Drawing on the Western Front

I just finished re-reading All Quiet on the Western Front,  Erich Maria Remarque’s brutally sensitive and  honest account of the Great War.  Remarque, was an 18-year-old German soldier on the Western Front in 1917, he was wounded in the leg , arm and neck.  Using his personal experiences in the war, the story is written from the perspective of a young  german enlisted man  Paul Bäumer and his former classmates now his comrades in arms.

(Above Left) 1917 propaganda poster for the sixth war bond “Helft uns seigen- zeichnet die Kriegsanleihe!”  (Help us win- buy war bonds!) which used  German artist Fritz Erler’s portrait of a soldier.  (Right) Cover for Little Brown and Co. 1929 first English edition of All Quiet on the Western Front.  signed Hensk/Henck? in the top right and inspired by Erler’s portrait.

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Fritz Erler,  whose drawing seems to have provided the idea  and figure for  the cover of Little Brown’s English edition, was a founding member of the influential Art Nouveau magazine Jugend (Youth) which lent it’s name to the  term “jugendstil” (“Youth Style”). He was an official military  painter for the German supreme army command. Compare his young soldier to Otto Dix‘s 1924 etching “ Wounded Soldier – Autumn 1916″ from his suite of etchings ” Der Krieg” (the War).

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33 years after the first publication,  Classics’s Illustrated tackled All Quiet on the Western Front  in graphic novel form.

(above) Classics Illustrated #95, May 1952  All Quiet on the Western Front,  cover and spread pages 22-23

(above) a panel from p.32.

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Illustrated by Maurice del Bourgo, and adapted by comic book and screenwriter Kenneth W. Fitch. Del Bourgo and Fitch did their best  condensing the book down into a 44  page comic book format.  The pages are dark, high contrast with a running narration.  There isn’t a lot of actual dialogue, at points a page goes by  with maybe one dialogue balloon.   Del Bourgo was an American comic artist during the 1940’s, ’50’s. He  worked for DC and Marvel as well as  illustrating a few Classics Illustrated for the Gilberton company : William Tell #101, Call of the Wild #91, The Red Badge of Courage # 98,  among others.

As noted in the back of the book the Classics Illustrated All Quiet was published during the Korean war. All Quiet along with EC comics war tales  would both be sited in Seduction of the Innocent as a cause of  juvenile delinquency. It would not be reprinted again until 1964 during the Viet Nam war.

Well just a little tidbit of info and trivia  before posting more recent Great War drawing from my sketchbook:

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One Response

  1. Powerful sketches. Visit Soldier’s Mail for a fascinating eyewitness account from US Sgt Sam Avery on the front lines of American involvement in the Great War.

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