While everyone with even a vague interest in comics scholarship seems to have read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, many people don’t get much farther. There are great organizations out there, such as Sequart, who are working on brings comics scholarship to new venues and audiences, but all-in-all, serious academic studies of comics are pretty few and far between.
This makes Hannah Miodrag’s Comics and Language: Reimagining Critical Discourse on the Form all the more exciting. After doing an impressive job of distilling some of the trends in the field of comics criticism, Miodrag sets out to step away from the defensiveness so prevalent in the field and explore the use of language, art, and the confluence of the two in a serious, academic fashion.
Before you check out Miodrag’s work, be forewarned: this is serious literary criticism, so there is heavy use of jargon, lots of dense references, and the in-depth investigation of what may frequently seem to be minutia. This sort of thing isn’t for everyone, so if the previous sentence doesn’t sound appealing to you, I would strongly encourage you to avoid Comics and Language. For those of you with an academic bent, or who find the analysis of fiction to be very interesting, step forward!
Miodrag’s analyses of the field is broad, and focuses on works from Krazy Kat to Black Hole, from webcomics to original graphic novels, and everything in between. The only glaring absence is major publishers and superhero comics, with Miodrag acknowledging in the introduction that her focus is mainly on the more “literary” end of the comics spectrum.
Miodrag approaches the language used in comics first, exploring how they function without a major focus on the art, before shifting to the artistic aspect of comics, and finishing with how the two function in relation to each other.
For students looking for a fascinating reference point for the study of comics criticism, as well as those interested in literary criticism in a field that doesn’t have a large volume of academic studies, Miodrag’s Comics and Language is a great addition to your library.