Barbara is a part-time doctoral student at Central Saint Martins, supervised by Roger Sabin and Ian Horton. Her research is situated in Comics Studies, and is about representations of folkloric or historical British witches and folk horror, using walking and psychogeography to create an anthology of short comics. The creative practice-based part of her work is done through collaboration with an artist, thus enabling each story to be a negotiated construction that fuses multiple responses to the witch narratives and the walking experiences that frame them.
My PhD research will primarily take a qualitative approach to develop a critical, empirical study that will explore the potential for UK digital comics to take advantage of digital technologies and the digital environment to foster inclusivity and diversity. On top of embracing technological change, digital comics have the potential to reflect, embrace and contribute to social and cultural change in the UK. Digital comics not only present new ways of telling stories, but whose story is told.
My thesis will explore whether the ways UK digital comics are published and consumed means that they can foreground marginal voices. Comics scholarship has focused on the technological aspects of digital comics, meaning their potentially significant contribution reflecting and embracing social and cultural change in the UK has not been explored. I will establish whether the fact digital comics can circumvent traditional gatekeepers means they provide space to foreground marginal voices. I will also explore the challenges and opportunities digital comics might present for legal deposit collection development policy.
Comics And Transmedia: Doctor Doom In The Marvel Age
My research seeks to show that the shared universe of Marvel comics in the period 1961-1987 was an early example of the shared-world multiple author storytelling which has become the source material for the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe of the 21st century, and that Doctor Doom’s largely unsupervised transmedial and transtextual wandering through this storyworld make him an early example of what Jan-Noel Thon has described as a “Global Transmedia Character Network” – a linkage of all versions of a character collected from single and serial works across media types.
My PhD project explores the creation of an interface that sits between forms of narrative drawing and theoretical approaches to world making. Principally, it will question what an interface is in relation to the experiential and intertextual framing of worlds, with a theoretical approach grounded in storyworld and narrative discourse. The interface itself will be explored and created through drawing practice. My working hypothesis is that interface theory offers a new way of framing the process of image- and world-making in drawing practice.
The Third Hand in Creating Comics: A Practice-Based Study of Writer-Artist Collaboration
Ahmed Mauroof Jameel
My PhD project, titled ‘The Third Hand in Creating Comics: A Practice-Based Study of Writer-Artist Collaboration’, investigates whether collaboration in comics effectuates renegotiations of artistic identity, and is an intervention to deeply ingrained auteurist views and practices in comics cultures. I explore the social reasons behind the prevalence of auteurism and relate this to the politics of avant-garde art movements through modernism and postmodernism. Avant-garde collaborative experiments in artistic identity crystallised in results and behaviour incongruous to the rest of the individual artists’ oeuvres and histories, conceptualised as a ‘Third Hand’ in these creative relationships. After identifying where the ontological boundaries and affects of creative partnership are occluded enough to facilitate ‘the Third Hand’s’ occurrence, I use autoethnography to examine collaborative experience from within to illuminate this area and generate insight into the possibilities of meta-authorship.
Comics in the age of mechanical colour separation
A text-based thesis, looking at the emergence of the US comic strip as a new mass medium (1890s), the creation of the comic book (1930s), and its mid-1950s decline; focused on printing and colour separation technologies. Comics printing during this time has been understood as the continuation of a uniform practice; four-colour letterpress printing on newsprint paper. I demonstrate that it can be divided into three periods, when different colour separation methods were predominantly used: Ben Day (1890s-1930s), Craftint (1930s-1950s) and acetate (1950s-1980s). I use diagrammatic reconstructions to explicate these ‘lost’ technologies in detail. Examples from the archive demonstrate their distinctive contributions to the appearance of the printed image. Whether this technology was incidental to the development of comics, or of more fundamental importance, is considered using cultural sociologist Richard A. Peterson’s ‘production of culture perspective’.
Memoirs of my Vulva: An exploration of female genitalia as characters within autobiographical graphic narratives
My practice-based research is focused around two aims:
1. To use the vulva as the main character in graphic narratives to investigate perceptions of female genitalia.
2. To create new insights by applying female genitalia to characters in graphic narratives and challenge both the erotic and taboo stereotypes of vulvas in graphic images.
This research contributes to challenge the stereotype of the vulva’s historical, symbolic representation in graphic images and awaken the consciousness of female self-acceptance through directly visualising the vulva character.
The relevant comics of my PhD project include:
Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s autobiographical comic ‘Goldie: A Neurotic Woman (1972)’ is an example of such work and represents her own experiences of sex giving me an initial understanding of feminist graphic narratives
‘Fun Thing to Do with The Little Girl (1987)’ by Phoebe Glockner depicts her experiences of being raped by her mother’s boyfriend (Figure 7), graphically representing the girl’s body and her precarity
Julie Doucet’s autobiographical dairy comics “365 Days” which records Doucet’s daily life with full of insecurities, to-do lists, doodles, accounts of dreams, bad news, etc.
I will also use the UAL archives Comic Book Collections to explore the following categories: narratives method, graphical characters, comics aesthetics and the application of symbols in feminist comics, by examining existing graphic narrative works.
Pen’s practice-based research developed the new mode of Values-Based Cartooning for accessing and representing contemporary social issues. She experimented with this approach through a case study: ‘single mothers storying the absent biological father or sperm donor’. Graphically facilitated interviews and workshops were undertaken with twenty single women aged between sixteen and fifty-two, all pregnant, or first-time mothers of babies. Participant responses were filtered and condensed in to creative non-fiction graphic narratives. The thesis identified the benefits and limitations of Values-Based Cartooning in the researcher-artist’s professional context, and highlighted the politics of creative decision making when applied within a research context. This research may be of interest to visual practitioners, motherhood and comics scholars, research teams, public and voluntary sector leaders, authors and artists.
Tobias J. Yu-Kiener
Tobias J. Yu-Kiener’s PhD research is concerned with the current boom in biographical graphic novels about iconic visual artists, their supporting national, international and transnational networks, and their connections to established art museums. In drawing from Art History, Comics Studies, and Cultural Studies, and looking at theories of political economy, (trans)national identity, museology, and (museum) branding and marketing, the project aims to determine where museum-backed graphic novels about iconic painters are to be located between serious artists’ biographies, comic books, history books, merchandise products, public relations and marketing strategies, and state, city and museum branding. The main methods of the project include semi-structured interviews, archival research, textual and visual analysis based on the close reading of a carefully chosen corpus of graphic novels.