I study comics as a form of literature. My main interest is non-fiction comics, and I’m particularly fascinated by comics journalism. The latter is a genre that’s gotten only scant critical and scholarly attention, but it’s living a vigorous life at outlets like the Nib. It occasionally appears in the pages of mainstream outlets like the New York Times Magazine.
If you need a definition, Amy Nyberg — one of the few scholars who has tackled comics journalism as an object of study — offers a useful starting point. She argues it is “a genre of nonfiction comics” that “combines the form of comics with the conventions of journalism.”
My master’s thesis focused one recent book of comics journalism: Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden.
You can download a copy my thesis here.
Here’s the abstract:
This thesis studies Sarah Glidden’s largely unexamined book Rolling Blackouts as a significant contribution to the genre known as comics journalism. It argues that Glidden’s work engages in a material struggle over the nature of journalism by using the comics form to intervene in an ongoing debate over the field’s normative values. Glidden pictures how journalism can be done differently and challenges mainstream conventions by constructing (1) a model of journalistic authority that refuses to cover over deep epistemological uncertainties and (2) a complex ethics and aesthetics of listening. In addition, this thesis reads Rolling Blackouts through the lens of postcolonial theory, analyzing the way Glidden brings journalistic abstractions into contact with messy representational realities of transnational and interpersonal power imbalances. Glidden is particularly concerned with refugees created by American imperialism and how American journalists—working in comics or not—can position themselves to ethically represent these refugees. Ultimately, a close-reading of Rolling Blackouts suggests that comics journalism’s documented concern with self-representation is less important than showing the intricacy of the embodied relationships between a comics journalist and her sources—particularly when those sources are the world’s contemporary subalterns.
Nyberg, A. K. (2012). Comics journalism: Drawing on words to picture the past in Safe Area Gorazde. In M. J. Smith and R. Duncan (Eds.), Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods (pp. 116-128). New York: Routledge.