Unnatural narratology has recently focused our attention on unnatural representations of time. It is usually assumed that the ‘typical sjuzhet’ must be linear, while the ‘variable sjuzhet’ is unnatural and belongs exclusively to experimental works. Instances of time travel are also considered unnatural story elements that have been conventionalised by popular culture. In this article, these supposedly unnatural ingredients of narratives will be examined in the context of the semiotic potential and cultural tradition of European comics. I shall argue that a variable sjuzhet should be considered a natural quality of the medium because of its tabularity and its nonlinear organisation, and that most time travel that we find in comics is a mere extension of the motif of the ‘extraordinary journey’ and does not engender time paradoxes. Thus, it appears that, in the comics tradition, the graphic potential of time travel has predominated over scriptwriting complexities, highlighting the specificity of the ‘graphic imagination’.
Raphaël Baroni is an associate professor of French as a foreign language at the University of Lausanne. He is member and cofounder of the Groupe d’étude sur la bande dessinée (http://wp.unil.ch/grebd/) and the Réseau romand de narratologie (www.narratologie.ch). He is author of La Tension narrative (Seuil, 2007) and L’Oeuvre du temps (Seuil, 2009) and is coeditor of Narrative Sequence in Contemporary Narratology (Ohio State University Press, 2016).