Week 3 – Comics

This week we looked at how transmedia effected the Comic book culture and history.

We started by having a reminder that throughout history cultures have re-used narratives and characters, this is where transmedia stems from.

WE looked at Scott McCloud’s book, Understanding Comics, as a main frame of reference, this is due to it being a comic book about how to understand a comic.

Comics use images, which hold subjective notions of what the character is thinking or doing. This allows the reader to instantly recognise/connect with the character’s emotions. This comes in many forms though as McCloud, shows a diagram that depicts the many different styles within the comic world and where they would sit within the matrix of comics. This shows us that depending on the style of a comic, the reader will read it differently. For instance, the photo-realistic artists, spend more time on detailed drawings, but these drawings are harder for a reader to instantly connect with. This is because a more accurate drawing of a human, opens up much more complex facial expressions, which makes it harder for the artist to get the exact right one, and harder for the reader to actually read the right one. On the other hand, visual-realism is alot easier for the reader to connect with and understand, this is due to a more simplistic design of the characters and set.

Another thing we moved on to look at is how comics influenced other media. TV took a big influence from the comic book style of using panels to lay things out. Tv shows started appearing with this comic style of panels being used to hold different information. I.e. MTV was set up with a stream along the bottem, a window that held the current music video and another that had the logo. Before this happened, TV was often straight on single frames, and nowadays all news channels have adopted this style not to mention other areas and shows.

During the session we had a brief overview of the history of comics.Here are some important dates I jotted down.

– 1842, the birth of the comic.

1930’s comic begin to hold transmedia characters, like Popeye.

-1933, modern comic began to take shape. “Funnies on Parade” was the start of the Eastern Colour print taking hold in the comic industry, this lead to bright primary colours being used to make the main character stand out. This eventually transcribed into the design of superheroes.

-1940’s, characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck transfer from animation into comic form.

Another area we enquired into was how the war effected comic book, they introduced patriotic characters into the mix, for example Captain America. After the war however the sales of superhero characters dropped dramatically, causing the industry to re-think its approach. New comics appeared that ventured into the sci-fi/horror genres, and they didn’t hold back on the gore. They saw it as a time where they could push comics to the limit. In this era it spawned comics like Tales From the Crypt. Comics became more sophisticated, and where aimed at adults more. EC Comics is a good place to look as it is the publishing house that pushed the gore levels to the extreme.

Upon realising that children were interested in these horrific comic books, the American government stepped in and began to control the media. They clamped down on what was allowed to be shown, this is when all comics had to have been approved. Ultimately this changed the types of characters that we began to see, as Marvel saw massive gap in the industry and leapt for it. They released Fantastic Four issue 1, which brought back the superheroes with a new edge. They played heavily on the perspective, to make the characters jump out the page. this re-invented the comic book.

Whilst this was going on the 60’s lead to an underground movement against the government’s publishing laws. It was the birth of Mickey Rat, a character based on Mickey Mouse, but instead of being child-friendly and fluffy, he is into sex, drugs and rock and roll. This shows how far people went to get a reaction out of people, they re-invented characters.

A key year in the comic and graphic novel industry was 1986, this year was when Watchmen, Maus and The Dark Knight Returns were published.

A source of stable transmedia characters is Dc Comics and Marvel, as they still account for 8 out of 10 comics produced in the USA.


Influential artists: Seth, Chris Ware, Julie Doucett, Daniel Clows.


In Europe the idea of a comic book is a lot different from what it is in America and England. This is because they limited how much influence they took from America.In France, comics are taken very seriously, it is banded in the ‘ninth art’.

Frans Masereel’s ‘The Passionate Journey’ and ‘The Sun’ are influenctial wordless comics/book.

In Europe, several artists are banded as on a similar level as some of the greatest artists. For instance, they could hold exhibitions of their work next to some of the greats like Picasso.


One thought on “Week 3 – Comics

  1. Pingback: How Critical Studies Informs the Brief « Let's Venture Into The Unknown

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