You may have heard of Franco-Belgian comics referred to as being “The Ninth Art” or “The 9th Art.” Heck, it’s on all the Cinebook covers.
What does it mean? Where does it come from?
What Are the First Eight Arts?
Yes, in that order. I guess you needed to have a house before you needed to decorate it with a good sculpture. And then what else would you put up on those walls besides a good painting?
But why doesn’t radio count? Is vlogging on YouTube the tenth art?I have so many questions…
Comics comes after television despite predating it because comics were accepted as a cultural norm later, in the 1960s.
Who Came Up With Those Categories?
A critic, of course! Claude Beylie was a French film critic. He first used the term in an article he wrote for the magazine, “Lettres et Medecins” in 1964. He built that list up from some earlier writings by an Italian “film theoretician,” Ricciotto Canudo.
A series of articles written for the Spirou Journal in the next few years recounting the history of comics popularized the phrase. Maurice De Bevere wrote that series. You know him better under his pen name, Morris, with which he created “Lucky Luke.”
It took three people to get us there, but here we are. “Ninth Art.”
The very term helps to show how engrained comics are in the culture of France and Belgium. They’re not disposable or a mere pulp novelty. They are a part of the overall culture, just as common as television, movies, and dance. (They have statues patterned on the characters and streets named after the creators.)
Comics aren’t IP machines or research and development for Hollywood. OK, there’s a little of that since profits must be made, but the larger acceptance of comics means a need for a greater variety of comics and a more open acceptance of them than we’ve ever had here in America.
Take a look at what happens in Angouleme every year to see that.
Picture of Morris By Peters, Hans / Anefo – Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Anefo (cropped) Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 – negatiefstroken zwart/wit, nummer toegang 2.24.01.05, bestanddeelnummer 924-5891, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22670277