Telling Stories About Storytelling: The Metacomics of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Warren Ellis
(Dissertation, University of Alberta, 2009)
The Revisionist comics of the 1980s to present represent an effort to literally revise the existing conventions of mainstream comics, and the most prominent and common device employed by the Revisionists is self-reflexivity; thus, they created metacomics. The Revisionists make a spectacle of critically interrogating the conventions of mainstream comics but do so using those very same conventions: formal, generic, stylistic, etc. At their most practical level, Revisionist metacomics denaturalize the dominant genres of the American mainstream and, therefore, also denaturalize the ideological underpinnings of those genres. At their most abstract level, they destabilize the concepts of “fiction,” “reality,” “realism,” and “fantasy,” and collapse them into each other.
Chapter 1 explains my methodological approach to metacomics: formal (sequence and hybridity), self-reflexive (metafiction, metapictures, metacomics), and finally denaturalization (articulation and myth). Chapter 2 analyses two metacomic cycles in the mainstream (the Crisis and Squadron Supreme cycles, respectively) and surveys the self-reflexive elements of Underground comix, specifically with regard to gender and feminist concerns. Chapter 3 presents three motifs in Revisionist comics by which they denaturalize the superhero: the dictator-hero, postmodern historiography, and fantasy genres. Finally, Chapter 4 analyses three major Revisionist comic-book series―Transmetropolitan, Promethea, and Sandman―all of which comment on contemporary American culture and the nature of representation, and they do so using the dominant genres of American comics: science fiction, superhero, and fantasy, respectively.