May 5, 2013 - National Cartoonists' Day

We've just celebrated Batman's first appearance in comic books, and today we celebrate cartoons and cartoonists.

Which made me wonder, what's the difference between cartoons and comics?

Most people will tell you that cartoons are animated features with moving pictures and sound, whereas comics are still pictures, either printed or online, that tell a story through a series of drawings, usually with narrative words and dialogue.

However, that isn't completely correct. Otherwise, why would we call the still, printed political cartoons “political cartoons”?  

Cartooning” is actually a simplified style of drawing that exaggerates features, either to be humorous or to make a point. A synonym for cartoon is caricature(Check out this explanation of how the word cartoon came to be.)

The word comic comes from comedy and means, of course, humorous. Most comic strips are indeed funny (and “the comics” section in a newspaper is often called “the funnies”). But some comic strips and comic books are not at all humorous.
Many comic strips and books are drawn as cartoons. In other words, the drawing style is simplified and exaggerated. However, many comic books (and a few comic strips) feature very detailed and even realistic drawings. And some even use photographs!

Today, we use the term graphic novel for a long story told in comics, when the publication looks like a book, and we use the term comic book for comics published in a magazine format.

So...cartooning is a style. A lot of comic strips, comic books, and animated movies are drawn in cartoon style.

Comics is a genre that features pictures, captions, speech balloons, and sound-effect words as it tells a story or conveys information. Comics includes comic books, comic strips, political cartoons, graphic novels, and webcomics.

(By the way, for anyone who is interested, there is a book called Understanding Comics that tells the history and theory of comics WITH COMICS. How brilliant is that?)


  • Read a comic book, or the funnies, or a graphic novel.
  • Watch a cartoon.
  • Create your own characters for a comic strip. Think of simple stories that can be told in just a few drawings arranged in a panel. For example:
      > Boy sees leaves blowing, gets a huge smile on his face.
      > Boy gets his kite and runs up a hill. The kite looks very unhappy.
      > Boy is high in the sky, looking terrified—and the kite is grinning as he holds the string and “flies” the boy.
Remember that humor can occur because of a “switcheroo,” like the boy-and-kite story above. It can occur because of an unexpected ending or irony or plain old silliness. Also remember that not all comics are funny!

By the way...

If you were wondering, “Why is National Cartoonists' Day today, of all days?” it's because today is the anniversary of the first-ever color cartoon, The Yellow Kid, in 1895.

Plan Ahead...
Check out my Pinterest boards of May holidayshistorical events in May, and May birthdays.

Also on this date:

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