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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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Selected article

Ralph Bakshi, the director of Fritz the Cat

Fritz the Cat is a 1972 American animated film written and directed by Ralph Bakshi (pictured) as his feature film debut. Based on the comic strip of the same name by Robert Crumb, the film was the first animated feature film to receive an X rating in the United States. It focuses on Fritz (voiced by Skip Hinnant), an anthropomorphic feline in mid-1960s New York City who explores the ideals of hedonism and sociopolitical consciousness. The film is a satire focusing on American college life of the era, race relations, the free love movement, and left- and right-wing politics. Fritz the Cat was the most successful independent animated feature of all time, grossing over $100 million worldwide. The film had a troubled production history and controversial release. Creator Robert Crumb is known to have had disagreements with the filmmakers, claiming in interviews that his first wife signed over the film rights to the characters, and that he did not approve the production. Crumb was also critical of the film's approach to his material. Fritz the Cat was controversial for its rating and content, which viewers at the time found to be offensive.

Selected picture

Cover of Wow Comics 38 (Sept./Oct. 1941).
Credit: Fawcett Comics

Superhero comics is a form of American comic books. The form rose to prominence in the 1930s and 1940s and has remained the dominant form of comic book in North America since the 1960s. Superhero comics feature stories about superheroes and the universes these characters inhabit.


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ArtsEntertainmentVisual arts
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BatmanComic stripsG.I. JoeSupermanDC ComicsTransformersWebcomics
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AnimationAnime and mangaBiographyFilmFictional charactersMedia franchisesMusicTelevisionVideo games

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Selected biography

Willy Vandersteen (15 February 1913 - 28 August 1990) was a Belgian creator of comic books. In a career spanning 50 years, he created a large studio and published more than 1,000 comic albums in over 25 series, selling more than 200 million copies worldwide. Considered together with Marc Sleen the founding father of Flemish comics, he is mainly popular in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Hergé called him "The Brueghel of the comic strip", while the creation of his own studio and the mass production and commercialization of his work turned him into "the Walt Disney of the Low Countries". Vandersteen is best known for Suske en Wiske (published in English as Spike and Suzy, Luke and Lucy, Willy and Wanda or Bob and Bobette), which in 2008 sold 3.5 million books. His other major series are De Rode Ridder with over 200 albums and Bessy with almost 1,000 albums published in Germany.

Did you know...

Did you know?
  • ... that the graphic novel Building Stories by Chris Ware was published as a box that contained fourteen printed objects, including cloth-bound books, newspapers, broadsheets, and flip books?

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Barack Obama
Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-El, to save the planet Earth.
Barack Obama, United States Senator from Illinois (2005-2008), 44th President of the United States (2009-), October 2008

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