The evolution of comics

As a new publication and exhibition explore the last 60 years in comic book history, comic publishing specialist Paul Gravett answers our questions about the ‘ninth art’

For a long time, and arguably still to this day, comics have been treated as child’s play rather than a respected artform, despite it being anointed the ‘ninth art’ in the 1960s, joining the ranks of forms such as poetry, sculpture, painting, and architecture.

This summer, an exhibition at Paris’ Centre Pompidou and an accompanying book published by Thames & Hudson are offering food for thought for the naysayers and new discoveries for the fans. Comics 1964-2024 delves into the wide-ranging techniques and visual styles that have emerged from the medium across different eras and countries, and explores its capacity to tell profound stories, mobilise audiences, and even reflect moments in history. Rather than chug through the decades, both the show and book cut across time and are instead grouped into themes, from counterculture to humour to history and memory.

You don’t need to pick up comics to have felt their influence, whether on the work of Roy Lichtenstein or in the current shape of blockbuster films and games, yet the book and exhibition reveal that there is far more to the medium than serving as a resource to be mined for visual cues and IP.

Below, Paul Gravett, an author and curator who contributed to the book and wrote its English language foreword (itself a fascinating potted history of the medium’s transformation) answers our questions about comics.

Top: L’Ascension du Haut Mal (Epilectic), vol. 6 by David B, 2003 © David B and L’Association, 2003; Above: La Réparation by Nina Bunjevac © Nina Bunjevac, 2022