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Comics is a medium used to express ideas via images, often combined with text or other visual information. Comics frequently takes the form of juxtaposed sequences of panels of images. Often textual devices such as speech balloons, captions, and onomatopoeia indicate dialogue, narration, sound effects, or other information. Size and arrangement of panels contribute to narrative pacing. Cartooning and similar forms of illustration are the most common image-making means in comics; fumetti is a form which uses photographic images. Common forms of comics include comic strips, editorial and gag cartoons, and comic books. Since the late 20th century, bound volumes such as graphic novels, comics albums, and tankōbon have become increasingly common, and online webcomics have proliferated in the 21st century.
Comics has had a lowbrow reputation for much of its history, but towards the end of the 20th century began to find greater acceptance with the public and within academia. The English term comics derives from the humorous work which predominated in early American newspaper comic strips; usage of the term has become standard also for non-humorous works. It is common in English to refer to the comics of different cultures by the terms used in their original languages, such as manga for Japanese comics, or bandes dessinées for French-language comics. There is no consensus amongst theorists and historians on a definition of comics; some emphasize the combination of images and text, some sequentiality or other image relations, and others historical aspects such as mass reproduction or the use of recurring characters. The increasing cross-pollination of concepts from different comics cultures and eras has further made defining the medium difficult.
Contents 1 Origins and traditions 1.1 English-language comics 1.2 Franco-Belgian and European comics 1.3 Japanese comics 2 Forms and formats 3 Comics studies 4 Vocabulary and idioms 4.1 Etymology 5 See also 5.1 See also lists 6 Notes 7 References 7.1 Works cited 7.1.1 Books 7.1.2 Academic journals 7.1.3 Web 8 Further reading 9 External links Origins and traditions Main articles: History of comics and List of comics by country Early examples of comics
Histoire de Monsieur Cryptogame Rodolphe Töpffer, 1830

The Yellow Kid R. F. Outcault, 1898
Outside of these genealogies, comics theorists and historians have seen precedents for comics in the Lascaux cave paintings in France , Egyptian hieroglyphs, Trajan's Column in Rome, the 11th-century Norman Bayeux Tapestry, the 1370 bois Protat woodcut, the 15th-century Ars moriendi and block books, Michelangelo's The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, and William Hogarth's 17th-century sequential engravings, amongst others.
Theorists debate whether the Bayeux Tapestry is a precursor to comics. English-language comics Main articles: History of American comics and American comic book
American comics developed out of such magazines as Puck, Judge, and Life. The success of illustrated humour supplements in the New York World and later the New York American, particularly Outcault's The Yellow Kid, led to the development of newspaper comic strips. Early Sunday strips were full-page and often in colour. Between 1896 and 1901 cartoonists experimented with sequentiality, movement, and speech balloons. Shorter, black-and-white daily strips began to appear early in the 20th century, and became established in newspapers after the success in 1907 of Bud Fisher's Mutt and Jeff. Humour strips predominated at first, and in the 1920s and 1930s strips with continuing stories in genres such as adventure and drama also became popular. Thin periodicals called comic books appeared in the 1930s, at first reprinting newspaper comic strips; by the end of the decade, original content began to dominate. The success in 1938 of Action Comics and its lead hero Superman marked the beginning of the Golden Age of Comic Books, in which the superhero genre was prominent.
Superheroes have been a staple of American comic books " title="Flame ">The Flame by Will Eisner).
Comics in the US has had a lowbrow reputation stemming from its roots in mass culture; cultural elites sometimes saw popular culture as threatening culture and society. In the latter half of the 20th century, popular culture won greater acceptance, and the lines between "high" and "low" culture began to blur. Comics, however, continued to be stigmatized, as the medium was seen as entertainment for children and illiterates.
The francophone Swiss Rodolphe Töpffer produced comic strips beginning in 1827, and published theories behind the form. Cartoons appeared widely in newspapers and magazines from the 19th century. The success of Zig et Puce in 1925 popularized the use of speech balloons in European comics, after which Franco-Belgian comics began to dominate. The Adventures of Tintin, with its signature clear line style, was first serialized in newspaper comics supplements beginning in 1929, and became an icon of Franco-Belgian comics.
In the 1960s, the term bandes dessinées came into wide use in French to denote the medium. Cartoonists began creating comics for mature audiences, and the term "Ninth Art" was coined, as comics began to attract public and academic attention as an artform. A group including René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo founded the magazine Pilote in 1959 to give artists greater freedom over their work. Goscinny and Uderzo's The Adventures of Asterix appeared in it and went on to become the best-selling French-language comics series. From 1960, the satirical and taboo-breaking Hara-Kiri defied censorship laws in the countercultural spirit that led to the May 1968 events.
From the 1980s, mainstream sensibilities were reasserted and serialization became less common as the number of comics magazines decreased and many comics began to be published directly as albums. Smaller publishers such as L'Association that published longer works in non-traditional formats by auteur-istic creators also became common. Since the 1990s, mergers resulted in fewer large publishers, while smaller publishers proliferated. Sales overall continued to grow despite the trend towards a shrinking print market.
Japanese comics Main article: History of manga Rakuten Kitazawa's created the first modern Japanese comic strip. 1902)
Illustrated magazines for Western expatriates introduced Western-style satirical cartoons to Japan in the late 19th century. New publications in both the Western and Japanese styles became popular, and at the end of the 1890s, American-style newspaper comics supplements began to appear in Japan, as well as some American comic strips. 1900 saw the debut of the Jiji Manga in the Jiji Shinpō newspaper—the first use of the word "manga" in its modern sense, and where, in 1902, Rakuten Kitazawa began the first modern Japanese comic strip. By the 1930s, comic strips were serialized in large-circulation monthly girls' and boys' magazine and collected into hardback volumes.
Comic strips are generally short, multipanel comics that traditionally most commonly appeared in newspapers. In the US, daily strips have normally occupied a single tier, while Sunday strips have been given multiple tiers. In the early 20th century, daily strips were typically in black-and-white and Sundays were usually in colour and often occupied a full page.
Book-length comics take different forms in different cultures. European comics albums are most commonly printed in A4-size colour volumes. In English-speaking countries, bound volumes of comics are called graphic novels and are available in various formats. Despite incorporating the term "novel"—a term normally associated with fiction—"graphic novel" also refers to non-fiction and collections of short works. Japanese comics are collected in volumes called tankōbon following magazine serialization.
Webcomics are comics that are available on the internet. They are able to reach large audiences, and new readers usually can access archived installments. Webcomics can make use of an infinite canvas—meaning they are not constrained by size or dimensions of a page.
"Comics ... are sometimes four-legged and sometimes two-legged and sometimes fly and sometimes don't ... to employ a metaphor as mixed as the medium itself, defining comics entails cutting a Gordian-knotted enigma wrapped in a mystery ..."
R. C. Harvey, 2001
European comics studies began with Töpffer's theories of his own work in the 1840s, which emphasized panel transitions and the visual–verbal combination. No further progress was made until the 1970s. Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle then took a semiotics approach to the study of comics, analyzing text–image relations, page-level image relations, and image discontinuities, or what Scott McCloud later dubbed "closure". In 1987, Henri Vanlier introduced the term multicadre, or "multiframe", to refer to the comics a page as a semantic unit. By the 1990s, theorists such as Benoît Peeters and Thierry Groensteen turned attention to artists' poïetic creative choices. Thierry Smolderen and Harry Morgan have held relativistic views of the definition of comics, a medium that has taken various, equally valid forms over its history. Morgan sees comics as a subset of "les littératures dessinées" . French theory has come to give special attention to the page, in distinction from American theories such as McCloud's which focus on panel-to-panel transitions. Since the mid-2000s, Neil Cohn has begun analyzing how comics are understood using tools from cognitive science, extending beyond theory by using actual psychological and neuroscience experiments. This work has argued that sequential images and page layouts both use separate rule-bound "grammars" to be understood that extend beyond panel-to-panel transitions and categorical distinctions of types of layouts, and that the brain's comprehension of comics is similar to comprehending other domains, such as language and music.
Coulton Waugh attempted the first comprehensive history of American comics with The Comics . Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art and Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics were early attempts in English to formalize the study of comics. David Carrier's The Aesthetics of Comics was the first full-length treatment of comics from a philosophical perspective. Prominent American attempts at definitions of comics include Eisner's, McCloud's, and Harvey's. Eisner described what he called "sequential art" as "the arrangement of pictures or images and words to narrate a story or dramatize an idea"; Scott McCloud defined comics "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer", a strictly formal definition which detached comics from its historical and cultural trappings. R. C. Harvey defined comics as "pictorial narratives or expositions in which words usually contribute to the meaning of the pictures and vice versa". Each definition has had its detractors. Harvey saw McCloud's definition as excluding single-panel cartoons, and objected to McCloud's de-emphasizing verbal elements, insisting "the essential characteristic of comics is the incorporation of verbal content". Aaron Meskin saw McCloud's theories as an artificial attempt to legitimize the place of comics in art history.
Panels are individual images containing a segment of action, often surrounded by a border. Prime moments in a narrative are broken down into panels via a process called encapsulation. The reader puts the pieces together via the process of closure by using background knowledge and an understanding of panel relations to combine panels mentally into events. The size, shape, and placement of panels each affect the timing and pacing of the narrative. The contents of a panel may be asynchronous, with events depicted in the same image not necessarily occurring at the same time.
A caption gives the narrator a voice. The characters' dialogue appears in speech balloons. The tail of the balloon indicates the speaker.
Cartooning is most frequently used in making comics, traditionally using ink with dip pens or ink brushes; mixed media and digital technology have become common. Cartooning techniques such as motion lines and abstract symbols are often employed.
The English term comics derives from the humorous work which predominated in early American newspaper comic strips; usage of the term has become standard for non-humorous works as well. The term "comic book" has a similarly confusing history: they are most often not humorous; nor are they regular books, but rather periodicals. It is common in English to refer to the comics of different cultures by the terms used in their original languages, such as manga for Japanese comics, or bandes dessinées for French-language Franco-Belgian comics.
Academic journals
The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies Image Narrative International Journal of Comic Art Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics
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