Pictures to laugh

Anastasia Selezneva, December 11, 2016

Pictures combined with small texts that tell the viewer some story have been known since the 16th century. Handmade dawings on religious topic were popular with the common people in Spain, and later, in the 19th century, factories started producing comics in the form we can see them now. Anyone can become the main character of the comics, from ninja turtles to Yury Gagarin. The golden age of the genre is far behind, but the funny pictures on the Internet on different topics like “Your life before and after you get a cat” or “What girls do when they’re alone” are something we come across every day. That is to say, the genre has granted immortality in the digital form. But when did the fun begin?

Rudolph Toppfer is known as the author of the first cartoon strips in Europe in the 1830s. Being a school teacher, he made funny situational pictures to entertain his friends and students. Those pictures later were printed as a book, which has been republished up to nowadays. Among other things, Rudolph is known for his remark that children are often brighter and more expressive at art than professional artists whose skills and techniques are controlled by what they’d been taught at the university, which was a remarkable point of view for the time when neither children, nor women were considered to be of much importance.


Wilhelm Busch was another illustrator and humorist associated with the fist comics. He made fun of his narrow-minded and hypocritical contemporaries in his series of drawings. Some of his works were even banned by the authorities, but later a special poetry award was established and named after the German artist. And there is also a museum of comic art in Hannover, which was formed and run to maintain Busch’s legacy in 1937.

His comic texts were translated into many languages and loved by lots of people worldwide.



In late 19th century comic art became a favorite genre of the press in the US. Winzor McCay was one of the best-known American cartoonists, whose work influenced generations of comic artists. Winzor wasn’t considered to be very good at funny dialogues, yet he was brilliant at perspective drawings. People loved his pictures, and that’s what we feel for his pictures, too. By the 20th century comic strips had become more adventurous than humorous. The genre was so popular that in Italy editors used to give characters Italian names in order to publish comics at newspapers (during the second World War foreign comics were banned in the country).


The epoque of superheroes started with Superman in 1938. There were golden, silver and bronze ages of comic art. Superman, Batman, Captain America are warhorses of the genre born in the 1940s. In the 1960s the Marvel company created its characters, and we still keep up with their adventures at the cinema. The bronze era of comics started with the death of Spiderman’s girlfriend in 1973. From this time forth superheroes have become more human-like, having the same doubts and sorrows. And since


A modern period in the development of the genre started in the mid 1980s with darksome stories, antiheroes and manga comics. Manga appeared in Japan soon after the Second World War, but it didn’t become popular worldwide straight away. So, the webcomics we all enjoy reading now have quite a long history.

And what is so special about these stories? Why do we click to read them again and again? Maybe that happens because they tackle important problems and make us look at them from another angle. A modern superhero is a person who manages to combine working with studying, housekeeping, working out, having a hobby and a relationship. That is to say, almost everyone. That’s why Superpeople are no more the characters of current interest. And a gothic Nemi or a philosopher cat from Oleg Ti’s book are more interesting to the people of today that any mighty guy. We giggle at introverts, young parents and single girls’ lives.

In other words, we laugh at ourselves. And share the pictures that can express our feelings better than any words. That is to say, we’ve got back to what it all started with, ironic comic pics on some burning issues.