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Literature > Comics and Graphic Novels

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Alan Moore

Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel

Eclectic British author Alan Moore (b. 1953) is one of the most acclaimed and controversial comics writers to emerge since the late 1970s. He has produced a large number of well-regarded comic books and graphic novels while also making occasional forays into music, poetry, performance, and prose.In Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel, Annalisa Di Liddo argues that Moore employs the comics form to dissect the literary canon, the tradition of comics, contemporary society, and our understanding of history. The book considers Moore's narrative strategies and pinpoints the main thematic threads in his works: the subversion of genre and pulp fiction, the interrogation of superhero tropes, the manipulation of space and time, the uses of magic and mythology, the instability of gender and ethnic identity, and the accumulation of imagery to create satire that comments on politics and art history. Examining Moore's use of comics to scrutinize contemporary culture, Di Liddo analyzes his best-known works--Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell, Promethea, and Lost Girls. The study also highlights Moore's lesser-known output, such as Halo Jones, Skizz, and Big Numbers, and his prose novel Voice of the Fire. Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel reveals Moore to be one of the most significant and distinctly postmodern comics creators of the last quarter-century.

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American Pulp

How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street

Paula Rabinowitz

“There is real hope for a culture that makes it as easy to buy a book as it does a pack of cigarettes.”—a civic leader quoted in a New American Library ad (1951)

American Pulp tells the story of the midcentury golden age of pulp paperbacks and how they brought modernism to Main Street, democratized literature and ideas, spurred social mobility, and helped readers fashion new identities. Drawing on extensive original research, Paula Rabinowitz unearths the far-reaching political, social, and aesthetic impact of the pulps between the late 1930s and early 1960s.

Published in vast numbers of titles, available everywhere, and sometimes selling in the millions, pulps were throwaway objects accessible to anyone with a quarter. Conventionally associated with romance, crime, and science fiction, the pulps in fact came in every genre and subject. American Pulp tells how these books ingeniously repackaged highbrow fiction and nonfiction for a mass audience, drawing in readers of every kind with promises of entertainment, enlightenment, and titillation. Focusing on important episodes in pulp history, Rabinowitz looks at the wide-ranging effects of free paperbacks distributed to World War II servicemen and women; how pulps prompted important censorship and First Amendment cases; how some gay women read pulp lesbian novels as how-to-dress manuals; the unlikely appearance in pulp science fiction of early representations of the Holocaust; how writers and artists appropriated pulp as a literary and visual style; and much more. Examining their often-lurid packaging as well as their content, American Pulp is richly illustrated with reproductions of dozens of pulp paperback covers, many in color.

A fascinating cultural history, American Pulp will change the way we look at these ephemeral yet enduringly intriguing books.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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Asian Comics

John A. Lent

Grand in its scope, Asian Comics dispels the myth that, outside of Japan, the continent is nearly devoid of comic strips and comic books. Relying on his fifty years of Asian mass communication and comic art research, during which he traveled to Asia at least seventy-eight times and visited many studios and workplaces, John A. Lent shows that nearly every country had a golden age of cartooning and has experienced a recent rejuvenation of the art form.

As only Japanese comics output has received close and by now voluminous scrutiny, Asian Comics tells the story of the major comics creators outside of Japan. Lent covers the nations and regions of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Organized by regions of East, Southeast, and South Asia, Asian Comics provides 178 black-and-white illustrations and detailed information on comics of sixteen countries and regions--their histories, key creators, characters, contemporary status, problems, trends, and issues. One chapter harkens back to predecessors of comics in Asia, describing scrolls, paintings, books, and puppetry with humorous tinges, primarily in China, India, Indonesia, and Japan.

The first overview of Asian comic books and magazines (both mainstream and alternative), graphic novels, newspaper comic strips and gag panels, plus cartoon/humor magazines, Asian Comics brims with facts, fascinating anecdotes, and interview quotes from many pioneering masters, as well as younger artists.

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Autobiographical Comics

Life Writing in Pictures

Elisabeth El Refaie

A troubled childhood in Iran. Living with a disability. Grieving for a dead child. Over the last forty years the comic book has become an increasingly popular way of telling personal stories of considerable complexity and depth.

In Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures, Elisabeth El Refaie offers a long overdue assessment of the key conventions, formal properties, and narrative patterns of this fascinating genre. The book considers eighty-five works of North American and European provenance, works that cover a broad range of subject matters and employ many different artistic styles.

Drawing on concepts from several disciplinary fields--including semiotics, literary and narrative theory, art history, and psychology--El Refaie shows that the traditions and formal features of comics provide new possibilities for autobiographical storytelling. For example, the requirement to produce multiple drawn versions of one's self necessarily involves an intense engagement with physical aspects of identity, as well as with the cultural models that underpin body image. The comics medium also offers memoirists unique ways of representing their experience of time, their memories of past events, and their hopes and dreams for the future. Furthermore, autobiographical comics creators are able to draw on the close association in contemporary Western culture between seeing and believing in order to persuade readers of the authentic nature of their stories.

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Bending Steel

Modernity and the American Superhero

By Aldo J. Regalado

“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound . . . It’s Superman!” Bending Steel examines the historical origins and cultural significance of Superman and his fellow American crusaders. Cultural historian Aldo J. Regalado asserts that the superhero seems a direct response to modernity, often fighting the interrelated processes of industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and capitalism that transformed the United States from the early nineteenth century to the present. Reeling from these exciting but rapid and destabilizing forces, Americans turned to heroic fiction as a means of explaining national and personal identities to themselves and to the world. In so doing, they created characters and stories that sometimes affirmed, but other times subverted conventional notions of race, class, gender, and nationalism.

The cultural conversation articulated through the nation’s early heroic fiction eventually led to a new heroic type—the brightly clad, super-powered, pro-social action heroes that first appeared in American comic books starting in the late 1930s. Although indelibly shaped by the Great Depression and World War II sensibilities of the second-generation immigrants most responsible for their creation, comic book superheroes remain a mainstay of American popular culture.

Tracing superhero fiction all the way back to the nineteenth century, Regalado firmly bases his analysis of dime novels, pulp fiction, and comics in historical, biographical, and reader response sources. He explores the roles played by creators, producers, and consumers in crafting superhero fiction, ultimately concluding that these narratives are essential for understanding vital trajectories in American culture.

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The Call to Read

Reginald Pecock's Books and Textual Communities

Kirsty Campbell

The Call to Read is the first full-length study to situate the surviving oeuvre of Reginald Pecock in the context of current scholarship on English vernacular theology of the late medieval period. Kirsty Campbell examines the important and innovative contribution Pecock made to late medieval debates about the roles of the Bible, the Church, the faculty of reason, and practices of devotion in fostering a vital, productive, and stable Christian community. Campbell argues that Pecock’s fascinating attempt to educate the laity is more than an effort to supply religious reading material: it is an attempt to establish and unite a community of readers around his books, to influence and thus change the ways they understand their faith, the world, and their place in it. The aim of Pecock’s educational project is to harness the power of texts to effect religious change. Combining traditional approaches with innovative thinking on moral philosophy, devotional exercises, and theological doctrine, Pecock’s works of religious instruction are his attempt to reform a Christian community threatened by heresy through reshaping meaningful Christian practices and forms of belief. Campbell’s book will be of interest to scholars and students of medieval literature and culture, especially those interested in fifteenth-century religious history and culture.

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Captain America, Masculinity, and Violence

The Evolution of a National Icon

by J. Richard Stevens

Since 1940, Captain America has battled his enemies in the name of American values, and as those values have evolved, so has Captain America’s character. Author J. Richard Stevens reveals how the comic book hero has evolved to maintain relevance with America’s fluctuating ideas of masculinity, patriotism, and violence. Stevens outlines the history of Captain America’s adventures and places the evolving storyline in dialogue with the comic book industry as well as America’s varying political culture. Using close readings, Stevens shows that Captain America’s adventures encourage reexaminations of issues of masculinity, patriotism, and violence that are as practical as they are interesting to students and scholars of popular culture and the social sciences.

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Chester Brown


Dominick Grace

The early 1980s saw a revolution in mainstream comics--in subject matter, artistic integrity, and creators' rights--as new methods of publishing and distribution broadened the possibilities. Among those artists utilizing these new methods, Chester Brown (b. 1960) quickly developed a cult following due to the undeniable quality and originality of his Yummy Fur (1983-1994).

Chester Brown: Conversations collects interviews covering all facets of the cartoonist's long career and includes several pieces from now-defunct periodicals and fanzines. Brown was among a new generation of artists whose work dealt with decidedly nonmainstream subjects. By the 1980s comics were, to quote a by-now well-worn phrase, "not just for kids anymore," and subsequent censorious attacks by parents concerned about the more salacious material being published by the major publishers--subjects that routinely included adult language, realistic violence, drug use, and sexual content--began to roil the industry. Yummy Fur came of age during this storm and its often-offensive content, including dismembered, talking penises, led to controversy and censorship.

With Brown's highly unconventional adaptations of the Gospels, and such comics memoirs as The Playboy (1991/1992) and I Never Liked You (1991-1994), Brown gradually moved away from the surrealistic, humor oriented strips toward autobiographical material far more restrained and elegiac in tone than his earlier strips. This work was followed by Louis Riel (1999-2003), Brown's critically acclaimed comic book biography of the controversial nineteenth-century Canadian revolutionary, and Paying for It (2011), his best-selling memoir on the life of a john.

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The Comic Book Film Adaptation

Exploring Modern Hollywood’s Leading Genre

By Liam Burke

In the summer of 2000 X-Men surpassed all box office expectations and ushered in an era of unprecedented production of comic book film adaptations. This trend, now in its second decade, has blossomed into Hollywood’s leading genre. From superheroes to Spartan warriors, The Comic Book Film Adaptation offers the first dedicated study to examine how comic books moved from the fringes of popular culture to the center of mainstream film production.

Through in-depth analysis, industry interviews, and audience research, this book charts the cause-and-effect of this influential trend. It considers the cultural traumas, business demands, and digital possibilities that Hollywood faced at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The industry managed to meet these challenges by exploiting comics and their existing audiences. However, studios were caught off-guard when these comic book fans, empowered by digital media, began to influence the success of these adaptations. Nonetheless, filmmakers soon developed strategies to take advantage of this intense fanbase, while codifying the trend into a more lucrative genre, the comic book movie, which appealed to an even wider audience. Central to this vibrant trend is a comic aesthetic in which filmmakers utilize digital filmmaking technologies to engage with the language and conventions of comics like never before.

The Comic Book Film Adaptation explores this unique moment in which cinema is stimulated, challenged, and enriched by the once-dismissed medium of comics.

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Comics and Language

Reimagining Critical Discourse on the Form

Hannah Miodrag

It has become an axiom in comic studies that "comics is a language, not a genre." But what exactly does that mean, and how is discourse on the form both aided and hindered by thinking of it in linguistic terms? In Comics and Language, Hannah Miodrag challenges many of the key assumptions about the "grammar" and formal characteristics of comics, and offers a more nuanced, theoretical framework that she argues will better serve the field by offering a consistent means for communicating critical theory in the scholarship. Through engaging close readings and an accessible use of theory, this book exposes the problems embedded in the ways critics have used ideas of language, literature, structuralism, and semiotics, and sets out a new and more theoretically sound way of understanding how comics communicate.

Comics and Language argues against the critical tendency to flatten the distinctions between language and images and to discuss literature purely in terms of story content. It closely examines the original critical theories that such arguments purport to draw on and shows how they in fact point away from the conclusions they are commonly used to prove. The book improves the use the field makes of existing scholarly disciplines and furthers the ongoing sophistication of the field. It provides animated and insightful analyses of a range of different texts and takes an interdisciplinary approach. Comics and Language will appeal to the general comics reader and will prove crucial for specialized scholars in the fields of comics, literature, cultural studies, art history, and visual studies. It also provides a valuable summary of the current state of formalist criticism within comics studies and so presents the ideal text for those interested in exploring this growing area of research

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