Comic Book Memories

Mainstream of comics studies, building on traditions of literary study, hasn’t had much to say about reading and readers. Notwithstanding a few excellent studies, some from (popular) cultural studies (Barker 1989, Brown 2001, Gibson 2015) and others from librarianship and literacy education (Sabeti 2011, Serantes 2019), the actual practice of comic book reading and what it means to readers has been a minor theme in this growing field of research.

Inspired by Mel Gibson’s research on British women’s childhood memories of reading comics (2019), the RoCCET Lab’s Comic Book Memories project seeks to fill in some of these gaps. To Gibson’s focus on childhood reading, it adds a concern for readers’ “careers” over time, responding to Harrington and Bielby’s (2010) call for fan scholars to engage with the life course and Derek Johnson’s (2019) recognition of comics as a “transgenerational media industry.” Importantly, we want to recognize that most fans and readers’ relationship with comics change over time.

For this study, we asked current and former readers of English-language comic books and graphic novels aged 18 or older to take a brief online intake questionnaire. In addition to collecting some demographic information, it asked people to name a significant comic they remember from each decade of their reading “career.” We then contacted selected questionnaire respondents for a Zoom interview that focused on their memories of interacting with comic books at different times in their life. During the interview, we shared images from the comics and graphic novels they mentioned in the questionnaire to help facilitate the conversation.

Research Team

Benjamin Woo

Research Assistants

  • Aseel Qazzaz
  • Austin Evans-Wigfield
  • Isrial Thomas
  • Yennifer Sprigg
  • Jake Festeryga

Photo credits (clockwise): Richard Beland’s Jungle Frolics (original source unknown); Miika Laaksonen; Dorothea Lange; Joe Ciciarelli; Jaroslav A. Polák; Mahdiar Mahmoodi