Last month I managed to clean off two partly read books, now I am moving on to a book I really have enjoyed, but has been sitting, partly read, on my coffee table, Jill Lepore’s Secret History of Wonder Woman

I got the book last June, when I was getting ready for a project visit to VCU, where the book was featured as part of their Common Book program.

Oops, apparently I already wrote this post!:

I’m finding an interesting hyperlinking experience without any hyperlinks, from all things, a printed book. The idea of linking ideas is not limited by stuff you can wrap in an <a href=”….”>…</a> tag.

I have yet to figure out what it is about Lepore’s writing that sends my down interesting web holes of exploration. But you do not need someone else’s constructed hyperlink to make your own connection.

This time it was on page 192, in the “As Lovely as Aphrodite” chapter where Leopre describes how Henry George Peter came to be the comic artist to draw the first Wonder Woman comics.


For some reason the last sentence here sparked a curiosity:

By 1906 he was a staff artist for the San Francisco Chronicle, the newspaper that, in 1907, published the first daily comic strip.

It’s not even essential to the story, just that Peter worked for a newspaper that was a pioneer in the use of comics. What was that first daily comic strip, and was it really published in the Chronicle?

I first ventured the wrong way, finding references to earlier comic strips in newspapers, but the key phrase is first daily comic strip. But Wikipedia provided the indicator, and thie first daily comic indeed was in the San Francisco Chronicle.

And it was a comic featuring a dog- Mutt and Jeff or more properly “A Mutt”

Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Jeff is commonly regarded as the first daily comic strip, launched November 15, 1907 (under its initial title, A. Mutt) on the sports pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. The featured character had previously appeared in sports cartoons by Fisher but was unnamed. Fisher had approached his editor, John P. Young, about doing a regular strip as early as 1905 but was turned down. According to Fisher, Young told him, “It would take up too much room, and readers are used to reading down the page, and not horizontally.

That alone is a rich piece of history.

And usually in teaching students to research, we have them move from more general to specific, but I went backwards, to look more broadly at Wikipedia’s article on the History of Comics which opens with:

The history of comics has followed different paths in different parts of the world. It can be traced back to early precursors such as Trajan’s Column, in Rome, Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Bayeux Tapestry.

What the heck is the “Bayeux Tapestry”?

It’s a 230 foot long, almost 1000 years old, 50 panel graphic story of the Norman Conquest of England — and it’s done as a woven tapestry. That’s wild! (oops, technically it is embroidery… that changes nothing of my interest).

You want to see it all? It’s only an image 39,866 × 360 pixels:


Because it resembles a modern comic strip or movie storyboard, is widely recognised, and is so distinctive in its artistic style, the Bayeux Tapestry has frequently been used or reimagined in a variety of different popular culture contexts. It has been cited by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics as an example of early narrative art; and Bryan Talbot, a British comic book artist, has called it “the first known British comic strip”.

I could go on and on, and I am interested in studying the details more, maybe making it into a future graphic assignment, but now I am just scratching my head at the series of steps that got me to something I am interested.

The thing is– I was not looking for a 1000 year old graphic depiction of history; I more or less stumbled into it following my own trail of curiosity. And it makes me think with programmed, “adaptive” teaching, would this ever happen? What is the place of fostering a sense of curiosity and wonder in the work we do as educators?

There was no existing link from a passage in a book about Wonder Woman to this piece of history. I made it myself.

And I am not even sure what I do with this, though I might expect Mike Caulfield to make a case why I should be making notes in his Wikity thing-a-ma-bob. And I just might start.

UPDATE Mar 16, 2016: I should have known that Amy Burvall had this covered in a history music video!

Top / Featured Image: My own mashup. I started with a public domain image from Wikimedia Commons of a section of the tapestry showing “Odo, half brother to William the Great, cheering his troops forward.”

I actually clone brushed Odo out in Photoshop, and superimposed a PNG image of Wonder Woman done in deviant art by user pablodiablo. Playing with the Hue and Saturation adjustment I was able to get the her colors a bit closer to the ones in the Tapestry.

Pretty neat if you ask me.

Did you ask me?

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Fine piece of work.
    “”What hypertext and an open work have in common is that they both play with interpretation – it is all about poetics that allow different, and even opposed meanings.”” (this sentence found in a very theoretical semiologic study of Katarina Peovi? Vukovi?, University of Rijeka, Hypertext as an ‘open work’”,
    Journal of Literary Theory and Cultural Studies, , 1 (2006), 1, p. 63-72.)
    One even could remake the Bayeux story into an opera about Wonder Woman and the knights of the Bayeux thing.
    In HTML5 it is easy to use parts of pictures as a hyperlink. (that would be a nice #ds106 assignment, a hyperlinked series of visuals)

  2. When Peter and I went to Normandy to follow my father’s WWII footsteps from Omaha to St. Lo
    we included a pilgrimage to Rouen to see the Bayeaux Tapestry. It is beautifully displayed as a continuous visual story with interpretive storyboards. We fell in to the museum and didn’t come out for two hours.

    It truly is what we would now call comic style. It was commissioned by a man with a comic name you might recognize as being used in Star Trek: Odo. It is said it contains secret messages meant to undermine the Norman rulers.

    I was not raised in comic book and super hero culture. My family didn’t have a television and while we took the Wenatchee Daily World, the newspaper did not feature strongly in our family. I didn’t connect with the world of “comics” until Marjane Satrapi’s Persephone came out using German Expressionism in her graphic memoir.

    This is something I regret because I see the way comic culture has deepened over time and become a fascinating subject of study as in this book. Thinking of the Bayeaux Tapestry as an antecedent helps me build the unsteady , spindly-legged structure in my mind called “comics.”

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