Animations, Comic Books, and Manga

Robert S. Petersen

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Animations, Comic Books, and Manga

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Comic scholarship emerged out of several different arenas, each with its own distinct style and purpose. Some of the first books about comics were written by comic fans who were in the habit of writing letters to comic book editors; they eventually circulated their ideas in their own publications, called “fanzines” or “zines.” These fan-written essays often contained anecdotes about comic artists and descriptions of how characters and publications evolved. This history was steeped in personal memoir and served as a guide for future collectors by imbuing certain comics of the past with the idea of value. Another kind of scholarship, written by comic artists themselves, developed out of books that offered advice to would-be comic artists. These works eventually initiated a broader aesthetic study of comic art that inspired many to take a more careful look at comics as a communicative medium distinct from other forms of mass media. The third type of comics scholarship was the cultural critique of comics, either celebratory or cautionary depending on the view of the writer. Most of these commentators were neither comic artists nor ardent collectors but cultural and literary scholars, who often brought to the discussion the critical vocabulary of their disciplines, namely literature, fine art, and cinema. The variety of scholars from different disciplines who have contributed to the field of comic studies now includes historians of art, culture, journalism, politics, and literature as well as social scientists and linguists. This diversity has allowed for some remarkable insight into the complex nature of this subject, but it also has resulted in perpetuating many inconsistencies and confusions regarding terminology and even how to define the historical and formal boundaries of the subject. Early scholars confidently attributed the origins of comics to a handful of early innovators without looking too closely at how their work developed and where they drew their inspiration. American scholars often cite Outcault’s Yellow Kid in 1898 as the origin, whereas British scholars looked to the character Ally Sloper starting in 1867, and French comic scholars pointed to the work of Rodolphe Töpffer back in 1836. Today most scholars are more circumspect about the presumptive “origins” of comics and instead acknowledge a very old history of pictorial narrative that over the centuries slowly developed into the form of comics we know today. What constitutes a “comic” has also continued to vex many scholars, as attempts to catalogue the essential components of a comic always seem either incomplete or too broad. As comic scholarship continues to mature more research has gone toward the role of women and minorities in comics and in comic cultures outside the mainstream publications found in the United States. Another new area that has greatly expanded in recent years is in nonfiction comics and autobiographical comics, which have challenged many preconceived ideas about what comics can be about and the kinds of people who will read them.

Article.  10244 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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