Comics is an art form using a series of static images in fixed sequence. Written text is often incorporated into the images. Comics are traditionally printed in newspapers or comic books.
The precise definition of comics remains a subject of debate, with some scholars insisting that their printed nature is crucial to the definition, or that they should be defined by the interdependance of image and text. Others define the medium in terms of its sequential nature. Longtime comics artist Will Eisner referred to comics as sequential art. Artist Scott McCloud refined this definition in his influential 1993 work of comics theory in the form of a comic, Understanding Comics. According to McCloud, "[Comics are] juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer." By this definition, single panel illustrations (such as the Far Side, or Family Circus) are not comics (they are cartoons).
When comics originated is also a contentious matter. While many commentators will point to early precidents such as Egyptian hieroglyphics or European stained glass windows, there is increasing agreement that recognizably modern comics begin with the Swiss artist and author Rodolphe Töpffer, (1799-1846) who began producing printed comic strips in the mid-1820s.
The images in printed comics most often originate as pen and ink drawings, but there are exceptions. Comics that combine photographic images and speech balloons are sometimes known as fotonovelas.
Though there is little about the medium that intrinsically favors one type of story over another, certain genres have dominated the modern comics industry, and comics have often been marketed to children and adolescents. These genres include anthropomorphic funny animals, science-fiction and horror comics, romance comics and superhero comics. Journalistic, historical, educational, erotic, non-narrative and propagandistic comics have also been produced.
A radical break with the traditional comic genres occurred in the late 1960s with the advent of satirical, psychedelic, and sexually explicit "underground comix. Those set the precident for a subsequent (and ongoing) international movement toward personal, artistically ambitious comics that are published without the involvement of the "mainstream" comic book industry. These are loosely grouped under the labels "independent" or "alternative" comics.
Comics appear in a number of formats including: