What More Can Semiotics do for Comics? Looking at Their Social, Political, and Ideological Significations

By: Stephan Packard and Lukas R.A. Wilde, Guest Editors


Volume: 07
Issue: 02:2021
ISSN: 2459-2943
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2021.0015
Pages: 5-15
Lic.: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0



As early as the 1960s and through to the first decades of the 21st century, comics studies have attracted a large and perhaps disproportionate amount of attention from analytical semiotic approaches that foreground description and theory building. Many of them, culminating in McCloud’s Understanding Comics (1993), have been accused of treating their subject with arbitrary abstraction and an overload of theory, and of engaging in a semiotic metaphysics that posits the reality of the sign apart from the social reality of each reading. But such opposition of content-oriented criticism and formally abstract semiotics, the accusation of social myopia, does not hold under closer inspection. This introduction to the present Punctum special issue on The Social, Political, and Ideological Semiotics of Comics and Cartoons traces some of the overlooked and often oversimplified concerns within semiotic traditions to comic book scholarship that can and often did investigate the historical setting of each sign used in comics in various ways. From this point of view, the social condition of communication is always already in its signs.

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