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How have we changed our definition of the comic form over time?

How have we changed the definition of the comic form over time? Comics have come a long way over more than a hundred years, maybe even thousands of years if we include the many different art forms that Scott McCloud describes as comics in “Understanding Comics.” But since the general public didn’t start to define what comics are until recent history, I’ll limit our ever-changing definition of comics to the last hundred years or so. In the late 19th century comics were defined as simple, very short strip stories that came out in the newspaper, used pictures to narrate the story and very little words. Such comics included The Yellow Kid, which included very little text, and the text that was included in the story was part of the comic pictures themselves. Later on, in the early 20th century, comics were defined still simply and loosely as “those illustrated stories that come in the newspaper that use words to help tell the story” but these contained more words to help tell the story than their predecessors did. In the 20s that would have been a satisfactory definition of what comics were, but in the 21st century, those would be defined only as simple comic strips. Over the next twenty years, comics would grow to exactly what most of us think of as the epitome of what comic books are; super hero stories depicted in a very colorful manner with words to help in telling the story. The next 20 years or so would come to be known as the Golden Age of comics in which many of the most famous super heroes first appeared; such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and many more. This was the era that I believe defined modern day comics and brought them to be what we think of them today.


J. Chambliss said…
This is a crucial question and I hope that you will keep it in mind as we move forward. If comics medium is a fundamental mode of communication, then the shift in presentation offer a way to understand how society is changing.

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