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Comics Journalism

Page history last edited by Matt Clarkson 11 years, 11 months ago


            Comics Journalism is the accounting/reporting of actual events using the comic form.  It is one of many types of journalism but perhaps the one most clearly subjective in it creation do to the visible artistry of the creator.


Comics journalism fits into three categories:

  1. Those who report, write, and do the artwork themselves.
  2. Collaborations between journalists and comic artists
  3. Non-fiction comics, targeting broader historical topics




As a type of journalism, comics journalism shares the common traits of other forms (newspaper, radio, television) of an individual reporter detailing, explaining, and narrating actual events.  The overall intent is to inform the audience.  The journalist creates a narrative product from three things: observation, analysis and summary of texts, and interviewing of participants or eyewitnesses.   The story the audience/reader receives is crafted from these sources and it is the journalist’s ability to make a narrative that often gives “meaning” to events.


Comics journalism is most clearly associated with alternative comics, an outgrowth of the underground commix movement.  Though most independent and non-mainstream comics are non-fiction, they are predominantly autobiography.  Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’sPersepolis could be seen as journalistic in their dialogue with eyewitnesses and detailing of historic events, but both are wrapped up in autobiography.  Joe Sacco is the most well known comic journalist, and though he is a presence within his comics, he is clearly not the subject. 



Underlying Assumptions

It is frequently assumed that the reporter has an objective distance from the subject, is passing along clear facts, though this is never the case.  With more traditional forms of journalism it is easier for the journalist to seem invisible.  People being interviewed on film, talking directly to a camera or off screen, of video footage shows a real location or event.  With comics journalism, the reader is always aware that the person or place they are seeing is the author’s interpretation of that person or place.  The artwork shows that a process was required and flags the gap between process and product.  To combat the obvious journalistic subjectivity, often, comic journalists include themselves within the narrative to blatantly give their point of view.



Types of Questions

  • What happened?  What is the story the journalist is telling the audience?
  • How do they portray the event/people?
  • How does the work of the journalist become part of the story itself?
  • What are the journalist's sources? and how do they use them?




In crafting a narrative of comics journalism, the author combines his/her own observations with the interviews they conducted. To make their story clearly separate from that of their subject’s, the text is often differentiated.  For instance, the journalist’s comments are boxed in the corner of a panel where every subject is drawn with a clear speech bubble.  Sometimes the journalist will illustrate the speech or imagine the memories being told by their subject, but even then it is shown whose story is being told/shown.  In Joe Sacco’s work he specifically distinguishes these moments by including black page borders.  




            Axe, David, and Matt Bors. War is Boring.

            Guibert, Emmanuel. The Photographer.

            Neufeld, Josh. A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

            Rall, Ted. To Afghanistan and Back

            Sacco, Joe. The Fixer and Other Stories.

            Sacco, Joe. Footnotes in Gaza.

            Sacco, Joe. Palenstine.

            Sacco, Joe. Safe Area Gorazde.

            Spiegelman, Art. In the Shadows of No Towers

            Tobocman, Seth. You Don’t Have to Fuck People Over to Survive




Duncan, Randy, and Matthew J. Smith. "Comic Books and Ideology." The Power of Comics: History, Form and Culture. New York: Continuum, 2009.

Smith, Matthew J., and Randy Duncan. “Comics Journalism.” Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods. New York: Routledge, 2012.



Further Reading






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