Contemporary Comics Storytelling
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
List of Illustrations
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, ...
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. ...
1. How to Analyze Comics Cognitively
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, ...
2. Textual Traditions in Comics: Fables, Genre, and Intertextuality
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). ...
3. Fictionality in Comics: Tom Strong, Storyworlds, and the Imagination
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. ...
4. Fictional Minds in Comics: 100 Bullets, Characterization, and Ethics
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. ...
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, ...