CFP: The edifice is in the panel – monumental architecture in comics

Comic and graphic novel workshop (CORPUS / CLIMAS)
Université de Picardie Jules Verne / Université Bordeaux Montaigne
Logis du Roi, Amiens
June 4, 2018
Stichtag: 31.03.2018

To declare that the setting is the main protagonist of a fiction is to state the obvious. This is especially the case in visual, and particularly graphic, arts. In comics or graphic novels, the setting is granted special attention and efforts that make it an autonomous character. Several possible lines of enquiry are suggested here.

Because the creation of the setting is often left to assistants or realized through dedicated tools and techniques (in the line art, in the coloring, etc.), they are one of the most common sources  of the “masking effect” described by Scott McCloud (McCloud 42-43). When within the same panel a simplified, “iconic” drawing that triggers an instant identification on the part of the reader, is juxtaposed onto a more realistic setting, in works such as Tintin or Cerebus, one may wonder how this two-tiered representation shapes the act and awareness of reading.

Furthermore, researchers (Groensteen, Pascoal) have noted the similar use of a layout in comic and architecture. Chris Ware’s monumental demonstration is a frequently used example, but this is also exemplified by 1950s science fiction comics (“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Wood and Feldstein) or by recent experimental graphic novels like Travelling square district (Greg Shaw, 2010). Can the metaphor of architecture prove to be more fertile than the hackneyed comparison of comics to cinema?

New technologies and access to the internet have brought forth transmedia strategies of representation that necessarily affect the setting, especially when it attempts to mirror an edifice. The few online comics that may be read with gif files within their panels use such potential for movement to animate the background against which static characters stand out. What is therefore changed in the perception of space?

Lastly, what does the setting become when several authors collaborating on a common project are given a set of shared guidelines and maps to a fictional universe? A recent example of one such venture is the science fiction series Infinity 8, led by Olivier Vatine and Lewis Trondheim.

Our one-day conference thus welcomes French- and English-speaking researchers to contribute to these possible debates on the forms, dynamics and strategies of edifices in the art of comics. It will appositely take place in the shadow of a cathedral, in Amiens, Logis du Roi. Listed below are several possible themes to take inspiration from.

Please send your proposals (some 300 words) in French or English to Nicolas Labarre and Amélie Junqua before the 31rst of March, 2018 to and

A typology of edifices in comic

  • The palace or the temple: edifices of power or faith
  • Symbolism and representations of the tower
  • Monument and memory: tombs and statues (“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” by Alan Moore and Curt Swan, Philippe Druillet’s cosmic tombs)
  • The superhero’s home: the lair, the fortress, the watchtower, the secret HQ

Dynamics of the edifice

  • Construction and destruction, thesis and antithesis
  • The purposes of destruction: “chewing the scenery” or child-like pleasure?
  • The edifice as a metatext of the graphic work (In the Shadow of No Tower, Art Spiegelman)
  • Movement through and description thereof: pursuit, visit, quest and wandering in the edifice
  • Uses and abuses of the monument
  • The setting and the mental landscape, comic vs literature (High Rise, Ballard and Brüsel, Schuiten and Peeters)

Stage design and comic

  • Two neighbouring realms? (François Schuiten and Marc-Antoine Mathieu)

The setting as a constraint

  • Allusion, simplification, omission
  • Minimal characterisation, or the use of absence
  • Comic strips and short comics: a specific type of setting?

National landmarks

  • The megalopolis in the superhero genre
  • The display of monuments in European comics
  • Orientalism and minarets

New places

  • 3D representation/perception of space, gif-supported comics, online comic

Selected bibliography

primary sources:

Secondary sources 

  • Ahrens, Jörn et Arno Meteling. Comics and the City. Urban Space in Print, Picture and Sequence (London, New York: Continuum, 2010)
  • Bartual, Roberto. „Architecture and comics. Citizens of No Place.“ In: Ernesto F. Priego Ramirez (eds.): The Comics Grid. Journal of Comics Scholarship. Year One. (London: The Comics Grid Digital First Editions, 2012) pp. 190–192.
  • Bredehoft, Thomas A. „Comics Architecture, Multidimensionality, and Time. Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.“ In: Modern Fiction Studies 52.4 (2006), pp. 869–890.
  • Carrier, Mélanie. „L’organisation urbaine et iconique dans l’œuvre de Marc-Antoine Mathieu.“ In: Bertrand Gervais und Christina Horvath (eds.): Écrire la ville. (Figura, 14.) (Montréal: Figura, Centre de recherche sur le texte et l’imaginaire, 2005), pp.169–182.
  • Gabilliet, Jean-Paul. « Urbem virumque cano » : la ville et les super-héros.” Otrante. Art et littérature fantastiques 3 (juin 1992) : 99-105
  • Gabilliet, Jean-Paul. « Urbem virumque cano » : la ville et les super-héros.” Otrante. Art et littérature fantastiques 3 (juin 1992) : 99-105
  • Groensteen, Thierry. “Gigantisme” (2016),
  • Groensteen, Thierry. Système de la bande dessinée (Paris: PUF, 1999)
  • Lee, Stan. Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics: From the Legendary Co-Creator of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Iron Man. (New York: Watson-Guptill Publication, 2010), pp. 105-109
  • Lund, Martin. „‘Every day is 9/11!’. Re-constructing Ground Zero in three US comics.“ In: Journal of Urban Cultural Studies 4.1–2 (2017), pp. 241–261.
  • McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics (NYC: Kitchen Sink Press, 1993)
  • Pascoal, Renata Rafaela. „The Architecture in Comics.“ In: Comics Forum (23. Jan. 2015)
  • Thévenet, Jean-Marc. Archi & BD: la ville dessinée, Volume 39, (Monografik éditions, 2010)

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