Tuesday, March 20, 2007
In the Spring 2007 issue of Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide (also linked in my blogroll at right), Patricia Mainardi writes an article titled "The Invention of Comics." She credits Rodolphe Topffer with creating the first true comic strips in 1827 (but not publishing them until 1837). The first comic strip "The Loves of Mr. Vieux Bois" is shown above. She also discusses the early comic strips of Gustave Dore, better known for his illustrations of the Bible and Dante's Divine Comedy.
It's funny how America has always tried to take too much credit for the comic medium (as Mainardi points out). I don't think there can be an argument that the superhero genre was started in America by Shuster and Siegel when they created Superman, but the general framework of the comics, if not most of the language of the medium, was already in place.
It's interesting to see how far the comic medium has come from these first efforts to the more stylized, artistic graphic novels of today. One of my comic favorite artists is Neal Adams, whose Batman illustrations in the 1970s always made me wish I could draw like him. The idea of comics as "serious" art may draw some laughs, but I for one can honestly say that it was the first true introduction for me to any concept of artistic style and composition. And the good guys always won, too.