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Cartoons are published in newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. Most fall into three categories: political, which are used to comment on political or social issues of the day; editorial, which comment on other topics important to readers; or cartoon, the single joke or sight-gag illustration.

The earliest known political cartoon was a woodcut created in 1499 depicting the pope and the kings of France and England playing cards while under the table a Swiss soldier stacked the deck. The cartoon's anonymous creator was commenting on the political goals of France in Italy at that time. Other cartoons appeared that were comments on religion, including one that portrayed the pope as the devil, and in 1521, a cartoon protesting the Protestant faith appeared showing the devil playing a bagpipe with bellows that looked like Martin Luther.

By the 1800s, the term cartoon began to take on its modern meaning and caricature, a term applied to all cartoons, was evolving to its modern use to describe any type of distorted portrait that emphasizes the subject's outstanding features or characteristics. Besides single, sight-gag illustrations, cartoon also refers to comic strips like those published in newspapers. Comic strips first appeared late in the 19th century as a means to entice customers to read the Sunday edition of local papers. Publishers such as William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were among those who helped popularize newspaper comic strips. By 1929, well-known comic strips such as TinTin, Popeye, and Tarzan appeared in newspapers.

As Hollywood grew in the early 1900s, so did companies that created cartoons. Bray Studios in New York City, one of the best-known cartoon studios of the time, operated from 1915 to the late 1920s. Walt Disney also got his start in the business around this time. In 1923, Disney sold his first cartoon, Alice's Wonderland, to a distributor and soon after founded Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio (later renamed Walt Disney Studios) with his brother, Roy. By the late 1920s, Walt Disney had created the cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, which still entertains young and old to this day.

The first popular comic books were introduced in the 1930s and they were followed many years later by graphic novels. Manga comics, developed in Japan, is now one of the biggest publishers of graphic novels. Advertising illustrations, such as the Pillsbury dough boy, also were introduced as a way for companies to market their products.


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