Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Jason Puskar

Committee Members

Margaret Noodin, Gregory Jay, Joe Austin, Ramzi Fawaz


Comics, Formalism, Historicism, History, Temporality


Formal criticism of comics has often focused on the importance of sequence and the filling of gutters with causative logics. Practitioner-theorists like Will Eisner and Scott McCloud have focused on “sequentiality” and “closure” to conceive of how readers connect the disparate panels of a given comic. More contemporary scholars of the form have followed Eisner and McCloud, foregrounding the causative logics that create narrative progression in the comics form. Yet, these approaches implicitly rely on dominant, western logics of temporality in the construction of narrative in comics.

This project considers how comics form actually relies on various temporalities and thus complicates a single, dominant approach to historical consciousness. I argue that comics work as historically dissident cultural productions given the ways comics forms anatomize and even actively question normative western temporality and history. I take a broader approach to form, considering the aesthetic, narrative, and publication elements formally. Such an approach keeps this study from focusing solely on auteur comics or mainstream comics. In fact, I explore these formal elements in comics like Richard McGuire’s Here, Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers, Marvel’s The Uncanny X-Men and Black Panther, Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection, and Red: A Haida Manga. Because comics are ephemeral pulp and because they offer fragmented narratives that are often mutated from accepted forms, they rely on a flexible understanding of how time works, how narratives progress, and what it means to tell a story. Thus, comics forms actually encourage readers to question their own experiences of western, imperial, or heteronormative histories.