Multimodal Composition and the Anti-Auteur Tradition in Collaborative Comics: A Practice-Based Investigation

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It is a truism in comic studies that mainstream comics are made collaboratively and alternative comics are an auteur tradition. It is therefore common to equate collaborative practice with profit incentives and a lack of creative control and auteur practice with artistry and free expression, but little attention has been paid to collaborative comic creators’ perspectives on and experiences of their own working practices. This thesis examines the relationship between the division of labour between modes and the division of labour between creators when collaborating multimodally on comics. It finds that the roles assigned to specific creators within a project are often inadequate to express the scope of their contribution to the creation of an imaginative world or the creative work that occurs during interactions between creators. This investigation consists of two strands. The contextual review troubles the categories of auteur and collaborative practice by examining creators’ perspectives on the division of labour in particular projects. The review demonstrates some of the ways in which these categories work to obscure the heterogeneity of working methods and the contexts from which they emerge. In the practise-based study I examine my own experience of collaborating on comics with my husband during two projects, demonstrating an evolution in working methods between projects and the ways in which methods tend to emerge in response to artistic aims. This thesis argues that collaborative practices offer unique affordances to those working in the comic medium and that the distinctions commonly made between auteurism, and collaboration conceal and misrepresent a more nuanced picture of how comics are produced.
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