Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Which came first - the chicken magazine or the egg magazine?

Humpty Dumpty, a small digest-sized periodical for children, has always been a source of fascination and inspiration for me. Although I never had a subscription as a kid (my folks got me Highlights for Children instead), I perused it at school, in dentist's office waiting rooms, and libraries.

I subsequently went for a large chunk of my life not thinking about ol' Humpty and the gang, but then had a joyous rediscovery of it when I scored a stack of 'em for one low price in a flea market in Simpsonville.

It was then that I realized that the magazine's peculiar and idiosyncratic art had been a huge influence on my own artwork all these years and I never knew it. It had been lurking in my subconscious, waiting, like a sleeper agent awaiting its orders to make itself manifest. The egg inside.

One of my favorite bits in Humpty Dumpty was "Twinkle", a recurring comic strip of sorts (no word balloons, but narrated action from panel to panel, sort of like a children's book condensed into comic-book format). It always had stark black backgrounds with the characters rendered in white against it, in a rather scratchy, brushy kind of rendering. I didn't know it as a child, but this was my first exposure to post-German expressionist style, years before I fell under the influence of Billy Childish and then went backwards to investigate the artists he was aping.

Humpty Dumpty is still published today, but it's just a shell of its former self, and contains no trace of its former glory. I'm not sure when it took a dive, but all the copies in my collection are circa late 1950s to late 1960s, and it was still good when I read it in the early 1970s.

- - JSH

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