Discovering Ancient Comics

Ancient FunniesThis comic goes with my post on the history of comics.

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A Short History of Comics

 

Ancient Funnies

Ever wonder who created the first comic? Depending on your definition, most scholars agree that the modern idea of comics began to take form in the late 19th century. However, a loose interpretation of comics can be traced back to ancient times.

 

For modern audiences, comics are the combination of words and pictures that narrate a story.

That being said, there is no one definition that encompasses what a comic is. At their core, comics can also be described simply as “sequential art” with a story. Using this loose definition, some scholars, notably Scott McCloud, trace the origin further back citing Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mayan pottery, and even cave art. Having looked at these examples, I definitely think ancient sequential art, especially hieroglyphs act as precursors, but they don’t quite fit my definition of comics.

Simple cartoons have circulated in broadsheets, pamphlets, books, and newspapers since the birth of the printing press. As cartoons added text—often at the top or bottom of the cartoon— and became more satirical, the closer they resembled modern comics. Rodolphe Töpffer is often credited by both Americans and Europe

yk_phonograph
One of Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley strips. Mickey Dugan, better known as the Yellow Kid, listens to his new phonograph.

 

as with creating the first comic strip, The Loves of Mr. Vieux Bois in 1837. American comics are believed to have originated with Richard Outcault’s Down in Hogan’s Alley featuring a mischievous child called “the Yellow Kid”. Outcault’s strip was first published in The New York World in 1895 and led to the creation of newspaper strips. Early Sunday comics were full pages, colored cartoons. Around this same time, Japanese artists were developing what would eventually be considered manga.

 

Yellow Ellen

This is how I imagine myself if I were the Yellow Kid.

Join me next week as I explore comics’ Golden Age, Superman, Batman, and many more fun characters!