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 want to engage with current and former readers of English-language comic books and graphic novels aged 18 or older. The project has two phases:

  • The first is a brief online intake questionnaire. It asks for some demographic information to help us construct a sample of interviewees, as well as some questions about your relationship with comics reading. The questionnaire closed on December 3, 2021.
  • In the second phase, we are contacting selected questionnaire respondents for a Zoom interview of between 30 and 90 minutes. Our questions focus on participants’ memories of how they interacted with comic books at different times in their life. During the interview, we will share images from comics and graphic novels to help facilitate the conversation.

Participants will not be paid or remunerated.

This project is led by Prof. Benjamin Woo. Contact us at It has been reviewed and approved by Carleton University’s Research Ethics Board (File #111383); if you have any questions or concerns about this research, you can contact the board at

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