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Auteurgraphy: Distinctiveness of Styles in Alternative Graphic Narratives

Author Lukas ETTER
Director of thesis Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rippl
Co-director of thesis Dr. Daniel Stein
Summary of thesis

My dissertation engages in three case studies of serially published graphic narratives, namely, Maus by Art Spiegelman, Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, and Berlin by Jason Lutes. These works are regularly counted among contemporary U.S.-American so-called alternative (as opposed to mainstream) graphic narratives (cf. Sabin and Triggs; Hatfield, Alternative; Williams and Lyons; Beaty). It is my goal to analyze how these creators achieve distinctiveness in style – something that constitutes an artistic autograph, so to speak. As the most recent debates have illustrated (cf. Hatfield, “Afterword”; Löwenthal and Manouach), the term ‘alternative comics’, if it continues to be valid, does no longer necessarily imply a subversive impetus, as had postulated for at least the early representatives of the 1980s. Rather than a counter-cultural aspect, I argue, it is increasingly the dominance of an auteur figure that unites these works. The products of single author-artists, Maus, Berlin, and Dykes to Watch Out For are representative for this major trend on the U.S.-American alternative comics market, namely, a change towards emphasizing or staging the role of auteurs with highly personal, often (though not necessarily) autobiographical stories as well as idiosyncratic verbal and graphic styles.

Aspects of artistic styles include particularities in the quality of the line and the depiction of physiognomies; idiosyncratic strategies of playing with graphic narratives’ intermedial nature (combination of text and image); specific habits of laying out the pages; as well as features that go beyond the single page, such as meta-reflections on the visual or verbal distinctiveness of particular characters, or metalepses in the form of direct addresses to the readership (e.g., “Stay tuned!”). The following issues are what ultimately connects the three case studies: To discuss the notion of individual artistic style; to reflect on the markers by which we believe to distinguish them; and to shed light on how auteurs may employ such markers and self-reflexive techniques in order to present a particular work as seemingly autonomous from collaborative efforts and commercial constraints. The issues at stake, therefore, are both the creator’s stylistic autograph on the page as well as the degree of self-stylization as auteur.



Works Cited:


Bechdel, Alison. Complete Dykes to Watch Out For: Vol. 1. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1997. Print.

---. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For. London: Jonathan Cape, 2008. Print.

Lutes, Jason. Berlin: City of Stones. Montréal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2000. Print.

---. Berlin: City of Smoke. Montréal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2008. Print.

Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus. New York: Pantheon, 1996. Print.


Beaty, Bart. Comics versus Art. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2012. Print.

Hatfield, Charles. Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2005. Print.

---. “Alternative Comics: An Afterword.” The Hooded Utilitarian. The Hooded Utilitarian. 11 Nov. 2010. Web. 10 Oct 2013.

Löwenthal, Xavier, and Ilan Manouach. Metakatz. Brussels: Cinquième Couche, 2013.

Sabin, Roger, and Teal Triggs, eds. Below Critical Radar: Fanzines and Alternative Comics From 1976 to Now. Hove: Slab-O-Concrete/Codex, 2001. Print.

Williams, Paul, and James Lyons, eds. The Rise of the American Comics Artist. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2010. Print.

Administrative delay for the defence
URL http://www.iash.unibe.ch/content/doktorierenden___sammlung/2010/etter_lukas/inde