Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Literary Criticism Comics & Graphic Novels

Graphic Witness

Five Wordless Graphic Novels by Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri, Erich Glas and Laurence Hyde

by (author) George A. Walker, Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri, Erich Glas & Laurence Hyde

Firefly Books
Initial publish date
Nov 2021
Comics & Graphic Novels, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2007
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2021
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


"If you care about graphic novels, you need this book."
-- New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman

Graphic Witness features rare wordless novels by five great twentieth century woodcut artists from Europe and North America. The stories they tell reflect the political and social issues of their times as well as the broader issues that are still relevant today.

Frans Masereel (1899-1972) was born in Belgium and is considered the father of the wordless graphic novel. Graphic Witness includes the first reprint of his classic work The Passion of a Man since its 1918 publication in Munich. American Lynd Ward (1905-85), author of the provocative Wild Pilgrimage, is considered among the most important of wordless novelists. Giacomo Patri (1898-1978) was born in Italy and lived in the United States. His White Collar featured an introduction by Rockwell Kent and was used a promotional piece by the labor movement. Erich Glas's (1897-1973) haunting wordless novel Leilot, created in 1942, foreshadows the Holocaust, which was not widely known about at the time. Southern Cross by Canadian Laurence Hyde (1914-87) was controversial for its criticism of U.S. H-bomb testing in the South Pacific.

Author George A. Walker draws on his expertise as a woodcut artist to provide insight into the tools and techniques used to create these works of art. As well, he examines the importance of the role of artists as witnesses and critics of their times, and the influence of the genre on the emergence of comics and the modern graphic novel.

This newly expanded edition of Graphic Witness, which features an afterword by cartoonist Seth, will appeal to readers interested in social issues, printmaking, art history and contemporary culture.

About the authors

George A. Walker is an award-winning wood engraver, book artist and author whose courses in book arts and printmaking at OCAD University in Toronto, where he is Associate Professor, have been offered continuously since 1985. His artworks are held in collections ranging from the Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), New York City and he has had over 15 solo exhibitions as well as been included in more than 100 group shows. Among many book projects-both trade and limited edition-Walker has illustrated 2 hand-printed books by internationally acclaimed author Neil Gaiman. Walker also illustrated the first Canadian edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, both published by the Cheshire Cat Press. The Cheshire Cat Press is a partnership between Andy Malcolm and George Walker which continues to publish limited edition books featuring the writing of Lewis Carroll.

George Walker was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art in 2002 for his contribution to the cultural area of Book Arts. He is also a member of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto where he was featured in a solo exhibition of his books and printmaking in the spring of 2019. Walker's latest book-length project presents the iconic life of Hollywood silent-film star Mary Pickford in a suite of 87 wood engravings.

George A. Walker's profile page

Frans Masereel's profile page

Lynd Ward's profile page

Giacomo Patri's profile page

Erich Glas' profile page

Laurence Hyde's profile page

Editorial Reviews

[Review of previous edition:] While the stories are all tragic, the art is spectacular.

The Recofd (New Westminster BC)

[Review of previous edition:] Whoever said that a picture is worth a thousand words must have had Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Novels, edited by George A. Walker in mind. These wordless novels by four of the world's greatest woodcut artists are powerfully compelling -- both in their sheer visual impact and in the universal resonance of the stories they tell. They tell of injustice, oppression, and despair, but also of defiant endurance and the dream of a better world. Their striking black and white images are full of meaning and emotion, making this one of the most elegantly engrossing books of recent months. Rush out and buy it, for it is not to be missed!


Delivers a valuable collection of works. Taking these pieces together, as Graphic Witness does, allows a reader to appreciate distinct sensibilities among the artists but also successfully suggests a kind of shared purpose... A story of artists, from a number of countries, seizing on shared tools and techniques to create a venue for their outrage. And the works themselves--using silence, gesture, negative space, and heavy blacks to various strong effects--are alert both to the injustices of their time and the potential of their form.

Comics Journal

[Review of previous edition:] A dazzling compendium... In addition to the novels themselves, editor George A. Walker provides a terrific Preface and Introduction....Perhaps the only way this book could be better is if it were the first of a series, for these four works surely just scratch the surface (so to speak) of th e vast number of wordless novels worthy of reprint.

Rain Taxi Review

[Review of previous edition:] Beautiful and large-format collection ... Themes of social justice predominate, but it is the passion and craft of the artwork that makes the greatest impact. Anyone who is interested in today's graphic novels will find it particularly worth a look, though the appeal of such work is universal.

The Record

[Review of previous edition:] [A] treasure trove ... In collecting these rare and seminal works, Walker and Firefly Press [sic] have done an invaluable service exposing newer readers to the form in its infancy. In a market glutted with pituitary cases in spandex, the reintroduction of real life concerns is a necessary tonic.

[Review of previous edition:] Walker makes the point that these artists were figures of suspicion to J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and other arms of the US government in the first half of the twentieth century. Nothing could speak better of them.

Seven Oaks

[Review of previous edition:] There you have your classic wordless graphic novel -- a high-minded, serious art form that transcends the barriers of language while still telling a story, a visual treat that doesn't get too arty, a political message that packs a punch. No wonder interest in the form is on the rise.

The Toronto Star

[Review of previous edition:] Regardless of place or time, these artists speak in a silent way through pure imagery against the oppression of the weak by the strong, and offer some hope for a brighter future ... ambiguities and gaps that beg the reader to fill in the details comprise just one of the great pleasures of these graphic novels, which paradoxically carry a greater power for not using words.... Himself a woodcut artist, Walker clearly and illuminatingly explains many of the intricacies of the art... Walker's insider knowledge of the craft as well as his clear affinity for the spirit of these works makes him the perfect presenter of their art.

[Review of previous edition:] Provides a rare glimpse into the beginnings of the art form.


[Review of previous edition:] Themes of social justice predominate, but it is the passion and craft of the artwork that makes the greatest impact. Anyone who is interested in today's graphic novels will find it particularly worth a look, though the appeal of such work is universal.

The Guelph Mercury

[Review of previous edition:] These four texts represent some of the most important wordless novels of the first half of the twentieth century and their reprinting makes them readily available for the first time in an affordable edition. Those interested in sequential art, printmaking, book art, and the convergence of these forms with social-justice issues should take note of this collection. [It is] indispensable for anyone engaged in the study of comics and graphic novels.... Each of these texts is an excellent example of the wordless novel and its potential to provoke critical thought in its audiences.... In bringing these texts together in a beautifully presented and affordable volume, Graphic Witness has not only done a great service to anyone interested in sequential art, print-making, and book art, but to anyone interested in ways to approach social-justice issues and cultural critique.

Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, Vol. 46, No. 2

[Review of previous edition:] Walker's introduction gives intriguing technical and sociopolitical insights... All fascinating stuff and, overall, a feast for the eyes.

Printmaker vol 27 no 1

[Review of previous edition:] For the person who loves books and novelty and contemplation.

Muskoka Today

The large trade paperback book consists of a separate image reproduced on each page, beautifully reproduced in black and white and occasionally a red-brown on good paper.

Gurney Journey

[Review of previous edition:] Graphic Witness is a collection of novels ... that say eloquently in pictures what words often struggle to convey.

The Telegram (St. Johns, NF)

[Review of previous edition:] If you're at all interested in the craft of relief carving, then you really owe it to yourself to get this book. The engravings are simply beautiful, and thankfully the plates are shown large enough that you can see a lot of finer detail. You'll also find that the stories the four artists tell us are timeless.

Canadian Woodworking

[Review of previous edition:] [starred review] [A] jaw-dropping collection ... Handsomely printed and bound and smartly edited, this book sets the standard for how to present anew the important but lesser-known classics of graphic fiction's past.

Publishers Weekly

[Review of previous edition:] [This] collection will have many awestruck and amazed at works few people even know about... The majesty of this book lies in the four stories themselves.... the magnificence of these stories is in their medium. The amount of information communicated in each panel is amazing.

Curled Up With a Good Book (

[Review of previous edition:] Deeply political, these beautiful, quasi-expressionist woodcut narratives remind us how stark and chilling suffering seemed.

Georgia Straight

[Review of previous edition:] This book is a treasure trove for the knowledgeable artist and the historian.

Quebec Home and School News

Other titles by George A. Walker

Other titles by Laurence Hyde