The Early Years


1827: Rodolphe Töpffer
» Rodolphe Töpffer, a teacher from Switzerland, creates what will later be considered among the most famous European proto-comics. In 1937, his series of illustrated comedies are published, taking the form of booklets.

1842: The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck
» The first American translation and printing of a French “comic strip” - Les Amours de Mr. Vieux Bois (1837) by Rodolphe Töpffer - is published by Wilson & Co in New York and retitled The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck. It is arguably the oldest “graphic novel.” (Read it here.)

1865: Max und Moritz
» German artist Wilhem Busch’s Max und Moritz illustrated stories (written in verse) are published. His work directly inspired The Katzenjammer Kids (1897) - an American comic strip created by Rudolph Dirks, a German immigrant. (Read Busch’s work at Project Gutenberg.)

1896: The Yellow Kid
» The first ever colour “comic strip” was not a comic strip as we know it today. Instead, it was one drawing printed in the February 16, 1896 edition of the New York World newspaper. The newspaper tested their new yellow ink on the nightgown of a cartoon drawn by Richard Outcault. It is so popular that it significantly increases sales of the paper, proving that comic strip characters could be merchandised in a profitable fashion. (Read more about The Yellow Kid.)

Early 1900s
» Multiple books of collected reprinted Sunday-page comics like Buster Brown and Foxy Grandpa appear. (Many of these can be read online at Barnacle Press.)
» Other examples include Mutt and Jeff and Little Orphan Annie

1917
» The Saalfield Publishing company is the first to use the term “comic book” in reference to their collections of newspaper comic strips.

1930: Tintin in The Land of the Soviets
» Belgian comics artist Hergé’s first series of Les Aventures de Tintin (The Adventures of Tintin), originally printed in Le Petit Vingtième between 20 January 1929 and 11 May 1930, is reprinted in book format. (Read it here.)

1933: The First Modern American “Comic Book”
» The Eastern Color Printing Company produces the first full-color eight-by-eleven inch “comic book,” Funnies on Parade.

--------------------

Sources:

Benton, Mike. (1989). The comic book in America: An illustrated history. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Co.

Martin, J. (1906). On the fireboat I am responsible. In H.J. O'Higgins, "A Question of Command" in The Century Magazine [Illustration]. New York, NY. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2010716943/

Oropeza, B.J. (Ed.) (2005). The gospel according to superheroes: Religion and popular
culture
. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Smith, J.W. (1905). A child's garden of verses [Illustration]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wilcox.jpg

Tychinski, S. (2004). A brief history of the graphic novel. Graphic Novels. Retrieved from
http://web.archive.org/web/20080603041720/http://www.graphicnovels.brodart.com/history.htm

Zanettin, F. (Ed.). (2008). Comics in translation. Manchester, UK: St. Jerome Publishing.