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It’s not unusual at all – in fact, it’s regular scenery nowadays to see subway riders reading eBooks on their Kindles, playing computer games or watching videos on iPads or Laptops. Of course, there some of us who still prefer paper books and newspapers (I am one of them). But I was truly surprised the other day when I took a glance at one of my fellow subway riders’ iPad screen – the guy was looking through comics. For whatever reason, it struck me as rather odd combination – iPad and Comics coexisted in the same space (literally)– almost as if the Past and the Future came together… you know, for some kind of Time Machine Expo…

Guess what? Comics drawings can be traced as far back as to ancient times. Paintings found in ancient tombs 3400 years ago depict scenes of harvesting and processing grain. Also, scientists had found similar old drawings executed with Japanese ink.

First comic strips were found in Europe, and were describing the Norman conquest of England in the 1066. Pictures and texts had already merged.

Since the beginning of the 12th century, Japanese monks were drawing pictures on the roll of paper. At the beginning of the 19th-century, the notebooks with funny popular stories had been widely disseminated. 
Religious history has also been often reflected in the drawings made on the cathedrals stained glass.

Rodolphe Topffer, along with McCloud, called the father of modern comics in the mid-19th century was the first to use the method of concluding drawing in a frame and combining images with text. 
 During the same period in Japan, magazines with caricatures had became very popular. Rakuten Kitazava and Ippei Okamoto became the first known Japanese artists who have created the whole series of short comics.

By Rakuten Kitazava

By Ippei Okamoto

Thanks to Japan, comics started to get printed in U.S. newspapers. In Europe, the comics have evolved into the form of booklets, where the story plot started to get extended from one booklet to the next. The idea of ‘to be continued’ kept fans hooked.

Comics have always been a subject of worship for many youngsters and adults. More than one generation of teenagers grew up on graphic novels about Superman, Batman, Hulk, Iron Man. It’s kind of hard to explain the phenomena behind the magic powers of superheroes that captivated minds of so many fans.

Words ‘To Be Continued’ keep us hooked.

Some American cartoon characters were created by illustrators from 1938 to 1956, – in the “golden age of comics.” But there are some older characters that appeared in the early twentieth century. Interestingly enough, it’s not illustrators, but writers of  ’pulp fiction’ – a genre popular in the 20s – put the beginning to what in the mid. 30s  grew into comics.

Thanks to new technologies, new cheap wood materials became available in the 1920s, which reduced the price of paper and, consequently, the production of books and magazines. Which, in turn, enabled American popular literature – periodicals in particular – to flourish like never before. Young writers started to earn a living by writing short fantasy stories that were published in cheap literary magazines – this is how the first superheroes came to light. American readers warmed up to the heroes of comics during the Great Depression.

Later, in the nineteen-thirties, the stories were illustrated with pictures that soon replaced the text. Thus, the heroes of pulp fiction have migrated from the printed pages into the drawings.

Today, when we live in the Information Age – the Era of the Internet, 3D and 4D movies, Computer Games, iPods, iPhones and iPads, one might think that such simple form of entertainment as comics would just go extinct… Well, not so fast! Obviously, not only the art of comics had not disappeared, it have managed to integrate itself into the contemporary world with its modern technology! That truly amazes me: why would one choose to look at the still pictures and sketches while there more advanced forms of entertainment available with all these fancy graphics and games? I don’t have an explanation. Do you?

Comments on: "Comics Getting Comfy In The Digital World" (75)

  1. You’ve done your research on comics. Nice presentation.

    • Thanks, I’ve enjoyed reading about the history of comics – there’s so much more to learn!

    • I am not into comics at all, and that is why I decided to look into it – to try to understand – I totally don’t get it what attracts people to this type of entertainment. I mean, some hundred years ago it was making sense, even 40 years ago, but now… It’s fascinating though…

  2. hey ya! thanks for liking my post! (I hope you followed my blog for more postings!) I love this post, my boyfriend collects comic books and I love to read them. I love Spider-man!!! What do you think about the newly released Spider-man movie?

    • I didn’t have a chance to see a new Spider-Man movie, but am going to. I love this character too – strong, romantic, sensitive – he possess all the traits any girl wants in her man.:)

      • LOL, yes, but I’m not sure I want to give it a chance because I don’t like that Tobey Mcguire is not playing Spider-Man. It’s very weird. I do agree w/you on the traits though 🙂

  3. Interesting stuff. Here’s one of my past posts you may enjoy. History in a nutshell, so not to the level of detail as this post. http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/on-cartoon-history/

  4. I wonder if still frame comics are still popular today because it requires a bit of imagination. I have been having trouble transitioning into the ebook I still really enjoy reading paper and hardback books. Interersting history on comics!

    • I am quite surprised myself, but obviously – the interest to this type of art/entertainment still very much alive – I’ve taken the photo of the guy on the train myself – he was very much into his comics story.:)

  5. wow at the research. This is very interesting. A couple of years ago I read The Book of Lies which ties the story into the murder of Joel Siegel’s father and thus how and why he created Superman. I prefer 70s and 80s era comics because the stories are less hokey and more socially relevant but the older comics are fascinating to read about.

  6. wow! facinating history….why would people remain true to still pictures? Well I imagine for the same reason I still like reading vs. books on tape perhaps….Hey thanks for checking out my blog today and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  7. Love the way you presented this blog. I used to read the comics when I was younger, and I also used to look in the sunday’s paper for the comics there. I’ve moved on but it brings back very fond memories.

  8. Interesting commentary…it’s been hard for me to accept the Ebooks too…such a threat to the real thing…but here I am writing to you on my phone….quite a conundrum…

  9. Nice post. Good work. I learned something without getting bored—you did it!

    • Thank you for your kind words – means a lot coming from a clever writer as yourself. I hope your blog will live on. Please don’t give up on us:-).

  10. Cool. Another comic/cartoon person. Thanks visit my blog and hope you enjoy my humble attempts in this field.

  11. Hi, this is a really interesting post and I enjoyed reading it. I’ve only just started my little comic/cartoon designs. I was really just flirting with the idea, but they have been well received and I’m really enjoying creating them! 🙂

  12. Fascinating topic. I’ve grown to really dislike paper for most things. I try to file everything digitally, and I’ve taken to doing most of my reading on iPad. That said, the comics on iPad doesn’t work for me for some reason. I tried downloading a couple, and it didn’t feel right. I guess too much of my childhood is wrapped up in collecting this little stacks of cheap paper with the brilliant illustrations.
    Thanks for the follow!

  13. I totally admire the ability to create comic strips, but can’t remember the last time I read one.

    • I’d rather read a book or watch a movie, than look through comics, but there, obviously people that choose comics over all the above…

  14. Nice work here, you obviously spent some time preparing to write this.

  15. I was never one for comic books–I think I was annoyed trying to follow the boxes in order through many pages. However, I used to be a great newspaper comic fan until the demise of newspapers. It became a chore to go to a website and look up today’s offering of the many strips that I read. So I haven’t read one in ages…

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and following–hope you find it entertaining and enlightening, as least as far as artwork can provide those qualities!

    • Thank you for your comment Alli. Maybe be newspapers will hear you up on this one, and go back to publishing comics strips in print again.

  16. As a lover of comics when I was a little girl — this post was so fun to read!

    • Have you saved any of your old comics books? What were the stories about?

      • Well, my father has a “goldmine” of comics in the garage (they are so valuable I keep telling him to put it in a safe in case of a flood, etc). I’ve read a lot of Marvel and DC comics though — those are my favorite! I think it’s because I grew up with two brothers that I was so into reading comics rather than playing with the Barbie dolls my mother would buy for me.

      • Maybe your dad could sell his comics collection on eBay an become a millionaire:-)

  17. Great post! When we were in Tokyo we definitely saw one or two people on e-readers reading manga. Great idea, not something I would have thought of doing before this for some reason!

  18. Perhaps imagination is making the choice? I think it’s about a basic human need for story told in graphic format (think picture books) that begins at birth. Pictures allow the imagination to do some work while following the thread of the written story. I think many digital toys/games such as car racing eliminate the need for imagination and resort to pure reflex response.

    • I agree with you 200% on the gaming killing people’s imagination. It’s interesting how technological progress appeals to our laziness. We drive a car instead of taking a walk, program a button with a phone number instead of memorizing the digits, and so on… It’s great to know that some of us are still persisting on making out brains do some work.

  19. Great post. I loved comics as a kid. Now they are putting a lot of history into graphic novels because BOYS will read them, and it is harder to get boys into reading. I enjoyed reading your comments as well. Thanks again for visiting my blog. I feel honored.

  20. nice post! thanks a lot for the old japanese cartoons, and the associated history. would love to hear some more on this, if you can dig up some interesting stuff.

    also, comics have taken up a very important role in literature in the form of graphic novels. persepolis by satrapi, or maus by spiegelman are as good as any literary masterpiece. i think that’s really amazing. i don’t know who first used comics as serious art, beyond fantasies, detective stories, or news paper satires. do you?

    talking about comics, i’m also a huge fan of gabrielle bell “for her surrealist, melancholy semi-autobiographical stories.”, as they say in wikipedia :). have you seen her work? if not please do check her out sometime at http://gabriellebell.com/.

    • Thank you so much for your feedback, Yetanothertopian. I will do my absolutely best to dig more interesting facts on the topic. And I will check out Gabrielle Bell’s sketches.

      • Hey there. Remember, I promised you I’d do some digging on comics? I’ve just posted something on Comics… I am also working on something else in this department. 😉

  21. I grew up loving action comic books, and making amateur comic books, graphic novels and fanzines.

    Long live the comic book.

  22. Michelle Gillies said:

    I think comics and therefore comic books are a form of art. We look at all kinds of photos and read blogs with all kinds of images on our computers, Kindles & eReaders so why not comics?
    Great post with some well researched information.

  23. Glad to find Japanese anime. 🙂

  24. Fascinating! Thank you!


  25. Thank you for a very interesting article. Both my husband and I enjoyed it! 🙂

  26. Love love love this post! (And the accompanying pics are wonderful) Must fwd this to my husband 🙂

  27. cineroulade said:

    Beautiful post, nicely illustrated. If someone hasn’t already though of it, there should be a scrollable i-pad app for the Bayeux tapestry!!!

  28. Thank you for finding and liking my Blog. I’m very new to this, so it’s lovely when people pop by. This blog of yours is fascinating, Brought back lots of memories, comics taught me to read because I was curious to know what was going on in the pictures!

    • Welcome, and thank you for leaving a note! Really? You learned how to read using comics?! Interesting.:) And why not?! There’re lots of pics (which kids like) and not too much of a text… perfect for a little reader to make first steps…

  29. Was thinking about the comic on paper vs iPad thing last night while watching the new Batman movie – paper-based comics were hugely popular when I was a kid, but then we didn’t have personal access to movies, digital content etc, (email didn’t exist in personal format until my late teens) so I can understand why. Comics are an art form so perhaps being able to take in every detail of each frame at your leisure brings a different type of pleasure to watching a moving frame, and allows your imagination to fill in the gaps, such as the sounds etc. That Rakuten Kitazava example is cute 🙂 Very interesting post.

    • Your perspective is right on the money – comics do require active imagination of whoever is looking through them. It’s so much easier to imaging yourself as a Superman then;).

  30. Great Post! Alas I can still remember the days when American comics were the only ones readily available and only ones available on paper and cost under a dollar! But over the years they’ve matured with their audience and are generally producing better story lines, and with the addition of graphic novels it gives them the opportunity to explore more mature issues. The Japanese definitely set the bar though on quality and sophistication of modern comics. We are closing the gap though…. 😉

    • I am so happy you enjoyed the post. And your thoughts on comics are greatly appreciated. I would like to hope American Comics are following the American Olympians;).

  31. Nice article. “…why would one choose to look at the still pictures and sketches while there more advanced forms of entertainment available with all these fancy graphics and games?” A person may enjoy looking at a famous painting, enjoying it; he may enjoy a great movie about this artist the next day. Here are two different art forms, both valid but they compare like apples and oranges. Comics as a contemporary art form and a great tool for story telling will always be with us, which reminds me my Kindle needs upgrading to a color version to show these comics properly.

    • You are right, Joseph – it’s an art form. I didn’t think of it this way… I can totally spend 20-30 minutes just starring at the painting in a gallery… maybe it’s sort of the same with comics – you look at the sketches, you let your imagination run wild… Glad you’ll be getting your Kindle upgraded! lol… Have a beautiful day!

  32. Awesome blog, I learned a lot from reading it. The art of comic books is more than just still images. It’s the way the writer and the artist come together and produce a story that captivates the imagination. Batman #5 written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo will literally make you turn the book upside down and make you think you are going crazy.

  33. I wanted to let you know that my son and I (he’s eleven) have read this entry MULTIPLE times over the last couple of months. You did SUCH a great job of tracing all this. My son is convinced there’s no higher calling than to OWN a comic book shop, which he is determined to do when he gets older…he’s even done some memorizing of your entry, trusting it will serve him will in…a decade or so. (Hey, I don’t care, as long as he’s happy and not living in my basement!) Thanks again!

    • No higher calling?:) Well, somebody has to be the keeper of all these comics’ treasures! And I am very honored and touched to learn that I have made a little contribution to keeping the comical legacy alive. Thank you for taking the time to let me know. Sincerely, Glasha.

  34. Thanks for sharing! I did enjoy! Have a great week!

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