Brief history of comics


The story in pictures has always been part of the art of each era. It’s enough thinking of the illustrated Roman Columns to tell to the people of the emperors deeds, or the mosaic cycles that adorn most of the old churches.

The comic is certainly one of the most interesting modern mass media ways of communication, also for its location on the border between visual arts and literature; its language, indeed, has a wide range of semantic and expressive possibilities and is based on the close interdependence between drawn image and written text, which we can assimilate to the genre of "graphic novels". It’s usual to trace its birth to the character of Yellow Kid, born from the pen of Richard Felton Outcault and published for the first time on the Sunday supplement of the newspaper New York World in 1895. However, many other cases have emerged, previously to Outcault, of narrations for images very similar to comic ones, as for example Rodolphe Töppfer which, already in 1827, had created a series of images accompanied by captions in which it was told, as the title suggests, the Histoire de M.Vieux Bois. After the success of Yellow Kid, the comic became a popular means of expression and took place mainly among the interests of children and young people

1897 is another important year in the history of graphic novel: on the American Humorist, supplement of the New York Journal, The Katzenjammer Kids is published, in Italy known as Bibì & Bibò, a comic book that tells the story of two boys and about their pranks. In these strips appears the last fundamental characteristic of what we now call comic: the balloon. Thus, with Bibì & Bibò the typical captions of the first strips of Yellow Kid are incorporated into clouds, used as the main textual expression. Until that moment, the comic was considered a Sundays fun aimed particularly at young people and children. However, the turning point takes place at the beginning of the 20th century, when the San Francisco Chronicle decides to publish the stripes of “A. Mutt” by Bud Fisher, even on weekdays.

How can we forget the first release of the comic book Topolino (Mickey Mouse), published May 5, 1930, that was created from the pen of Walt Disney, which will launch a series of successive imaginary characters known today as the Disney characters. In recent years, in America began to develop the first comic genres: adventure, westerns, spy, superheroes and science fiction, the comic book market grows with new ideas and new subjects!

In Italy, the 60s are very fertile in terms of production and vanguard and in the world of comics make their entrance characters becomed icons like Valentina by Guido Crepax (1965), Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt (1967), Sturmtruppen, Cattivik, Diabolik, Lupo Alberto and of course all the Disney comics. Thus, arrived the 80s and the comics "upstream" by Andrea Pazienza with its controversial characters like Francesco Stella, L’investigatore senza nome and Zanardi. Also impossible not to remember the big news made in Japan, the Manga, a kind of comic that differs from the classic Western comics especially in the use of techniques in the graphic depiction of the characters.

Even today, in the 2000s, the world of comics continues its experiments due to contamination with other media, such as web, and with multimedia design tools that have changed its production and realization, though without altering its value.