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Metafiction in Webcomics

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In this presentation, held at the Comic Studies Conference at University of Amsterdam (2015), I show how online comics can be made sense of as literature. Webcomics use many literary devices to experiment with their form and content. This also means that literary concepts will help us understand these comics better. I focus on the concept of metafiction which sheds light on a new wave of webcomics. Metafiction is fiction that draws attention to its own artificiality. There are many ways in which a text can do that, for instance through parody, through intertextuality, or by experimenting with authorial voice. For instance, through self-insertions or commentary by an author. Comics, however, can also do something more. Webcomics also tend to reflect on media technology and experiment with interactivity.

In this paper, I provide a close-reading of the webcomics Homestuck (Hussie, 2009-) and The Property of Hate (Jolley, 2012-). Both comics question the relationship of the reader with the fiction itself, as well as the technology used to read it. I argue that in an age of digital media and culture, metafiction has evolved as a storytelling technique. By posing questions about technology, and the nature of interactivity and agency, both comics urge their readers to reflect on their structure and possibilities.

Published in: Design
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Metafiction in Webcomics

  1. 1. FROM TEXT TO SCREEN Metafiction in The Property of Hate and Homestuck
  2. 2. WEB COMICS
  3. 3. METAFICTION Fiction that draws attention to its own artificiality
  4. 4. METAFICTION Metafictional texts ´explore a theory of fiction through the practice of writing fiction´ - Waugh, 2001: 3
  5. 5. METAFICTION Fictional play also re-evaluates the traditional procedures of communication and allows release from established patterns […] thus ensuring survival through adaptability of the novel - Waugh, 2001: 36
  6. 6. METAFICTION Web comics Property of Hate and Homestuck question the relationship of the reader with the fiction itself, as well as the technology used to read it.
  7. 7. Property of Hate: Online comic by Sarah Jolley, originally uploaded on Smackjeeves
  8. 8. Web epic (+7000 pages) by Hussie (MS Paint Adventures)
  9. 9. STYLE CHANGES
  10. 10. STYLE CHANGES
  11. 11. STYLE CHANGES
  12. 12. STYLE CHANGES
  13. 13. STYLE CHANGES
  14. 14. INTERMEDIALITY
  15. 15. INTERMEDIALITY
  16. 16. INTERMEDIALITY
  17. 17. INTERMEDIALITY
  18. 18. FRAME BREAKING Frame-breaks bridge the gap between fiction and reality. Through devices such as self- insertion/reference, a writer can deconstruct a fictional reality
  19. 19. SELF REFERENCE
  20. 20. SELF INSERTION
  21. 21. FRAME BREAKING Through different story lines Homestuck questions screens and reading. In a side-plot, the characters are observed and commanded through four screens, mimicking the readers’ responses. The fourth wall also becomes an important object and location
  22. 22. FRAME BREAKING
  23. 23. FRAME BREAKING
  24. 24. FRAME BREAKING
  25. 25. FRAME BREAKING
  26. 26. FRAME BREAKING
  27. 27. FINAL THOUGHTS
  28. 28. THANK YOU Nicolle Lamerichs HU Utrecht @Setsuna_C

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