The multi-billion dollar pop culture phenomenon of comics finds it roots in the cheap paper known as newsprint.
The colorful world of newspaper comic strip characters and today’s superheroes can be traced back to the 1890s with the development of high-speed color printing presses. Color printing gave publishers a competitive edge in the bruising newspaper circulation wars of the time.
The large size of a broadsheet newspaper gave both editors and artists a vast canvas upon which to create ground-breaking comics like Little Nemo in Slumberland, Gasoline Alley, and The Spirit.
Here in the 21st Century, we still find newsprint relevant to the comics world, even as physical newspapers and comic books fade in favor of digital content. Newsprint’s cheap production price coupled with the latest digital technologies have encouraged publishers and creators of indie comics to embrace the medium.
This has led to the creation of such long-running newsprint-based publications such as Smoke Signal and Magic Bullet, both mainstays of the indie comics field. The editors and artists of these and other comics across the United States leverage the large form factor and low costs of newsprint to create stories and compositions that could not be entertained in smaller print formats like comic books or in any digital medium.
This exhibit of over 50 pieces is curated by comics historian and Small Press Expo Executive Director Warren Bernard from his personal collection. It traces the use of newsprint in comics from its first commercial application in 1892, through the adoption of this very old medium by today’s indie comics artists.