Digital Traces: Comics Autobiography in New Media Forms

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Frederik Byrn Køhlert, University of Calgary, Canada


    In the “Coda” to Projections, Jared Gardner’s 2012 study of comics and twentieth-century storytelling forms, Gardner concludes that “in the end, it is clear that the future of comics will not be with the newspaper comics supplement, the comic book, the underground comic or the graphic novel. The next chapter will take place on screens” (192). While this apparent move from old to new media forms is a topic of much discussion in current comics scholarship, where—because of “mainstream” comics’ strong relationship with current blockbuster cinema—it is often theorized as part of what Henry Jenkins influentially has called “convergence culture,” the move to digital formats has perhaps even stronger—but as of yet unexplored—implications for what is perhaps the most critically acclaimed sub-genre of the form, namely autobiographical comics. In scholarship on autobiographical comics, much is routinely made of the individual artist’s stylistic signature, as expressed through what Ann Miller has called “a subjective vision, traced on the paper by the artist’s hand”. In other words, what Johanna Drucker calls the “material form of the trace” is key to the understanding of the “autobiographical pact” in comics, where the mark of the “graphiateur” (Baetens 147) is usually understood as an expression of subjectivity that gives special access to the core of selfhood responsible for making it in the first place. But what happens when the autobiographical trace is either remediated on a computer screen, or, even more radically, created digitally through tools such as Photoshop or a Wacom tablet? As Aaron Kashtan points out, comics created or distributed electronically “have their own modes of materiality, which need to be evaluated independently”, and this paper will therefore examine the specific materiality of digital autobiographical comics, with a special focus on how the relationship between author and reader is influenced by the (re)mediation of the authorial trace in new media forms.