Priego – University of Copenhagen

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Ernesto Priego: In Search of the Lost Aura: Comics, Commodity and Materiality in the Digital Age

Unlike music, TV, film or the news, which can be experienced in a variety of formats and media and in spite of the emergence of online comics, comic books have traditionally been linked to one main format of transmission: the printed page. “Comics” is itself a term used to refer to a twofold phenomenon: synthetically, it is an abstraction referring to a communicative system with its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax (a “language”) and the culture around it. Analytically, on the other hand, it refers to printed publications, tangible objects with a physical existence in time and space. 

Unlike most readers of general mainstream fiction, comic book readers are also collectors, and their relationship with texts is often built around collecting and preserving texts that are also objects and objects that are also texts. Nevertheless, the "comicbookness" of the medium and the materiality of comic books as physical objects have not been sufficiently explored (Lefèvre, 2000; Tinker 2009). 

In days when the "dematerialisation" of "creative content" is so pervasive we must focus on the materiality of the printed comic book as a process of construction of meaning. Using examples by Chris Ware, Alan Moore/Kevin O'Neill, Alecos Papadatos and Jason Shiga, my paper seeks to discuss how materiality plays a key role in the phenomenology of comic books and graphic novels, and therefore in understanding what is at stake in the migration from the printed page to the digital screen.