We all know of the modern comic booksuperheroes such as Batman, Superman, Captain America and so many more, but nota lot of us know from where such an idea of ‘picture books’ was invented.
The origins of comic books can be tracedback to to the Trajan’s column (Rome), Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Bayeuxtapestry, which just happens to be the longest tapestry in the world, stretchedto about 70 meters along and about 50 centimeters tall. An example of an early precursor to printcomics is Trajan’s Column. Rome’s Trajan’s Column, dedicated in 110AD, is an early surviving example of a narrative told through sequentialpictures, while Egyptian hieroglyphs, Greek friezes, medievaltapestries such as the Bayeux Tapestry andillustrated manuscripts also incorporate sequential images and wordsto tell a story. Versions of the Bible relying primarily onimages rather than text were widely distributed in Europe in order tobring the teachings of Christianity to the illiterate.
In medievalpaintings, multiple sequential scenes of the same story (usually a Biblicalone) appear simultaneously in the same painting.However, these works did nottravel to the reader; it took the invention of modern printing techniques tobring the form to a wide audience and become a mass medium. The Glasgow Looking Glass (Later renamed :The Northern looking glass) was published in 1826 and plausibly the first evercomic strip, it ridiculed the fashions and the politics of said time, it wascomposed of all the elements of modern comics such as pictures with captions,speech bubbles, satire and caricature. In 1890, United States, R.F.Outcault’s work in integrating speech balloons and images on Hogan’sAlley and The Yellow Kid has been acknowledged as constructingthe form and tradition of the comic strip, though academics have uncoveredearlier works that combine speech bubbles and a multi image narrative.Nevertheless, the fact that Outcault’s work was popular and the position of thestrip in a newspaper is credited as the driving force of the form.
The 1920s and 1930s saw further boomswithin the industry. The market for comic anthologies in Britain turned totargeting children through juvenile humor, with The Dandy and TheBeano. In Belgium, Hergé created The Adventures ofTintin newspaper strip for a comic supplement; this was successfullycollected in a bound album and created a market for further such works. Thesame period in the United States had seen newspaper strips expand their subjectmatter beyond humour, with action, adventure and mystery strips launched. By 1938 ActionComics #1 launched, with Superman as the cover feature. Thepopularity of the character swiftly preserved the superhero as the defininggenre of American comic books.
The genre lost popularity in the 1950s butre-established it’s domination of the form from the 1960s until the late 20thcentury. During the latter half of the 20th century,comics had become an extremely popular item for collectors and following the1970’s the American comic publishers have encouraged collecting and haveshifted a large portion of their publishing and production to appeal straighttowards the collector’s community. Meanwhile In 1972 Austria, Sir ErnstGombrich felt Töpffer developed a contemporary pictorial language of anabbreviated art style, this allowed the audience to fill in gaps with theirimagination.The diary of a Wimpy Kid ‘do it yourself’ is an example of suchstyle.I personally have 2 of them and they are quite engaging as they allow oneto be creative with the style of writing, it basically personalizes a comic,which can be helpful in order to increase one’s creativity. In the 1980s, comics scholarship started tobloom in the U.S., and a revival in the popularity of comics was seen,with Alan Moore and Frank Miller producing notablesuperhero works and Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes.
In contemporary times. Webcomics havegrown in popularity. Since the creation of the World Wide Web, artistshave been able to self-publish comics on the Internet for a low cost.Hosting providers specifically designed for webcomics, suchas Keenspot and Modern Tales, allow for a typeof syndication of webcomics.
Webcomics became plentiful in the early2000s, as respected comics awards such as the Eagle and EisnerAwards started adding categories for digital comics. Comics since their creation have served toignite the imagination of children and adults all around the world, going sofar as to act as conduits into various cultures.Yet so they remain a fringe artform that only recently has begun to gain major traction again.Far to manypeople underestimate the influence of comic books which within their primaryaudience of children serve as impact vectors, often shaping value systems andperspectives with the children.
Superheroes and villains are not simplisticcharacters which promote certain morals complimented by a cliched storyline,they are subtle influencers that shape the very essence of our future byimbuing ideals within children.