Matt Madden nails the history of comics in six panels. To see the thing full size, you’ll need to go here, to a long essay by Professor Paul Lopes of Colgate University, on why comics are a great artform—something that some in the academic world must still be persuaded of.

Sadly, although I should be bubbling with delight at this revolution, one lone art appears to have been left behind. The full range of the comic book genre, so dear to my heart, has not been invited to the table. The overwhelming presence of superhero comic book characters in mainstream popular culture has distracted many from discovering how radically different, and varied, comic art has become over the last 30 years. So, although some discerning urban hipsters in the late 1980s did notice the emergence of a new, more serious, form — the “graphic novel” — this incredible transformation failed to capture the imagination of most Americans, whether high-brows or omnivores.

Lopes is also the author of Demanding Respect: the Evolution of the American Comic Book, a scholarly look at how comics became so popular that came out a few years ago. The essay above, while longish, serves as a fairly decent intro to the evolution of comics into something you could leave out on your coffee table with impunity.

The essay concludes with the four book shortlist by which all comics are now know: MAUS, WATCHMEN, FUN HOME, and PERSEPOLIS. And that’s the way it is.

Spotted via The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log.