May 6th Free Comic Book Day

The first known comics appeared in 18th century Japan, by the 1930’s they became popular in the United States. On the first Saturday in May free comic books are given out at select comic books stores across America (And Europe) by the North American Comic Book industry. (No, you can’t just go in and get which ever comic book you want.)

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The idea came from an article written in the August 2001 issue of Comic & Games Retailer by Joe Field. He operated “Flying Colors Comics” in Concord, California. The idea caught on and put into practice by the Diamond Comic Distributors (The worlds largest comic book distributors) in 2002. Today over 7,000 retailers participate in some 30 countries.

Marvel-comics

When comics first came out they were basically for children’s entertainment. Basically every super hero the world has ever know came out of comic books. Some have been the pure imagination of the author, others are based on actual historical characters (with a few alteration) or mythological legends.

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While most are pure fiction, some mix historical facts into their pages. They are entertaining, but can also be educational, a sly way of teaching kids while they think they are having fun.

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But some comics are definitely not for children at all! (Some are even a little mature for most adults!) Like practically anything originally designed to be innocent and fun, it can be taken to a very dark side perverting what was originally intended.

Some of the top producers of comics in the world are Dark Horse, Top Cow, Marvel, Image Comics, Mad Magazine, Blank Slate Books and Drawn & Quartered.

How to celebrate – Go to a comic book store and get your free comic! (I am sure the very first ones are already collectable) Re-read any comic books you may have saved from your youth. Make sure the comics your children are reading are what you think they are.

May 5th Cartoonists Day

Cartoonists work in a large medium that includes animation, comic strips, comic books, editorial cartoons, graphic novels, manuals, gag cartoons, graphic design, illustration, storyboards, posters, shirts, books, advertisements, greeting cards, magazines, newspapers, and video game packaging.

William Hograth is credited with pioneering the Western sequential art. The cartoon we know best is the comic strip.  Many of us remember  “Peanuts”, “Blondie” and  “Beetle Bailey” from the newspaper every Sunday. Some comics came in single panels, reflecting the deeper thoughts of society at the time, such as the featured comic above done by Thomas Nash during the American Civil War. Most are funny, some are political, others are very serious. Nash covered the war from its highs and lows, saying in the newspapers, what others were afraid to say out-loud. He could also be humorous, such as when Nash created the Elephant for the G.O.P..004tnast

Among other great political cartoonists were James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson in 18th century England. In the US, Ben Franklin is credited with being the first editor to put a comic in a newspaper.

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The twentieth century was filled with freelance cartoonists such as Charles Addams, Irwin Caplan, Chon Day, Clyde Lamb and John Norment, and of course, the comic strips which we are all familiar with such as those created by Mort Walker, who preferred to produce his comic strips with a studio, and Bill Watterson and Charles Schultz, who enjoyed doing their work alone.political_cartoon_by_queenmari

Marvel, D.C. Comics, Classics Illustrated, and so many other comic book companies have hired, and in some cases still do, so many cartoonists that it would be nearly impossible to list them all. Yet each one of them is truly an artist that creates a world we may not be able to live in, but we sure enjoy looking at.

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How to celebrate Cartoonist Day: Look over the comics in the newspapers and magazines that you read, but this time, be sure to make a mental note of who the artist was that created it. Watch an animated movie, make sure you pay attention to the credits at the end of the film.  Try drawing your own cartoon, see just how difficult it can be!