Graphic Content – Destiny

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
98/501Title: Destiny
Otto Nückel
Year: 1926
Country: Germany

Something quite different in the world of the comics list. Going by what has come before it on the list, Destiny is one of the earliest instances of a ‘graphic novel’ that I am likely to see – and a 95 year old one at that. Granted, I know that this is not going to be anywhere near the earliest ‘wordless novel’ ever created, but it is still so interesting to see that this is an artform we were doing a century ago. 

Given the processes of mass producing illustrations, versus printed type, I can see why a full book made just of images may not have too common, but it is hard to deny the beauty of this particular work. Unlike the reprinting of ink illustrations that I have mostly seen so far in these early comics, Destiny is all done via prints – in this instance lead block printing, which is similar to woodblock printing. I guess that by doing it in lead, you are more able to use the blocks before they begin to get warped? I assume, I literally have no idea about printing processes.

As stories go, Destiny is a bleak one – but so was life in many parts of Germany in 1926. We follow the story of a woman from birth to death – as she goes through any number of hardships that, in a regular novel, would have likely made me want to stop reading it unless it was exceptionally well-written. She has a drunk for a father, ends up in prison for an illegal abortion and eventually dies at the hands of the police after she is caught for the murder of her psychologically abusive husband.

Many of the prints themselves are individual works of art that you could imagine being framed and hanging in someone’s hallway – which makes sense as author Otto Nückel was primarily an artist. It’s a shame he didn’t delve into the wordless novel genre again as there was a talent here. I could see him coming up with something similar to The Arrival albeit less fantastical but still rooted in the idea of what it is like to be a stranger in a new land. A quick read, but definitely a good one.

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