Call for Papers: Innovative Methods in Multimodal Comics Research

Zeitschrift für Semiotik, special issue edited by
Janina Wildfeuer, University of Groningen
Stephan Packard, University of Cologne

Please send a brief abstract of 500-1000 words to the editors by 15 July 2021:
Janina Wildfeuer ( and Stephan Packard (

From its earliest and experimental beginnings, comics research has engaged a fascination with semiotics: The interaction not merely of word and image, but among a manifold of images and other visual elements on the comic page has beckoned many researchers to investigate comics by looking at the way they use and mix signs of various kinds (Eco 1972, Krafft 1978, Eisner 1985, Barbieri 1990, McCloud 1993, Groensteen 1999, Magnussen 2000, Packard 2006, Cohn 2013). Often, these approaches followed a conceptual order most prevalent in structuralism and post-structuralism, working through the various shapes of comics with language serving as their point of departure and constant comparison – or struggling to move beyond such a paradigm.

It is no surprise, then, that the rise of multimodal semiotics and linguistics in the last three decades, building from Kress and van Leeuwen’s pioneering reading of images and the description of multimodal discourse (1996, 2001) and continuing through expansions and approaches towards systematization (Kress 2010, Jewitt 2014, Klug/Stöckl 2016, Bateman et al. 2017), has resulted in a number of new perspectives on comics, cartoons, graphic novels, and manga (including Lim 2007, Forceville 2010/2011, Cohn 2013, Bateman/Wildfeuer 2014, Cohn 2016, Dunst et al. 2018). With its interest in the different semiotic modes and resources that comics offer to their creators and audiences, multimodal analysis encompasses tools to describe the material basis, formal structure, and emerging semantics of traditional as well as experimental forms of graphic narrative, from the comic strip and comic book to webcomics and digital interactive formats.

Always already an interdisciplinary field, comics studies have offered a rich array of opportunities and challenges to investigations of multimodality, while at the same time perhaps failing to engage with the emerging methodologies broadly and across its many disciplines – it is still rare to see a multimodal analysis of a comics page outside dedicated publications, or beyond the realms of media linguistics. Even within the latter, a common state of the art remains undefined.

For this dedicated issue of the Journal of Semiotics, we want to bring together linguistic as well as inter- and transdisciplinary contributions engaging with the semiotic wealth of comics, continuing recent research with new challenges and solutions, and engaging in dialogue across the various approaches to the multimodality of comics. We seek to include both theoretical or methodological as well as more empirically- or corpus-oriented works. Contributions could deal with questions including, but not limited to, the following:
• how can we trace the establishment of cohesion and coherence across panel borders?
• how can we distinguish and describe the various semiotic domains (resources, modes) appearing within panels?
• how can we understand ways of perception and interpretation of the various elements on the comic page?
• how can we understand differences in visual semiotics between cultures, languages, genres, and styles – for example with the help of corpus analytical tools or empirical studies?
• how can the playful semantics of comics books be correlated to the heautonomic rules of the art form?

Please send a brief abstract of 500-1000 words by July 15, 2021, to the editors,
Janina Wildfeuer ( and Stephan Packard (

Feedback on abstracts will be provided by August 2021. Full text submissions of roughly 7.000 to 10.000 words are expected by the end of 2021. All contributions will be peer-reviewed. Publication is scheduled for early 2023.

Conference: Crisis Lines: Coloniality, Modernity, Comics (Wednesday, 9th June 2021)

Colonial modernity has materially reshaped our world through the force of the line. Epitomized in the modern cartographic map, the colonial line is deployed as a technology of delimitation and enclosure, often in relation to land, but also to seas and to skies. It is drawn across territories, fragmenting communities and framing populations, and prioritising occupation and ownership over habitation and presence. It authorizes borders, inscribing with pens and walls and satellites an imperial “visuality” onto the surface of the earth. Beginning in the slave plantation and settler colony, evolving through the heights of European imperialism, and calcifying into the military-media complex of our screen-oriented age, visuality has combined the lines of maps with other information-lines – treaties, bureaucracies, infrastructures, code – to contrive colonial modernity into a self-evident and indisputable reality.

However, while the colonial line extends into the present moment by controlling the very crises it has advertently created, it is not the only genre of line. As Tim Ingold has shown, lines can also trace modes and chart histories of resistance. There are hand-drawn lines, sketch lines, story lines, wayfaring lines; lines that carry counter-histories, that index the sway of rebellions lost and revolutions overturned. These lines orient positionalities and denote relationalities, both situating us on and habituating us into the world. As a gesture of encounter, they take place against structures of power, a ground from which “the right to look” might be claimed. This conference will explore the ways in which these lines are manifested and contested in comics, graphic novels, photo essays, zines, picture books, and other combinations of image and text.

Both days are open to artists, scholars, and members of the public, and both are free to attend.

You will need to register per session, registration link follows below. All sessions will take place online via Zoom, please ensure you have the most update version of Zoom installed as this will be required to join the parallel sessions.

Here is a link to the programme and registry information etc:

Plenty of time will be reserved for question and answer sessions, and we look forward to welcoming all delegates interested in constructive and respectful discussion of the conference themes.

Contemporary Nordic Comics Research Conference October 7- 8 2021 Malmö University

The contemporary Nordic comics scene is diverse and multifaceted. Classic characters from the 30s are still popular and exist side by side with avantgarde, feminist, and political comics. A mainstream Nordic comic could very well be represented by semi-autobiographical funny animals published in a daily newspaper; alternately we also find self-published manga and epic genres (noir, fantasy, horror). Twenty-five years ago, the situation was radically different. Many feared that comics would soon be obsolete due to the fast growth of digital media. Since then, however, both comics and comics research has undergone an almost explosive development in the Nordic region. This is especially noticeable in Malmö, branded as The City of Comics, with a rich infrastructure of comics-related initiatives including education, research, professional artists’ networks, publishing companies, comics organizations and The Swedish Comics Archive.

In recent years, academic interest in Nordic comics has also increased substantially, both in the Nordic countries and beyond, in disciplines such as comparative literature, media and communication studies, and art history, as well as within the emerging field of comic studies.

The Contemporary Nordic Comics Research Conference aims to present and discuss current research on Nordic comics, as well as share resources including academic networks, archives, and collaborative projects. A long-term goal is to contribute to the development of both research about Nordic comics and comics research in the Nordic countries through facilitating collaborations between comics researchers in the Nordic countries and researchers in other countries who are also interested in Nordic comics.

We therefor invite the submission of papers to the Contemporary Nordic Comics Research Conference at Malmö university.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
* Trends in Nordic comics
* Comparisons between comics in the Nordic countries and abroad´
* The role of comics in Nordic culture(s)´
* The history of Nordic comics
* Nordic comics viewed from abroad
* Comics and the Nordic welfare states
* Nordic comics in dialogue with the world

Please, send proposals of 250 words, plus a short biography to: and no later than March 15.

If the covid pandemic should make it impossible to host the conference in Malmö, it will take place online.

K3 Research Seminar: Saskia Gullstrand – Cinematic Storytelling in Comics

Film and comics share one very fundamental storytelling technique – the image montage, which offers the possibility to show the story to the reader through a sequence of images. Through artistic research, I’m investigating what montage strategies artists can use to create a cinematic flow in comics, and the effects it can have on the emotional involvement of the reader of narrative comics.

In this seminar, I’ll discuss what cinematic flow within comics narration can look like, with a focus on grid structure in page layout, the relationship between images and text and the use of dynamic “camera” perspectives and field sizes in the images. By combining my viewpoint as a comics creator and storyteller with academic comics theory, I want to conduct artistic research in comics that exists in dialogue with other forms of comics research, but also serve artists and their practices as storytellers.

This is work in progress. From the seminar, I’d like constructive critique on how to move forward, but also exchange ideas on how to create a dialogue on methods of artistic research between academia and comics artists, as well as an exchange of knowledge and perspectives on comics as an art form.  

November 18 at 10.00 AM (CET) on Zoom:

Pascal Lefèvre appointed honorary doctor at Malmö university

We are happy to announce that comics historian and theorist, Professor Pascal Lefèvre is appointed honorary doctor at the Faculty of Culture and Society. As the 2020 Annual Academic Ceremony has been postponed due to the pandemic, he is the only one appointed by the University this year.

“Professor Pascal Lefèvre is a pioneer in comics research. His work on the history and theory of this art form has been fundamental to the development of the research field in Europe, not least at our Faculty,” says Rebecka Lettevall, Dean of the Faculty of Culture and Society.

Continue reading here: Pioneer in comics research is appointed honorary doctor at Malmö University

Malmö Comics Research Lab at Skillinge Comics Festival 2020

Official poster by Moa Romanova (image) och Kalle Mattsson (typography) 2020.

A panel of 3 lectures + discussion on comics research (live – via Zoom)

On Friday September 11th, Malmö Comics Research Lab will present research in progress. Jakob Dittmar will discuss documentary narration in Charlie Christensens comics, Saskia Gullstrand will give her view on comics and artistic research and Gunnar Krantz will talk about the praxis of  inking. The panel will be followed by a discussion with comics artists participating in the exhibitions at the festival.
The panel will take place between 10 to 12 AM, followed by a discussion at 13.30 to 15 PM.

For more info about the festival, please visit the official website:


Recorded seminars (more will follow):

Gunnar Krantz – introduction:

Saskia Gullstrand on comics and artistic research:

Gunnar Krantz on the praxis of inking: