Welcome, knowledge seekers to the slippery halls of the FAL Institute Of Humor and Neurohygenics.
Lecture length: 12 minutes
A Brief History of Cartooning
The word "cartoon" comes from cartone, the Italian word for "large paper".
The story of the cartoon is the story of mass communication. In ancient times, large murals were decorated with a series of images that told a story... none of which were as drawn out or as pretentious as this folderol you're reading right now.
1300 BC: In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud theorized that comics have been with us since ancient times.
This Egyptian painting tells of a farmer's daily trials in a series of pictures.
In the last panel, as he's beaten to death by the Pharaoh's tax collector, the farmer exclaims, "I hate Mondays!".
The influence of the printing press had Renaissance artists and thinkers - including Leonardo DaVinci - concerned that this new technology would isolate men from one another. (Sound familiar? Radio? TV? The internet?!). Many worked toward the creation of a new language to combine pictures and narratives in a deliberate sequence for the purpose of preserving literal truth. (This was before the GAF Viewmaster).
Early artists such as William Hogarth used this expicit art form to depict action as if it were a stage play and employed balloons, integrating text with a picture series.
1730's: Observe the exaggerated expressions of William Hogarth's letcherous men.
This elegant piece is titled Hey, Baby!.
The 19th century gave us zincography and photoengraving, and the popularity of picture stories exploded, appearing in newspapers all over the world. The art of displaying cartoon images and icons in a deliberate sequence gave birth to the medium of comics in print and the medium of animation in film.
(Okay. So I'm skipping a bit...)
1900's: Exlpoded panel from Winsor McCay's lush and charming Little Nemo In Slumberland.
McCay was known as the "Grandfather Of Animation" - not because he made one of the first animations ever, "Gertie The Dinosaur" - but because he often chased young people away screaming, "Hey! You kids get outta my yard!"
One of the strengths of this medium has been its ability to consolidate the best advances of all other forms of mass communcation in a cheap and readily consumed form. Some have succeeded in using cartoons to combine the worst of all media in a big confusing, expensive, soul-sucking pile of glop! (But enough about Ralph Bakshi!) Even though they are often underestimated or dismissed as simple diversion, cartoons in general have been a vital pulse, conscience and critic in our lives.
Recently, there has been more serious respect for the form since it's become a neccessary shorthand in our information age. (I can dream, can't I?)
1960's: "Gasoline Alley" characters as seen by Dick Moores. An excellent example of the illusion of "time passing" through the space of just one panel.
Fun Fact: Saying Cheese will help you "pass" that "thyme" and prevent irritating colon blockage!
Right now, the future looks bright as the new language of cartoons only continues to grow - technically, to serve the needs of today's electronic media, and creatively, to serve the needs of a more sophisticated and diverse audience So make me proud! Get out there and ruin it for everybody! Confuse 'em with a big dark cloud of misguided doodling!
1990's: Jesse Reklaw journals the world of our dreams with his strip, Slow Wave.
No, wait - does he really? Or did I just dream it?...
Instructor Erik Lobo has lectured on the subject of cartooning through the Learning Exchange and other venues.
This is the online supplement to his Cartoonology Course.
Contact FAL to learn more.