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Science fiction comics

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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
Sub genres
Thess type of comics can be broken down into:
Biopunk comics
Cyberpunk comics
Military science fiction comics
Post-apocalyptic comics
Steampunk comics
Related articles
Science fiction magazine

Science fiction comics began as early as the 1930s in US newspapers. They have since spread to many countries around the world, with the two largest publishers of this comic genre today arguably 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 science-fiction comic book is Ilmari Vainio's Jorva ja Tannu ennenmuinoin from 1912 (Jorva and Tannu in ancient times) where two rascals Jorva and Tannu venture with dinosaurs. Only two copies of this rare book is known to survive. [3] The first non-humorous science fiction comic strip was Buck Rogers, based on a story published in Amazing Stories. It was quickly followed by others in the genre, notably Flash Gordon, Brick Bradford, and the British strip Dan Dare. When comic books arrived on the scene, many of them featured science fiction. One notable title was Planet Comics. Also, with the introduction of Superman, the super-hero genre was born, which often included science fiction elements (Superman came from another planet). Today the superhero is considered a subgenre of science fiction.

In the 1950s, EC Comics had great success and popularity publishing science fiction comics of increasing sophistication, but were almost driven out of business by the wave of anti-comics feeling stirred-up among parents and educators by Dr. Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent. In spite of opposition, science fiction in comics in the U.S. continued through the 1960s with stories for children and adolescents. It began to return to the adult market again in the late 60s with the wave of hippy underground comics.

Japanese manga also featured science fiction elements very early. In the 1950s, Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy was one of the first major science fiction manga. In the next 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 was featured in Look and Learn drawn by Don Lawrence, who would go on to create Storm. In the 1970s, publications such as 2000 AD featured a selection of regular stories either putting a science fiction spin on popular themes[4] like sports and war and also introduced characters like Judge Dredd. Its success spawned a number of spin-offs an 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. Other examples include the Polish comic Funky Koval.

The first French comics story with a science-fiction theme was Zig et Puce au XXIème Siècle (Zig & Puce In The 21st Century), first serialized in a French Sunday newspaper and then 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 serious (featuring non-juvenile characters) French science fiction comics story 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 Flash Gordon. 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 the relatively short-lived Radar of 1947. A far more longer lasting French comics magazine would be the small-format Meteor, published from 1953 onwards till 1964; its main feature was Les Connquerants de l'espace (The Conquerors of Space). Subsequent notable French science fiction names the heroine Barbararella, publications like Métal Hurlant and authors like Enki Bilal (e.g. The Nikopol Trilogy) and Moebius.

With the advent of the Internet, a number of notable science fiction comics have been published primarily online. Among the earliest science fiction webcomic 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.

Likewise, many science fiction stories, sans images, would be significantly altered, as graphics are an integral aspect; a gundam, a technically complex and detailed machine, requires great effort to explain or dictate, yet is fully, expediently delineated by a picture. Also, the rapid action sequences and moods prevalent in the manners of such graphic novels are impossible to convey in prose.


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", but 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. Also, it has always displayed the cutting edge artwork of the time frame, using modern technology to augment the depictions contained within its pages. The first graphic novels were hand-drawn and inked by their artists, then printed in black and white by their publishers. Nowadays, there are still some retro artists who still use these techniques for their simple yet dramatic effects. 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.


Super hero

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, the collected Edition 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.

A popular series is Superman which features an alien from a destroyed planet. Another popular super hero is Spider-Man, who gained his superior powers as a result of a radioactive spider biting him. Both the Fantastic Four and the X-Men graphic novels tend to emphasize teamwork to some degree, where the characters often have personal agendas. Captain Atom, initially a stand-alone hero, has assisted the unceremonial Batman/Superman duo. He was later infected excessively by kryptonite while attempting to deflect a meteor headed for Superman and Earth. Interestingly, Atom has powers that are arguably unique, yet similar to those of Superman. The Incredible Hulk is the alter-ego of Bruce Banner, who uncontrollably transforms when angered.

Super heroes, 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. This theme was also prevalent in Watchmen.


Not all manga are science fiction, nor are they all complete stories. Many manga are monthly or weekly collections of different popular series and do not follow a complete story arc. By definition, a manga is graphic, meaning "with images", and is the Japanese word for comics or cartoons. Manga are characterized by their cheaply made forms and are meant to be disposable, with colorful covers but filled with mainly black and white illustrations. Massive worldwide popularity of manga has led to the popular genre of film called anime, which feature similar themes and art styles. One of the earlier manga, Astro Boy, originated in 1951, centers on the exploits of its namesake, and, for a time, enjoyed comparable Japanese notoriety to Mickey Mouse. Akira, inspired from Japan, has attained some popularity in America. The graphic form lends a useful level of detail and alteration of the feeling of Metropolis, while Cowboy Bebop, whose story focuses on bounty hunters, develops a mystic, estranged feeling by using drab and dark, contrasting colors. A fast-paced exceptionally realistic future setting, such as that in Ghost in the Shell, puts emphasis on human aspects.

Orbiter is a graphic novel involving space travel and the implications of bringing alien technology back to earth.

General science fiction

Science fiction is a wide genre, not simply limited to superheroes and spaceships. Below is just a small list of science fiction comics including such sub-genres as: fantasy, alternate history, horror, cyberpunk, time travel, military science fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, hard science fiction and soft science fiction. A typical work of this medium, David Cronenberg's eXistenZ: A Graphic Novel, employs many characteristics common to explorations of the future, but uses graphic depictions to convey visceral biological details and emotional impacts. Orbiter, by Warren Ellis, explores a space shuttle that mysteriously crash-lands back on earth after losing contact ten years earlier. Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street[5] Other traditional graphic works in graphic novels of science fiction include: Red Star: The Battle of Kar Dathra's Gate,[6] Kabuki: Circle of Blood (1)[7] A Distant Soil,[8] The Authority: Relentless,[9] Global Frequency: Planet Ablaze[10] and The Victorian.[11]

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. ^
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street, written by Warren Ellis, art by Darick Robertson. Vertigo/DC Comics 2001,
  6. ^ Red Star: The Battle of Kar Dathra's Gate, written by Christian Gossett and Bradley Kayl, Image Comics 2001.
  7. ^ Kabuki: Circle of Blood (1), by David Mack. Image Comics 2001,
  8. ^ A Distant Soil, by Colleen Doran, Image Comics 2001
  9. ^ The Authority: Relentless, written by Warren Ellis, art by Paul Neary and Bryan Hitch, DC Comics 2000
  10. ^ Global Frequency: Planet Ablaze; Volume 1, by Warren Ellis, art by Garry Leach, Glen Fabry, Steve Dillon, Roy Martinez, Jon J Muth, David Lloyd, David Baron, DC Comics 2004,
  11. ^ The Victorian: Act 1: Self Realization, Act 2: Self-Immolation, by Trainor Houghton, art by Lovern Kindzierski, Len Wein, Jim Bakie, Claude St. Aubin, Andrew Pepoy, Chris Chuckry, Richard Starkings, and Jason Levine. Penny-Farthing Press 1999, 2002


  • Benton, Mike (1992). Science Fiction Comics: The Illustrated History. Taylor History of Comics. Taylor Publishing. p. 153.  
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