Genre is a loaded word for comics studies in the United States, as it has been for studies of mass and popular forms since the industrial and print revolutions. On one hand, genre is an indispensable term in scholarship that focuses on comics as a genre of literary, popular, mass, and visual culture and sequential art. Genres such as superheroes, crime, humor, children’s, romance, war, memoir, and others are central to comics history. On the other, this keyword is still often used pejoratively to situate comics as low and suspect within hierarchies that distinguish genre-marked cultural forms from “literature” and others with more cultural capital. In the last twenty years or so, however, comics have risen within cultural hierarchies—partly because of the publication of graphic novels and other kinds of comics in more expensive formats with cultural prestige—that experiment with genre and can be understood in relation to realist codes that privilege the representation of everyday life and allied forms of memoir and autobiography. Experimenting with genre and engaging comics readers’ multigenre literacies is not a recent phenomenon, however, and this has long been a strength of the form. And while the mark of genre has historically been stigmatizing, the...

This essay may be found on page 115 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay