Why We Call Them “Comics”

Did you ever wonder why we call them comic books? Even if they are not funny and they are not books?

Before 1900 they were called cartoons. Why? Because they were illustrations in a BOX!! A box in Italian is cartone. (A carton is another name for a box of storage). From cartone we get “cartoon.”

The Sunday color magazine section of many newspapers in the late 1800s had humorists writing stories, often with pictures. This group of writers were called “comics” just like today we call Jerry Seinfeld a comic. Soon that was known as the “comic section.” The color cartoons were originally placed in that section, and, even though they were often serious, that section was called “the Comics.”

The first non-newspaper publications that actually contain comics were real books. Victor I. Cupples (1864-1941) and Arthur T. Leon (1867-1943) published comic books in a format of 52 black and white pages with cardboard covers. They featured reprints of the Katzenjammer Kids. Alphonse and Gaston, Happy Hooligan and others. By 1919 they began to publish comics in “paperbacks.”

Here are pages from the Dick Tracy Comic Book (1933) and the original comic strips, and I also included Little Orphan Annie from 1927.

Dick Tracy, January 2 and 3, 1933
Dick Tracy, January 2 and 3, 1933
Dick Tracy, January 4 and 5, 1933
Dick Tracy, January 4 and 5, 1933
Dick Tracy and Dick Tracy, Jr.
Dick Tracy and Dick Tracy, Jr. comic book

IMG_0018IMG_0019

Little Orphan Annie in the Circus strip
Little Orphan Annie in the Circus strip

 

Little Orphan Annie in the Circus comic book
Little Orphan Annie in the Circus comic book

 

Annie single

Little Annie double

Leave a Reply