Anglia Ruskin Research Online (ARRO)
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Understanding graphic narrative through the synthesis of comic and picturebooks

posted on 2023-08-30, 14:40 authored by Rebecca Palmer
This study was undertaken to develop a better understanding of comics, picturebooks, and their relationship through progressive attempts to combine them in practice. The study was motivated by an interest in hybrid forms as a site where narrative techniques from different forms are put to alternative use in a new context. The research contributes to current scholarly discussion of graphic narrative from a practitioner’s perspective. Reflective practice offers unique potential as a method for critical study. Comparative analysis of changes over time throws light on each form’s typical mechanisms for graphic storytelling, and demonstrates their function in different contexts. Problems arising in practice are catalysts for a process of dynamic, analogical theory-formation and -testing, which often challenges or supplements existing knowledge, leading to a more nuanced understanding of the forms with which practice engages. Findings evolved, firstly, from the insight that conventions for graphic storytelling function differently depending on the mode of reading and the formal context. Secondly, the degree to which the practitioner is constrained by formal limitations was found to demand a disciplined distillation of content that deliberately creates space for different kinds of readerly engagement. The study concluded that, due to their adaptation towards solitary reading, comics exert greater control over their readers, whereas picturebooks tend to be more flexible in order to accommodate different modes of reading. The way readers engage with a work impacts on the function of conventions and techniques for graphic storytelling as much as a change in formal context. Moreover, the discipline of the picturebook form demands greater economy, which can create more space for reader participation. However, neither distinct modes of reading nor differing degrees of constraint constitute grounds for definitive distinction between comics and picturebooks: instead, they offer alternative frameworks for the critical consideration of graphic narratives.



Anglia Ruskin University

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