Memes as the Modern Day Comic Strip

       Memes are fairly new to the Internet scene. They have only been around for a few years, but in that time they have become very popular. What memes do is tell a short excerpt or poke fun at something. Most commonly, memes are used to bring attention to something that is currently in the media spotlight.

The History of the Comic

       There is a strong relation between memes and old time comic strips. Comic strips have been used for hundreds of years. They first showed up in the 18th and 19th Centuries around England and later in Germany. Before being called comic strips, they were called humorous narrative drawings. These humorous drawings didn’t make it into newspapers until the late 19th century in America where they were first called comic strips. Yellow Kid created by R. F. Outcault, was the first comic strip to become famous.

       The reason it became famous was because it was the first in America to have enough “intellect and artistic ability to depict New York City as many of its residents did, and to be able to present it to them in a manner that made them laugh”(Olson). The same things that made comic strips successful are what make memes popular today. A meme should be able to relate to the people reading it while also making them laugh.

A small boy in a yellow night gown

Yellow boy drawn by Richard Outcault.

The Meme Today

       In modern times, the true newspaper is becoming less popular every year. Most people choose to read online because of the convenience and because it’s often cheaper. Memes excel with current events; this is what makes them contagious. Just like any viral video, there will be an immediate boom of activity and then after a few weeks you will never talk about it again.

       The meme is to be used in conjunction with whatever form of media is exploding with popularity. The meme itself is not what normally goes viral; it is bringing light to what has already gone viral. Similar to how old comic strips would often give animal like features to a politician to make them look dumb or make fun of them. The meme does the same thing by using short “comic like” statements along with a real picture to point out whatever the subject did that made them go viral.

Donald Trump meme with messy hair

Meme of Donald Trump making fun of his hair

Incorporating Memes Into Your Work

        An individual who was looking to use memes on there website or blog, outside of social media, would most likely be someone who is interested in sharing the news. The best feature of the meme is that it can be used in nearly any context. Memes are not specific to any type of news or media. Memes are able to add an image to your writing while also bringing some humor too. In the near future the meme will become even more popular, especially with more serious news outlets such as The New York Times. News outlets that are more serious do not often post memes because they can be seen as somewhat immature.

        As  the meme develops over the upcoming years people will begin to see how similar comic strips and memes really are and will want them incorporated into there daily news, much like the comic strip is today. Once this happens the meme will forever be cemented into what comes to mind when we think of news and media.


Richard Olson “The Father of the American Sunday Comics”

Yellow Kid picture

Donald Trump Meme



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