“Documentary comics”? That phrase would have struck the earliest comics readers as a category error or an improbable pairing—the nonfiction art of documentary, a term developed by film critics, welded to comics, a medium popularly associated with the strange and outlandish. Even today, we might hear a dare muffled inside “documentary comics,” as it contests the truth-telling claims of modern media (photography, sound recording, film, video) and finds actuality present instead within comics, those hybrid visual-verbal documents. But today’s readers might find nothing questionable in the phrase “documentary comics.” If they know Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale or Lauren Redniss’s visual nonfiction, Ben Passmore’s viral provocation Your Black Friend, or testimonial webcomics uploaded worldwide, they have found some facet of documentary comics today—a flourishing pluralist tradition exploiting, if not expanding, the full promise of the medium.

This essay may be found on page 81 of the printed volume.

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