Autobiographix: Documentary and Autobiographical Comics module (CG50008)

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Module code


This module introduces students to autobiographical and documentary comics, two modes that have come to dominate independent comics publishing since the mid 1990s.

We consider the origins of autobiographical comics in the Underground comix of the 1960s, and the emergence of documentary comics in the 1980s, both in American and British comics (although comics from other countries, notably Japan and Iran) are also discussed.

Themes such as trauma, identity, gender, documentary and journalism are examined, along with the formal properties of the comics medium, in order to consider what makes the medium so successful and appropriate for dealing with highly personal themes, and as political tracts. Given the highly personal subject matter of these comics they are usually produced by writer/artists, so issues of auteurism, and the particular "signature" style of both the writing and the artwork would be key themes (how these intertwine, or indeed, the tensions between them). 


Coursework makes up 100% of the assessment, as follows:

  • Presentation (20%), given in class, topic to be agreed with module organiser.
  • Research essay (60%, 4,000 words), due Friday Week 14.
  • Weekly journal (20% in total) 200 words per week


Dr Chris Murray


  • Week 1: Introduction to Autobiographical Comics: Justin Green, BinkyBrown Meets  the Holy Virgin Mary; Harvey Pekar, American Splendor
  • Week 2: Comics and Identity: Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis; Alison Bechdel, Fun Home and Are You My Mother?
  • Week 3: Comics and History:Keiji Nakazawa, "Ore wa Mita" ("I Saw It") and Barefoot Gen;Art Spiegelman, Maus and In the Shadow of No Towers
  • Week 4: Documentary / New Journalism: Joe Sacco, Palestine and Safe AreaGoražde; Rutu Modan, Exit Wounds; Emmanuel Guibert
  • Week 5: Gender, Sexuality and Race: Robert Crumb, The R. Crumb Handbook; Aline Kominsky Crumb, Need More Love; Lynda Barry, One Hundred Demons
  • Week 6: Comics and Trauma:David B, Epileptic;David Small, Stitches; Al Davison, The Spiral Cage; Nicola Streeten, Billy, Me & You
  • Week 7: The Authenticity Problem: Joe Kubert, Yossel; James Strum, Unstable Molecules;Seth, It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken; Adrian Tolmie, Sleepwalk;Dave Sim, Cerebus;Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
  • Week 8: Metafiction meets Memoir: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, The Birth Caul; Eddie Campbell, The Fate of the Artist and Alec; Art Spiegelman, Breakdowns/Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!
  • Week 9: True Crime: Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story; Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko, Torso; Alan Moore and Oscar Zarate, “I keep Coming Back”
  • Week 10: Mary and Bryan Talbot, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes; Bryan Talbot, Alice in Sunderland
  • Week 11: Memoir and History: Tatsumi, A Drifting Life; Phillipe Otie and Li Kunwa, A Chinese Life; Raymond Briggs, Ethel and Ernest