María y yo by Miguel and María Gallardo, Arrugas by Paco Roca and Una posibilidad entre mil by Cristina Durán and Miguel Ángel Giner Bou are contemporary Spanish graphic novels that can be considered pathographies. This article shows how they use the metaphor of the journey to deconstruct social representations and challenge preconceived ideas about autism, Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral palsy. By making readers travel to the unknown territory of differences and diseases, these works help them to discover and understand alterity. I also study how the authors use techniques specific to travel guides to explain these disorders, and interrogate the extent to which creating and reading those pathographies can have a curative dimension. This will lead to questioning the concept of the therapeutic journey.
Olivier Schrauwen’s Arsène Schrauwen beyond Expectations of Autobiography, Colonial History and the Graphic Novel
Benoît Crucifix and Gert Meesters
This article proposes a close reading of Olivier Schrauwen’s Arsène Schrauwen, focusing on the various cultural discourses that it engages with, and particularly its ironical self-positioning within the field of comics. First of all, Schrauwen playfully questions the entrenchment of autobiography in the contemporary graphic novel by presenting a wholly fantasised adventure as biographical family history. This play with generic expectations is continued through Schrauwen’s reliance on the tropes of the adventure story and its figuration of the voyage. Arsène Schrauwen also draws on stereotypical images of both Belgium and the Belgian Congo and integrates them into a grotesque narrative so as to question the supposed unicity of the individual and colonial bodies. Last but not least, the book displays a highly self-reflexive approach to comics storytelling, building on a legacy from Flemish comics in order to play with reading conventions, graphic enunciation and abstraction, thereby thematising the perception of the main character.
A Coming-of-age Graphic Narrative
Alyson E. King
This article explores the ways in which words and images work together to portray the life of a teenage girl in the Canadian graphic novel Skim (2008). The interdependent nature of the words and images calls for non-linear ways of reading. At the same time, Skim creates a rich representation of girls attending a private high school in the 1990s.
Graphic Novel Representations of the German Expulsion
As part of the Potsdam Agreement following World War II, 2.8 million Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia. Disturbing details of mass executions and forced marches of Germans have become the topic of public debate in the Czech Republic. In recent years, representations of this traumatic episode in Czech history have filtered into popular culture as well. This article considers how the graphic novels Alois Nebel and Bomber, whose authors were inspired by Art Spiegelman's Maus, address the controversial issue of the German expulsion.
Paco Roca (b. 1969, Valencia) creates stories that tackle the universal through the local. He examines historic and social conflicts through the everyday experiences of his characters, whom he treats with affection, detail and respect. His works explore personal concerns and relationships without falling into melodrama, always looking for a balanced and sober style. Arguably, the most successful aspect of his work is the harmonious, beautiful drawing, which makes it accessible and appealing to a wide audience. As is common in today’s graphic novel, his stories feature losers: characters whose struggle is finally defeated by greater forces but whose trajectory tells us about dignity, friendship and courage. In this interview, we talk about his major graphic novels, and we are given access to his methods of work.
A Lesson to Learn and Remember
This essay analyzes a three-volume graphic novel series titled Kia Ora that was published by Vents d'Ouest between 2007 and 2009. The essay is divided in two parts. In the first part, I show how the series' authors retrace the episode of human zoos in the West through a rigorous historical documentation that allows them to examine the mechanisms of 'monstrification' of the colonized subject. The graphic novel series shows how the shaping of a collective and national identity takes place through the exposition/exhibition of the 'abnormality' or (so-called) monstrosity of the Colonized. The second part of the article discusses the series as a contemporary French popular cultural product. It examines questions such as the extent to which Kia Ora explores the (problematic) colonial past of France, how it represents it, and whether it avoids delving in uncomfortable (forgotten) zones.
Multimodal Extension in the Works of Aleix Saló
Javier Muñoz-Basols and Marina Massaguer Comes
Numerous authors of comics and graphic novels have used the economic crisis in the Iberian Peninsula as a narrative frame for social criticism. Prominent amongst them is the Catalan cartoonist Aleix Saló, who burst onto the comics scene with his animated YouTube video Españistán, a book trailer for his graphic novel Españistán: Este país se va a la mierda [Españistán: This country is going to hell] (2011). This article shows how Saló offers a humorous and didactic portrait of the devastating effects of the economic crisis: he does this through multimodality (using specific shapes, colours, fonts and components of orality) and through creating ‘multimodal extensions’, intertextual relations between published books and book trailers. This analysis presents a case study of the multimodal techniques that authors use to shape and develop their work in the context of the powerful relationship between text and image in the digital age.
Graphic Adaptation in Germany in the Context of High and Popular Culture
As a hybrid between ‘high’ literature and ‘trivial’ comics, graphic adaptations have been the subject of extensive debate in Germany. This article discusses the specific cultural conditions of graphic adaptation in Germany, which have been influenced by a process of emancipation from deeply rooted prejudice against comics as a medium of popular culture. To illustrate the changes brought about by the term ‘graphic novel’ around 2000, this article analyses two examples of a newer generation of graphic adaptation in detail. Flix’s Faust (2009–2010) and Drushba Pankow’s Das Fräulein von Scuderi [Mademoiselle de Scudery] (2011) represent a new self-confident approach to classic literature, but they also reflect on their own status as adaptations and thus contribute to ‘closing the gap’ between ‘high’ and popular culture.
Ronald de Rooy
Dante’s multifaceted cultural reception includes many comics adaptations. Against the background of a strong tradition of illustrating and visualising Dante, this article proposes a comparative analysis of significant contemporary comics adaptations from Europe and the United States. Recent European Dante comics generally adopt largely reverent modes of illustration, showing less aggressive forms of adaptation than their US counterparts. The text of Dante’s poem remains of great importance, and artists often refer to certain traditional milestones in Dante’s visual reception. American Dante comics are more firmly rooted in popular culture, adopting reductive adaptation methods to a greater extent, and are frequently embedded in transmedial constellations. Where the highbrow European tradition of Dante’s visual reception does shine through, it is always with strong ironic undertones. Especially interesting in this respect are the toy theatre/puppet movie Dante’s Inferno directed by Sean Meredith, Seymour Chwast’s graphic novel The Divine Comedy and the popular video game Dante’s Inferno.
This article explores Paco Roca’s graphic novel La Casa (2015) with attention to the structuring role of architecture at two interrelated levels of analysis. At the level of theme and represented content, the comic employs architecture as a mediator of emotional connections and familial grief. At the level of comics form and visual narrative structure, artistic choices underscore the architectural properties of La Casa’s own construction. Repurposing the notion of ‘iconostasis’ from Andrei Molotiu provides a way of bringing together the reader’s self-directed perusal of the comic’s page and the characters’ self-directed navigation of their grief. The characters’ collaborative construction of a pergola as an architectural addition to their father’s house holds two meanings. It provides a degree of emotional closure, further contributing to the architectural theme of the comic, and it pulls the architectural structure of the work towards a cathartic narrative resolution.