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The iFacts Collection - Interesting Page Related Content
iFact #55 - The Comic Strip - Interesting Information about Comic Strips Around the World
Comic Strips Around the World
Currently in the Western world, most comic strips are written and drawn by a comics artist or cartoonist, and many such strips are published on a recurring basis (usually daily or weekly) in newspapers and on the Internet.
In the UK and the rest of Europe comic strips are also serialized in comic book magazines, with a strip's story sometimes continuing over three pages or more. Comic strips have also appeared in US magazines such as Boys' Life. Storytelling using a sequence of pictures has existed at least since the ancient Egyptians. One medieval European example in textile form is the Bayeux Tapestry. Examples in print form exist in 19th century Germany, and in 18th century England, where some of the first satirical or humorous sequential narrative drawings were produced, see William Hogarth.
The American comic strip developed this format into the 20th century. It introduced such devices as the word balloon for speech, the hat flying off to indicate surprise, and specific typographical symbols to represent cursing. The first comic books were anthologies of newspaper comic strips.
As the name implies, comic strips can be humorous (for example, "gag-a-day" strips such as Blondie, Bringing Up Father and Pearls Before Swine). Starting in the early 1930s, comic strips began to include adventure stories. Buck Rogers, Tarzan and The Adventures of Tintin were some of the first. Soap-opera continuity strips such as Judge Parker and Mary Worth gained popularity in the 1940s. All are called, generically, "comic strips", though cartoonist Will Eisner has suggested that "sequential art" would be a better name for them.
The Newspaper Comic Strip
The first newspaper comic strips appeared in America in the late 19th century. The Yellow Kid is usually credited as the first newspaper comic strip. However, the artform combining words and pictures evolved gradually, and there are many examples of proto-comic strips. Newspaper comic strips are divided into daily strips and Sunday strips. Most newspaper comic strips are syndicated; that is, a syndicate hires people to write and draw the strip, and then distributes it to many newspapers for a fee. A few newspaper strips are exclusive to one newspaper. For example the Pogo comic strip by Walt Kelly originally appeared only in the New York Star in 1948, and was not picked up for syndication until the following year.
Daily Comic Strips
Daily strip from 1913 from Mutt and Jeff by Bud FisherIn the United States, a daily strip appears in newspapers on weekdays, Monday through Saturday, as contrasted with a Sunday strip, some of which only appear on Sundays. Daily strips are usually in black and white, though a few newspapers, beginning in the later part of the 20th century, published them in color. The major formats are strips, which are wider than they are tall, and panels, which are square, circular, or taller than they are wide. Strips usually, but not always, are broken up into several smaller panels, with continuity from panel to panel. Panels usually, but not always, are not broken up and lack continuity. The daily Peanuts is a strip, and the daily Dennis the Menace is a panel. J. R. Williams' long-run Out Our Way continued as a daily panel even after it expanded into a Sunday strip, "Out Our Way with the Willets".
Early daily strips were large, often running the entire width of the newspaper, and were sometimes three or more inches in height. At first, one newspaper page only included one daily strip, usually either at the top or the bottom of the page. By the 1920s, many newspapers had a comics page on which many strips were collected together. Over decades, the size of daily strips became smaller and smaller, until by the year 2000, four standard daily strips could fit in an area once occupied by a single daily strip.
NEA Syndicate experimented briefly with a two-tier daily strip, Star Hawks, but after a few years, Star Hawks dropped down to a single tier.
In Flanders, the two-tier strip is the standard publication style of most daily strips like Spike and Suzy and Nero. They appear Monday through Saturday, as until recently there were no Sunday papers in Flanders. In the last decades, they have switched from black and white to color.
The Sunday Comic Strips
Sunday newspapers traditionally included a special color section. Early Sunday strips, such as Thimble Theatre and Little Orphan Annie, filled an entire newspaper page, a format known to collectors as full page. Later strips, such as The Phantom and Terry and the Pirates, were usually only half that size, with two strips to a page in full-size newspapers, such as the New Orleans Times Picayune, or with one strip on a tabloid page, as in the Chicago Daily News. When Sunday strips began to appear in more than one format, it became necessary for the cartoonist to allow for rearranged, cropped or dropped panels. During World War II, because of paper shortages, the size of Sunday strips began to shrink. After the war, strips continued to get smaller and smaller, to save the expense of printing so many color pages. The last full-page comic strip was the Prince Valiant strip for 11 April 1971. Today, most Sunday strips are smaller than the daily strips of the 1930s.
Origins of the Comic Strip
Early proto-comic strips exist from the time of ancient Egypt, and include medieval manuscript illumination, the medieval Bayeux Tapestry which is a visual narrative embroidered on a 70 meter (230 feet) cloth strip with captions in Latin, and William Hogarth's English cartoons from the 18th century, which include both "single panel" work and also narrative sequences such as A Rake's Progress.
The Biblia pauperum ("Paupers' Bible"), a tradition of picture Bibles beginning in the later Middle Ages, sometimes depicted Biblical events with words spoken by the figures in the miniatures written on scrolls coming out of their mouths - which makes them to some extent ancestors of the modern cartoon strips.
The Swiss teacher, author and caricature artist Rodolphe Toepffer (Geneva, 1799-1846) is considered the father of the modern comic strips. His illustrated stories such as Histoire de M. Vieux Bois (1827), first published in the USA in 1842 as "The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck", or "Histoire de Monsieur Jabot" (1831) are believed to have inspired subsequent generations of German and American comic artists. In 1865, the German painter, author and caricaturist Wilhelm Busch created the strip Max and Moritz, about two trouble-making boys, which had a direct influence on the American comic strip. Max and Moritz was a series of severely moralistic tales in the vein of German children's stories such as Struwwelpeter ("Shockheaded Peter"); in one, the boys, after perpetrating some mischief, are tossed into a sack of grain, run through a mill, and consumed by a flock of geese. Max and Moritz provided an inspiration for German immigrant Rudolph Dirks, who created the Katzenjammer Kids in 1897. Familiar comic-strip iconography such as stars for pain, speech and thought balloons, and sawing logs for snoring originated in Dirks' strip.
Hugely popular, Katzenjammer Kids was responsible for one of the first comic-strip copyright ownership suits in the history of the medium. When Dirks left Hearst for the promise of a better salary under Pulitzer (unusual, since cartoonists regularly deserted Pulitzer for Hearst) Hearst, in a highly unusual court decision, retained the rights to the name "Katzenjammer Kids", while creator Dirks retained the rights to the characters. Hearst promptly hired Harold Knerr to draw his own version of the strip. Dirks renamed his version Hans and Fritz (later, The Captain and The Kids). Thus, two versions distributed by rival syndicates graced the comics pages for decades. Dirks' version, eventually distributed by United Feature Syndicate, ran until 1979.
In America, the great popularity of comics sprang from the newspaper war between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The Little Bears was the first American comic with recurring characters, while the first color comic supplement was published by the Chicago Inter-Ocean sometime in the latter half of 1892; Mutt and Jeff was the first successful daily comic strip, first appearing in 1907.
Hundreds of comic strips followed, with many running for decades.
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