Comics, comix, & the graphic novel

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  • by Don L. F. Nilsen and
  • Alleen Pace Nilsen

The first comic book appeared in 1933, as shown here in Little Lulu.

  • The cost of each comic book was a dime (10 cents).
  • You can tell the age of a comic book by looking at the original price.
  • Today there is a huge discrepancy between the price on the cover and the actual price of the collectible comic book.

Mad Magazine in 1952

Super Heroes D. C. Comics: The Justice League

Captain Marvel

  • The original Captain Marvel was published by Fawcett Comics and outsold Superman in the 1940s.


  • Ironically, DC Comics in the 1970s purchased the original Captain Marvel character, but could not put his name on a front cover.
  • So, the comic was called Shazam (after the wizard who granted Captain Marvel his powers).

Marvel Comics Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel Comics The Fantastic Four

Marvel Comics: Wolverine—Comic Book vs. Movies

The Avengers vs. The X-Men

Early Comics: World War II Everybody hates Hitler!

Even the Fantastic Four are after Hitler!

Today’s Comics

  • …range from simple domestic humor such as The Family Circus to the sophisticated social and political satire of Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury.
  • Cathy takes on the problems of single professional women.
  • BC, The Wizard of Id, Broom Hilda, Zippy and many more offer a combination of simple amusement and allegorical meaning.


  • The term comix is a “co-mix” of image and words.
  • Underground comix deal with the underbelly of society as they make fun of drugs, sex, violence, racism, elitism, blasphemy, risque music, body functions, and crude language.

Robert Crumb— “the Father of Underground Comix.”

  • The distorted heads and enlarged feet of Crumb’s drawings came from his LSD-distorted view of people and symbols.

Gilbert Shelton-- another drug-inspired underground comix writer of the 1960s

  • His well-received parody of the 1960s hippie drug culture was designed not to preach, but to entertain.
  • Shelton also created “Wonder Wart-Hog” as a parody of superhero comics.


  • At the opposite end of the spectrum from underground comix are the coffee table comic books:
    • Joe Anderson’s Bugs Bunny: Fifty Years and Only One Grey Hare
    • Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County Babylon: Five Years of Basic Naughtiness
    • Walt Kelly’s Pluperfect Pogo
    • Bill Watterson’s The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book

Parodies of Batman

Parody of Snoopy: “It was a dark and stormy night….”


  • Between the underground comix and the coffee table comics, mainstream collections include:


  • John Callahan was paralyzed in an automobile accident shortly after his 21st birthday. He draws controversial cartoons about disabilities.
  • One of his most famous shows a dark-skinned street beggar carrying a sign that reads, “Please help me. I am blind and black, but not musical.”

  • In another cartoon, a man with two prosthetic hands is ordering a drink, and the bartender says, “Sorry Sam, you can’t hold your liquor.”
  • When under the title, “The Alzheimer Hoedown,” he showed confused couples unable to “Return to the girl that you just left,” he received an angry letter from the St. Louis chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.”

Members of the Hall of Fame Sponsored by the International Museum of Cartoon Art Include the following, each shown with one of their most famous cartoons:

Dik Browne’s “Hagar the Horrible”

Milton Caniff’s “Terry and the Pirates”

Al Capp’s “L’il Abner”

Billy DeBeck’s “Barney Google”

Rudolph Dirks’s “Katzenjammer Kids

Left: Hans and Fritz Right: Hans and Franz

Budd Fisher’s “Mutt and Jeff”

Harold Foster’s “Tarzan”

Chester Gould’s “Dick Tracy”

Harold Gray’s “Little Orphan Annie”

George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat and Ignatz”

Walt Kelly’s “Pogo”

Walt Kelly’s “Simple J. Malarkey” alluded to Senator McCarthy. When newspapers said they would no longer show Malarkey’s head, Kelly placed a brown paper bag over his head, which added to the joke.

Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo in Slumberland”

George McManus’s “Bringing Up Father” “Maggie and Jiggs”

Richard Oucault’s “The Yellow Kid” and “Buster Brown and Tige”

Alex Raymond’s “Flash Gordon”

Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts”

Elzie Segar’s “Popeye”

Mort Walker’s “Beetle Bailey”

Chic Young’s “Blondie and Dagwood”


  • When the following Johnny Hart strip was run in The Arab News, both the feature editor and the editor-in-chief were sentenced to lashing and prison terms for failing to recognize the blasphemy.
  • Their sentences were reduced after the incident caused an international furor.

Arizona’s Governor Evan Meacham

  • In Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury there is a Mecham-like character who reacts to claims that he is insensitive:
  • “Lies! Lies spread by queers and pickanninies.”


  • Graphic novels have become a major part of modern literature.
  • Many people first took notice of them in 1986 when Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize for his Maus.
  • As shown in the next slide, he has continued to work with modern tragedies.

Art Spiegelman’s “In the Shadow of No Towers”

Art Spiegelman’s “In the Shadow of No Towers”



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