Mayan Comics: Thought Bubbles, Crude Jokes, And Even An Ancient Bugs Bunny
By | September 30, 2019
You might think that the earliest comic strips started in the 1920s. Those daily black and white newspaper panels that were delivered to door to door and starred the humorous exploits of characters like The Katzenjammer Kids, Gasoline Alley, and Blondie brought people joy every day. However, these weren't the first comics. Not even close. Believe it or not, Mayan comics go all the way back to 600 AD.
Comics, Not Simply Cave Paintings
The earliest comics were found on cave walls and various artifacts discovered by archaeologists. According to Soeren Wichmann of Leiden University in the Netherlands, these are different from what we normally think of as cave paintings. The stories are told in sequence as you turn the dish or walk along the wall, filled with dialogue, motion, bad smells, funny animals, and naughty jokes. "You have all these mechanisms come together---it's getting close to something that is very similar to comics," says Wichmann.
However, unlike modern comic strips, which aren't exactly held up as high art, the Mayans cherished these comedic depictions. "It was the highest quality art you could have," Wichmann says. "It was highly valued, whereas in modern societies comics are frowned upon." In fact, these "comic strips" were used to ease political tension and form alliances between neighboring tribes. Imagine giving a Dilbert or Cathy comic as a peace offering.