Preparatory Note

The article is divided into five main sections, three of which are answers to the question “Is This Article a comic?” The first section answers that question with a review of calls to and rationales for creative/scholarly interventions. The second section offers a history of the debate over the definition of comics. This long section reframes that debate, pulling in thinkers who are often left out. It ends with a problem: formalist and historicist definitions fail, while avoiding definition leads away from comics form and history. The third section returns to the original question, “Is This Article a Comic?” as a way of distinguishing three terms that have been used interchangeably in that debate: form, function, and essence. I propose that replacing the definitional project with one of conceptualization along functional lines preserves historical and formal investigation while avoiding the essentialism of definition. In the fourth section I articulate such a Deleuzian conception of comics that addresses many of the problems found in the definition debate. Finally, I ask the title question one last time as a call for others to intervene in new ways.


How to read this article


In order to make this scholarly article read a bit more like a comic, I’ve removed footnotes and block quotes in many places. The notes and quotes are still accessible. When you see a narrative box or speech balloon outlined in blue or red, click or tap on the object to see the elided information. Often I will paraphrase an author and then supply the full quote through this interactive element. Keep an eye out for those blue elements.


Navigation will often be available at the end of the page, although in some of the later, more complex sections, the navigation is included within the comics panels themselves. If you can't find a button that takes you to another page, consider clicking within the comic.


When you are ready to begin, click the first of these navigation buttons below.


Is This a Comic?