Cartoon history of the universe

The Cartoon History of the Universe is a book series about the history of the world. It is written and illustrated by American cartoonist, professor, and mathematician Larry Gonick, who started the project in 1978. The final two volumes, published in 2007 and 2009, are named The Cartoon History of the Modern World volumes one and two. The final volume covers history from the late 18th century to early 2008.

Each book in the series explains a period of world history in a loosely chronological order. Though originally published in limited runs as comic books, the series is now published in trade paperback volumes of several hundred pages each. The books have been translated into many languages, including Portuguese, Greek, Czech and Polish.

While seeking a publisher, Gonick received early support from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who worked as an editor at Doubleday and championed The Cartoon History of the Universe’s publication.

The Cartoon History is illustrated in a black-and-white cartoon style. Gonick occasionally uses crosshatching and other realistic drawing techniques, but he primarily draws with a lively brush-and-ink squiggle that resembles Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Walt Kelly’s Pogo, and René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s Astérix. Occasionally, as in the sequences on India in the second book, he mimics Gilbert Shelton’s style from The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

His tribute to Asterix is explicit. When Gauls are depicted, not only do they often resemble Goscinny and Uderzo’s characters Asterix and Obelix, but when Gonick treats the Gallic invasion of Italy (390 BCE – 387 BCE), the characters, along with Vitalstatistix, appear unmistakably (Vitalstatistix is transported on a shield, Asterix pummels a Roman soldier, etc.); and as they trudge off into the sunset, the speech balloon reads “Come on, Asterix! Let’s get our own comic book.”

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