Portal:Comics

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Comics is a medium used to express ideas via images, often combined with text or other visual information. Comics frequently takes the form of juxtaposed sequences of panels of images. Often textual devices such as speech balloons, captions, and onomatopoeia indicate dialogue, narration, sound effects, or other information. Size and arrangement of panels contribute to narrative pacing. Cartooning and similar forms of illustration are the most common image-making means in comics; fumetti is a form which uses photographic images. Common forms of comics include comic strips, editorial and gag cartoons, and comic books. Since the late 20th century, bound volumes such as graphic novels, comics albums, and tankōbon have become increasingly common, and online webcomics have proliferated in the 21st century.

The history of comics has followed divergent paths in different cultures. Some scholars have posited a pre-history as far back as the Lascaux cave paintings. By the mid-20th century, comics flourished particularly in the United States, western Europe (especially in France and Belgium), and Japan. The history of European comics is often traced to Rodolphe Töpffer's cartoon strips of the 1830s, and became popular following the success in the 1930s of strips and books such as The Adventures of Tintin. American comics emerged as a mass medium in the early 20th century with the advent of newspaper comic strips; magazine-style comic books followed in the 1930s. Histories of Japanese comics and cartooning (manga) propose origins as early as the 12th century. Modern comic strips emerged in Japan in the early 20th-century, and the output of comics magazines and books rapidly expanded in the post-World War II era with the popularity of cartoonists such as Osamu Tezuka.

Comics has had a lowbrow reputation for much of its history, but towards the end of the 20th century began to find greater acceptance with the public and within academia. The English term comics derives from the humorous (or comic) work which predominated in early American newspaper comic strips; usage of the term has become standard also for non-humorous works. It is common in English to refer to the comics of different cultures by the terms used in their original languages, such as manga for Japanese comics, or bandes dessinées for French-language comics. There is no consensus amongst theorists and historians on a definition of comics; some emphasize the combination of images and text, some sequentiality or other image relations, and others historical aspects such as mass reproduction or the use of recurring characters. The increasing cross-pollination of concepts from different comics cultures and eras has further made defining the medium difficult.

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A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories is a 1978 graphic novel by American cartoonist Will Eisner. It is a short story cycle that revolves around poor Jewish characters who live in a tenement in New York City. Eisner produced two sequels set in the same tenement: A Life Force in 1988, and Dropsie Avenue in 1995. Though the term "graphic novel" did not originate with Eisner, the book is credited with popularizing its use. A Contract with God is made up of four stand-alone stories: in "A Contract with God" a religious man gives up his faith after the death of his young adopted daughter; in "The Street Singer" a has-been diva tries to seduce a poor, young street singer, who tries to take advantage of her in turn; a bullying racist is led to suicide after false accusations of pedophilia in "The Super"; and "Cookalein" intertwines the stories of several characters vacationing in the Catskill Mountains. Eisner uses large, monochromatic images in dramatic perspective, and emphasizes the caricatured characters' facial expressions; few panels or captions have traditional borders around them. Eisner began his comic book career in 1936, and had long held artistic ambitions for what was perceived as a lowbrow medium. He found no support for his ideas, and left the world of commercial comics after ending his signature work The Spirit in 1952. The growth of comics fandom convinced him to return in the 1970s, and he worked to realize his aspirations of creating comics with literary content. He wanted a mainstream publisher for the book and to have it sold in traditional bookstores, rather than comic book shops; the small press Baronet Books released A Contract with God in 1978, and marketed it as a "graphic novel", which thereafter became the common term for book-length comics. It sold slowly at first, but gained respect from Eisner's peers, and since has been reprinted by larger publishers.

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A Midtown Comics store at 45th and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan
Credit: Jim Henderson

Midtown Comics is a New York City comic book retailer with three shops in Manhattan and an e-commerce website. The largest comic book store in the United States, the company opened its first store in the Times Square area in 1997. Its second was opened on Lexington Avenue in 2004, and is known as the Grand Central store for its proximity to Grand Central Terminal.

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You know, I distrust people who 'read' comics ... you don't read a comic book. You look at a comic book. While you're looking at a comic, sure, you read the words; as well, you learn to look at the panels in a certain order, in a certain way ... if you start out to 'read' a comic book, you're starting out with the wrong mind-set.
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