Comics and Visual Narrative


This course explores the medium of comics both as a form of popular culture and as a visual language.

Beginning with a history of graphic sequential art and an introduction to the technical language of comics, the course moves on to place this sequential art form in relation to literary approaches to narrative and a variety of theories from the study of visual culture and image analysis to enable an understanding of the unique language of comics: the "comixture" of word and image that is essential to the comic book form.

In the early part of the course issues pertaining to censorship, cultural value and aesthetic status will also be addressed before moving on to specific topics such as the superhero story; testimony, memory and witness; the underground and alternative scene; autobiography; manga; and gender.

The course also considers issues in the political economy of the medium relating to giant corporations such as Disney who only recently purchased Marvel Comics, and the small independent publishers who still use the local photocopier as their primary means of publication.

While it is not possible to survey differing national and regional comics, Japanese manga has achieved a great deal of global visibility, and the specific cultural issues relating to its emergence and distribution will be examined in one of the lectures.

The use of new media technologies also requires some consideration of the development of web comics and the “digital native” comics designed for use on phones and tablets. The challenges posed to the integrity of the traditional comics page and the privileging of sequence as well as the use of scrolling or directed reading in these new formats raises questions about the nature of the contemporary comics medium. Do these innovations signal the arrival of a new media form somewhere between the comic, animation and film?

Overall, the course will encourage you to link your own interest in comics to both academic and popular debates. You will also be encouraged to draw on theories studied in other courses where they can be shown to be applicable. It is not expected that you will already be a fan of comics, but in order to benefit fully from the course you should at least be prepared to engage with the comics on the reading list and use the various resources (retail and archival, physical and virtual) to increase your awareness of the richness of the medium.

By the end of the course you should have deepened your understanding of comics and their place within contemporary society, and developed a critical understanding of some key debates surrounding this popular form of storytelling.

For full course information see the Digital Course Outline for MEDIA 327

Digital Course Outlines are refreshed in November for the following year. Digital Course Outlines for courses to be offered for the first time may be published slightly later.

Availability 2023

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Dr Neal Curtis


MEDIA 327: 15 points


30 points at Stage II in Communication or Media and Screen Studies or Transnational Cultures and Creative Practice


FTVMS 222, FTVMS 327, MEDIA 222