Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Mort the Reaper, Aug 13, 2019.
What would you say is the earliest possible time for comics to come around?
I would say within a few years of the Printing Press in China. Stories of the Monkey King, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, etc often have illustrations to go with it. A real inventive owner of a printing press to make it a whole comic story.
I think what made comics possible was cheap paper. The dime novels (precursor of all modern mass media in my opinion) was just barely affordable for the lower classes. Groups of boys would save weeks worth of allowances to buy one copy and read it out loud.
Probably the Protestant Reformation? IOTL, we see printed broadsides and engravings from the period that combine images with some words to demonize the Church. You could probably see some reformers using the same method to depict biblical scenes, and from there slowly evolve towards books using images and words to tell stories, probably mostly bibles. However, I'd imagine that relatively expensive printing methods will mean that these are mostly primers for the children of the rich, rather than mass-market, cheaply-produced media like modern comics.
17th century Russia raises you this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lubok
Though these are more like caricatures with text, unless comics = speech bubbles, this may fit. Being dirt cheap entertainment for peasants, to fit (thus the extensive graphic element, as the target audience was frequently illiterate or close to this).
The palaces of early Neo-Assyrian emperors were heavily episodic and could be considered comics. An example en brief:
Assyrian palace complexes, possessed wide and long hallways that were covered on either end by reliefs of some kind. There reliefs often depicted battles, deeds and events of supposed import. Delegates from afar or even local leaders, nobles, etc would be walked through the hallways on their journey to meet and prostrate before the King of the Universe (king of Assyria); these reliefs thus, had the use of tools of propaganda and speech that were to be conveyed to the walker in a episodic mode. As the person enters, they see a relief on their left, where the great king is affronted by the deeds of an enemy, walking further, the story continues where the king raises his army; following, he marches his army, collects grains, prays to the gods, takes omens and so forth. After this, the story continues as the man walks and he views that the king conquers the enemy, usually in battle, afterwards, the king sieges the city and conquers. In conclusion, the relief depicts the Assyrian army taking slaves, celebrating, returning to Kalhu, feasting and finally a prayer to the god(s) who helped the king achieve victory.
Another example, a relief in Ninevah in a palace, displayed the building of a statue. Each time the person walked many paces, a part would be added or something changed, until the final room, the statue was complete in all of its glory. This in effect is a proto-comic, as I understand it.
The issue with this system, was that to some, it created chaos. Namely, if a person was to walk through the hallway, if he stopped before one of the scenes had completed and turn around and walk outside, he would have in some way, nullified what was about to occur. A person could thus claim, that he did not see the victorious Assyria, rather he had stopped and walked away, undoing the action and creating doubt as to the grandeur of the king. Thus, Assyrian reliefs began to revert to older systems seen on Naram-Sin's relief, wherein the entire action is displayed in the same relief. Instead of there being many phases of the war, the entire war was shown in a single image. So, the king was raising soldiers at the same time as he was capturing the city and at the same time as he was celebrating victory and making offerings. If one is able to remove this stigma regarding Assyrian reliefs, we could have true comics develop far, far earlier.
Alfonso X produced the Cantigas de Santa Maria, which really resemble comic book panels in a way, though these are essentially lyrics to songs and poetry. Had he really wanted to, and especially with Alfonso's attempt to write a full history of Spain in Castilian, it's not beyond reason to imagine Alfonso producing something similar to a comic book had he so wanted.
I know it's not "the earliest possible" but Alan Moore considers William Blake to be the first master of the medium.
Comic strips—stories told primarily in strip cartoon form, rather than as a written narrative with illustrations—emerged only slowly. Ally Sloper's Half Holiday (1884) is regarded to be the first comic strip magazine to feature a recurring character (Ally Sloper). This strip cost one penny and was designed for adults. Ally, the recurring character, was a working class fellow who got up to various forms of mischief and often suffered for it.
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