The new issue of Composition Studies includes an article that I wrote and pencilled, which you read or download for free from the University of Adelaide’s Research and Scholarship repository.
I’m really excited about this one, because it’s done entirely in the form of comics, and says some things that I don’t think would be possible using writing alone. The article is actually about writing, and about the multimodal properties of writing that we usually take for granted. I argue that writing isn’t just an empty container for linguistic “content,” but that it has unique visual and spatial properties that also convey meaning in distinct ways. You can The article uses the form of comics to denaturalise text-based writing and to interrogate its properties. I also use the the nonlinguistic speech of Woodstock, the little bird from Charles Shulz’s Peanuts comic strip and the genre of asemic writing as a kind of lens to examine what writing can say even when it doesn’t “say” anything.
I had a bit of help in putting the article together from the cartoonist John Carvajal who did the final inks based off of my pencils. John is a great cartoonist in his own right, and it was a real pleasure to work with him. It was very interesting to see another person interpret my pencil drawings and bring their own touch to the project. Below is an example of the penciled draft I gave to John, and the final version he put together. The text and layout are mostly the same, but some little details are different — his lettering is very different from mine, he’s used a thicker, more consistent line, embellished the backgrounds, and given his own spin to the character. I’m very curious about how this changes the ways that readers react to and interpret the meaning of the comic.
One of my favorite things that John did was add himself into one of the scenes! My sketched draft just had a generic guy looking at his phone, but John drew the character as what I think is a representation of himself. It’s a great drawing, and much more interesting and expressive than what I originally had, as well as a fun little in-joke.
What exactly are all those books, posters, phones and newspapers saying? That’s the crux point of the article, so have a read and let me know what you think! If you have enjoyed this, I have another comics-style journal article which is in the pipeline. More “graphic scholarship” coming your way soon!