Where did Comic Books come from?
The Comic Book as an industry grew out of newspaper comic strips, but both mediums are derived from earlier storytelling techniques using sequential pictures.
For example, this oil painted sequential story by Francisco Goya [below] tells the story of how Friar Pedro defeated the bandit Maragato (painted 1806 - 1807).
What is a comic book?
Also called comix, comicbooks, comic magazines, 'comic rags,' and at various points in its history, just trash.
Fundamentally, 'comics' are the presentation of a single panel or multiple-panels which tell a story. A "gag cartoon" can tell a story in a single frame by presenting a snippet of a scene which the reader will understand is a moment in time from a sequence of events leading up to that moment, for example:
How Much Money?
The reader understands that in an unseen prior story line, the mother has made a statement which is now paraphrased by the child. Only a single panel is needed to accomplish this.
And now another example, less specific, yet still indicating past unseen history:
Don't Make it Too Messy
Source: Tumblr Vintage Gal
"Don't make it too messy" isn't a single panel story, but only a single panel from a longer tale with other panels. Yet, the information in the panel is enough to provide a roughly coherent background for what is happening: the man is probably manipulating the girl, or attempting to, by claiming an oncoming suicide attempt. The girl in the panel is unimpressed, either because she callously doesn't care (marking her as a villain), or because she has been subject to the manipulation before and isn't being fooled again. Either way, a host of possibilities are implied, enough that we can understand a situation for it to have either a serious context, or a funny one, or even both..
In this next panel, we're getting less and less information and cannot tell what is happening.
I wish I knew, Batman!
We can see someone is drawing Batman, and quite possibly working on a comic book story, obviously with Batman, but what does it mean? Why are we looking at someone drawing Batman? Who are the 'hooded men?' What's it got to do with a script? Who is Bob Haney?
That panel cannot tell us a clear story, no matter how many educated guesses we make. If you view the entire page, it will make perfect sense, and at this point that panel is recognized as just a single frame in a chain of panels providing information to tell a story. Without a "story," a comic book, whether a panel or multiple panels, is not a "comic" but just a piece of artwork, or a collection of artworks.
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Original page Aug 2012 | Updated July 19, 2017