• Cancer and Comic Books: Distinguishing the Subgenre [Poster]

    A. David Lewis (see profile)
    Comics Scholarship/Comics Studies, GS Comics and Graphic Narratives, Medical Humanities, TC Medical Humanities and Health Studies, TC Popular Culture
    Comic books, strips, etc.--Study and teaching, Comic books, strips, etc., Interdisciplinary approach in education, Humanities--Study and teaching, Narration (Rhetoric), Graphic novels
    Item Type:
    Meeting Title:
    Ninth Annual Faculty Scholarship Showcase
    Meeting Org.:
    MCPHS University
    Meeting Loc.:
    Worcester, MA
    Meeting Date:
    April 30, 2019
    Cancer, sequential art, graphic medicine, Comic book studies, Comics, Comics studies, Interdisciplinary humanities studies, Medical humanities, Narrative
    Permanent URL:
    For at least the last twenty years, scholarly attention has been drawn to the numerous depictions of cancer in comic books as well as oncology’s use of the comics medium (Rhode and Connor, 2012). However, little in the way of comprehensive analysis has been attempted, especially in terms of the various genres addressed. In this presentation, a categorization scheme of four categories (familial, experiential, fictive, and clinical) is proposed for better structuring future discussions on cancer and comics. For instance, how easily can David Small’s Stitches be discussed alongside Jim Starlin’s The Death of Captain Marvel? Or in what manner can the Medikidz Explain Breast Cancer be placed alongside Joyce Brabner, Harvey Pekar, and Frank Stack’s Our Cancer Year? Understanding not only what depictions of cancer arise in the comics medium but also what narrative and visual approaches are most widely absorbed allows for new educational opportunities and graphic pathologies in public health and oncology. Following literary theorist Alex Woloch, this research questions the figurative space of cancer with a narrative, particularly in the visual-verbal hybrid medium of comics, and its connotations to the reader. Ultimately, it must be asked what brings so many cancer narratives to comics: Is it, as Lauren McGavin suggest, the ability of comics to break down the inside/outside dichotomy? Is it the “fringe medium” status of comics, balanced between the supposedly juvenile and the artistically literary, that invites the inclusion of a terrifying illness to be explored? Or, is there something else inherent to the medium, to its sequential nature, that unconsciously links creators to the unseen growth of cancer? This early parsing of the different categories of Cancer Comics will help illustrate the more fruitful responses to such questions in forthcoming research.
    Portions of this poster were presented at the 2018 Comics & Medicine Conference's "Academic Angles" panel in White River Junction, VT
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago


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