Composing multimodal comics: images, text, and material possibilities

Bannister, Allison, Caitlin
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Deery, June
Suckling, Maurice
Ragsdale, Kenneth
Search, Patricia
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Communication and rhetoric
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Comics have largely been studied as literary works, examined for their image/text content and not as material objects which communicate via a wide range of modes. This dissertation proposes ways of understanding how the material structure of a work shapes the unfolding of its narrative, as well as examining the kinds of multi-sensory engagement that the materials of the comic-object might afford. It argues that the medium of comics extends beyond standard print and digital formats, encompassing a variety of comicitus multimodal texts, all of which use some combination of sequential juxtaposition, iconic abstraction, image/text integration, and the grammar of cartooning. As the industry responds to demographic and technological shifts, engaging broader understandings of what comics are and what they can be will be increasingly important to understanding the field. In order to examine these affordances, this research draws from interdisciplinary literature on material rhetoric, visual perception, architecture, semiotics, comics studies, and other areas. Case studies analyze comics texts which exemplify different affordances and modalities, and I draw upon arts-based research methods to engage my own creative practice as a test site. The research illustrates that the use of different materials and structures serves both practical and symbolic functions in supporting comics narratives, allowing readers to navigate and experience these texts in unique ways, lays out composition and design considerations that will allow future artists to operationalize these insights in their cartooning, and will support future scholarship and pedagogy in these areas.
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Dept. of Communication and Media
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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