Visible Cities: Urban Images and Spatial Form in Global Comics

Authors: Benjamin Fraser*, University of Arizona - Spanish and Portuguese - Tucson, AZ
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Comics, Graphic Novels, Urban Geography, Norway, Transportation, Soft City,
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This lightning paper explores the general premise of my book titled "Visible Cities: Urban Images and Spatial Form in Global Comics," under contract with University Press of Mississippi. In this brief presentation, I take a closer look at the sub theme of the book's third chapter, which analyzes selected comics and graphic novels in which the large-scale machinations of urban planning culture seem to have have negatively impacted the life of city dwellers. In particular, Norwegian artist Hariton Pushwagner’s Soft City (1969) indulges in the social alienation that results from the linear monotony of the metropolis. In his oversized page-spanning images, city dwellers sacrifice their identities to urban routine, as rendered graphically in the city’s overwhelming traffic and the meaningless commute to towering but nondescript office buildings. From the opening pages, Pushwagner pursues the theme of urban disconnection in its most radically mundane form. Overall, the theme of the imposing urban form and its linear logic is more important than the plot. As cartoonist Chris Ware notes, “the reader is left with no real person with whom to identify, no memories or ‘character’ with whom to empathize.” Instead, Soft City is the story of an urban multitude. Its unremarkable subjects are ordinary men, women and children who sleepwalk through their daily urban routines.

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