Who doesn’t love animation? But where did it all begin? How did animation evolve from the days of silent movies to where it is now? Dive in and start discovering the answers in The Comic Book History of Animation #1 from IDW Publishing!

THE COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF ANIMATION #1

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Ryan Dunlavey
Letterer: Ryan Dunlavey
Editor: Tom Waltz
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: December 9, 2020

Solicitation for The Comic Book History of Comics: A detailed and entertaining look at comics, where they started and how they have branched out and evolved over the decades. Now that that has been tackled, the creative team turn their talented pens over to a related art form – animation!

THE CURTAIN OPENS

The Comic Book History of Animation #1 starts before animation, back to the nineteenth century and chalk-talkers. These vaudevillian performers would draw before a live audience but entertain them with a drawing that could look like completely different pictures on its way to its final form. When motion pictures came about, not only were chalk-talkers a popular subject, but some of the artists started developing a new art form – animation.

Animation could be used for sheer novelty or for special effects – part of the magic of films. It wasn’t long before whole animated films became a thing. But as this industry was being developed and more people saw its potential to make money, it rapidly became more complicated. Thomas Edison dominated the early film industry and was very litigious. (Indeed, how quintessentially American is that?) He got involved in animation. Another name comic history buffs will remember is Winsor McCay, of Little Nemo fame. He brought to life Gertie the Dinosaur, the first animation of a character with character.

The people involved, from artists to businessmen, are every bit as fascinating as the technological history. It was a wild and wooly time and place. Business partnerships were formed and were broken up over creative differences, over personality clashes, outmaneuvering others to circumvent future competition. Names we know well, such as Fleischer, Freleng, and Disney, all got their starts early on as the industry was moving to Hollywood and becoming a thing. No one yet know just how big this would become.

And the talkies hadn’t been invented yet.

FULL OF ENTHUSIASM

There is so much information in The Comic Book History of Animation #1. The art keeps things lively and contributes so much to the story. I love the opening page, a dark page with a bright screen in the middle, the number “0” in the center, with a few words asking us to think first about drawing. This sets the tone for the whole piece. I have to admit, it’s such an interesting and lively book that it was not until I was done that I realized it’s mainly colored in sepia tones with only a few accents in muted colors. We’re in the time period before color after all.

The main characters we meet are drawn as the cartoon characters they are most associated with as well as a bit of caricature. This makes everything more interesting and I think it helps us place who everybody is. Winsor McCay, for example, is drawn as a dinosaur. Walt Disney has an obviously rodent-like portrayal. Associated characters are quite expressive; like I said, this was a wild and wooly time, and the over-the-top faces bring that home.

BOTTOM LINE: A FUN SLICE OF HISTORY

If you want to know how it all began, I recommend The Comic Book History of Animation #1. The history is fascinating on its own, and the art makes it downright entertaining. Plus you get to learn some cool things along the way.


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A Fun Slice of History

Almost as soon as there were motion pictures, there was animation.

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By day, she’s a mild-mannered bureaucrat and Ms. Know-It-All. By night, she’s a dance teacher and RPG player (although admittedly not on the same nights). On the weekends, she may be found judging Magic, playing Guild Wars 2 (badly), or following other creative pursuits. Holy Lack of Copious Free Time, Batman! While she’s always wished she had teleportation as her superpower, she suspects that super-speed would be much more practical because then she’d have time to finish up those steampunk costumes she’s also working on.

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