Comics are collections of images put together to tell some sort of a story, or to present a joke. They usually include dialog to assist in presenting the story, though not always. They are commonly featured in newspapers and in comic books and/or compilations, as the name suggests.
Comic strips, most often featured in newspapers, often will follow a three or four panel format for daily strips, with some comics having a weekly long strip. Comic artists are also capable of merging or splitting panels in the strip, as long as it stays within the same size boundaries. The four-panel format was popularized by Charles Schulz's comic strip, Peanuts. The four panel format was fist used by Schulz because that is what he was offered by his publisher, because the format was flexible enough to fit into different arrangements. As his strip became more popular, so did the format.
Another format, though not as widely used, is a single-panel format. The panel in this format is usually an oval or a rectangle (sometimes square), with the dialog written underneath the panel. However, in some comics, most notably editorials, there is no panel. Occasionally, in the format with a rectangular panel, the panel is split into two parts, with separate dialog for each half. The comic strips Family Circus and Dennis the Menace are known to use this style, written in an oval and rectangle, respectively. Other popular comics of this type include Ziggy and Birdbrains.
Political cartoons, more formally known as "editorial cartoons," can be vast in style, but usually poke fun of political and sometimes social issues.
Typically, comic strips are written daily, though there are many exceptions. There are many comic strips that either do not, or did not in the past have Sunday strips. There are also comics that are published exclusively on Sundays, often after a long daily run.
Some nearly world-known comic strips today are Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson, featuring a six-year old adventurous and intelligent boy, Calvin, and his sardonic stuffed tiger, Hobbes, who is portrayed as both living and as a stuffed animal. It lasted for 3,160 strips in total, ending December 31, 1995, over 10 years after it was created. It is notable for its social commentary and its hidden criticisms of the art world. Other times, it was simply about Calvin's imagination and various mishaps surrounding him.
Garfield by Jim Davis was started on June 19, 1978 and goes on to this day. It is syndicated in over 2,500 newspapers worldwide. Part of its broad appeal is due to its lack of social or political commentary. Nevertheless, it has received criticism for its merchandising, commercial tie-ins, animated series and films as well as its "declining quality" in the eyes of critics. The strip focuses mainly on interactions between the main characters Garfield, Jon Arbuckle, and Odie, as well as minor recurring characters.
Comic Books/Graphic NovelsEdit
A comic with an ongoing plot (i.e. a Superhero comic) usually needs space to tell the adventures of these heroes in question, and as such they are often put into book format that roughly consists of more then one page. This format is also used for collecting news paper strips (which is what they were originally for until Superman came along in 1938, roughly a century after the release of this particular format). Comic compilations still exist today, however.
As stated above, the original reason the comic book format was created was for collecting newspaper strips. These types of comics have been often collected into a collection of sorts and the term that is used for such is known as a Graphic Novel. The term "comic book" originated due to the fact that the original comic books (i.e. Action Comics) were humor-oriented. Later on the genre matured considerably. Nowadays, there are publishers who publish comic books specifically aimed at adults usually with graphic violence and explicit content.
Some notable comic companies include DC Comics, Marvel Comics, IMAGE Comics and Dark Horse Comics. Some notable comic books and graphic novels include Watchmen, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, and Wolverine.
Recently, most comic books have started doing company-wide crossover sagas, in which every comic book in the company has their current storyline based around a single event usually detailed in a new comic series that gives the outline of the event. Example's of this include Marvel's House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion and the upcoming Heroic Age and DC's Blackest Night and the upcoming Brightest Day.
Out of all the comic types, Manga (presumably) is the oldest. Dating back to late eighteenth century. Its use wasn't widened until the nineteenth century, and gained prominence during and after World War II. It is noted for its iconic Asian cartoon art style and has a very large following in both Asia and America nowadays.
Webcomics (internet comics) originated in the 1980s with Witches and Stitches released in 1985 and T.H.E. Fox released in 1986 on CompuServe.
It wasn't until 5 years later when Where the Buffalo Roam was released on Usenet and had its own alt group, gaining a following. In September of 1993, Doctor Fun was released and ended almost 13 years later in June of 2006. In 1995, the horror webcomic Eric Monster Millikin was released. 1998 saw the start of some very popular webcomics today, such as Player vs. Player and Penny Arcade.
The genre really caught up in the 2000s with comic strips such as xkcd, VG Cats, The Joy of Tech, Overcompensating, RvB Comics, Pibgorn, Dinosaur Comics, Achewood and many more. By 2005 webcomics practically became a business with sites such as DrunkDuck offering webcomic hosting.
Recently, there have been self-sufficient webcomics, these are webcomics that produce the financial income of the authors. Most notably, these include xkcd and Penny Arcade.
The main benefit to making a webcomic is artistic freedom, as your work cannot be censored. Also, the style can be more unique (for example, there is a webcomic which uses road sign stick figures). However, you also have a bigger chance of being unnoticed and eventually fade due to lack of readers.
Unlike typical comic strips, most webcomics are not daily.
- See Sprite Comics for information regarding BZPower sprite comics.
Sprite comics are a relatively new genre, originating in late 1997 with the webcomic Neglected Mario Characters, using sprites ripped from Nintendo's 8-bit Mario games. Although noticeably different, this also raised awareness regarding quality.
The first sprite comic to gain widespread popularity was Bob and George published in April 2000, using sprites ripped from the Mega Man series of games and mainly consisted of story arcs. It ended its run over 7 years later in July 2007. Unlike Neglected Mario Characters, this series actually noticeably evolved in graphical quality.
Arguably, the most popular sprite comic on the internet is 8-Bit Theater which originated in March 2001 sampling its sprites from Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy III. It parodies the Final Fantasy series of video games and has received the most recognition and praise from critics.
Although most sprite comics generally rip/sample their sprites from video games, some sprite comics use their own pixel art, most notably Diesel Sweeties.
Sprite comics have often been criticized for their lack of effort to make, as they can be easily made in a pre-installed tool such as Microsoft Paint. This has proven true overall, as in theory it requires virtually no skill to make a sprite comic, but at the same time this can be said for hand-drawn comics in a more eccentric view (i.e. drawing stick figure comics on paper).
Some BZPower sprite comic makers put very high quality graphics in their work, much unlike what would be expected for the genre. Nevertheless, the concept of sprite comics has been praised for allowing people with little artistic skill to visually convey their humor.
- See also the Photo Comics article on this wiki.
Photo comics, also known as fumettis (Italian for comics, but in English generally refers to photo novels/comics) are comics that instead of using drawings or sprites, use photographs to tell a story, joke or convey a message. Due to the common factor of poor photo quality, they remain rather unpopular. A notable photo webcomic is A Softer World. Most of the time these comics are just photographs with overlayed text in the form of word balloons or textboxes (sometimes effects are added). They can be made in Microsoft Paint, Photoshop, GIMP or just about any image editor.
Art Styles and Techniques Edit
Although there are many art styles when making comic strips, there are two main categories:
- Cartoony - These comic strips typically draw their characters with rounded heads and simple anatomy. Line width is used to define expression. These are generally more well known and widely drawn.
- Realistic - Typically associated with adventure strips of the 1930s, also used today in some webcomics, these focus on more detailed and realistic character profile as well as expressions.
Other comic strips are a mix of the two styles. For example, whereas the characters can be cartoony, the backgrounds can be realistic, creating a visual effect, immersing the reader into a three-dimensional world while easily identifying the characters.
Although comics usually have text to convey a message or lead up to a joke, this is not always the case. Some comics rely on little to no text and mostly images to tell a story or a joke (in this case, a visual gag). Traditionally, the text is written in the cartoonist's own hand-written font, but concerning webcomics, the text is made using a TrueType or OpenType font. Usually, most comics use word balloons, but there are exclusions for both hand-drawn and computer-generated comics. Word balloons are best made using computer software (especially with ready shapes available for download on the internet for more high-end programs). They can also be done in Microsoft Paint with a satisfying result.
Tools and CreationEdit
Hand-drawn comics are usually sketched by cartoonists before being drawn over with ink. Generally comic books are drawn by a team of artists in a comic publishing studio, which can be independent or not. This can also be done by amateurs, however. Comic strips, on the other hand are drawn usually solely by one cartoonist, sometimes with help from a writer or another artist, as is seen in the comic strips The Wizard of Id and B.C.. Some cartoonists may use computer graphics to finalize their creation.
Artists use various types of pen and paper, usually a Bristol beard and waterproof ink, such as India ink. The Winston & Newton Series 7, #3 is a brush preferred by many cartoonists, which can be used in conjunction with other brushes, as well as dip pens, fountain pens and a variety of technical pens or markers. Mechanical tints or line shading are employed to add grey tones. An artist might paint with acrylics, watercolors, poster paints or gouache. Erasers, rulers, T-squares and other tools assist in the creation of lines and shapes. Coloring is usually done with crayons, pastels or color pencils. However, in most comic strips, coloring is done using a computer.
The advent of computer software drastically changed the industry. Often used are graphic/drawing tablets such as Wacom tablets which can be used to draw in a variety of image editors, art programs, etc.
A common term for this process is "CGing"; this usually refers to drawing an image on paper, scanning it and then finishing it in a professional editor, such as Adobe Photoshop. Computer software also allows the artist to generate better lettering with word balloon shapes and professional fonts. Coloring is also often done using software, due to the many possibilities of shading, including gradients, among other more advanced techniques.
Some comics are entirely drawn using computer software, usually webcomics.One commonly used program is Adobe Flash, which, although it is used for animation and web advertisements, possesses great drawing capabilities for still frames. Other programs used by artists include Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Fireworks, Adobe Photoshop, occasionally, Inkscape and more. Back in the 1980s, the now discontinued MacPaint was used to render improved illustrations, including those intended to be used in comics.
Sprite comics are typically made in Microsoft Paint. Although it does not allow for very high quality, it is used for spriting props and characters, unless they are ripped from games or borrowed from spriters, and is often a start. As such, this genre is often considered the easiest to make, aside from stick figure comics. Sprite comic makers usually work solo, but it is BZPower tradition to often have multi-author comics. For example, the popular sprite comic 8-Bit Theater is done by three authors, two of them who make custom art and sprites and the third who assembles the comic.
Most comic makers use a program such as GIMP or Photoshop to add extra effects to their comics, or sometimes entirely make them in it, as they both possess the ability to recolor spritesheets. However, this is usually done in Paint due to the relative simplicity. Most of the time, the main components of a higher-quality sprite comic are a linear gradient, brushes, and patterns. For example, a basic higher-quality outside background consists of a blue linear gradient and a grass brush with clouds being either a pattern or a brush, though they are not necessary. Other components are lighting effects to make the background more realistic, a lens flare which is often used in place of a sun, and a shadow to add realism, but different comic makers use different techniques to make their comic more stylized.
Although good backgrounds are not the most important aspect of a good sprite comic, they can provide a large amound of aesthetic help, making the comics more visually pleasing to read. On BZPower, Nuparurocks and Dokuma are known for making high-quality backgrounds, among others.