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The musicalization of graphic narratives and P. Craig Russell’s graphic novel operas, The Magic Flute and Salomé

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The term ‘musicalization’ comes from Werner Wolf’s study of intermediality between music and fiction, The Musicalization of Fiction (1999), which proposes the musicalized text as one that has an intentional and sustained connection to music and musical form that moves beyond the purely diegetic or incidental. In this article I draw on Wolf’s arguments to consider the potential for ‘musicalization’ within graphic narratives, interrogating comics both as a unique medium, and through a comparative analysis with the operations of time, space, rhythm, repetition, harmony, dissonance, polyphony, and narrativity in music. I explore these ideas further in a close analysis of two of P. Craig Russell’s graphic novel operas, The Magic Flute (1989–90) and Salomé (1986), which I present as tentative examples of musicalized graphic narratives. These graphic novel operas draw on the affinities that we find between music and comics to translate their musical source texts into graphic narratives through the use of medium specific tools, e.g. manipulations of the panel and the grid, visual approximations of sound, and grammatextuality. This research highlights a long-standing desire among comic writers and artists to represent music in their work, and demonstrates the rich connections between music and graphic narratives, which can facilitate more nuanced representations moving forward.

Keywords: P. Craig Russell; comics form; comics grid; graphic opera; intermediality; music and comics; musicalization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of St Andrews

Publication date: July 1, 2017

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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