Welcome to Icon Sequential, an online venue for the critical review and analysis of comic books, graphic novels, and pictorial narratives.
Curated by fellow PhD candidates in the fields of Canadian and American literature at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, this site is an effort to stimulate and engage new and exciting thoughts on comic book narrative and all its permutations.
We hope the title of this project indicates a double-sidedness of such scholarship today. On the one hand, comic books have been treated as too inconsequential to be worthy of wide and rigorous academic scholarship – there has been a sense that they are childish, crude, and unworthy compared to the pillars of literary studies: poetry, novels, drama. On the other hand, that mentality is in fast decline and we, as literary scholars, can scarcely continue to deny the iconic status of sequential narratives any longer.
One of us – an Americanist – grew up with super hero comic books, making weekly trips to his local comic book shop, drawn into the ever-expanding mythology of scantily-clad and overly-muscular men and women who risk life and limb to save this planet and others; now, as a nostalgic adult, he stocks his bookshelves with collected volumes and graphic novels. Icon Sequential’s other curator, a scholar of Canadian literature, somehow managed to include Chester Brown’s Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (Drawn and Quarterly 2006) as part of his comprehensive examinations reading list, a deed worthy of praise and imitation. He has yet to become entirely seduced by the aforementioned illustrated sex symbols of super heroism; having discovered graphic novels as an adult and established a decidedly mature relationship with the genre in general, he devours graphic novels while remaining level headed and admittedly (and perhaps advantageously) nostalgia free.
Throughout the inaugural months of this site, we will post our own semi-scholarly and undoubtedly developing reflections. As time wears on, we hope other scholars will join us, that in time this project will take on a life of its own, that diverse writers and ideas will be presented and debated. We cannot and will not call Icon Sequential a scholarly journal. Work posted on this site is not peer-reviewed, as such. But we do maintain that Icon Sequential is a scholarly effort. And we look forward to seeing what it becomes.
So let’s talk about comic books and graphic novels, as well as various other, but related, forms of pictorial storytelling. Let’s expand upon existing conversations and attempt to introduce new ideas, criticisms, and theories into the mix. Though Hollywood has expertly lobotomized some of our childhood favourites, others are adapted to the screen with near panel-for-panel precision; meanwhile, the internet is awash with personal blogs supporting varying approaches to the genre. If anything, the contemporary inundation of popular culture by comic books points toward the necessity that we discuss them. We hope you enjoy what you encounter here, that you discover new debates, or ideas to debate. Read. Agree. Disagree. Perhaps consider contributing one day. We appreciate your interest in this nascent area of scholarly analysis. So let’s jump in.
Welcome to Icon Sequential.
– Matt & Joe