The wordless novel is a narrative genre that uses sequences of captionless pictures to tell a story. As artists have often made such books using woodcut and other relief printing techniques, the terms woodcut novel or novel in woodcuts are also used. The genre flourished primarily in the 1920s and 1930s and was especially popular in Germany.
Following World War II, new examples of wordless novels became increasingly rare, and early works went out of print. Interest began to revive in the 1960s when the American comics fandom subculture came to see wordless novels as prototypical book-length comics.
The wordless novel has its origin in the German Expressionist movement of the early 20th century. The typically socialist work drew inspiration from mediaeval woodcuts and used the awkward look of that medium to express angst and frustration at social injustice. The first such book was the Belgian Frans Masereel's 25 Images of a Man's Passion, published in 1918. The German Otto Nückel and other artists followed Masereel's example. Lynd Ward brought the genre to the United States in 1929 when he produced Gods' Man, which inspired other American wordless novels and a parody in 1930 by cartoonist Milt Gross with He Done Her Wrong. Following an early-1930s peak in production and popularity, the genre waned in the face of competition from sound films and anti-socialist censorship in Nazi Germany and the US.
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