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Comic book visualities: a methodological manifesto on geography, montage and narration

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This paper deals with comic books as both a textual and visual form, arguing that the present literatures on the geographies of reading and visuality neglect this kind of hybrid. Comic book producers’ discursive construction of their audience is key to the way in which comic book visuality becomes a set of ‘conventions’ that are materialised through the printing process. These conventions are linked to cinematic visuality through their use of montage, but differ in several key ways, including the elasticity of drawn panels and the lack of an intended ‘reality effect’. Drawing on the comics semiotics of Thierry Groensteen and supplementing his work with a heightened appreciation of the expected role of readers in constructing narrative, the empirical section illustrates how comics literacy is understood to work via micro-geographies of the page, highlighting aspects distinct to the form such as plurivectorial narration and simultaneity. These narrative possibilities invite readers to imagine time and space in quite unique ways that other forms of textual consumption do not. This paper concludes that comic book visuality, with inherent possibilities for plurivectorial narration and shifting temporalities, can provide geographers with the metaphoric tools to apprehend and communicate relationships of emergent causality that are central to recent political theory.

Keywords: comic books; emergent causality; montage; narration; reading; visuality

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-5661.2009.00376.x

Publication date: April 1, 2010

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