The Origins of Comics
From William Hogarth to Winsor McCay

By Thierry Smolderen
Translated by Bart Beaty

Translated by Nick Nguyen

200 pages (approx.), 9 x 12 inches, 160 b&w and color illustrations, index

9781617031496 Printed casebinding $50.00T

Printed casebinding, $50.00

In English for the first time, a foundational text that places the beginning of comics well before Rodolphe Töpffer

In The Origins of Comics: From William Hogarth to Winsor McCay, Thierry Smolderen presents a cultural landscape whose narrative differs in many ways from those presented by other historians of the comic strip. Rather than beginning his inquiry with the popularly accepted "sequential art" definition of the comic strip, Smolderen instead wishes to engage with the historical dimensions that inform that definition. His goal is to understand the processes that led to the twentieth-century comic strip, the highly recognizable species of picture stories that he sees crystallizing around 1900 in the United States.

Featuring close readings of the picture stories, caricatures, and humoristic illustrations of William Hogarth, Rodolphe Töpffer, Gustave Doré, and their many contemporaries, Smolderen establishes how these artists were immersed in a very old visual culture in which images--satirical images in particular--were deciphered in a way that was often described as hieroglyphical. Across eight chapters, he acutely points out how the effect of the printing press and the mass advent of audiovisual technologies (photography, audio recording, and cinema) at the end of the nineteenth century led to a new twentieth-century visual culture. In tracing this evolution, Smolderen distinguishes himself from other comics historians by following a methodology that explains the present state of the form of comics on the basis of its history, rather than presenting the history of the form on the basis of its present state. This study remaps the history of this influential art form.

Thierry Smolderen, Angoulême, France, is a comics writer and scholar who teaches at the école européenne supérieure de l'image. Bart Beaty, Calgary, Alberta, is associate professor of communication and culture at the University of Calgary. Nick Nguyen, Brussels, Belgium, is an independent historian and researcher. Together, Beaty and Nguyen have translated The System of Comics by Thierry Groensteen and Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of the American Comic Book by Jean-Paul Gabilliet, both published by University Press of Mississippi.

This book is made possible in part by a generous grant from Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.

200 pages (approx.), 9 x 12 inches, 160 b&w and color illustrations, index