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From the Panoramic to the Immersive Urban: Visual and Narrative Complexity in the Obscure Cities

Authors: Steven Spalding*, United States Naval Academy
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: City, Graphic Novel, Urbanism, Representation
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Benoît Peeters’ and François Schuiten’s series of graphic novels, the Obscure Cities, spans several decades of remarkable artwork and storytelling, and is finally being made available for English readers in gorgeous, full-size editions by Alaxis Press. In pushing the limits of the comic/graphic novel genre and aiming beyond any single segment of its readership, the Obscure Cities collection counts among the most ambitious contemporary works in the French-language bandes dessinées tradition. In addition, the focus on the city through its myriad representations across the collection articulates a specifically francophone blending of sci-fi and fantasy sub-genres: namely, the collection’s compendium of imaginary cities provides for a balancing of spectacular visual and narrative effects with an emphasis on social-realist themes.
This presentation examines the artwork of the collection’s urban representations, cataloguing its use of maps, bird’s-eye views, panoramas, and street views as part of the works’ creation of an immersive urban geography.

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