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Design, arthrology and transtextuality in Seagle’s and Kristiansen’s It’s a Bird

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A theory of multimodality helps to explain how meaning is created by readers of comics at the level of the page and how readers situate themselves in relation to specific comics texts. In this article, I want to build on that theory in order to argue that in reading a comics text making meaning also involves the internal and external linkages that are continually made and unmade for and by readers. That is, it is not only at the level of a particular sequence of panels or page layout that meaning is made by comics creators and readers, but also through the connections that are made between various parts of the comics text itself (arthrology) and between the comics text and external texts (transtextuality). This article seeks to extend theories of multimodality to Thierry Groensteen’s arthrology and Gerard Genette’s transtextuality, concepts that help explain both the internal and external linkages created within comics texts. In doing so, I wish to explore some questions regarding how readers make sense of a complex comics text such as It’s a Bird by Steven Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen. What are the elements with which a reader must engage, at both the level of the page and the level of the text as a whole? How do these elements combine in the reading process? What accounts for the divergence of narrative meanings and textual interpretations between readers? In this article I examine how reading It’s a Bird involves making sense of the multimodal elements of each page, the arthrological connections between panels at both restricted and general levels, and the multiple kinds of transtextual connections between this text and myriad other texts.
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Keywords: DC Comics; Superman; arthrology; comics theory; multimodality; transtextuality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Windsor

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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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