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ARCHIVED - History of Comic Books in English Canada
In book and periodical illustration, art enhances what is predominantly a textual narrative. The comics medium, in contrast, combines words and pictures (usually in sequential panels) to create a unique form of storytelling: graphic narrative. The noted Canadian artist Harold Town, who contributed to comics during his youth in the 1940s, says that this hybrid art form represents the "ultimate form of communication."1 Certainly for most of the 20th century, comics proved to be an immensely popular medium.
In the best comics, text is used with great, almost poetic, economy. Much of the story is told visually, leaving the logical flow between panels to be completed by the reader. Creators shape their stories -- adding dramatic effects and changing mood or pace -- by manipulating design elements such as lighting, perspective, panel and page layout, lettering style and the placement of dialogue. This mixture of art and text in a singular visual language represents a delicate balance and demands considerable unity between writer and artist. For this reason, many of the most successful comic strips and comic books have been produced by a single creator acting in both roles.
Canadian comic books first appeared in 1941. Since that time, their creators have sought to sustain a Canadian vision within the graphic-narrative medium. This has been a difficult task, as comic-book artists and writers in English Canada have had to contend not only with the pervasive influence of American comic books, but also, at times, with powerful forces of censorship.
Although comic books first emerged as an ephemeral entertainment for children, today our best graphic-narrative creators are trying -- often in the face of considerable disdain on the part of mainstream critics and cultural historians -- to establish an adult art form of lasting significance. History of Comic Books in English Canada traces the development of English-Canadian comic books, from their evolution out of earlier forms of cartooning and graphic narrative through to the cutting-edge, internationally renowned comics of artists such as Dave Sim, Chester Brown, Julie Doucet, Seth (Gregory Gallant), and Dave Cooper.