woodring, what I appreciate is the honesty,” says Daly. “He’s true to his own imagination, and to his interests and personal beliefs, even if he knows it probably represents a minority appeal.”

ANTON KANNEMEYER (Joe Dog)

Co-creator of Bitterkomix with Conrad Botes (Konradski) 

“I went through a big Bitterkomix phase in the 90s, and I mean really big, massive!” says Daly. “I guess on the one hand I was responding to what a lot of people responded to at the time: the ruthless, hilarious exploration of these sacred South African subjects, like sex and religion, but perhaps more compelling for me as an aspiring comic artist was the fact that they made it big internationally, the first South African underground comics producers ever to do so.”

Kannemeyer was born in Cape Town in 1967, the son of renowned Afrikaans literature expert JC Kannemeyer, who at times Anton has ruthlessly satirized as a dread and doctrinaire figure. 

“I went through a big Bitterkomix phase in the 90s, and I mean really big, massive!”
Joe Daly

Kannemeyer Jr.  attended Stellenbosch University, where he now works as a lecturer. In recent years his creative focus has been on the production of fine art, which continues his dissection of the nation’s sacred cows.

“It’s interesting that producing comics used to be the money-making occupation, and fine art the marginal existence,” says Daly. “These days it is much more commercially sensible to be a fine artist, and so it’s not surprising that many of South Africa’s best comic artists have turned to the galleries.”

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