Comics, International Perspectives

Course - first cycle - 30 credits

Syllabus for students spring 2014, spring 2013

Course Code:
KK139C revision 1
Level of specialisation
Main fields of study:
No main fields
Date of establishment:
16 August 2012
Date of ratification:
29 August 2012
Decision-making body:
Faculty of Culture and Society
Enforcement date:
21 January 2013

Course description

The course aims to give fundamental theoretical and practical knowledge of comics and visual storytelling and their cultural contexts. The course provides an orientation on comics focusing on Japan and South Korea, USA, and Western Europe, their audiences and existing fields of comics-research. It also discusses different forms of comics-publications and provides workshops on relevant artistic techniques. The course includes practical development of comics for a set cultural or intercultural communicative context. The course finishes with an analytical and/or project-developmental paper.

The course will be taught in English language.

Advancement in relation to the degree requirements

The course can normally be included as a part of a general degree at basic level.

Entry requirements

  1. Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative (KK139A) or 30 credits within media- och communication studies, culture studies, literature, graphic design, visual communication, art or equivalent.
  2. The equivalent of English B in Swedish secondary school.

Learning outcomes

After completing the course, the student should:

  • display knowledge on cultural backgrounds of comics in different cultures (1)
  • display knowledge on storytelling traditions and stereotypes in different cultures (2)
  • display knowledge on comics dramaturgies (3)
  • display knowledge on the role and importance of visual storytelling in contemporary media landscapes. (4)
  • display knowledge of relevant fields of comics-research (5)
  • display knowledge on production of a comic, from idea to published product (6)
  • display knowledge of forms of production- and publication (7)

After completing the course, the student should:
  • demonstrate skills in visual storytelling (8)
  • demonstrate ability to discuss and argue for ideas and resulting projects, weighing up the chosen form and content (9)
  • demonstrate ability to critically assess and analyse their own and others' work in word and writing (10)
  • demonstrate ability to develop visual narratives such as comics and/or storyboards for film, games or other visual narrative media (11)

After completing the course, the student should:
  • display ability to reflect on limitations and possibilities of intercultural communication (12)
  • display ability to reflect and judge comics of their own and by others in relation to content, form, and choice of expression in word and writing (13)


Cumulative assessment based on the following:

In part 1 the issues 6, 7 and 8 are graded by assessment of work results and written reflecions.

In part 2 the issues 1, 2, 6, 7 and 12 through written assignments and active participation in examination-seminars.

In part 3 the issues 3 and 6 through written assignments. In part 3 the issues 9, 10, 11 and 13 through individual artistic project followed by a written critical reflection, and active participation in examination-seminars.

In part 4 the issues 4, 5 and 10 through written assignment.

Course content

The course is divided into four parts:

1. Narrative structure and visualisation, storytelling in comics, basics of comics-culture.
2. Comics-culture in different countries. Media and publishing in Europe, USA and other countries.
3. Individual project based on given cultural and/or topical background (chosen in dialogue with supervisor).
4. Comics theory, cultural theory, and graphic storytelling.

Part 1 contains a short introduction to the basics of comics and visual storytelling, starting with technical aspects, forms of narration, and artistic practice. This part of the course offers practical and theoretical issues. Students analyse and reflect on results reached and put them into relation to the course's literature/reading obligations. Comic-strips and visual material are produced experimenting with tools, styles, and construction of sequences. This part of the course develops practical competences of visual narrating, layout of individual images and picture-sequences, digitalisation, production and distribution, marketing. Results are presented in seminars.

Part 2 looks at international comics-cultures, focusing on the traditions, styles and contexts within mainly Western Europe, USA, and Japan and South Korea. It introduces the main and coming forms of publishing and distribution that are important for the different comics-cultures.

Part 3 is dedicated to one individual project that has to be developed for publication in a previously determined medium. E.g. screen or print. The topic and medium are chosen by the student in dialogue with her/his supervisor. The project-work is done independently, with limited supervision. It can be used for further analysis and development in the final paper.

Part 4 runs parallel to the entire course and consists of lectures, group-discussions, and written/drawn exercises. Theory is integrated in the practical elements and the students continuously describe their reflections and analyses in oral or/and written form. The whole course completes with a written comics-analysis or the practical development of a comic that takes cultural issues of audiences into consideration. A comics-project in the latter meaning has to include or be supplemented by written reasoning for the choice of styles, layouts, characters, lettering, etc.

Learning activities

The course depends on the students' activity and learning. Teaching forms used during the course are lectures, seminars, workshops, excursions or study visits, group work and individual projects under supervision.

Grading system

Excellent (A), Very Good (B), Good (C), Satisfactory (D), Pass (E) or Fail (U).

Course literature and other teaching materials

Groensteen, Thierry (2007): The System of Comics. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Heer, Jeet; Kent Worcester (eds.) (2004): Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

McCloud, Scott (1993): Understanding Comics. New York: Harper Collins.

McCloud, Scott (2006): Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels. New York: Harper Collins.

Robbins, Trina (1993): A Century of Women Cartoonists. Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press.

Bouissou, Jean-Marie (2000): “Manga goes Global.”

Ellis, Warren (2001): Come in alone. San Francisco: AiT/Planet Lar.

Kanemitsu, Dan (n. d.): “Doujinworld: The Subculture of the Japanese Non-Commercial Comic Book Publishing Community"; University of Minnesota:

Lent, John A. (ed.) (1999): Themes and Issues in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.

Magnussen, Anne & Christiansen, Hans-Christian (red.) (2000). Comics & culture: analytical and theoretical approaches to comics. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum, University of Copenhagen

Miller, Ann (2007): Reading Bande Dessinée. University of Chicago Press.

Phillips, Susanne (2001): “Images of Asia in Japanese Best-selling Manga”; Typoskript at ICAS 2, Berlin, 9-12 August 2001.

Rose, Gilian (2001): Visual Methodologies. An Introdution to the Interpretation of Visual Materials. London; Thousand Oaks; New Delhi: Sage.

Auster, Paul (1994): City of Glass. Adapted by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli, Graphics by David Mazzucchelli. New York: Avon.

Bechtel, Alison (2006): Fun Home. Jonathan Cape.

CLAMP (2010): Chobits. Milwaukie: Dark Horse Comics.

Kominsky-Crumb, Alison (2007): Need more Love. MQ Publications.

Satrapi, Marjane (2003): Persepolis. The story of a childhood. New York: Pantheon.

Simmonds, Posy (2000): Gemma Bovery. London: Jonathan Cape.

Gaiman, Neil; Dave McKean (1995): The comical tragedy or tragical comedy of Mr. Punch. New York: Vertigo / DC Comics.

Taniguchi, Jiro (2004): The walking man. Wisbech, GB: Fanfare; Tarragiona, E: Ponet Mon.

Apollo; Lewis Trondheim (2008): Ile Bourbon 1730. Paris: Guy Delcourt.

Course evaluation

Written evaluation at the end of the course.