Thursday, March 11, 2010

On the Origins of Comics

Brian Boyd's fascinating essay in the inaugural issue of The Evolutionary Review is now available online for you to read—for free! Here's the opening two paragraphs, to set the scene a bit:
Comics can have almost no mass and yet be the most mass of mass arts: Garfield has had up to 263 million readers a day. Comics constitute a new art, just over a century old, and usually an unusually accessible one. So what can evolution add to our understanding of comics?

Evolution lets us see comics, like almost anything human or even alive, in a panoramic context but also in extreme close-up, as close as a comics artist trying to grab readers’ attention in this frame or with that angle. And it can zoom smoothly between these two poles. Evolution offers a unified and naturalistic causal system from the general to the very particular. Far from reducing all to biology and then to chemistry and physics, it easily and eagerly plugs in more local factors—in a case like comics, historical, technological, social, artistic and individual factors, for instance—the closer we get to particulars. Evolution accepts multilevel explanations, from cells to societies, and allows full room for nature and culture, society and individuals.
Read the article and then subscribe to The Evolutionary Review (download the entire issue, order a hard copy, or order individual articles).