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"Little Sammy Sneeze" comic strip, published 1904-1906. Created by Winsor McCay (1871-1934).

Little Sammy Sneeze comic strip,
published 1904-1906
by Winsor McCay

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.

The history of comics has followed divergent paths in different cultures. Some scholars have posited a pre-history as far back as the Lascaux cave paintings. By the mid-20th century, comics flourished particularly in the United States, western Europe (especially in France and Belgium), and Japan. The history of European comics is often traced to Rodolphe Töpffer's cartoon strips of the 1830s, and became popular following the success in the 1930s of strips and books such as The Adventures of Tintin. American comics emerged as a mass medium in the early 20th century with the advent of newspaper comic strips; magazine-style comic books followed in the 1930s. Histories of Japanese comics and cartooning (manga) propose origins as early as the 12th century. Modern comic strips emerged in Japan in the early 20th-century, and the output of comics magazines and books rapidly expanded in the post-World War II era with the popularity of cartoonists such as Osamu Tezuka.

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 (or comic) 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.

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Richard Donner, director of the film

Superman is a 1978 superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. Richard Donner directed the film, which stars Christopher Reeve as Superman, as well as Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Glenn Ford, Phyllis Thaxter, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Valerie Perrine and Ned Beatty. The film depicts the origin of Superman, including his infancy as Kal-El of Krypton and his youthful years in the rural town of Smallville. Disguised as reporter Clark Kent, he adopts a mild-mannered attitude in Metropolis and develops a romance with Lois Lane, while battling the villainous Lex Luthor. The film was conceived in 1973 by Ilya Salkind. Principal photography started in March 1977 and ended in October 1978. Tensions rose between Donner and the producers, and a decision was made to stop filming Superman II and finish the first film. Donner had already shot 75% of the planned sequel, eventually giving birth to Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Superman was released with critical acclaim and financial success. Reviewers noted parallels between the film's depiction of Superman and Jesus and particularly praised Reeve's performance. The film's legacy helped to foster the establishment of the superhero film genre.

Selected picture

Credit: Still frame from the animated short Superman (1941)

Superman, an animated character appeared at the beginning as seen from the Fleischer Studios' cartoon series from the first animated short which was released on September 26, 1941.


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Grant Morrison
The comics medium is a very specialized area of the Arts, home to many rare and talented blooms and flowering imaginations and it breaks my heart to see so many of our best and brightest bowing down to the same market pressures which drive lowest-common-denominator blockbuster movies and television cop shows. Let's see if we can call time on this trend by demanding and creating big, wild comics which stretch our imaginations. Let's make living breathing, sprawling adventures filled with mind-blowing images of things unseen on Earth. Let's make artefacts that are not faux-games or movies but something other, something so rare and strange it might as well be a window into another universe because that's what it is.

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