The history of comic art is clever and fascinating and I have to confess when I eagerly awaited the delivery of my comic books as a small child, it was all about the hero and not so much about the amazingly creative art and storytelling.
The famous paintings in the caves at Lascaux, France, are the earliest form of “sequential art. They mostly depict animals and were an illustrated chapter of a prehistoric tribe’s hunt for food.
Sequential art (a term coined by comic artist Will Eisner in 1985) is the an art form that uses a series of images in sequence, in other words graphic storytelling to impart information. The most familiar example of sequential art is comic books and comic strips where the graphic art is a printed array of art and balloons.
Artists in Greece used friezes and vases as a medium to tell stories, using sculpture instead of color.
Only five codices of Mayan culture remain today, so the major source of pre-Columbian sequence art are the paintings on pots, urns, plates, and other utensils.
Trajan’s column in Rome, Italy, dedicated in 113AD to commemorate Roman Emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian wars is an amazingly well preserved early surviving example of a narrative told through the use of sequential pictures.
Michelangelo’s (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni 6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564) famous painting covering the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is the largest sequential story of the Bible in picture form. The painting took four years to complete (1508–1512).
To reiterate, comic artist Will Eisner (March 6, 1917 – January 3, 2005) actually created the term “sequential art” in 1985 in his book, Comics & Sequential Art: Principles & Practice of the World’s Most Popular Art Form!. Eisner analyzed the art form into four elements, design, drawing, caricature, and writing.
Scott McCloud, enhanced the explanation in his books Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form.
I will be writing more about comics as we know them today, so stay tuned.