Comics are a way to express ideas by the use of an image combined with a text. These are often shown in a sequence of images with the text being laid out as speech balloons. The most form of comics are comic strips, editorial comics, and comic books.


Punch demonstrating the relationship between Queen Victoria and the Earl

Humor is associated with the comic but over time comic illustrations have been used to record historic events. Rome’s Trajan’s column was decorated with sequential pictures to record events in 110 AD. The Bayeux Tapestry in the 1070’s used sequential pictures plus text to record the events of 1066 on canvas. The invention of the printing press in 1440 enabled a separation to be made between images and words. The first comic creations centered on religious, social and political aspects on life. The comic strip evolved during the 19th century and it was during this period that the speech balloons first started to appear. This early satirical drawings received a name in 1845, cartoons. The British magazine Punch started in 1841 and referred to its own “homouress pencillings” to reflect the activities of Parliament by the use of cartoons. The first weekly comic to appear with a regular character was Ally Sloper Half Holiday with the character being Ally Sloper. Originally being published in the magazine Judy it then spun off into its own comic in 1884.

With a circulation of 340,000 this was very much the start of the comic, and in 1890 it was followed by the introduction of the Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips. The boom time for comics appears to be in the 1920’s and the 1930’s. The target audience was now the young with humor being at the forefront of most publications. During this period The Dandy and the Beano came into circulation in the UK. In other countries comics were also proving popular with Herge in Belgium creating Tintin and the Funnies being popular in the United States. From here the comic books were formed and in 1938 Action Comics was published with Superman on the front cover.

Comics and Comic books went through periods of popularity throughout the 20th century and many comics started to become valuable collector items. Many of the comic and comic book characters started to be featured on television and in films.  This reflects the successes that these publications were having. There was no more successful comic book than the Marvel books as so many of their characters successfully made the transition into television and film.

Superman first appeared on the front cover of Action Comics 1938

As early as 1944 the Captain America had a 15-chapter serial film but this was a rare event before the 1980’s. Since that time many Marvel characters have appeared on screen. The Incredible Hulk, Spiderman, the X men and the Wolverine are just a few of the Marvel characters that have been in films. Spiderman 2 even won an Oscar.

As the world internet has gained popularity there are now webcomics. These comics are published on the web and they can be popular with some of them having a million followers. Comics have changed with the times but what hasn’t changed is their popularity. They still appeal to many in the way that they can make people laugh and also in being able to produce heroic characters who are capable of saving the world.