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'Nothing too heavy or too light': Negotiating Moore's Tom Strong and the academic establishment

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The article examines Alan Moore's America's Best Comics' Tom Strong series. In particular, the article will utilize Pierre Bourdieu's theories concerning cultural capital, and will suggest reasons why the aforementioned series has still largely been ignored by a scholarly community increasingly interested in introducing the comic book and graphic novel forms into the academic establishment. While Alan Moore's works have often been at the forefront of this nascent appreciation, with older texts such as V for Vendetta (1982–1989), Watchmen (1986–1987) and From Hell (1991–1996) and newer ventures such as Lost Girls (1991–2006) increasingly discussed in academic circles, at conferences and in the emergent field of comic books studies, as yet Tom Strong seems to lie outside of this groundswell. This article will argue that this can be perceived as a result of a conscious attempt to subjectively elide those works by Moore that are difficult to fit into accepted critical hegemonies. It is significant that Tom Strong draws on a range of pulp sources (most notably early twentieth-century American pulp fiction of the sort printed in Weird Tales and Astounding Science Fiction) that are themselves yet to be accepted in the manner that many of the more 'establishment-friendly' Victorian texts referenced in the original League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999–) have been. The absence of any recognizable academic cultural capital means that to date Tom Strong has fallen outside of academic interest in a move that has interesting connotations for how scholars examine and begin to canonize the comic book form.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work. 
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