History of Comic Strips: Origins

Research Overview
With this project being a Master project I think it is important that even though it is an artistic venture that it has a side of it that is academic in nature. So alongside the research into what makes the comics i have outlined work I feel it is important to look back at the History of the comics from humble beginnings to graphic novel golden age and the hay day of the Newspaper comic strip. This knowledge will arm me with more information about what has become the norm, what works, what didn’t and should overall lead to a better project.

Biblia Pauperum

Religious Beginnings
Some believe the predecessors to the comic strip lie in the medieval tapestries sequentially depicting scenes of epic battles or the stories of the times. Others believe they arose from what was started in the Middle Ages with the printing of Biblia Pauperum or ‘Paupers Bible’ (above). These were books telling the stories of the Bible via sequential images with little use of text for the uneducated and poor masses. It is also believed to have been the forerunner in the development of speech bubbles as the characters in these bibles spoke via scrolls emerging from the characters mouths. These were printed from as early as the 15th Century initially on velum but made more widely available and more printed with the advent of woodcut printing.

A Rake's Progress - 8: The Madhouse by William Hogarth

During the 18th Century a Painter by the name of William Hogarth created 8 paintings which sequentially told the story of Tom Rakewell. The images told the story of his gain of wealth as as the heir of merchant and his decline to madness as he squandered all of his money on luxurious living, gambling and prostitution ultimately ending in his incarceration in Fleet Prison a debtors prison. These began as a series of  painting and were later turned into engraving printed and distributed. This series of paintings and other project like it are consider by some to be the forerunner of comics, British Director and Film maker Alan Parker proclaimed these as the ancestors of the modern Storyboard. (Life: The Observer Magazine – A celebration of 500 years of British Art – 19th March 2000)

Father of the Modern Comic Strip
It is widely believed that the father of the modern comic book is Rodolphe Toepffer a Swiss author and caricaturist who illustrated stories like Histoire De M (1827) which was subsequently published in the U.S. under the new name ‘The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck’ (1842). Rolophe inspired many German and American Artists such as Wilhelm Busch, Rudolph Dirk and Joseph Pulitzer who went on to create the first Newspaper Comic Strips.

The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck - Rodolphe Toepffer

A final mention should be given to China who with the use of Block Printing experimented with the combination of images and text developing the Lianhuanhua, translated as “Linked Pictures” which date back as far as 1884 and were later used as political and propaganda tools. Lianhuanhua is considered as a predecessor to Manga.

An example of a Lianhuanhua

This will be continued in a later post entitled: History Of Comic Strips: Newspaper Comics.

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