Cartoon strips have been around for centuries, although the first credited newspaper comic is often claimed by the Hearst New York American in 1896, with Hogan's Alley. With the Hearst business policy "Our company's mission is still to inform, entertain and inspire", it's as if Alternative Fruit had seen it all those years ago. It is a co-incidence, but a healthy one. Richard Faulton Outcault, upon creating this strip, may well have been inspired by previous works often ascribed to doodles or side-line antics of other writing work. Even Medieval scribes have been known to draw comic scenes in their notes while painstakingly writing out line after line of Latin text, to a perfection most mortals can only dream of. Since the first official newspaper comic book strip back in the nineteenth century, other artists soon caught on and began making their own.
As works such as the Bayeux Tapestry and Trajan's Column depict entire stories in pictorial form, with insertions of words where needed, it wasn't long before this new comic strip art form also made it into dedicated works. In the way that Hieroglyphs from Egypt depict certain sounds and phonetics, comics began to adapt their art to evolve into a unique language variant. While every artist no-doubt had their own stories to tell, the themes and styles began to emerge which became institutions within themselves. Brands and characters became synonymous with their themes.
Comic book characters and brands have become symbols for much more than an expression of creativity. The ethics and morals of each story go into a giant tapestry of what the work represents, not just to its creator but to all who enjoy it. Like-minded folk all around the world can share a love for their favourite art. We're inundated with the heroes, Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic 4, The Avengers, etc, and they're all great characters but if we dig a little deeper, there's so much more out there. It's good to know the trivia surrounding the big names, and collect the cool stuff with their images on, however it's even better to build on that by learning about and appreciating some of the more underground and obscure works that ran underneath the classics. Often themes and gists are gleaned from underground material, and if we have a keen eye it's possible to spot it. That's a great talking point, if we find a common theme. It makes people think.
Thanks to Open Culture for sharing this article, it's possible for Alternative Fruit to share this huge online archive of thousands of digitised comic books. Ranging from the glory days of old to the end of the 50's, when the art form literally exploded with the onset of global reading audiences. Themes and genres are there for everyone, my particular favourites are the obscure varieties which try to be totally unique. What about you? Enjoy this huge collection of digitised comics.
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