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Bill Conselman and Charles Plumb's Ella Cinders and Chris Crusty (January 24, 1932). This shows how syndicated writer-artists during 1930s and 1940s were given entire pages in the Sunday comics section and thus had space to create secondary strips known as toppers.

Comics (from the Greek κωμικός, kōmikos "of or pertaining to comedy" from κῶμος - kōmos "revel, komos",[1] via the Latin cōmicus) is a graphic medium in which images convey a sequential narrative. The term derives from the mostly humourous early work in the medium, and came to apply to all forms of the medium including those far from comic. The sequential nature of the pictures, and the predominance of pictures over words, distinguishes comics from picture books, though there is some overlap between the two. Most comics combine words with images, often indicating speech in the form of word balloons, but pantomime strips, such as The Little King, are not uncommon. Words other than dialogue, captions for example, usually expand upon the pictures, but sometimes act in counterpoint.[2]

Early precursors of comics as they are known today include Trajan's Column and the work of William Hogarth. By the 19th century, the medium as we know it today began to take form among European and American artists. Comics as a real mass medium started to emerge in the United States in the early 20th century with the newspaper comic strip, where its form began to be standardized (image-driven, speech balloons etc). The combination of words and pictures proved popular and quickly spread throughout the world.


Comic strips were soon gathered into cheap booklets and reprint comic books. Original comic books soon followed. Today, comics are found in newspapers, magazines, comic books, graphic novels and on the web. Historically, the form dealt with humorous subject matter, but its scope has expanded to encompass the full range of literary genres. Also see: Comic strip and cartoon. In some circles, comics are still seen as low art,[3][4][5][6][7][8] though there are exceptions, such as Krazy Kat[9] and Barnaby. However, such an elitist "low art/high art" distinction doesn't exist in the French-speaking world (and, to some extent, continental Europe), where the bandes dessinées medium as a whole is commonly accepted as "the Ninth Art", is usually dedicated a non-negligible space in bookshops and libraries, and is regularly celebrated in international events such as the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Such distinctions also do not exist in the Japanese manga, the world's largest comics culture.

In the late 20th and early 21st century there has been a movement to rehabilitate the medium. Critical discussions of the form appeared as early as the 1920s,[9][10] but serious studies were rare until the late 20th century.[11]

Though practitioners may eschew formal traditions, they often use particular forms and conventions to convey narration and speech, or to evoke emotional or sensuous responses. Devices such as speech balloons and boxes are used to indicate dialogue and impart establishing information, while panels, layout, gutters and zip ribbons can help indicate the flow of the story. Comics use of text, ambiguity, symbolism, design, iconography, literary technique, mixed media and stylistic elements of art help build a subtext of meanings. Though comics are non-linear structures and can be hard to read sometimes, it is simply presented. However, it depends of the reader's "frame of mind" to read and understand the comic.[12] Different conventions were developed around the globe, from the manga of Japan to the manhua of China and the manhwa of Korea, the comic books of the United States, and the larger hardcover albums in Europe.


Early narratives in art

Sequential depictions on Trajan's Column
In Lucas Cranach the Elder's "Adam and Eve" different scenes of the Biblical story are shown in the same painting: on the front, God is admonishing the couple for their sin; in the background to the right are shown the earlier scenes of Eve's creation from Adam's rib and of their being tempted to eat the forbidden fruit; on the left is the later scene of their expulsion from Paradise.

Comics as an art form established itself in the late 19th and early 20th century, alongside the similar forms of film and animation. The three forms share certain conventions, most noticeably the mixing of words and pictures, and all three owe parts of their conventions to the technological leaps made through the industrial revolution. Though newspapers and magazines first established and popularized comics in the late 1890s, narrative illustration has existed for many centuries.

Rome's Trajan's Column, dedicated in 113 AD, is an early surviving examples of a narrative told through sequential pictures, while Egyptian hieroglyphs, Greek friezes, medieval tapestries such as the Bayeux Tapestry and illustrated manuscripts also combine sequential images and words to tell a story. In medieval paintings, many sequential scenes of the same story (usually a Biblical one) appear simultaneously in the same painting (see illustration to left).

However, these works did not travel to the reader; it took the invention of modern printing techniques to bring the form to a wide audience and become a mass medium.[13][14][15]

The 15th–18th centuries and printing advances

The invention of the printing press, allowing movable type, established a separation between images and words, the two requiring different methods in order to be reproduced. Early printed material concentrated on religious subjects, but through the 17th and 18th centuries they began to tackle aspects of political and social life, and also started to satirize and caricature. It was also during this period that the speech bubble was developed as a means of attributing dialogue.

William Hogarth is often identified in histories of the comics form. His work, A Rake's Progress, was composed of a number of canvases, each reproduced as a print, and the eight prints together created a narrative. As printing techniques developed, due to the technological advances of the industrial revolution, magazines and newspapers were established. These publications utilized illustrations as a means of commenting on political and social issues, such illustrations becoming known as cartoons in the 1840s. Soon, artists were experimenting with establishing a sequence of images to create a narrative.

While surviving works of these periods such as Francis Barlow's A True Narrative of the Horrid Hellish Popish Plot (c.1682) as well as The Punishments of Lemuel Gulliver and A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth (1726), can be seen to establish a narrative over a number of images, it wasn't until the 19th century that the elements of such works began to crystallise into the comic strip.

French Liberty. British Slavery, James Gillray's 1792 caricature poking fun at the French Revolution, anticipates the modern comic strip in having both separate panels and charactes speaking via speech balloons.

The speech balloon also evolved during this period, from the medieval origins of the phylacter, a label, usually in the form of a scroll, which identified a character either through naming them or using a short text to explain their purpose. Artists such as George Cruikshank helped codify such phylacters as balloons rather than scrolls, though at this time they were still called labels. They now represented narative, but for identification purposes rather than dialogue within the work, and artists soon discarded them in favour of running dialogue underneath the panels. Speech balloons weren't reintroduced to the form until Richard F. Outcault used them for dialogue.[16]

The 19th century: a form established

A page by Rodolphe Töpffer, whose work is considered influential in shaping the comics form.

Rodolphe Töpffer, a Francophone Swiss artist, is seen as the key figure of the early part of the 19th century. Though speech balloons fell from favour during the middle 19th century, Töpffer's sequentially illustrated stories, with text compartmentalized below images, were reprinted throughout Europe and the United States. The lack of copyright laws at the time allowed these pirated editions, and translated versions created a market on both continents for similar works.[17]

In 1843 Töpffer formalised his thoughts on the picture story in his Essay on Physiognomics: "To construct a picture-story does not mean you must set yourself up as a master craftsman, to draw out every potential from your material — often down to the dregs! It does not mean you just devise caricatures with a pencil naturally frivolous. Nor is it simply to dramatize a proverb or illustrate a pun. You must actually invent some kind of play, where the parts are arranged by plan and form a satisfactory whole. You do not merely pen a joke or put a refrain in couplets. You make a book: good or bad, sober or silly, crazy or sound in sense."[18][19][20]

In 1845 the satirical drawings, which regularly appeared in newspapers and magazines, gained a name: cartoons. (In art, a cartoon is a pencil or charcol sketch to be overpainted.) The British magazine Punch, launched in 1841, referred to its 'humorous pencilings' as cartoons in a satirical reference to the Parliament of the day, who were themselves organising an exhibition of cartoons, or preparatory drawings, at the time. This usage became common parlance, lasting to the present day.[21] Similar magazines containing cartoons in continental Europe included Fliegende Blätter and Le Charivari, while in the U.S. Judge and Puck were popular.[22]

1865 saw the publication of Max and Moritz by Wilhelm Busch by a German newspaper. Busch refined the conventions of sequential art, and his work was a key influence within the form, Rudolph Dirks was inspired by the strip to create The Katzenjammer Kids in 1897.[23]

It is around this time that Manhua, the Chinese form of comics, started to formalize, a process that lasted up until 1927.[24] The introduction of lithographic printing methods derived from the West was a critical step in expanding the form within China during the early 20th century. Like Europe and the United States, satirical drawings were appearing in newspapers and periodicals, initially based on works from those countries. One of the first magazines of satirical cartoons was based on the United Kingdom's Punch, snappily re-branded as "The China Punch".[24] The first piece drawn by a person of Chinese nationality was "The Situation in the Far East" from Tse Tsan-Tai, printed 1899 in Japan. By the 1920s a market was established for palm-sized picture books like Lianhuanhua.[25]

In 1884, Ally Sloper's Half Holiday was published, a magazine whose selling point was a strip featuring the titular character, and widely regarded as the first comic strip magazine to feature a recurring character. In 1890 two more comic magazines debuted to the British public, Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips, establishing the tradition of the British comic as an anthology periodical containing comic strips.[15]

In the United States, R.F. Outcault's work in combining speech balloons and images on Hogan's Alley and The Yellow Kid has been credited as establishing the form and conventions of the comic strip,[26] though academics have uncovered earlier works that combine speech bubbles and a multi image narrative. However, the popularity of Outcalt's work and the position of the strip in a newspaper retains credit as a driving force of the form.[27][28]

The 20th century and the mass medium

Little Sammy Sneeze (1904–06) by Winsor McCay

The 1920s and 1930s saw further booms within the industry. In China a market was established for palm-sized picture books like Lianhuanhua,[25] while the market for comic anthologies in Britain had turned to targeting children through juvenile humor, with The Dandy and The Beano launched. In Belgium, Hergé created the Tintin newspaper strip for a comic supplement; this was successfully collected in a bound album and created a market for further such works. The same period in the United States had seen newspaper strips expand their subject matter beyond humour, with action, adventure and mystery strips launched. The collection of such material also began, with The Funnies, a reprint collection of newspaper strips, published in tabloid size in 1929.

A market for such comic books soon followed, and by 1938 publishers were printing original material in the format. It was at this point that Action Comics#1 launched, with Superman as the cover feature. The popularity of the character swiftly enshrined the superhero as the defining genre of American comics. The genre lost popularity in the 1950s, but re-established its domination of the form from the 60s until the late 20th century.

In Japan, a country with a long tradition for illustration and whose writing system evolved from pictures, comics were hugely popular. Referred to as manga, the Japanese form was established after World War II by Osamu Tezuka, who expanded the page count of a work to number in the hundreds, and who developed a filmic style, heavily influenced by the Disney animations of the time. The Japanese market expanded its range to cover works in many genres, from juvenile fantasy through romance to adult fantasies. Japanese manga is typically published in large anthologies, containing several hundred pages, and the stories told have long been used as sources for adaptation into animated film. In Japan such films are referred to as anime, and many creators work in both forms simultaneously, leading to an intrinsic linking of the two forms.

During the latter half of the 20th century comics have become a very popular item for collectors and from the 1970s American comics publishers have actively encouraged collecting and shifted a large portion of comics publishing and production to appeal directly to the collector's community.

Alan Moore, whose works have done much to popularise the medium.

Writing in 1972, Sir Ernst Gombrich felt Töpffer had evolved a new pictorial language, that of an abbreviated art style, which allowed the audience to fill in gaps with their imagination.[29]

The modern double use of the term comic, as an adjective describing a genre, and a noun designating an entire medium, has been criticised as confusing and misleading. In the 1960s and 1970s, underground cartoonists used the spelling comix to distinguish their work from mainstream newspaper strips and juvenile comic books. Their work was written for an adult audience, but was usually comedic, so the "comic" label was still appropriate.[30] The term graphic novel was popularised in the late 1970s, having been coined at least two decades previous, to distance the material from this confusion.[31]

In the 1980s comics scholarship started to blossom in the U.S.,[32] and a resurgence in the popularity of comics was seen, with Alan Moore and Frank Miller producing notable superhero works and Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes being syndicated.

In 2005 Robert Crumb's work was exhibited in galleries both sides of the Atlantic, and The Guardian newspaper devoted its tabloid supplement to a week long exploration of his work and idioms.[33]


Carl Barks, Donald Duck comics artist, signing autographs in 1994.

Comics have been presented within a wide number of publishing and typographical formats, from the very short panel cartoon to the more lengthy graphic novel. The cartoon, traditionally containing satirical or humorous content in the manner of those seen in The New Yorker or Private Eye, originate from the mid nineteenth century. This form of comics is still popular, though the last few years has seen a reduction in the number of editorial cartoonists employed in the US media.[34] There is dispute as to whether the cartoon is a form of comics, a precursor, or a related form—but some argue that since the cartoon combines words with image and constructs a narrative, it is a form of comic.

The comic strip is simply a sequence of cartoons that unite to tell a story, and were originally known as strip cartoons. Originally the term comic strip applied to any sequence of cartoons, no matter the venue of publication or length of the sequence, but now, mainly in the United States, the term refers to the strips published in newspapers. These strips are now typically humorous or satirical strips, such as Hägar the Horrible and Doonesbury, but have often been action themed, educational or even biographical. In the United States the term "comics" is sometimes used to describe the page of a newspaper upon which comic strips are found, with the term "comic" quickly adopting through popular usage to refer to the form rather than the content.[35][36] Said pages are also referred to as the "funny pages", and comics are hence sometimes called "the funnies".[37] In the United Kingdom, the term comic strip still applies to longer stories that appear in comics, such as 2000 AD or The Beano.

Publication formats

Over time a number of formats have become closely associated with the form, from the comic book to the webcomic. The American comic book originated in the early part of the twentieth century, and grew from magazines that repackaged newspaper comic strips. Eventually, publishers commisioned original work, and the material developed from its humorous origins to encompass adventure stories, romance, war, and superheroes, with the latter genre dominating comic book publishing by the late twentieth century. Though called comic books, these publications are more like magazines, having soft covers printed on glossy paper, with interiors of newsprint or higher grade paper. In Europe, magazines were always a venue for original material in the form, and such comic magazines or comic books soon grew into anthologies that serialized a number of stories. In continental Europe a market soon established itself to support collections of these strips. All of these publications are generally referred to as "comics" for short, with typical American and British comic books or magazines running 32 pages, including advertisements and letter column. (These are sometimes known as 36-page books, counting the covers.) European comic magazines have wildly varying page numbers, currently ranging mostly between 52 and 120 pages, while European comic albums traditionally had between 32 and 62 pages.

Graphic novels on display for sale in a specialist shop.

In the United States, when a publisher collects previously serialised stories, such a collection is commonly referred to as either a trade paperback or as a graphic novel. These are books, typically squarebound and published with a card cover, containing no adverts. They generally collect a single story, which has been broken into a number of chapters previously serialised in comic books, with the issues collectively known as a story arc. Such trade paperbacks can contain anywhere from four issues (for example, there is Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross) to as many as twenty (The Death of Superman). In continental Europe, especially Belgium and France, such collections are usually somewhat larger in size and published with a hardback cover, a format established by the Tintin' series in the 1930s. These are referred to as comic albums,[38] a term that in the United States refers to anthology books. The United Kingdom has no great tradition of such collections, though during the 1980s Titan publishing launched a line collecting stories previously published in 2000 AD.

The graphic novel format is similar to typical book publishing, with works being published in both hardback and paperback editions. The term has proved a difficult one to fully define, and refers not only to fiction but also factual works, and is also used to describe collections of previously serialised works as well as original material. Some publishers distinguish between such material, using the term "original graphic novel" for work commissioned especially for the form.

Newspaper strips also get collected, both in Europe and in the United States. In the US, the selection of strips to be reprinted in books has often been somewhat haphazard, but there have been several recent efforts to produce complete collections of the more popular newspaper strips.

In the UK it is traditional for the children's comics market to release comic annuals, which are hardback books containing strips, as well as text stories and puzzles and games.[39][40][41] In the United States, the comic annual was a summer publication, typically an extended comic book, with storylines often linked across a publisher's line of comics.

Bill Holman's Smokey Stover, an example of a popular American strip translated for publication in France.

In Japan, comics are usually first serialized in manga magazines and latter compiled in tankōbon format.

In South Africa, Supa Strikas, a weekly comic book reaching more than a million readers worldwide, uses advertising embedded in each frame of the comic strip to generate revenue, rather than charging its readers.

Webcomics, also known as online comics and web comics, are comics that are available on the Internet. Many webcomics are exclusively published online, while some are published in print but maintain a web archive for either commercial or artistic reasons. With the Internet's easy access to an audience, webcomics run the gamut from traditional comic strips to graphic novels and beyond.

Webcomics are similar to self-published print comics in that almost anyone can create their own webcomic and publish it on the Web. Currently, there are thousands of webcomics available online, with some achieving popular, critical, or commercial success. The Perry Bible Fellowship is syndicated in print, while Brian Fies' Mom's Cancer won the inaugural Eisner Award for digital comics in 2005 and was subsequently collected and published in hardback.

The comics form can also be utilized to convey information in mixed media. For example, strips designed for educative or informative purposes, notably the instructions upon an airplane's safety card. These strips are generally referred to as instructional comics. The comics form is also utilized in the film and animation industry, through storyboarding. Storyboards are illustrations displayed in sequence for the purpose of visualizing an animated or live-action film. A storyboard is essentially a large comic of the film or some section of the film produced beforehand to help the directors and cinematographers visualize the scenes and find potential problems before they occur. Often storyboards include arrows or instructions that indicate movement.

Like many other media, comics can also be self-published. One typical format for self-publishers and aspiring professionals is the minicomic, typically small, often photocopied and stapled or with a handmade binding. These are a common inexpensive way for those who want to make their own comics on a very small budget, with mostly informal means of distribution. A number of cartoonists have started this way and gone on to more traditional types of publishing, while other more established artists continue to produce minicomics on the side.

Artistic medium

Defining comics

Scholars disagree on the definition of comics; some claim its printed format is crucial, some emphasize the interdependence of image and text, and others its sequential nature. The term as a reference to the medium has also been disputed.

Will Eisner, who established the term sequential art and is considered to have popularised the graphic novel.

In 1996, Will Eisner published Graphic Storytelling, in which he defined comics as "the printed arrangement of art and balloons in sequence, particularly in comic books."[42] Eisner's earlier, more influential definition from 1985's Comics and Sequential Art described the technique and structure of comics as sequential art, "...the arrangement of pictures or images and words to narrate a story or dramatize an idea."[43]

In Understanding Comics (1993) Scott McCloud defined sequential art and comics as: "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer";[44] this definition excludes single-panel illustrations such as The Far Side,"Zanzibear", The Family Circus, and most political cartoons from the category, classifying those as cartoons. By contrast, The Comics Journal's "100 Best Comics of the 20th Century",[45] included the works of several single panel cartoonists and a caricaturist, and academic study of comics has included political cartoons.[46]

R. C. Harvey, in his essay Comedy at the Juncture of Word and Image, offered a competing definition in reference to McCloud's: "...comics consist of pictorial narratives or expositions in which words (often lettered into the picture area within speech balloons) usually contribute to the meaning of the pictures and vice versa."[47] This, however, ignores the existence of wordless comics.

Most agree that animation, which creates the optical illusion of movement within a static physical frame, is a separate form, though ImageTexT, a peer-reviewed academic journal focusing on comics, accepts submissions relating to animation as well,[48] and the third annual Conference on Comics at the University of Florida focused on comics and animation.[49]

Art styles

Scott McCloud, whose work Understanding Comics identified the different styles of art used within comics.

While almost all comics art is in some sense abbreviated, and also while every artist who has produced comics work brings their own individual approach to bear, some broader art styles have been identified. Comic strip artists Cliff Sterrett and Gus Arriola often used unusual, colorful backgrounds, sometimes veering into abstract art.

The basic styles have been identified as realistic and cartoony, with a huge middle ground for which R. Fiore has coined the phrase liberal. Fiore has also expressed distaste with the terms realistic and cartoony, preferring the terms literal and freestyle, respectively.[50]

Scott McCloud has created The Big Triangle[51] as a tool for thinking about comics art. He places the realistic representation in the bottom left corner, with iconic representation, or cartoony art, in the bottom right, and a third identifier, abstraction of image, at the apex of the triangle. This allows placement and grouping of artists by triangulation.

  • The cartoony style uses comic effects and a variation of line widths for expression. Characters tend to have rounded, simplified anatomy. Noted exponents of this style are Carl Barks and Jeff Smith.[50]
  • The realistic style, also referred to as the adventure style is the one developed for use within the adventure strips of the 1930s. They required a less cartoony look, focusing more on realistic anatomy and shapes, and used the illustrations found in pulp magazines as a basis.[52] This style became the basis of the superhero comic book style, since Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel originally worked Superman up for publication as an adventure strip.[53]

Scott McCloud also notes that in several traditions, there is a tendency to have the main characters drawn rather simplistic and cartoony, while the backgrounds and environment are depicted realistically. Thus, he argues, the reader easily identifies with the characters, (as they are similar to one's idea of self), whilst being immersed into a world, that's three-dimensional and textured.[51] Good examples of this phenomenon include Herge's The Adventures of Tintin (in his "personal trademark" Ligne claire style), Will Eisner's Spirit and Osamu Tezuka's Buddha, among many others.

The language

As noted above, two distinct definitions have been used to define comics as an art form: the combination of both word and image; and the placement of images in sequential order. Both definitions are lacking, in that the first excludes any sequence of wordless images; and the second excludes single panel cartoons such as editorial cartoons. The purpose of comics is certainly that of narration, and so that must be an important factor in defining the art form.

Comics, as sequential art, emphasise the pictorial representation of a narrative. This means comics are not an illustrated version of standard literature, and while some critics argue that they are a hybrid form of art and literature, others contend comics are a new and separate art; an integrated whole, of words and images both, where the pictures do not just depict the story, but are part of the telling. In comics, creators transmit expression through arrangement and juxtaposition of either pictures alone, or word(s) and picture(s), to build a narrative.

The narration of a comic is set out through the layout of the images, and while, as in films, there may be many people who work on one work,, one vision of the narrative guides the work. Artists can use the layout of images on a page to convey passage of time, build suspense, or highlight action.[54]

For a fuller exploration of the language, please see Comics vocabulary.

Comic creation

An artist sketching a comics page

Comics artists usually sketch a drawing in pencil before going over the drawing in ink, using either a dip pen or a brush. Artists may also use a lightbox to create the final image in ink. Some artists, Brian Bolland for example,[55] use computer graphics, with the published work as the first physical appearance of the artwork.

By many definitions (including McCloud's, above) the definition of comics extends to digital media such as webcomics and the mobile comic.

The nature of the comics work being created determines the number of people who work upon its creation, with successful comic strips and comic books being produced through a studio system, in which an artist assembles a team of assistants to help create the work. However, works from independent companies, self-publishers or those of a more personal nature can be produced a single creator.

Within the comic book industry of the United States, the studio system has come to be the main method of creation. Through its use by the industry, the roles have become heavily codified, and the managing of the studio has become the company's responsibility, with an editor discharging the management duties. The editor assembles a number of creators and oversees the work to publication.

Any number of people can assist in the creation of a comic book in this way, from a plotter, a breakdown artist, a penciller, an inker, a scripter, a letterer and a colorist, with some roles being performed by the same person.

In contrast, a comic strip tends to be the work of a sole creator, usually termed a cartoonist. However, it is not unusual for a cartoonist to employ the studio method, particularly when a strip become successful. Mort Walker employed a studio, while Bill Watterson eschewed the studio method, preferring to create the strip himself. Gag, political and editorial cartoonists tend to work alone as well, though a cartoonist may use assistants.


An artist uses a variety of pencils, paper, typically Bristol board and a waterproof ink. When inking, many artists preferred to use a Winsor & Newton Series 7, #3 brush as the main tool, which could be used in conjunction with other brushes, dip pens, a fountain pen and/or a variety of technical pens or markers. Mechanical tints can be employed to add grey tone to an image. An artist might paint with acrylics, gouache, poster paints or watercolors. Color can also be achieved through crayons, pastels or colored pencils.

Eraser, rulers, templates, set squares and a T-square assist in creating lines and shapes. A drawing table provides an angled work surface with lamps sometimes attached to the table. A light box allows an artist to trace his pencil work when inking, allowing for a looser finish. Knives and scalpels fill a variety of needs, including cutting board or scraping off mistakes. A cutting mat aids paper trimming. Process white is a thick opaque white material for covering mistakes. Adhesives and tapes help composite an image from different sources.

Computer generated comics

Computers dramatically changed the industry, and today many cartoonists and illustrators create digital illustrations using computers, graphics tablets and scanners. Digital art has replaced traditional pen-and-ink drawings on an increasing number of comic books and strips. Some illustrators do a pencil sketch, scan it and then use different software programs to execute the finished art, enlarging sections of the drawing for detailed close work. To create comic book covers, Jim McDermott transfers his drawings to his computer and then develops digital paintings, and Dave McKean also has combined both traditional and the digital methods.[56]

In 1998, Pete Nash displayed fully digitized artwork on his Striker comic strip for The Sun.[57] Computers are now widely used for both coloring and lettering, forcing some comic book letterers to look elsewhere for work.Snuffy Smith cartoonist Fred Lasswell, a prolific inventor and early adopter of new technology, was one of the first cartoonists to email comic strips to King Features Syndicate and also pioneered the use of computer-generated lettering.

On the comic strip Blondie, computer technology makes it possible for the writer Dean Young, the cartoonist John Marshall and the art assistant Frank Cummings to collaborate even though they live in three different states. Marshall's studio is in Binghamton, New York and Cummings lives in Birmingham, Alabama, while Young alternates between Vermont and Florida. To capture the finely polished inking details seen in Blondie, Marshall works on a Wacom tablet linked to his Macintosh. First he draws a rough, sent to Young for review, and then it's back to the computer for the finished art, delivered electronically to King Features.[58]

In higher education

A growing number of universities around the world are recognizing the academic legitimacy of Comics Studies, leading to a greater amount of comics courses being offered at the college level.[59]

See also


George Herriman's Krazy Kat (January 6, 1918)
  1. ^ "comic adjective" The Oxford Dictionary of English (revised edition). Ed. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2005. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Surrey Libraries. 21 April 2008 <>
  2. ^ Teresa Grainger (2004). "Art, Narrative and Childhood" Literacy 38 (1), 66–67. doi:10.1111/j.0034-0472.2004.03801011_2.x
  3. ^ Dowd, Douglas Bevan; Hignite, Todd (2006). Strips, Toons, and Bluesies: Essays in Comics and Culture. Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 1568986211. 
  4. ^ Varnedoe, Kirk; Gopnik, Adam (1990). Modern Art and Popular Culture: Readings in High & Low. Abrams in association with the Museum of Modern Art. ISBN 0870703560. 
  5. ^ Bollinger, Tim (2000). Nga Pakiwaituhi o Aotearoa: New Zealand Comics, Horrocks, Dylan (ed.). ed. Comics in the Antipodes: a low art in a low place. Hicksville Press. ISBN 0-473-06708-0. 
  6. ^ Gold, Glen David (2005). Masters of American Comics, Carlin, John, Karasik, Paul & Walker, Brian (ed.). ed. Jack Kirby. Yale University Press. pp. 262. ISBN 030011317X. 
  7. ^ Fielder, Leslie (2004) [1955]. Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium, Heer, Jeet & Worcester, Kent (ed.). ed. The Middle Against Both Ends. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 132. ISBN 1578066875. 
  8. ^ Groensteen, Thierry (2000). Comics & Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics, Anne Magnussen & Hans-Christian Christiansen (ed.). ed. Why are Comics Still in Search of Cultural Legitimization?. Museum Tusculanum Press. ISBN 8772895802. 
  9. ^ a b Gilbert Seldes, The 7 Lively Arts, Harper, 1924, ASIN B000M1MMBC
  10. ^ Martin Sheridan, Comics and their Creators, Ralph T. Hale and Company, 1942, ASIN B000Q8QGC2
  11. ^ Dez Skinn, Comic Art Now, Collins Design, 2008, ISBN 978-0061447396.
  12. ^ Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, Harper, 1994, ISBN 978-0060976255
  13. ^ Perry & Aldridge, 1989. p.11
  14. ^ McCloud, 1993. pp.11-14
  15. ^ a b Sabin, 1993. pp.13-14
  16. ^ Smolderen, Thierry (Summer, 2006) "Of Labels, Loops, and Bubbles: Solving the Historical Puzzle of the Speech Balloon". Comic Art 8. pp.90-112
  17. ^ Beerbohm, Robert (2003) "The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck Part III". The Search For Töpffer In America. Retrieved May 30, 2005. 
  18. ^ Translated by Weiss, E. in Enter: The Comics, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, pp.4. (1969)
  19. ^ Original French, extract
  20. ^ Original French, extract
  21. ^ Varnum & Gibbons, 2001. pp.77-78
  22. ^ "Comics". St James Encyclopedia of pop culture (2002). Retrieved May 30, 2005. 
  23. ^ "comic strip". The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001. Retrieved June 22, 2005. 
  24. ^ a b Wong, Wendy Siuyi (2002). Hong Kong Comics: A History of Manhua. Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 1-56898-269-0. 
  25. ^ a b Lent, John A. [2001] (2001) Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines, and Picture Books. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824824717
  26. ^ Sabin, 1993. pp.133-134
  27. ^ Marschall, Richard (February, 1989). "Oh You Kid". The Comics Journal 127, p. 72-7
  28. ^ Walker, Brian (2004) the comics: Before 1945. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (United States). ISBN 9780810949706
  29. ^ Gombrich, E.H. (1972). Art and illusion: A study in the psychology of pictorial representation. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 0-691-01750-6. 
  30. ^ Arnold, 2001.
  31. ^ Var. (2003-4) "The history of the term 'graphic novel' ...". As Archived At Retrieved June 26, 2005. 
  32. ^ Taylor, Laurie; Martin, Cathlena; & Houp, Trena (2004) "Introduction". ImageTexT Exhibit 1 (Fall 2004). Retrieved June 26, 2005. 
  33. ^ Var. (March 7–11, 2005) "G2 in Crumbland". The Guardian Newspaper Special Report.,15829,1430764,00.html. Retrieved June 26, 2005. 
  34. ^ Chris Lamb, Save the editorial cartoonists, February 18, 2004. The Digital Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
  35. ^ Sabin, 1993. pp.137-139
  36. ^ Bell, John and Viau, Michel (2002). "Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929-1940". Beyond the Funnies. Retrieved May 30, 2005. 
  37. ^ Harvey, R.C. (1994). The art of the funnies: An aesthetic history. University Press of Mississippi
  38. ^ Ferguson, Andrew (1999). "Tintin Books - US/English editions". Hergé and Tintin. Retrieved June 25, 2005. 
  39. ^ Ezard, John (December 24, 2005) "They dealt with Dan. Now Dana and Yasmin target Dennis" The Guardian. p.7
  40. ^ Jones, Gwyn (February 18, 2006) "Beano! It's just Dandy to have an Eagle eye..." The Independent. p.20
  41. ^ Brown, Michael (December 7, 2002) "Review: Children's history: Real life" The Guardian. p.36
  42. ^ Eisner, Will (1996). Graphic Storytelling. Poorhouse Press. ISBN 0-9614728-2-0. 
  43. ^ Eisner, Will (1990 Expanded Edition, reprinted 2001). Comics & Sequential Art. Poorhouse Press. ISBN 0-9614728-1-2. 
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  45. ^ Spurgeon, Tom et al. (February 1999) "Top 100 (English Language) Comics of the Century". The Comics Journal 210.
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  51. ^ a b McCloud, 1993.
  52. ^ Fiore.
  53. ^ Santos, 1998. The Golden Era... June 1938 to 1945, Part I
  54. ^ Driest, Joris (2005). "Subjective Narration in Comics". Retrieved May 26, 2005. PDF
  55. ^ (2003), "The Moles Interview No 5: Brian Bolland". Retrieved June 26, 2005. 
  56. ^ Brayshaw, Christopher (June, 1997) "The Dave McKean interview" The Comics Journal 196.
  57. ^ BBC Staff (2005-05-15). "Whistle blown on Striker magazine". Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
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  59. ^ Cornwell, Lisa (2007-12-15). "Schools add, expand comics arts classes". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 


Further reading

  • David Carrier, The Aesthetics of Comics, Penn State Press, 2002 ISBN 0-271-02188-8
  • Will Eisner Comics and Sequential Art Poorhouse Press 1985 ISBN 0-9614728-0-4
  • Will Eisner Graphic Storytelling Poorhouse Press 1995 ISBN 0-9614728-3-9
  • ed. Gary Groth & R. Fiore The New Comics Berkley Books 1988 ISBN 0425113663
  • Maurice Horn ed. The World Encyclopedia of Comics Avon 1977 ISBN 0877543232
  • Scott McCloud Understanding Comics - the Invisible Art HarperCollins 1994 ISBN 0-613-02782-5
  • Roger Sabin Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: a History of Comic Art Phaidon 1996 ISBN 0714839930
  • Coulton Waugh The Comics The Macmillan Company 1947 ISBN 0878054995
  • Richard O'Brien (author/collectible toys expert) The Golden Age of Comics, Ballantine Books, 1977. ISBN 0345255356

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Comics is a form of visual art consisting of images which are commonly combined with text, often in the form of speech balloons or image captions. Originally used to illustrate caricatures and to entertain through the use of amusing and trivial stories, it has by now evolved into a literary medium with many subgenres.


  • a lot of the people who read comics think of comics as a culture—or as a subculture; something with its own private codes that mark its members as belonging, and everybody else as not belonging.
  • ...all our theories about how comics are put together are invariably about time. The duration of a panel's action and the duration between one panel and the next. We haven't added very much to the Eisner-Steranko concept of "sequential art."
  • An illustrator is someone who takes a story and visualizes it. In a comic, the drawing is the story; it doesn’t illustrate it.
  • As for all this talk I keep hearing about how 'ordinary people' can't handle the weird layouts in comics - well, time for another micro-rant, but that's like your granddad saying he can't handle all the scary, fast-moving information on Top of the Pops and there's really only one answer. Fuck off, granddad. If you're too stupid to read a comic page, you shouldn't be trying to read comic books and probably don't.
  • ...'comic' simply means funny, so the word is inadequate. To tack on the word 'adult' has resulted in a style of magazine suitable for only some adults, glossy comics barely containing their airbrushed breasts, leaving little room for genuine content.
    • Paul Gravett Escape Magazine 1
  • I don't think that we should seek to define comics on a formal basis. I think that some of the best comics do not involve "sequential images" which is the basis of every formal definition of comics.
  • ...if the form is to say something important, rather than just involve itself in the kinetic thrill of drawn characters chasing each other, then we have to think harder.
  • a visual medium, a comics format ... the writer works for the artist, in the same that the writer in a movie works for the director.
    • Samuel R. Delany The Comics Journal 48
  • In movies, television, and comics, the operative factor is what some film semiologists have taken to calling 'the gaze.' The gaze is a combination of the gaze of the viewer at the comics page, or television tube, or film screen, modulated and directed by the looks that the characters give to each other and by various objects. I look at character X who looks at situation Y (and character X) in a way that I wouldn't have before. The point, of course, is that the movie gaze, the TV gaze, and the comics gaze are three very different processes. What makes the comic book gaze the priveleged one in my estimation is that the viewer has the greatest control over the comic book gaze, greater than any of the other two. Viewers can control how far way or close to hold the page, whether to go backwards and re-gaze -- and going back in a comic book is a very different process from going back in a novel to re-read a previous paragraph or chapter.
    • Samuel R. Delany The Comics Journal 48
  • The British novel has become so thin-blooded and out of touch with anything. And television drama's been pretty much emasculated. Comics is one place where no one's looking. And you get this work out, which would once have been some bizarre film by Lindsay Anderson, but now there'd be no possible way of getting that funded. Comics' marginalisation allows you to do a lot that you wouldn't be able to do otherwise.
    • Grant Morrison The Comics Journal 176 p. 82 (1995)
  • The comics medium is a very specialized area of the Arts, home to many rare and talented blooms and flowering imaginations and it breaks my heart to see so many of our best and brightest bowing down to the same market pressures which drive lowest-common-denominator blockbuster movies and television cop shows. Let's see if we can call time on this trend by demanding and creating big, wild comics which stretch our imaginations. Let's make living breathing, sprawling adventures filled with mind-blowing images of things unseen on Earth. Let's make artefacts that are not faux-games or movies but something other, something so rare and strange it might as well be a window into another universe because that's what it is.
  • ...the concept of what comics is gets narrower as we go along. Each writer on the subject who defines comics wants to exclude something. McCloud excludes the single panel so Family Circus and Far Side are out. Blackbeard says there must be word balloons so Prince Valiant is out. Harvey says there has to be a visual-verbal balance. Somebody else says there must be no redundancy of information with words and pictures repeating each other. This is crap. Pictures have illustrated words and words have explained pictures since the beginning of time. Somebody reads a dull comic and extrapolates rules from it. Who do they think they are? There are all these people trying to be the rule-makers and the end result is bad for the art of Comics.
  • The form restricts itself at every turn. For instance, the artist sits before his blank page. If his first picture is a big square one all the way across then he has severely limited his second panel to having to fit in the letterbox space along the bottom. If he divides that in two then that third panel is looking like a sad and defeated cornered animal. That's about all i see when I look at comic books now. Obviously the artist doesn't do it that way; he plans the whole page simultaneously. But it tends to read like he planned it that way, and that's all that counts.
  • ...the history of comics is mostly just a history of crap.
  • [t]he standards of comics include inventiveness, originality, and consistency. The best comics really are great artworks — great by the intrinsic standards of that art form.
    • David Carrier The Aesthetics of Comics p.95
  • The syllogism that says "Comics are sequential art, Trajan's column is sequential art, therefore Trajan's column is comics" is such a glaring fallacy that I'm surprised it's gotten this far.
  • The viewer is a 'co-producer" of the comics text at a level of involvement and intensity just through the nature of the medium itself.
    • Samuel R. Delany The Comics Journal 48
  • ...the whole small press movement...[is] the first real upheaval in this country of Comics as a genuine Art - Art being to me a thing which is a lively part of life while commenting on life - as opposed to comics as journalism-cartooning or comics as a collecting-hobby or comics as boys power fantasies.
    • Eddie Campbell Arkensword 17-18, 1986
  • You can go into slow motion or fast motion in a comic book in a way you can't in a movie without drawing attention to it. You can have six panels in a row where the actions are a half second apart, or you can skip years between panels and it just doesn't have the same egregious quality, where, in a movie, Peckinpah slows down the murder and it seems that the body collapse in slow motion; it seems like an entirely different thing when you do that on film and when you do that on the comics page.
    • Samuel R. Delany The Comics Journal 48
  • You know, I distrust people who 'read' comics ... you don't read a comic book. You look at a comic book. While you're looking at a comic, sure, you read the words; as well, you learn to look at the panels in a certain order, in a certain way ... if you start out to 'read' a comic book, you're starting out with the wrong mind-set.
    • Samuel R. Delany The Comics Journal 48

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Look up comics in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

Simple English

File:First felix.gif
The first Felix the Cat comic strip, published August 29, 1923.

Comics is short for "comic strips", usually a section in a newspaper. They can also be published in a magazine called a "comic book". The word "comic" simply means "funny", and can also refer to a person who tells jokes.

In comics, a story is told through different images, mostly in panels, following each other in order. That means the first panel is supposed to be read first, and take place earlier in time than the panels following it.

In comics, speech is usually shown through word balloons. There are many different kinds of word balloons, such as the "speech balloon", the "thought balloon" and the "scream balloon".

One difference between a comic and a simple cartoon is that a comic has many images, while a cartoon only has one.

In Japan, comics are very popular. The Japanese word for comics is manga. Manga can be either singular or plural, and can mean both the medium of comics, and a single comic example.

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