Science fiction comics

Science fiction comics

Cover of Planet Comics 42 (May 1946).
Art by Joe Doolin.
This topic covers comics that fall under the Science fiction genre.
Publications Flash Gordon
Dan Dare
2000 AD
Creators Jack Kirby
Jim Starlin
Keith Giffen
This type of comic can be broken down into:
Biopunk comics
Cyberpunk comics
Military science fiction comics
Post-apocalyptic comics
Steampunk comics
Related articles
Science fiction magazine

Publication of science fiction comics became increasingly common during the early 1930s in newspapers published in the United States. They have since spread to many countries around the world, with the two largest publishers of this comic genre today being the United States and Japan.


The first science-fiction comic was the gag cartoon Mr. Skygack, from Mars by A.D. Condo, which debuted in newspapers in 1907.[1][2] The first non-humorous science fiction comic strip, Buck Rogers, appeared in 1929,[3] and was based on a story published that year in Amazing Stories. It was quickly followed by others in the genre, notably Flash Gordon, Brick Bradford, and the British strip Dan Dare. This influence spread to comic books, in which science fiction themes became increasingly more popular; one notable title was Planet Comics. With the introduction of Superman, the superhero genre was born, which often included science fiction elements.

In the 1950s, EC Comics had great success and popularity in publishing science fiction comics of increasing complexity. However, a wave of anti-comic feeling stirred-up among parents and educators by Dr. Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent threatened to drive them out of business. In spite of opposition, science fiction in comics continued in the U.S. through the 1960s with stories for children and teenagers, and began to return to the adult market again in the late 1960s with the wave of hippy underground comics.

Japanese manga also featured science fiction elements. In the 1950s, Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy was one of the first major mangas that centered around science fiction. In the following decades, many other creators and works would follow, including Leiji Matsumoto (e.g. Galaxy Express 999), Katsuhiro Otomo (e.g. Akira) and Masamune Shirow (e.g. Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell).

In the UK, the publication of Eagle gave a platform for the launch of Dan Dare in 1950. Starting in the mid-sixties,The Trigan Empire, drawn by Don Lawrence (who would later go on to create Storm) was featured in Look and Learn. In the 1970s, publications, such as 2000 AD, featured a selection of regular stories putting a science fiction spin on popular themes,[4] like sports or war. Its success spawned a number of spin-offs in imitators like Tornado, Starlord, and Crisis, none of which lasted more than a few years, with the earlier titles being merged back into 2000 AD.

The first French comic with a science-fiction theme was Zig et Puce au XXIème Siècle (Zig & Puce In The 21st Century), originally serialized in a French Sunday newspaper before being published as an album in 1935; this was one of the many adventures of the teenage characters Zig and Puce first created in 1925. The first French science fiction comics story that wasn't geared toward the adolescent audience was Futuropolis, serialized in the comics magazine Junior in 1937-1938; the pseudo-sequel Electropolis followed in 1940. When the Nazi occupation forces banned the import of Flash Gordon into France, Le Rayon U (The U Ray) was created as replacement in the magazine Bravo which had been running the former. Other French science fiction comics which debuted in 1943 include Otomox, featuring a powerful robot, serialized in Pic et Nic, and L'Épervier Bleu (The Blue Hawk), serialized in Spirou magazine. The first French comics magazine exclusively featuring a science fiction hero was in 1947 with the relatively short-lived Radar. A far longer lasting French comics magazine would be the small-format Meteor, published from 1953 through 1964; its main feature was Les Connquerants de l'espace (The Conquerors of Space). Subsequent notable French science fiction include publications like Métal Hurlant and authors like Enki Bilal (e.g. The Nikopol Trilogy) and Moebius.

With the invention of the Internet, a number of notable science fiction comics have been published primarily online. Among the earliest science fiction webcomics was Polymer City Chronicles, which first appeared in 1994. Other notable comics include Schlock Mercenary, and Starslip Crisis.

Graphic novels

A science fiction graphic novel is a full-length book that uses images necessarily to depict a story of a fictional nature that explores different/future time lines, theoretical societies, technology and/or both.

The first graphic novels were popular comics collected as books. Many graphic novels contain elements of science fiction including robots, mecha, virtual reality and time travel. The current usage of the term "graphic novel" implies a difference from that of a comic book in that most graphic novels reflect a more sophisticated level of artistry, storyline, or completeness, that run through a complete story arc from beginning to end, unlike many compilation books, which are simple collections of a comic series.


First usage
The first recorded usage of the term, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), is in 1978 by Will Eisner: "A contract with God: and other tenement stories... A graphic novel", though graphic novels existed for years prior. The first science fiction-based graphic novel is widely considered to be Astro Boy, by Osamu Tezuka, in 1951. Astro Boy was a childlike robot who was activated in the year 2003. Blending a child's innocence and aspirations with super-powers, Astro Boy represented a positive view on technology, which was important in Japan after the nuclear bomb attacks that ended World War II.

Evolution of art in graphic novels
Since the time of its creation, the science fiction graphic novel has been a medium depicting the prevalent science fiction concepts of the time period in question. The first graphic novels were hand-drawn and inked by their artists, then printed in black and white by their publishers. Technology has since intervened on behalf of those artists seeking a more cutting-edge, modern approach to the artform; computer illustration programs such as Photoshop, Paintshop, Paintbucket, Corel Paint, and Illustrator have been utilized in recent years to take artists' hand-drawn images and add various shapes, colors, filters and other special effects to them. Some artists have gone even further with technology, creating graphic novels that are composed of 100% computer images.



As in most science fiction mediums, graphic novels regularly feature protagonists who possess unnatural and augmented abilities. Usually, a story will establish the hero's power, then explore various implications and possibilities facilitated by said power vis-a-vis saving "the day". Departures from this standard include such works as Demo by writer Brian Wood and artist Becky Cloonan, which features characters who strive not to use, or are unaware of, their powers until the story's conclusion.

Superheroes, depicted in both comic books and graphic novels, find a special role in the graphic novels they are portrayed in. Since the exploits of most popular super heroes are portrayed in sequence through periodically printed comic books, their presence in the graphic novel format is usually to highlight a specific storyline or concept in the heroes' world that the authors/artists feel needs to be elaborated upon. For instance, the Death of Superman plot line was portrayed within the pages of a few different comic book series. However, since it was hard to collect all those different issues of different titles, the publisher (DC Comics) put all the issues which featured the plot line in chronological order in a single graphic novel The Death of Superman, so that readers could focus on that storyline for better comprehension.

Notable creators


  1. Veach, Michael (2010-09-28). "Mr. Skygack, From Mars.". The Filson Historical Society. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  2. Holmes! (2012-08-31). "MR. SKYGACK: SCI-FI COMICS START HERE!". Barnacle Press. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  3. Roberts, Garyn G. (2001). "Buck Rogers". In Browne, Ray B.; Browne, Pat. The Guide To United States Popular Culture. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-87972-821-2.
  4. Gravett, Paul (2005). "Great British Comics: Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be". Comics International. Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. Action's topicality and extreme images sparked a media furore and distributor crackdown, but from its ashes arose 2000AD, the same themes transposed into the 'fantasy' future of science fiction but as dark and disturbing as ever.

Further reading

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