Comics (from the Greek κωμικός, kōmikos "of or pertaining to comedy" from κῶμος - kōmos "revel, komos", via the Latin cōmicus) is a graphic medium in which images convey a sequential narrative. The term derives from the mostly humorous early work in the medium, and came to apply to that form of the medium including those far from comic. The sequential nature of the pictures, and the predominance of pictures over words, distinguishes comics from picture books, though there is some overlap between the two. Most comics combine words with images, often indicating speech in the form of word balloons, but pantomime strips, such as The Little King, are not uncommon. Words other than dialogue, captions for example, usually expand upon the pictures, but sometimes act in counterpoint.
Early precursors of comic as they are known today include Trajan's Column and the work of William Hogarth. By the 19th century, the medium as we know it today began to take form among European and American artists. Comics as a real mass medium started to emerge in the United States in the early 20th century with the newspaper comic strip, where its form began to be standardized (image-driven, speech balloons, etc.), first in Sunday strips and later in daily strips. The combination of words and pictures proved popular and quickly spread throughout the world.
Comic strips were soon gathered into cheap booklets and reprint comic books. Original comic books soon followed. Today, comics are found in newspapers, magazines, comic books, graphic novels and on the web. Historically, the form dealt with humorous subject matter, but its scope has expanded to encompass the full range of literary genres. Also see: Comic strip and cartoon. In some circles, comics are still seen as low art, though there are exceptions, such as Krazy Kat and Barnaby. However, such an elitist "low art/high art" distinction doesn't exist in the French-speaking world (and, to some extent, continental Europe), where the bandes dessinées medium as a whole is commonly accepted as "the Ninth Art", is usually dedicated a non-negligible space in bookshops and libraries, and is regularly celebrated in international events such as the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Such distinctions also do not exist in the Japanese manga, the world's largest comics culture.
In the late 20th and early 21st century there has been a movement to rehabilitate the medium. Critical discussions of the form appeared as early as the 1920s, but serious studies were rare until the late 20th century.
Though practitioners may eschew formal traditions, they often use particular forms and conventions to convey narration and speech, or to evoke emotional or sensuous responses. Devices such as speech balloons and boxes are used to indicate dialogue and impart establishing information, while panels, layout, gutters and zip ribbons can help indicate the flow of the story. Comics use of text, ambiguity, symbolism, design, iconography, literary technique, mixed media and stylistic elements of art help build a subtext of meanings. Though comics are non-linear structures and can be hard to read sometimes, it is simply presented. However, it depends of the reader's "frame of mind" to read and understand the comic. Different conventions were developed around the globe, from the manga of Japan to the manhua of China and the manhwa of Korea, the comic books of the United States, and the larger hardcover albums in Europe.