Missing from the textbook – Comics and Sequential Art

By: Kirk Nazar- 3164965

An extremely influential aspect of art and design that is missing from Eskilson’s textbook is the role of comic books and Graphic novels throughout history. The basic communicatory structure of these mediums is rooted in graphic design, and requires it in order to function. Comic illustration and Graphic design share a symbiotic relationship in this sense and have made a massive contribution to our art and design culture throughout history; Acting as a visual communication of our cultural zeitgeist, establishing symbolism and a distinct visual vocabulary that have become ingrained into our contemporary visual culture, shaping and reflecting it.

Itchy and Scratchy Comics, 1999

In order to even hold their basic narrative structure, the illustrations of a comic and narrative text need to be arranged in a way that is legible and cohesive, and this is where graphic design play’s it’s integral role in their construction. Comic books are a visual medium that embrace all 5 sense. Used in a multitude of ways to represent different narrative aspects. One way they achieve this is utilizing illustrative typography and it’s placement among the illustration to do things such as giving texture to a word to represent a sound, or emboldening it to establish tone, theme or mood.

Roy Lichtenstein, CRAK! (1963)
Roy Lichtenstein, CRAK! (1963)

These emotive fonts became a symbolic and iconic type face associated with comics, but more importantly their role in popular culture. These typographic methods were re purposed for a variety of other avenues of art and design. One of the most famous artistic movements, the Pop art movement of the 1950’s; Saw artists such as Roy Lichtenstein utilizing them, and other comic book visual tools in his own work to critique the current socio political climate of capitalistic mass production and the status of fine art and design in the 20th century.

Whaam! 1963 by Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997
Roy Lichtenstein, WHAAM! (1963)


Their use and effects throughout history has shifted drastically from tools of sociopolitical satire and critique, expressions of american youth culture to an integral part of the american war machine in the 1940’s . Following the events of D-Day, the american government enlisted comic makers of the time into the war effort, creating the character of Captain America. With the major demographic of readers being young men, comics were the perfect tool. They began operating as essentially an alternative to american enlistment posters and propaganda, assisting with vilification of the enemy and Heroism of the american allied forces. Targeted at young boys coming of age to enlist and also soldiers fighting over seas alike; sending copies to active duty troops reassuring them of their heroic purpose, justifying their role. In fact, the narrative tool of the super villain in literature and popular culture was the product of American War time comic issues and their propagandistic utilization.

Captain America Comics (1941) #1
Captain America Comics (1942) #13








While comics and graphic novels are often considered to be under the umbrella of illustration, I wholeheartedly disagree, Their methods of story telling are in able to function without some form of graphic design and in that sense their relationship is inseparable and symbiotic. I sincerely believe that the place of comics and graphic novels are a key facet that cannot be ignored when looking at graphic design. They have had an undeniable affect on our society throughout our history, both artistically and culturally, and are an excellent example of a form of art and design that needs more inclusion in Academic textbooks.

Work Cited 

  • McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Edited by Mark Martin, Tundra Publishing, 1993.
  • “Captain America: A WWII Fighting Force.” National D-Day Memorial, 27 Sept. 2017, www.dday.org/2017/10/19/captain-america-a-wwii-fighting-force/.
  • Dooley, Michael. “How Comic Books Influence Graphic Design.” Print Magazine, 5 Aug. 2011, www.printmag.com/design-education/comics-graphic-designers/.
  • “Roy Lichtenstein: MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art, www.moma.org/artists/3542.
  • Rupert. “Using Comic Book Techniques in Graphic Design.” Red Back Design, 27 May 2018, redbackdesign.co.uk/using-comic-book-techniques-in-graphic-design/.
  • Carrier, David. The Aesthetics of Comics. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.


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