The Art of the Funnies: An Aesthetic History

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Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1994 - Art - 252 pages
The comic strip was created by rival newspapers of the Hearst and the Pulitzer organizations as a device for increasing circulation. In the United States it quickly became an institution that soon spread worldwide as a favorite form of popular culture.
What made the comic strip so enduring? This fascinating study by one of the few comics critics to develop sound critical principles by which to evaluate the comics as works of art and literature unfolds the history of the funnies and reveals the subtle art of how the comic strip blends words and pictures to make its impact. Together, these create meaning that neither conveys by itself. The Art of The Funnies offers a critical vocabulary for the appreciation of the newspaper comic strip as an art form and shows that full awareness of the artistry comes from considering both the verbal and the visual elements of the medium. The techniques of creating a comic strip - breaking down the narrative, composition of the panel, planning the layout - have remained constant since comic strips were originated.
Since 1900 with Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland key cartoonists have relied on the union of words and pictures to give the funnies their continuing appeal. This art has persisted in such milestone achievements as Bud Fisher's Mutt and Jeff, George McManus's Bringing Up Father, Sidney Smith's The Gumps, Roy Crane's Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy, Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie, Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, Zack Mosley's Smilin' Jack, Harold Foster's Tarzan, Alex Raymond's Secret Agent X-9, Jungle Jim, and Flash Gordon, Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates, E. C. Segar's Popeye, George Herriman's Krazy Kat, and Walt Kelly's Pogo. In more recent times with Mort Walker's Beetle Bailey, Charles Schulz's Peanuts. Johnny Hart's B.C., T.K. Ryan's Tumbleweeds, Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury, and Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, the artform has evolved with new developments, yet the aesthetics of the funnies remain basic.
The Art of The Funnies unearths new information and weighs the influence of syndication upon the medium. Though the funnies go in ever new directions, perceiving the interdependency of words and pictures, as this book shows, remains the key to understanding the art.

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The art of the funnies: an aesthetic history

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"A cartoonist," writes Harvey, "is a kind of one-man band...scriptwriter and story editor, casting director and camera operator, prop man and make-up artist...producer and director and actor and ... Read full review


The Aesthetics of the Comics A Preamble through History and Form
Somnambulist of a Vanished Dream Winsor McCays Exploration of the Mediums Potential
Establishing the Daily Comic Strip The Thematic Choruses of Bud Fisher and George McManus
Continuity and Syndication The Popularity and Proliferation of Comic Strips
A Flourish of Trumpets Roy Crane and the Adventure Strip
The Captain and the Comics How a Noncartoonist Shaped the Medium
Exoticism Made Real The Advent of Illustrators
Redefining the Art Milton Caniff and Terry and the Dragon Lady
What This Country Needed Was a Good Segar Popeye and the Great Depression
Peddlers and Poets The Lyric Clowns Who Captivated the Intelligentsia
Of Infinite Jest The Dawn of the Modern Comic Strip
An Ending to Begin With

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About the author (1994)

Robert C. Harvey, a comics historian and critic, is a cartoonist who writes for The Comics Journal, Comics Buyers' Guide, and Cartoonist PROfiles. Among his books are The Art of the Funnies: An Aesthetic History (1994) and The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History (1996). Both are published by the University Press of Mississippi.

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