A Short History of The World (Comics, Comic Strips, Comic Books)

I think I’ve gone too far this time, dear readers. I decided to write about a topic which is far more complex and grand then I could possibly fit into the space of these 1000 words or less. And I also feel that I’m too close to it really give you an objectively focused and emotionally restrained tone.

Now to be clear that does not mean I haven’t given 110% effort here, but this is something which is close to my heart and heavily influenced my childhood decision to pursue art. Rhyme not intentional, but convenient.

I’ve written topics before which have used this model of art making in their framework, but it’s a little bit real for me friends and how this medium is starting to show up everywhere. Hell, It’s a little too surreal.

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Comics were originally thought to be a form of escapism for youth and definitely not something that could become entrenched in popular culture. Yet here we are.

History of Comics

Twenty years ago, there was almost no interest in the academic community to look at comics, but colleges and universities are now making real efforts to work with people in the industry and to study the impact the medium has had on culture. With a format that asks us to consider both text and visual information simultaneously, comics are literally sequential art. They use panels to help with pacing, while speech balloons and captions help with dialogue, private thoughts, character background, and even sound effects.

And the history of comics has been varied in different cultures as well. For instance, in Europe, Japan, and the United States, comics got their start in newspaper publications and books as secondary entertainment, in what eventually was known as a strip.

But now we have an assortment of formats to choose from. Gag cartoons and political cartoons are often single panel pieces, followed in length by the comic strip. Comic books, also known as comics, are multi-page books that are bound with staples. Collected editions of comics can come in trade paper backs, in both softcover and hardcover, and graphic novels are self-contained stories that were published in a limited run or as a one-shot. Lastly, web comics. Web comics are stories that exist first on the internet, and have no size or page limitations. Some web comic artists even incorporate animation and sound into their work.

And of course when you travel overseas… you can see Japanese manga, European bandes dessinees and fumetti or Korean and Chinese manhwa and manhua. It’s a lot to wrap your head around.

Comics Terminology

Which reminds me, did you know that there is a whole language of terms for comics? The layout is made up of panels, and the panels contain spaces which are culled the gutter. Rows of panels can also be called a tier, while an image that takes up half the page or more is called a splash page. A splash page is usually set up to emphasize a story point and gain attention, while an image that takes up two pages is called a spread.

As already mentioned, the speech bubble is used to contain character dialogue and even it’s shape let’s the reader know whether thoughts are said aloud or internally AND can even be used to indicate tone. Captions on the other hand are separated from the rest of the page and often give narration or information about the story. Sound effects are demonstrated with words that sit in the panel, and are colourful for effect.

When we consider the concepts used to engage with the reader, we cannot forget that it is the reader’s responsibility to perform closure and combine all of the panels together in their head, which means that it is the responsibility of the comic creators to capture key moments in the story, also known as encapsulation.

Roles & Responsibilities

Comic creators can have a few roles, specializing in specific aspects of creation or depending on the scale of the production, they may take on everything. For instance, they could be a writer, who handles plot, dialogue, and pacing. Or they could be an artist/cartoonist, which can be further subdivided into roles of pencilling, inking, and colouring. Lastly, the letterer fills in the blanks for speech bubbles and sound effects.

Defining Comics

Much like film and it’s big sister, literature, the definition of comics is not perfectly linear. It is an ever-expanding form, and with the variations across culture and over history, we’ve not quite nailed down what comics should look like. I would say this though, it’s an important crossover medium, that allows the reader to explore a relationship with traditional mediums of both literature and visual art, and I personally believe that we can all gain a stronger appreciation of both forms by spending time with comics. If films serve as our global cultures version of the campfire story, then the comic is a cave painting set in isolation and used for reflection. It’s not something which is only for children, there are lots of great books adults should read – I’ve got a convenient list for your reference.

I’m definitely going to come back to comics from time to time, as I think this medium is rich and full of opportunity, after all, the cave paintings are starting to move over to the campfire, so why not spend some time in reflection, friends? It’s just a theory, but I bet you’ll get something from it.

Tim!

Red VS Blue! (How Environment Effects Creativity)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll definitely say it again after this post… but throughout human history creativity has often been thought of by the masses as a gift from another world, not something that comes from the brain and which can be developed and cultivated.

I bet you thought I was making a reference to TMNT, nah, I would never do that.

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Moving right along; as a creative person I’m sure that this concept of creative influence is both fascinating and horrifying for you, because you want to succeed and get support to accomplish your creative goals, but if anyone can be creative, then that means you are no longer a special snowflake.

And I’ll let you decide which one fascinating, and which one is horrifying.

But what if I told you that your environment can be controlled in such a way as to effect your creativity either positively or negatively? What would you do? I bet most of you would jump at the chance to make subtle shifts in how your environment operated.

For instance, did you know that colour can elevate different kinds of creativity? According to this study, red can promote analytical aspects of memory retrieval and proofreading, whereas blue is good for brainstorming and innovation. Also in the same study, researchers have uncovered a correlation between noise levels, distraction, and types of work done – moderate noise and high noise produce more abstract processing vs low noise, but high noise impairs information processing, so moderate noise is the sweet spot for creativity, something which I touched upon in a previous post.

The most interesting thing about this study, of course, is that it demonstrates the correlation between creativity and improvement.

Another article I found recently references other aspects of life which can impact creativity. This is another one which Professor Juliet Zhu has looked into, and is a huge advocate for. Apparently dim lighting vs bright lighting an produce different results. Believe it or no, dim lighting has a positive association with abstract thinking and creativity.

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Maybe that’s why cave painting started us off on this creative pathway in the first place?

But the article goes on to demonstrate that temperature and space make a difference too. Choose a cool setting for simple tasks and a warm place for complex ones. Clutter creates less self-control (binge eating for example), whereas organization creates self-regulation and persistence, both useful in their own situations. And that latter topic also happens to be something I’ve written about previously.

Still another article I read described the importance of writing out ideas by hand, which helps with idea generation, learning, and memorization. And apparently taking walks and working in rooms with high ceilings helps to promote creativity too.

But what you may not have considered is the importance that comfort can play in creativity both physical and mental. Having a space which has both small areas of intimacy and large open areas can stimulate different kinds of thought. And of course, you also need to be able to experiment and fail at projects. No one is capable of perfection, but surrounding yourself with individuals that do not support risk-taking stifles creativity quite a bit, so do what you can limit those kinds of interactions.

Jim Rohn said it best with the following quote

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

It is imperative that you consider your relationships carefully, and to be closely surrounded by positive, supportive people who want you to succeed, and it’s also necessary to have critics. Though I suspect we can touch on that last point in a lot more detail and so I shall save it for another day.

What did you think of that theory? Does your environment fit the conditions above? Have I missed anything? Please leave some comments below, like and share this post, and of course please subscribe to my blog for more stimulating ideas about the arts.

Tim!

 

Where The Art Is (The Google Cultural Institute)

You ever watch those movie trailers, posters or commericials which start off by saying “since the dawn of time…”? I find them cheesy too, dear readers. But I want to try it out one time okay?

Since the dawn of time, mankind has created artwork and stored it in precious places. In other words, for what seems like forever.

What’s forever, precious?

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You know, FOR-EV-ER? Eternity? Infinity? Time without end? Even you can comprehend THAT Gollum.

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You don’t believe me, well that’s fine. I love pulling out my art history cap every now and again. Just give me a minute here to get down to business and find some images and links to get this party started.

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This image was one of the first cave painting images I ever saw when I was doing my undergrad, at the time it was considered to be one of the oldest images ever made (approx. 32,000BC – 30,000BC).

According to this article, a new theory has cropped up. Humans having been making art for about 42,000 years, which when taken along with the theory of evolution, means that humans have been making art for even longer than we’ve been thinking about things. Which is amazing to me, because I’ve always considered art to be a language in and of itself.

That means that we need art more then we need literature and speech, it’s something that we all can understand and relate to, no matter what the oral or sign language we subscribe to. And it’s foundational to who we are. That’s right, sign language is not universal to all creeds and ethnicities.

So visual language is something we can all experience and relate to, and one which is not interpreted differently in other communication styles. It’s fascinating, really.

Also, while I haven’t read this academic paper on comics, linguistics and visual language, just yet – I did find an interesting point made pretty much at the start of the paper which helps with my argument.

Many authors of comics have metaphorically compared their writing process to that of language. Jack “King” Kirby, celebrated as one of the most influential artists of mainstream American comics, once commented, “I’ve been writing all along and I’ve been doing it in pictures” (Kirby, 1999). Similarly, Japan’s “God of Comics” Osamu Tezuka stated, “I don’t consider them pictures …In reality I’m not drawing. I’m writing a story with a unique type of symbol” (Schodt, 1983). Recently, in his introduction to McSweeny’s (Issue 13), modern comic artist Chris Ware stated overtly that, “Comics are not a genre, but a developing language.” Furthermore, several comic authors writing about their medium have described the properties of comics like a language. Will Eisner (1985) compared gestures and graphic symbols to a visual vocabulary, a sentiment echoed by Scott McCloud (1993), who also described the properties governing the sequence of panels as its “grammar.” Meanwhile, Mort Walker (1980), the artist of Beetle Bailey, has catalogued the graphic emblems and symbols used in comics in his facetious dictionary, The Lexicon of Comicana.

You see, we need visual art just as much as we need other languages and the fact that so many people discard this skill for themselves, their children, their students, and the younger generation is frightening to me.

I’m generalizing here, which I hate to do, but so often I hear stories from people that made art when they were young, and then gave it up. We cannot seem to find value in learning the right skills needed to draw accurately, and attribute it to an ability which only some humans can possess. That is false and limiting behaviour.

But today’s Wisdom Wednesday resource is going to get you back to your roots, so to speak.

Alright, I have a secret to share with you fine folks today. Well, I wish it was a secret, because this is one of those resources anyone with an internet connection has had access to since 2011 and which I cannot believe hasn’t shown up more often in Facebook newsfeeds, on blog posts, and in cultural events.

The Google Cultural Institute is an amazing achievement in digital curation and one which features artwork from around the world, archival exhibitions, and three-dimensional recreations of world heritage sites.

You can navigate this content through Art Project, Historic Moments, and World Wonders, all from your main navigation menu. What I find especially cool is that you can take virtual tours of over 40 different museums, whenever you want.

The search terms are incredible as well – collection, medium, event, place, person, media type, date. And did I mention the Discover feature? It lets you explore related topics at the push of a button. And of course can share your findings with friends too.

But that’s not the best part. As an artist, this gets me the most excited. You can save your favourite items and create your own gallery.

Now tell me that that is not cool. Ha, I don’t believe you! Tell me what you really think! Leave some comments, share some thoughts, and I’ll catch you tomorrow for something timely.

Tim!