Currently on view on the Library's first floor is a comics exhibit curated by Art History Professor Miriam Wattles and her seminar 186RW students in conjunction with the 2013 Regents’ Lecture by Scott McCloud. Comics, caricature, graphic narrative, visual storytelling – whatever we call it, this medium has compelled readers for hundreds of years. Japanese woodblock-printed books, European broadsides, and other forms of illustrated narratives could be considered the comics of their time. The development of the newspaper and magazine in 19th century Europe brought with it the rise of political cartoons and satirical caricatures, forms which soon spread to Japan, the Americas, and throughout the world. Called "comics" in the U.S. and U.K., "manga" in Japan, and "bande desinée" in France and Belgium, these art forms began to modernize and cultural icons emerged.
As comics grew darker and grittier with the political climate of the 1980s, a new generation of graphic narrative was born, concerned with the exercise of power, responses to authority, and experiences of freedom and individuality. At the same time, artists began to engage with the politics of self-identity, creating a new genre with family memoirs and personal narratives. Whatever comics means to you, it is undeniably the centuries-old and still unfinished product of an intensely meaningful “dance,” as comics theorist Scott McCloud might say, between two of humanity’s most fundamental forms of communication: words and pictures.