the history of comic art styles
There are quite a few different styles of comic art, it’s evolved so much throughout the decades from when comics began.
You might find it handy to first read about the history of comic strips and comic books.
The classic comic strip
When comics started out the drawings were very simple, with simple lines, very 2 dimensional with no shading or rendering. The comic strips tended to be just 3-4 panels, so very short stories with very little words. They were also in black and white as the first comic strips were printed in papers.
As a kid I would love Sundays as that when my Grandfather would give me the comic book out of the newspaper. My favorites were Garfield and Hagar the Horrible. And the best bit was the Sunday comic book was in color!
The Golden Age of Comic books
You can read more about the golden age of comics here. This era started in the 1930’s and is when comic books started to become popular. This era of comics is when superheroes started to appear, such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and more. The drawings were more detailed than the initial comic strips, but colors were still flat. More words were used though and the stories were much longer with more details. This was really when comics started to really engage comic readers and readers started to really become fans of the superhero characters.
The Silver Age of Comic Books
This era started after WWII and this is where artistic styles advanced a lot. The art style was much more 3 dimensional and shading and shadows were used to create much more detailed drawings. The 60’s counterculture movement had a big impact on all art during this time, you can see this reflected in Silver Age comics with the strong vibrant colors, pop art influences and surrealism.
The 60’s was a time of breaking through barriers and for the first time comic artists and writers were gaining a following. The most famous comic writer from this time was of course Stan Lee. Who still today really is considered the Godfather of comic writing. Comic artists who gained a huge following during this time were people such as Curt Swan who was mostly associated with Superman. Jack Kirby who created Captain America, and Gil Kane who worked on Green lantern and The Atom. Roy Lichenstein turned comics on it's head with his portrait of the Drowning Woman, an image which is iconic today and loved not just by comic fans.
the bronze age of comic books
By now comic books had a large audience and artistic styles had been explored in the 60’s. By the 70’s comic artwork started to become a lot more realistic, and storylines would address relevant social issues, such as racism. Villains and their schemes had been exhausted so superheroes came up against even tougher situations. Like when Spiderman's love interest died of an overdose, which led the way for much darker stories, and of course this meant the artwork also got darker.
The modern Age of Comic Books
This era started in the 80’s and continues through to the present day, and was when we really saw comics focus more on villains and darker themes. The 80’s saw the rise of Watchmen, Batman Returns and The Joker…these paved the way for super-villains.
This was the era where comic art went from ink on paper to on the computer, it became quicker to draw comics because it was much easier to edit and color them. Some artists such as Brian Bolland made the move from ink to the computer seamlessly, Bill jumped on board right at the start. Brian is most famous for his artwork in The Killing Joke and Judge Dredd. But some artists such as Steve Leialoha who is most famous for Super Woman, still to this day use ink on paper. I actually met Steve at LA Comic Con in 2022.
Drawings really started to become masterpieces, highly detailed with incredible colors. Also many artists started to opt for a colorist to color their work, so they could focus solely on the drawings. So sometimes the drawing of a comic might actually have 2-3 artists working on it.
the ageless age of comics
Now we are in the present where there is no clear comic style, it's everything, all styles, all colours, dark and gritty, light and bubbly. Comics now span all kinds of different styles, and there's styles within styles. Superheroes needn't be good or bad, they can now be weird, nerdy, a bit goofy.
manga comic art
We haven't even delved into manga art yet, manga is the name for Japanese comic art. I felt manga needed it's very own blog post, which I will write next.
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