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!

Is Netflix Controlling Your Destiny? (Cross Talk Ep.1)

OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG!

It’s here, it’s finally here! I’ve been promising something new and different for weeks now, but it’s finally here! You asked for more theories, straight from Tim himself, and I am giving you exactly what you have asked for.

This new format is going to be something special for sure.

You know how you go to your computer and you turn it on, and then you realize that not only are there files in there, but there is also a network of people and information which is at your fingertips?*

*Provided you have a home which you own, are paying off, or which you rent from a land lord. Plus a valid internet connection which you need to acquire from an internet service provider. Oh and also electricity which comes from a utilities provider.

Well, just for you dear readers, I’ve decided to put together a new monthly video series called Cross Talk with my very good friend Chris Murphy.

It’s clever you see, because we sit across from each other and talk about interesting topics related to the arts.

But who the heck is this Chris guy, and how come he is special enough to get a monthly series with you Tim?

Well, I’ve known Chris for almost 8 years and in that time I have learned a few things about him. First, he is just as invested in film, literature, and community as I am, but he is also doing it with a little more gusto. And second, he has a little bit of wisdom on me, which is always needed for the timotheories brand.

So I recruited him into the timotheories fold.

Chris is charming, challenging, and captivating to witness in action, so you are assured of a treat when you carry on a conversation with him. YouTube will probably only emulate his gusto at 60% power, so be prepared for a whirlwind of discussion, all from the comfort of home – well A home. It’s not your home we filmed this episode in, but to you local fans out there, there is always the future.

But what the heck are you going to talk about on your channel with Chris a minimum of 1x a month timotheories?

Good question, you sharp young readers! It’s all about the balance of barroom philosophy and pop culture discussion on a couch. We’ll frame our discussions around the topic of film and do this while attempting to actively avoid the typical things that experts do when they talk about film. We aren’t here to review, and we don’t really want to list off our top 10’s, but we’ll be incredibly excited to go over the under appreciated films and shower thoughts you may have had, but didn’t mull over too much.

First up is the topic of – How movie reviews and popular opinion influence your viewing habits.

I’ve included a direct link to the video for you here, but in case you don’t want to navigate away from us, here it is below too!

But that’s all the theories I’ve got for today. Whew.

I’m excited to see what you have to say about the first entry, and I hope your Sunday evening is the best one yet! See you tomorrow evening my friends with another Melodic Monday post, this time from an up-and-comer who reached out to me directly. You won’t want to miss it!

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!