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Title:The invention of the graphic novel: underground comix and corporate aesthetics
Author(s):Gilmore, Shawn
Director of Research:Rothberg, Michael
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Rothberg, Michael
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Nelson, Cary; Hansen, James A.; Foote, Stephanie
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Graphic Novel
Comics Books
Comics Studies
Cultural Studies
Media Studies
Visual Culture
Graphic Narrative
20th Century Literature
21st Century Literature
American Culture
Abstract:This dissertation explores what I term the invention of the graphic novel, or more specifically, the process by which stories told in comics (or graphic narratives) form became longer, more complex, concerned with deeper themes and symbolism, and formally more coherent, ultimately requiring a new publication format, which came to be known as the graphic novel. This format was invented in fits and starts throughout the twentieth century, and I argue throughout this dissertation that only by examining the nuances of the publishing history of twentieth-century comics can we fully understand the process by which the graphic novel emerged. In particular, I show that previous studies of the history of comics tend to focus on one of two broad genealogies: 1) corporate, commercially-oriented, typically superhero-focused comic books, produced by teams of artists; 2) individually-produced, counter-cultural, typically autobiographical underground comix and their subsequent progeny. In this dissertation, I bring these two genealogies together, demonstrating that we can only truly understand the evolution of comics toward the graphic novel format by considering the movement of artists between these two camps and the works that they produced along the way. Ultimately, I show that comics became graphic novels by invoking notions of visual parataxis, holistic forms, and Modernist unity, which allowed for book-length comics that were much more than just collections of comic-book pages, but instead were a new publishing form. My dissertation traces a series of moments in the history of the graphic novel. In my introduction, I take up the current field of comic studies and establish the terms by which we distinguish the modern graphic novel from other book-length comics. In my first chapter, I examine the cross-pollination of Modernism and comics, arguing that they share an emphasis on unifying disparate elements, with an emphasis on the problem of visual or graphic narrative. In my second and third chapters, I take up the rise of the first comic-book auteur, Jack Kirby, who helped shape the early comic-book industry and show how Gil Kane and Richard Corben took his model to create the first graphic novel to imagine itself as such in 1976. In chapters four and five, I examine the works of Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller, and Alan Moore, who all, in 1986-87, published works that established the graphic novel in the public consciousness as a viable sales format. Finally, in chapter six and my coda, I take up the works of Alison Bechdel, Chris Ware, and an argument by Eddie Campbell that allow us to consider the ramifications of the codification of the graphic novel.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Shawn Patrick Gilmore
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08

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