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a graphic storytelling genre; a series of drawings with short texts forming a connected narrative. The genre’s antecedents are generally considered to be W. Hogarth’s series of paintings (later engravings) A Harlot’s Progress (1730–31) and A Rake’s Progress (1732–35) and W. Busch’s drawings in the book Max und Moritz (1865).
Contemporary forms of comics appeared in newspapers in the 1890’s and became widespread in the 1930’s, particularly the comics of W. Disney, the well-known producer of animated films. By the mid-century, comics became one of the most popular genres of mass culture. Most contemporary comics are no longer humorous but tell stories with a variety of themes and subjects, such as the “wild west,” superhero adventure, jungle adventure, animals, crime (the most “mass” variety), war, romance, science fiction, pseudohistory, and classical literature in condensed and simplified form.
The glorification in some comics of violence, cruelty, national superiority, and aggressive valor as well as the vulgarization and debasement of the classics are symptoms of the chronic and growing malaise of contemporary mass culture. In order to safeguard children, a number of countries, including Great Britain, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands, have officially forbidden the distribution of horror comics.
The unusually broad circulation of comics and their influence on the mass reader have aroused concern among Western artists. A forum of cultural leaders from many European countries and America met in Italy in 1965 to discuss the future of the most “mass” genre (the journal Inostrannaia literatura, 1965, no. 9, pp. 252–58).
Progressive foreign periodicals like L’Humanité have systematically used comics to popularize the classics and the best of adventure literature, as well as to create stories about the adventures of comic and fantasy characters. J. Eiffel’s albums The Creation of the World (3 vols., 1951–53) are an original form of comics. The Soviet children’s magazine Veselye kartinki (published by the CC of the Communist Youth League since 1956) often uses comics.