Something Borrowed : Interfigural Characterisation in Anglo-American Fantasy Comics
Varis, E. (2016). Something Borrowed : Interfigural Characterisation in Anglo-American Fantasy Comics. In M. Peppas, & S. Ebrahim (Eds.), Framescapes : Graphic Narrative Intertexts (pp. 113-122). Inter-Disciplinary Press.
© the Author & Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2016. This is a final draft version of an article whose final and definitive form has been published by Inter-Disciplinary Press. Published in this repository with the kind permission of the publisher.
It is no secret that comics’ formal structure resembles a pastiche: images, words and gaps of different styles and abstraction levels mix to tell a story that is more than their sum. Is it any wonder, then, that modern, myth-driven graphic novels tend to borrow their content elements – such as characters – from several heterogeneous sources as well? Wolfgang G. Müller's little-known but widely applicable theory of interfigurality (1991) shows how literary characters gain depth and resonance by sharing elements with characters in other works. The chapter revises his theory and shows how it could also be used in the analysis of comic book characters. Fantasy comics from Vertigo series like Fables and The Sandman to works like Hellboy or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen draw their readerly and scholarly appeal from their eclectic, literary character galleries. Especially Mike Carey and Peter Gross’ The Unwritten (2009–) realises every type of interfigurality Müller has identified in experimental literature, and even adds alternatives of its own. Close reading of this ongoing series underlines that interfigurality is a flexible, transmedial phenomenon: characters of words and images can parallel and reuse elements from purely textual characters in imaginative ways. This flexibility, however, renders Müller’s name-bound character concept insufficient. Since comparing characters to one another – especially intermedially – would not be possible without complex cognitive processes, Müller’s structuralistic view implies and should be supplemented with a cognitive basis. Thus, combined with the cognitive character theories developed by Baruch Hochman (1985) and Aleid Fokkema (1991), Müller’s notion of interfigurality becomes a viable analysing tool for narratives of all kinds. Since comics is a medium of gaps, fragments and “the invisible,” its heroes often read like puzzles, and some crucial pieces can occasionally be found through interfigural speculations. ...