Academic Journal Article Comic

I am delighted to be able to tell you that I have written an academic journal article in comic form. Even better: it is open access until 31 August 2021.

This came about at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF) in 2018. LICAF runs over a weekend in mid-October and during the day on the Friday they hold the Academic Sessions, a day for academics who study, make, and use comics in their work. This is always great fun and very thought-provoking too. (I don’t know whether it will happen this year – there is nothing about it on the website at present, so I asked on Twitter, but they didn’t reply.)

Anyway, two colleagues from Perth, Australia, often come over for LICAF. They are Bruce Mutard, comics maker and doctoral student, and Stuart Medley, arts and design professor at Edith Cowan University. We had met before, then at LICAF 2018 we were all producing conference records: me by live-tweeting, and Bruce and Stuart in comic sketch form. In the bar at the end of the day, where good ideas are often hatched, we were reflecting on the process together, and decided there was scope for a journal article.

The process took a while because of all our other commitments, the pandemic, and the publishing process itself. The article was eventually published on 27 May. It is called Is History Fiction? Conundrums In Graphic Representation. I got an email late that day to tell me I had 50 e-prints to give away, so I tweeted the link that evening, and again the following morning. By lunchtime I heard that they had all gone – within 16 hours of my first tweet, which is fairly amazing in itself. I tweeted about that too, and the lovely Becky Guest from Routledge, who has awesome powers, saw the tweet and decided to make the article open access for the next three months.

One thing Bruce, Stuart and I had been a little apprehensive about was the peer review process, because minor revisions to an article in comic form can mean a major amount of work. This has been discussed quite extensively at the academic sessions. With a text article, if a reviewer points out something the authors have missed, and suggests they add a sentence or two, implementing that is straightforward. With a comic, it might mean adding a new character who would have to be drawn from scratch, or one or more new panels which would affect the layout and page count as well as requiring more time-consuming drawing. So amendments to a comic can be much more complex than amendments to text.

As luck would have it, our reviewers were unanimously positive. Let me share my favourite quote:

“I like how the comic betrays readerly expectations: that is to say that the creators lead you to believe you’re embarking upon a conference review, but then the comic shifts focus and starts reflecting upon the justifications of why comics form is great for capturing/reporting on events (like conferences). The comic has a real sense of fun.”

Regular readers will know I frequently argue for a bigger role for fun in scholarship. It’s lovely to be able to put my money where my mouth is. Not that any actual money was involved in this endeavour – so, as always, thanks to my patrons who support me in producing this kind of work.

Please download, read, and share our article widely.

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