The Politics of the Diagram as Graphic Narrative: Chris Ware and Chad McCail


Within the field of indie comics, politics are most visible–and most closely scrutinized–in the nonfictional genres of graphic journalism (e.g., Joe Sacco’s Palestine), history (e.g., Art Spiegelman’s Maus), and autobiography (e.g., Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home). Discussion of these tends to foreground questions of representation and identification; apart from them, as in the film criticism of the Screen era, a certain formalism predominates. Here, the unselfconscious narration of concrete facts and experiences supposedly typifying works such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis or Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons may be taken as a shortcoming, a failure to “lay bare the devices” and to foreground the medium, whereas a preoccupation with the possibilities of form is sometimes taken to have radical political significance in itself. For Daniel Worden, thus, formal experimentation suggests a break with the given, an “assertion of the comics form’s ability to defamiliarize, rather than concretize and repeat, genre conventions and social norms,” thereby “help[ing] us to think about and envision a better world” (Worden, “Politics of Comics” 69-70). Critical treatment of the works of American comics creator Chris Ware (b. Omaha, 1967) tends to take just this position.

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