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Friday, 1 April 2011


What is a comic book?

The question may seem rhetorical. After all comic books have been a part of our culture for as long as anyone can remember. However the modern comic book is the result of an evolution that stretches back into distant history, perhaps even into prehistory – after all the cave drawings of ancient man are merely a way to visually tell a story. However the real history of the comic book began with the introduction of mass printing in the nineteenth century – arguable the publication that invented the modern format was Funny Folks which was published in 1825. Funny Folks was not called a comic but a paper and although originally intended as a one off it was so popular that it became a weekly paper, and lasted twenty years.

In 1890 Alfred Harmsworth published Comic Cuts and the comic industry boomed. Harmsworth also brought out other titles such as Chips and The Wonder. This would be the beginnings of a publishing empire that became the Amalgamated Press and eventually transformed itself into the International Publishing Corporation.

The comics or funny papers were aimed largely at adults and it wasn't until 1885 and Jack and Jill, that comics were produced with children in mind.

Step forward to the 1930's and we truly enter a golden age for British comics – by this period comics were without any notable exception aimed at children, but there was always a large adult readership. It was also during this period that the differences between British and American comics was defined. American comics developed into a booklet size magazine of 64 pages, while British titles were much bigger, thinner and printed on paper similar to the daily newspapers.

In the 1950's one of the most famous British comics in history was launched – on the 14th April 1950 The Eagle was born and Dan Dare became an immortal character. It was also during this period that comics were being made to appeal to either of the sexes. The boys had Eagle while the girls had Girl.

And so the Archive celebrates the rich world that is the British Comic Book – over the next two day s we will be presenting interviews, features, guest posts and scans of rare comics in the incredible British Comic Book Weekend.

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