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By Michael Moon

Henry Darger (1892–1973) was once a sanatorium janitor and an immensely effective artist and author. within the first many years of maturity, he wrote a 15,145-page fictional epic, within the nation-states of the factitious. He spent a lot of the remainder of his lengthy lifestyles illustrating it in striking drawings and watercolors.

In Darger's unfolding saga, pastoral utopias are many times savaged by means of severe violence directed at teenagers, fairly ladies. Given his nerve-racking material and the extraordinary solitude he maintained all through his existence, critics have characterised Darger as eccentric, deranged, or even risky, as an intruder artist forced to create a fable universe. Contesting such pathologizing interpretations, Michael Moon appears to be like to Darger's assets, to the narratives and fabrics that encouraged him and infrequently came across their manner into his writing, drawings, and work.

Moon unearths an artist who reveled within the burgeoning pop culture of the early 20th century, in its newspaper comedian strips, pulp fiction, illustrated children's books, and heavily produced spiritual artwork. Moon contends that Darger's paintings merits and rewards comparability with that of contemporaries of his, similar to the "pulp historians" H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard, the ounces chronicler L. Frank Baum, and the newspaper cartoonist Bud Fisher.

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Sample text

A few years later I remember our third- or fourth-­grade class reading and discussing a rendition of the martyrdom of Saint Agnes in the Catholic comic-­book Treasure Chest that we received at school. 1 Although the publication promoted itself as a wholesome and even godly alternative to the trashy stuff we were supposedly reading at home (the favorite comics of my siblings and me were Donald Duck and Classics Illustrated, but such preferences may have been far from typical), it employed some of the same artists who produced the most sensational and (in some quarters) reviled comics of the time, including E.

As a scriptive form, legend is always already engraved in stone. I have begun with the story of Jennie Anges because it is not only a representative one but a narratively compact one. The other Dargerian revision of the standard girl-­martyr legend I want to consider is that of Annie Aronburg, which is much less clearly or efficiently narrated. Rather, it occupies a diffuse and oblique relation to narration. Indeed, it is presented as constituting the engine driving the entire massive narrative, for it is what Darger himself 34 .....

Nor should one overlook the similarly close assonance of the name Henry with both Annie and Jennie. The similarity of these names to each other and the way all of them proliferate across a significant portion of the major characters of In the Realms betoken a close identification on “Henry’s” part—at least at the level of the name—with the various Annies and Jennies who undergo martyrdom in his text, as well as with the virgin martyrs Agnes and Joan, whose names Darger’s heroines cite and revise.

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