c o m i c s



Why did I decide to write about comics?

Comic books are the subject of my research paper because they are a hobby of mine. Comics were the first books I read. I even read them before I knew how to read. (What may sound a little paradox, but I could understand the stories just from the pictures). Later in primary school I started to really read the comics. They were mostly Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse cartoons. These Walt Disney comics are written on a language level that corresponds with the age of the reader, and the fact that every page of the book is full of colored pictures, and not just dry letters, encourages the children to read a lot.
While reading a Donald Duck book you don't realize that you are practicing reading, but of course that's exactly what you do.

When I grew older the books I read were less and less comics but I still kept reading them although they were not my main reading. Finally I reached a moment when my drawing skills were good enough to draw my own comic-album, and so it's not peculiar that I drew my own comic.
Comics are something that accompanied my whole life and they have become quite important for me, so this paper will introduce many more people to the wonderful world of the comic art.

History of Comics

How did comics arise ?  Their birth and evolution, illustrated with some examples

The comics weren't invented from one day to the next. It was a slow evolution the result of which is the comic-art of today with its many different branches.
According to Fuchs & Wolfgang, "history of comics "(11), a first comic or a "mother" of the comics doesn't exist.  The whole story began with the pictures that were printed in newspapers and magazines to illustrate something that was written in an article. Because of the printing technique those pictures were in black and white, that's why the artists couldn't use paint. The content of those pictures was mostly a caricature of someone in the accompanying article. Fuchs & Wolfgang say this happened in the late 19th century.
The time came when newspapers were able to print photographs, nevertheless the caricatures didn't disappear from the pages. The caricature-picture made another step in the direction of the comic, it became a comic-strip.
A comic strip is what is also called a "cartoon". That means, a couple of pictures that are connected and make only sense if read together. You could compare it with a "flip book" which makes no sense if you look just at one picture but if you turn over all of the leaves rapidly they seem to get "alive".
You can find such cartoons, comic strips which tell you a joke or a story in just three or four pictures, still nowadays in every newspaper. The task of most of them is to make the reader laugh, nevertheless, you can find some political strips, too.

Some of the newspapers began to collect their comic strips (if they were very popular) and gave the cartoonist a chance to release them in a comic book. So the idea of comic books, as they appear today, was born. It didn't take long until different styles appeared and the comic began to conquer the world!

In 1938 the first Superman comic appeared, introducing a figure which is known by everybody all over the world still today. The Superheroes were born and they would multiply in a short time. The people seemed to like the mysterious strong men who came from nobody knows where, fought for the law, were armed with superhuman power, and (in case of Superman) could fly without any auxiliary material. Many more of this characters similar to Superman came to life after him. Concerning to Reynolds the most famous may be Batman which first could be seen in a "Detective Comics" issue in 1939.
Between 1939 and 1940 there were already 60 different series of comic books and by the end of 1941 the number had risen to 168. After that new releases grew like mushrooms every month.
About 1950 the animal comics of Walt Disney ( the target market are children ) began to boom. Today there are so many comics that it's impossible to read or even count all of them! (Reynolds, 1992:16)
Of course in different countries the comics had different tendencies to increase. The fact that you can find in a comic shop in the USA a much higher number of action comics than funny comics ( which by the way are often made by a European artist) made me believe that Americans prefer action comics while Europeans seem to care more for fun comics.
Andre Franquin from France for example invented more than one funny comic figure and became very famous.

Different styles and kinds of comics

 What kinds of comics exist ? Division of the different styles of cartoons in groups.

A good rule to follow is that there's nothing you can't find a comic about. There are so many different kinds and branches of the comic-art that young and old will find whatever interests them.  Basically you can divide the comics into two big "families" : The funny and the serious comics.
The funny comics can be divided again into simply or complexly drawn comics into whether the target group of readers are children or adults. I would loose much time if I wanted to make more divisions, so I'll focus on the serious comic.
There can be found a much bigger variety. Serious comics mostly deal with a Superhero that has to solve uncommon problems in a mysterious miraculous world. There are science fiction comics, detective stories, fantasy adventures, comics that retell what happened in history, and also plenty of erotic comics.
It's quite common among the serious comic books that some of these listed categories are mixed and you find yourself in a world that is half science fiction and half fantasy and one might also find some points similar to history. This kind of comic differs also in the drawing technique from the funnies. You rarely find an adventure comic which is not drawn in a very high picture quality which almost reaches photo-realism.
These artists who design adventure comics are really artists, because they know their work perfectly and it takes them years and years to get there where they are. They do a similar work like a painter does, they must be able to invent a character and draw it from so many different perspectives just out of their imagination, without a model they could glance at. And, what's most difficult, they must be able to make this character look exactly the same in the whole comic album.

The common aspect of all comics is the technique of drawing. At least more or less, because there's no rule without exception.
But the majority of the artists use black ink and a feather pen. The advantage of such an instrument is that they can make lines of different thickness. It's easy to begin a line very thin and finish it relatively thick.
This trick helps the pictures look more "alive". If you look at the whole page it's more alternating and more moving. (Reynolds,1992:62)

some examples

Some cutting outs of comic-books. Pictures  and comments.

In this part of my report I'd like to show you some examples of different comics as an illustration and comment them.

Andre Franquin's "Gaston" is a typical example of a funny comic.
Gaston is working in the office of a newspaper and all this comic does is to show him at work. Actually, the reader will never see him do any work, but he does a lot of funny things in his office, although it's nothing but nonsense!


A type of comics that belong to the serious comics, are the "Mangas". These are Japanese comics and they have their own style. Among the Mangas you' ll find again a lot of different kinds. Some are more funny others more adventure like. But a comic reader can separate any Manga from every other Comic, because the Japanese simply have their own style.
These are pictures out of "Akira", a very famous comic, that is one big complicated story, released in twenty books of a hundred pages each.
It's very famous even in Europe or in the United States. 


An example of a fantasy story is "Aquablue" designed by Olivier Vatine (France). The pictures are extremely well drawn and the story is very exciting. It is a blend of science fiction and fantasy.
picture of the comic Aquablue by Olivier Vatine (France)

how a comic is made

A description of a cartoonist's work, from "A" to "Z".

Last year I went to visit Felix Schaad, a famous cartoonist in Switzerland, to see what his work is like and how he draws his comics. Felix is 34 years old and lives in Winthertur (Switzerland). He works for in Switzerland well known Newspapers like "CASH" , "K-Tip" and "Nebelspalter". He has released three different series of comic books. I spent about two hours in his workshop in Winterthur and I learned a lot about his job.
Before one can begin to draw a comic he or she must have a story that can be told. The artist can invent a story yourself, or someone other can do this for him. That's why on most of the comic covers are two names: The graphic artist's name and the name of the person who wrote the story. After this first step of story finding the comic artist can start to make some drafts for the characters. The most important criterion for these is to create them in a way they can be drawn again and again looking exactly the same. In the reader's interest the artist chooses figures that are recognizable easily. For example their hair or their physical appearance ( tall or short, fat or thin, clothes ) are an easy way to reach this target.
Some comic draftsmen begin with a kind of storyboard, which just consists of short sketches without details.
Finally you can begin with the real comic like it will be printed. All the professionals draw their pictures twice as big as they appear in the comic issue. That allows them to involve more details in their pictures, and it' s simply easier to draw big pictures than small ones. For one page it will take about a day, if somebody is fast. Yes, comics are hard work and you get really tired after a whole day of drawing. And of course your back will hurt !
The artist must exactly know what the characters are saying in the pictures, because he has to save place for the speaking-bladders and draw them without filling in the text, which is the writer's work. In this main work of the comic the artist can realize his ideas more or less however he or she wants. He can choose perspectives, frame formats of the pictures, decide what he wants to show in pictures and what he wants the reader to find out just by the text. Changes during the process of the drawing are not uncommon and sometimes when a comic is finished it looks completely different than the graphic artist and the writer had planned. New ideas can easily be involved during the drawing process.
If the comic should not stay black and white, someone has to color it. This is usually not the draftsman himself, it's someone else's job. Today this is computer work but still fifteen years ago people had to color the comics by hand. The coloring takes a little less time than the drawing. To gain time the comic industry has a team designing and coloring a comic book, not only one or two people. Then the work is done much faster.
Finally the comic is ready to be printed. Schaad told me that it's very difficult for a non professional cartoonist to find a publisher. The big publishers normally get their employees in art schools or offer the winners of comic contests a chance to release their own comic book. But, you must be lucky for such a career. An alternative is to publish your comic book yourself, and make contracts with the comic shops, nevertheless this is difficult and your success is not sure. The safest way to find someone who publishes your work is to join many art or comic contest hope that someone likes your work and wants to promote you.

I hope with this little report about comics and cartoons I could interest you a little bit for my passion, and if you see a comic shop the next time you might enter and have a look at the books, and perhaps you'll find something that you like to read, who knows ?


Fuchs, Wolfgang J. & Reitberger, Reinhold C. (1971). Comics: Anatomy of a mass medium
Muenchen : Heinz Moos Verlag,
Reynolds, Richard (1992).  Super heroes: A modern mythology. London : B.T. Batsfort.
Schaad,F.(1997). Personal communication.
The sources of the pictures are online:

HYPERLINK http://www.inforoute.capway.com/CoinBD/Images/Aquablue.gif 

Last updated: August 10. 1998.   by Toni Lambrinoudakis.      e-mail:  snufel@yahoo.com