The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

Comics are not only stories about Batman, Spider-Man and other superheroes. Comics expert and author of the telegram channel

Comics Studies

Nastya Gushchina talks about how to read comics and not get confused in endless genres and universes.

Comics come from the word comic (funny), but not all comics tell hilarious stories. Comics used to be printed in Sunday newspapers as funny pictures. Modern comics are a form of art in which a coherent narrative is created using text and images.

The range of comic plots is huge. Of course, humorous comics and superhero series are still popular. But you can still easily find historical comics about world wars, illustrated biographies and graphic reports. This does not mean that serious topics become less serious due to their appearance in comics. No, this only speaks of the diversity of subjects that concern authors and readers.

Today, comics are divided into different categories: graphic novels, floppies, comic books, zina, strips and so on.

  • Hardcover comics are called graphic novels , and a voluminous narrative unfolds in them. The term "graphic novel" appeared in 1978, when the artist Will Eisner released the comic book "Contract with God." In fact, naming a comic book as a graphic novel is a marketing ploy: it helps publishers and sellers get more serious about the work that artists offer them. In the form of graphic novels, biographies and autobiographies, memoirs and historical texts are often issued.

    Most often in Russian bookstores you can see exactly graphic novels. Some issues of manga (Japanese comics) also belong to this form.

  • Floppy - these are thin softbacked magazines. All the superheroes you know began their comic strip journey in the form of floppy. Floppies are not so popular in Russia, but fans can find them in specialized stores.

  • Comicbooks is a collection of different comics under one cover or the publication of comics that are not “serious enough” for the graphic novel genre. There are comic books from one author, as well as a series of comics drawn by different artists and united by a common theme. When they talk about comics, they often mean comedies.
  • Zinami are amateur and independent publications. They are produced in small print runs and are mainly distributed in independent book or art spaces.

  • Well, and finally, strips . These are the most ridiculous comic strip pictures from the Internet and another one-page series like "Garfield" or "Hare PC".

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

Photo: fragments of the comic "Contract with God" // www. mann-ivanov-ferber. ru

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

Here are a few ways to choose the first comic book:

  1. Find your favorite genre.

    The easiest way to focus on the genres of cinema, because the genre system of comics often coincides with the cinematic. So, comedies will love the comics of Tom Gold . If you like noir and detective stories, check out Sin City . If you love action and superhero showdowns, check out the comics that served as the basis for popular films. But keep in mind that superhero universes are easy to get confused: in addition to the original comics, there are all sorts of reboots and parallel worlds.

    In the multiverse of Superman alone, over its eighty-year history, 52 lands have accumulated (and a separate series has been made about each). Therefore, to begin with, select one character and find classic comics about him. In the history of each significant superhero, there are so-called arches - self-contained series united by one plot. So that you can start acquaintance with them. For navigation in the worlds Marvel and DC it is convenient to use special encyclopedias about these legendary publishers.

  2. Remember which topic you have been most interested in lately. With a 90% probability, a comic has already been made on this topic. The names and variants of graphic texts can be found on the Internet by adding the word "comic" to your request. For example, if you suddenly plan a trip to North Korea, before leaving, read the comic book "Pyongyang" by the French artist Guy Delil. If you are preparing for an exam in philosophy, take a look at the educational series from the publishing house "KoLibri" .

  3. Look for comic adaptations of your favorite books or illustrated biographies of famous figures of politics, culture and art. The life of wonderful people is one of the most popular trends in modern comics. So, Ad Marginem is now publishing a comic biography of the artist Edward Munch , and in bookstores you can find the painted "Capital" of Marx .
  4. Go to a bookstore or library and ask the consultant where the stand with graphic literature is located. Look at the stand, feel the delight or anxiety of the number of published works and scroll through several books.

    Try to look at comics in different styles and see what aesthetics appeal to you. Buy or rent the comic book that you liked the most.

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

Photo: fragments of the comic book “Funny house” // boomkniga . ru

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

Here is a short list of comics that may pretend to be a must-read comic book:

  • "Understanding the comic book" by Scott McCloud. What is the best way to understand how this or that thing works? Look at her in action.

    "Understanding the comic strip" is the story of the development of the comic strip, which is made in the comic strip. This book can already be regarded as a unique textbook, because it is difficult to find a more visual answer to the question of what a comic book is.

  • "Contract with God" by Will Eisner. This is a legendary comic book from the father of a graphic novel and the language of a modern comic book - that is what Aisner called his students and followers. “Contract with God” consists of four touching stories about the inhabitants of a rental house in New York in the 30s.

    As Eisner himself writes: "They [the stories] are true. And only my pictorial retelling turned them into fiction."

  • "Mouse" Art Shpigelman. Perhaps the most famous and revered Western graphic novel. This is the first comic book to raise the theme of the Holocaust and transfer the memories of a person who survived Auschwitz into a graphic form.

    In addition, "Mouse" was also the first comic book to receive the Pulitzer Prize. The Mouse is interesting in that it is on the border between the fictional and the documentary: its characters are anthropomorphic animals, but the story told is real in every detail.

  • "Merry House" Alison Beckdel. The American Library Association has named this comic book one of the best graphic novels of all time. It tells the story of the artist growing up and experiencing her personal loss.

    Another “Merry House” raises topics such as awareness of one’s sexuality, acceptance of oneself and one’s body.

  • "Persepolis" Marjan Satrapi. Another great example of how comics can work with evidence of historical disasters. In this comic, the artist offers a personal look at the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and tells how these events influenced her future life.
  • "Keepers" Alan Moore.

    Alan Moore is called one of the best comics artists in history. He worked at the DC publishing house on the Batman and Superman series, and his author's comics are considered the highest example of comics as a genre. "Keepers" combine all the best qualities of mass comics: drama, epic scope and incredible dynamics. The characters of the Guardians themselves are ultimatum superheroes, those who appear when there is no hope left. The Guardians series is recommended even for those who are allergic to superhero stories.

To make a list of mastris is a thankless task: everyone has different tastes. So if you think that some comics on this list are undeservedly forgotten, then most likely you are right.

There really isn’t just one “same” comic that you simply have to read in your life. There are bad comics, there are good ones, but the main thing in this graphic world is the diversity and freedom that artists cultivate, deciding to dress their ideas in the form of a drawn story.

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

Photo: fragments of the comic book “Keepers” // azbooka.


The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

Usually in large bookstores there is a special section of graphic literature. If there are not many bookstores in your city, order comics on the Internet. For example, here:

  • "28th" . This is the oldest comic book store in Russia, where you will find books and magazines in Russian and English for adults and children, plus souvenirs with your favorite characters.
  • "Chuck and Huck" .

    It does not lag behind the competitor and offers the famous DC and Marvel comic book series along with domestic novelties.

  • "Lighthouse" . Sells all the same, but in St. Petersburg.

Sometimes, comics themselves are the cheapest in the publishers themselves.

And also through publishers it is easy to learn about comic novelties. These are now considered the most famous comic book publishers in Russia:

  • "Alphabet-Atticus" . As a rule, it releases the main superhero series and a little manga.
  • "Bookbook" . He specializes in European and domestic graphic novels and comedic books.

  • "Bubble" . Thanks to him, Russian superheroes appeared in the world.
  • "Comilfaut" . Translates world news.
  • XL Media .

    He publishes world masterpieces from both the West and the East, and Russian comics are not ignored.

  • Alt Gra344h . Mostly publishes oriental comics. It became the best publishing house of 2018 according to the of the Comics Boom portal .

Finally, comics can be borrowed from libraries.

In St. Petersburg there is a separate library of graphic literature , and in Moscow - "Hall of visual arts and comics" in the Russian State Library for the Arts.

Stories in pictures is a whole world that is not limited to stereotypical plots. In order to get acquainted with the comics, it is not necessary to know the whole history of Batman or to understand Marvel artists. For starters, just realize that you are interested in this art form.

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

Photo: fragments of the comic strip “You just envy my jetpack” by Tom Gold // boomkniga. ru

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Comics



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