The History of the First Mass Produced Comic Book

The Glasgow Looking Glass is believed to be the very first comic book in the world. It was published in Scotland nearly 200 years ago, in 1825. Over the years, comic strips such as DC Thompson Comic Strips and Beau Peep, one of the evergreen favorites, have been produced in Scotland.

It was a decade after the publication of The Glasgow Looking Glass that titles like Punch came into prominence.

Comic illustrations characteristically have been around since millennia. When we consider The Glasgow Looking Glass, it is the first comic book to be mass produced.

It was during the starting days of the industrial revolution that the comic book came into print. It was a time when the population of Glasgow had begun to rise. Newspapers were becoming more commonplace. The Glasgow Herald was first published in 1783.

So when The Glasgow Looking Glass was first published, they got scores of thousands of copies printed. Those were distributed in pub houses and the properties in and around Glasgow.

The name The Glasgow Looking Glass, stayed for five publications. It used to be a fortnightly magazine. Thereafter, the name was changed to The Northern Looking Glass. This was to bring in a national character for the publication.

The focus would lay over affectations that used to be during the days, eccentricities that prevailed across all levels of the society, politics and fashion.

The Northern Looking Glass finally halted publication on 3rd April 1826 with the publication of the final issue. The first one appeared on 11th June, 1825. Richard Griffin and Co. did come up with two more issues of the new series. But in June 1826, the publication was halted.

The publication genre associated with The Glasgow Looking Glass is topical graphic journalism, which used to prevail during those days. Through the 19th century, the genre stayed popular. A number of satirical publications, such as the aforementioned never lasted long. But Punch, a British weekly magazine that started out in 1841 came by as a national institution. The satirical themes of The Glasgow Looking Glass stayed over in Punch to an extent.

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Review: Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

Before I get into this, the goal of this review is not to spoil anything, but I will not say that there is no spoilers to follow. I promise to not spoil any plot points, or to tell you the end, but I am going to get into my feelings on “Asterios Polyp”, so if you want to say totally clear minded on this book, do not read what is below.

There are a few comic creators that seem to only pop up every so often, lay out an amazing work, then go back to ground for a while. Creators like the late Will Eisner, or Blanket’s Craig Thompson come quickly to mind, but there are others, like the author of Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli.

You may or may not remember David Mazzucchelli, artist of two of my all time favorite comic stories, “Batman: Year One,” and “Daredevil: Born Again” (both with writer Frank Miller.) These two stories came out in the mid 1980’s and soon there after, Mr. Mazzucchelli seemed to vanish, appearing here and there with a story, but for the most part he fell completely off the radar. Then earlier this month he put out the new graphic novel “Asterios Polyp”.

Asterios Polyp” is the story of a man by the same name, who is a renowned “paper architect” (meaning he has never actually built a building, just designed amazing works) and academic, whose life has recently changed. Asterios Polyp then embarks, after a well placed lightening bolt, to examine himself, where he has been, and where he is going all of which Mr. Mazzucchelli handles amazing skill.

While the story is a meditation on change, Mr. Mazzucchelli is using “Asterios Polyp” as a meditation on graphic storytelling. In fact it is Mr. Mazzucchelli’s skills as a storyteller which makes this book so amazingly good. He uses the art of this book to tell us as much about all the characters as their actions do. Each character has their own color pallets, and there own art style, and Mr. Mazzucchelli puts this all seamlessly on a page, making sure the reader only realizes these differences when he wants them to. In many ways it feels as if Mr. Mazzucchelli has thrown this book on a table and said, “here everyone, this is what you can do with graphic storytelling.” This polite slap in the face to all creator’s may be the most wonderful things about the book.

There is one other amazing thing about this book though, and that is Asterios Polyp himself. This curmudgeon of a man is almost instantly relatable, and his journey is one that anyone who has ever felt a moment of melancholy can relate with. The very personal moments, like when he admits that he has always felt like he is being watched, make the reader feel as if they are no longer reading a graphic novel, but rather are looking at a fellow person bearing their soul.

While the third act of the book falls some what short, seeming to offer very little resolution (though the argument can be made that life itself offers very little in the way of resolution), the storytelling of this piece more than makes up for it, and this is a must read for anyone who likes a good character study, or a masterfully crafted graphic novel, or both.