The Secret World Of Comics
The Golden Age of Comic Books describes an era of American comic books from the late 1930’s to the early 1950s. During this time, modern comic books were first published and rapidly increased in popularity. The superhero archetype was created and many well-known characters were introduced, including Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel.
The Silver Age of Comic Books was a period of artistic advancement and commercial success in mainstream American comic books, predominantly those in the superhero genre. Following the Golden Age of Comic Books and an interregnum in the early to mid-1950’s, the Silver Age is considered to cover the period from 1956 to circa 1970
The Bronze Age of Comic Books is an informal name for a period in the history of mainstream American comic books usually said to run from 1970 to 1985. It follows the Silver Age of Comic Books, and is followed by the Modern Age of Comic Books.
The Bronze Age retained many of the conventions of the Silver Age, with traditional superhero titles remaining the mainstay of the industry. However, a return of darker plot elements and more socially relevant story lines (akin to those found in the Golden Age of Comic Books) featuring real-world issues, such as racism, drug use, alcoholism, urban poverty, and environmental pollution, began to flourish during the period, prefiguring the later Modern Age of Comic Books.
The Modern Age of Comic Books is an informal name for the period in the history of mainstream American comic books generally considered to last from the mid-1980’s until present day. During this period, comic book characters generally became darker and more psychologically complex, creators became better-known and active in changing the industry, independent comics flourished, and larger publishing houses became more commercialized. An alternate name for this period is the Dark Age of Comic Books, due to the popularity and artistic influence of grim titles, such as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen.
Comic Book Layout
A panel, frame or box is one drawing on a page, and contains a segment of action. A page may have one or many panels, and panels are frequently, but not always surrounded by a border or outline, whose shape can be altered to indicate emotion, tension or flashback sequences. The size, shape and style of a panel, as well as the placement of figures and speech balloons inside it, affect the timing or pacing of a story. Panels are used to break up and encapsulate sequences of events in a narrative. What occurs in a panel may be asynchronous, meaning that not everything that occurs in a single panel necessarily occurs at one time.
The gutter is the space between panels. Vertical gutters can be made thinner than horizontal gutters in order to encourage the reader to group each row of panels for easier reading.
A tier is a single row of panels.
A splash or splash page is a large, often full-page illustration which opens and introduces a story. It is rarely less than half a page, and occasionally covers two pages. Often designed as a decorative unit, its purpose is to capture the reader’s attention, and can be used to establish time, place and mood.
A spread is an image that spans more than one page. The two-page spread is the most common, but there are spreads that span more pages, often by making use of a foldout (or gatefold).
A cartoonist (also comic strip creator) may refer to a person who does most or all of the art duties, and frequently, but not always, implies that the artist is also the writer.
Sometimes also called scripter, plotter or author, the writer (or writers) scripts the work—scripting may include plot, dialogue and action—in a way that the artist (or artists) can interpret the story into visuals for the reader. Writers can communicate their stories in varying amounts of detail to the artist(s) and in a number of ways, including verbally, by script, or by thumbnail layout.
The artist is the person who handles the visuals. This job may be broken down further into:
The penciller or penciler lays down the basic artwork for a page, deciding on panel placement and the placement of figures and settings in the panels, the backgrounds, and the characters’ facial expressions and poses.
An inker or finisher “finishes”, and sometimes enhances, the pencilled artwork using ink (traditionally India ink) and a pen or brush to create a high-contrast image for photographing and printing. The extent of the inker’s job varies depending on how tight the penciller’s work is, but nonetheless requires the skill of an artist, and is more or less active depending on the completeness of the pencils provided
The colourist or colorist adds colours to the finished artwork, which can have an effect on mood and meaning. Colourists have to work with a variety of media, such as rubylith (in the past), paints, and computers.
Normally separate from the writer, the letterer is the person who fills (and possibly places) speech balloons and captions with the dialogue and other words meant to be read. Letterers may also provide the lettering for sound, although this is often done by the artist even when a letterer is present. In the West, comics have traditionally been hand-lettered, although computer typesetting has become increasingly common. The manner in which the letterer letters the text influences how the message is interpreted by the reader, and the letterer can suggest the para-language of dialogue by varying the weight, size and shape of the lettering.
Comic Art Formats
A comic strip is a short work of comics which has its origins in the world of newspapers, but may also appear in magazines or other periodicals, as well as in books and elsewhere. In comic strips, generally the only unit of encapsulation is the panel. As the name implies, a daily comic strip is a comic strip that is normally run six days a week in a newspaper, historically in black and white, although colour examples have become common. They normally run every day in a week but one (usually Sunday), in which the strip appears larger and usually in colour. The Sunday strips are often outside the ongoing story in the case of strips that have continuity. Usually, daily strips are short and limited to one tier.
Sunday comics are comic strips that traditionally run in newspapers on Sundays (Saturdays in some papers), frequently in full colour. Before World War II, cartoonists normally were given an entire page to themselves, and often would devote the page to a single comic strip, although many would divide the page between a main strip and a “topper” (which would sometimes run on the bottom). Wartime paper shortages brought down the size of strips, and to this day Sunday pages normally are made up of a multitude of strips.
Gag cartoons and editorial cartoons are usually single-panel comics, although sequential examples are not rare. A gag cartoon (a.k.a. panel cartoon or gag panel) is most often a single-panel cartoon, usually including a hand-lettered or typeset caption beneath the drawing. A pantomime cartoon carries no caption. In some cases, dialogue may appear in speech balloons, following the common convention of comic strips. As the name implies—”gag” being a show business term for a comedic idea—these cartoons are most often intended to provoke laughter.
An editorial cartoon or political cartoon is most often a single-panel comic that contain some level of political or social commentary. Such cartoons are used to convey and question an aspect of daily news or current affairs in a national or international context. Political cartoons generally feature a caricaturist style of drawing, to capture the likeness of a politician or subject. Political cartoonists may also employ humor or satire to ridicule an individual or group, emphasize their point of view, or comment on a particular event. The traditional and most common outlet for political cartoons is the editorial page of a newspaper, or in a pocket cartoon, in the front news section of a newspaper. Editorial cartoons are not usually found in the dedicated comic section, although certain cartoons or comic strips have achieved crossover status.
A comic book, also known as a comic or floppy, is a periodical, normally thin in size and stapled together. Comic books have a greater variety of units of encapsulation than comic strips, including the panel, the page, the spread, and inset panels. They are also capable of more sophisticated layouts and compositions.
Graphic novel is a term whose definition is hard to pin down, but usually refers to self-contained, book-length form. Some would have its use restricted only to long-form narratives, while at the other extreme are people who use it as a synonym for “comics” or “comic book”. Others again define it as a book with a square-bound spine, even if it is a collection of short strips. Still others have used the term to distance their work from the negative connotations the terms “comic” or “comic book” have for the public, or to give their work an elevated air. Other than in presentation and intent, they hardly differ from comic books. Some would rather not use the term “graphic novel” at all. Amongst the criticisms are that the use of the word “novel” excludes non-novelistic genres, such as journalism, biography or history. Others believe the term has become too general, a catch-all for all kinds of content, and thus meaningless
Towards the close of the 20th century, the three major comics-producing traditions—the American, the western European (especially the Franco-Belgian), and the Japanese ones—converged in a trend towards book-length comics: the comic album in Europe, the tankōbon in Japan, and the graphic novel in the English-speaking countries.
Webcomics, comics published via the Internet on the World Wide Web, have emerged since the beginning of the 21st century. As they are not limited by the size and shape of a physical page, they can make use of what Scott McCloud calls the infinite canvas, where the individual comics can make use of different sizes and dimensions. These comics are also capable of incorporated multimedia elements, such as sound, animation and bigger panels (scrolling panels).
Comics of non-English origin are often referred to by the terms used in those comics’ language of origin. The most widespread example is when fans of Japanese comics use the term manga, which is also applied to non-Japanese comics done in a Japanese style. One also sees BD or bandes dessinées used to refer to Franco-Belgian comics, manhwa and manhua to refer to Korean and Chinese comics respectively, and fumetti to refer to Italian comics, although this last term is also used in English to talk about comics whose graphics are made using photographs rather than cartooning techniques.