We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Contemporary Comics Storytelling

Karin Kukkonen

Publication Year: 2013

What if fairy-tale characters lived in New York City? What if a superhero knew he was a fictional character? What if you could dispense your own justice with one hundred untraceable bullets? These are the questions asked and answered in the course of the challenging storytelling in Fables, Tom Strong, and 100 Bullets, the three twenty-first-century comics series that Karin Kukkonen considers in depth in her exploration of how and why the storytelling in comics is more than merely entertaining.

Applying a cognitive approach to reading comics in all their narrative richness and intricacy, Contemporary Comics Storytelling opens an intriguing perspective on how these works engage the legacy of postmodernism—its subversion, self-reflexivity, and moral contingency. Its three case studies trace how contemporary comics tie into deep traditions of visual and verbal storytelling, how they reevaluate their own status as fiction, and how the fictional minds of their characters generate complex ethical thought experiments. At a time when the medium is taken more and more seriously as intricate and compelling literary art, this book lays the groundwork for an analysis of the ways in which comics challenge and engage readers’ minds. It brings together comics studies with narratology and literary criticism and, in so doing, provides a new set of tools for evaluating the graphic novel as an emergent literary form.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Frontiers of Narrative


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-3

Title Page

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 4-4

Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 5-5


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. ix-x

This book emerges from my thesis work, which was published with Tampere University Press. Since then, my thinking on contemporary comics has come a long way. I would like to thank everyone who accompanied it with their kind and thoughtful comments: Terence Cave, David Fishelov, Ann Miller, ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-12

Many reasons for the rise of comics to a medium of cultural prominence have been put forward in recent years. Paul Douglas Lopes in Demanding Respect: The Evolution of the American Comic Book (2009) emphasizes one: “While comic books originally were based on short stories in serial format, now comic books present long-arced narratives with complex storylines. ...

read more

1. How to Analyze Comics Cognitively

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 13-50

The first Sunday installment of Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon series (1947– 88) presents readers with a formidable density of narrative information: from patterns of black and white on the page, readers can construct an entire story. They identify characters, understand what motivates them and how they relate to each other, ...

read more

2. Textual Traditions in Comics: Fables, Genre, and Intertextuality

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 51-86

A man leaves a note for the woman he has just spent the night with. He asks her to pick up his suits from the dry cleaners and to do his laundry. He mentions that he has helped himself to her spare apartment keys and some money from her purse. “I didn’t want to wake you to ask,” he writes, “and knew you wouldn’t mind” ( Fables 1:30). ...

read more

3. Fictionality in Comics: Tom Strong, Storyworlds, and the Imagination

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 87-126

On one of his missions in Tom Strong's Terrific Tales (2004), the superhero Tom Strong enters an arctic cave and chances upon a secret Nazi science project which involves the theory that the earth is hollow as well as flying saucers. As it turns out, however, the fantastic subterranean world is not real. ...

read more

4. Fictional Minds in Comics: 100 Bullets, Characterization, and Ethics

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 127-176

The comics series 100 Bullets opens on a rainy street with the words “Bang. You’re dead” (1:5). The premise is simple: an agent offers an attaché case of one hundred untraceable bullets and an unregistered gun to people who have been wronged in life. Equipped with the evidence the agent supplies, they have carte blanche to take their revenge. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 177-188

In Contemporary Comics Storytelling, each of the constituents of the title is salient. In the introduction I focused more on the “contemporary” aspect of this book, mapping its place in a time of rising cultural prestige for comics and an era that begins to renegotiate postmodernism. Comics like Fables, Tom Strong, and 100 Bullets are literature, ...


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 189-206


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 207-226


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 227-231

E-ISBN-13: 9780803248502
E-ISBN-10: 0803248504
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803246379

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Frontiers of Narrative
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 856590146
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Contemporary Comics Storytelling

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Comic books, strips, etc. -- History and criticism.
  • Graphic novels -- History and criticism.
  • Narration (Rhetoric).
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access