By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Amazonians may be more realistic than Greek mythology and comics suggest, BBC News reported. Recent archaeological expeditions suggest a group of ancient Iranian warriors may have inspired the ideas for Amazonian women and Wonder Woman. Comics, as an art form, make and serve history.
According to BBC News, Wonder Woman may have had a more realistic inspiration than was previously believed. “While the story of a race of warrior women first appeared in Greek mythology, excavations across the north and east of the Black Sea region have revealed that warrior women like the Amazons existed in real life,” the article said.
“In December 2019, the graves of four female warriors from the 4th century B.C.E. Sarmatian region were found in the village of Devitsa, in what is now western Russia. The Sarmatians were a people of Iranian heritage, with men and women skilled in horsemanship and battle.”
The comic book character of Wonder Woman may not exactly be historical, but the character’s inspiration proves that comics can serve as excellent tributes to history, albeit sometimes exaggerated.
More than anything, comic books are a storytelling medium that marries visual art and text. Despite the warehouses one could fill with all the comic books printed over the years, it’s no easy task to create a comic book.
“For a visual artist, combining a series of images to tell a story may be quite daunting, as opposed to creating one single image where there’s no real obligation to say anything that can be put into words,” said Peter Bagge, alternative comic artist and creator. “Simply painting a landscape can be enough to satisfy yourself or a viewer.
“For an experienced writer, writing a comic strip forces you to think visually, which may be equally unfamiliar to you. You must remember that you are showing things, rather than merely telling them, and this can be a tricky thing to incorporate if you’re used to writing in straight text.”
In the sense of sequential artwork telling a story, the first real comics produced by human hands were Egyptian hieroglyphs. Gods and goddesses were born and they lived, fought, married, had children, and died—all depicted in comics with strong words and powerful images.
Some famous contemporary comics based on history include Maus, which retells a Holocaust survivor’s experiences surrounding World War II, and Persepolis, an autobiographical coming-of-age memoir set against the Iranian Revolution. None of them would be possible without an artist’s ever-evolving skillset.
From Hieroglyphs to the Hulk
“A drawing style is like a signature,” Bagge said. “The more you draw, the more it will reveal itself and rise to the surface. Through trial and error, you’ll continually be taking notice of what does or doesn’t appeal to you, and what does and doesn’t work.”
One of the most legendary and influential comic artists of all time, Jack Kirby, helped comics gain popularity.
“In the 1940s and 50s, Kirby illustrated a wide variety of genre comics, most notably romance comics,” Bagge said. “Kirby was already quite an accomplished comic artist, although it’s hard to pinpoint anything about [his early work] that makes it his. It also hardly gave him an opportunity to let his imagination run wild, which it finally did with the Marvel superhero comics of the 1960s, and which is the work he’s best known for.”
Together with Stan Lee, Kirby co-created many of Marvel’s best-known characters, including Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Thor, and the Hulk. His art style is instantly recognizable to comics aficionados, just as any classic artist’s would be to an art historian.
And Kirby isn’t alone. From Bernie Wrightson, whose impossibly detailed works set him apart from the pack, to Alex Ross, whose Norman Rockwell-esque paintings of superheroes bring old characters to life in new and realistic ways, the comics medium continues to dive into history while making its own.
Peter Bagge contributed to this article. Bagge is an alternative comic artist and creator best known for the comic series Hate. He served as managing editor of Robert Crumb’s comic anthology Weirdo, while simultaneously creating his first solo comic series, Neat Stuff. He has been recognized as a Rockefeller Fellow of Literature by United States Artists.