What is Graphic Justice?

GJRA Poster

The Graphic Justice Research Alliance is an interdisciplinary research network exploring the crossover between law and justice and comics of all kinds. Comics and graphic fiction represent a growing area of research, and are of huge significance to questions of law and justice within society and culture on many levels:

  • On the level of culture, comics are historically embroiled in debates of free speech whilst today they inspire countless pop culture adaptations to television and cinema, and can be seen to reflect and shape popular visions of justice, morality and law.
  • On the level of content, from mainstream superhero narratives tackling overt issues of justice, governance and authority, to countless themes related to morality, justice, and normativity in stories beyond the mainstream, comics are replete with legal discourse on numerous levels.
  • On the level of form, comics’ unique and restless blending of different media and types of representation (text, image, visuality, aesthetics, amongst others) radically opens up discourse beyond the confines of text, enabling greater critical engagement amidst our increasingly visual age.
  • On the level of production, comics are a complex art-form, with multiple creators working in individual, group, commercial and industrial contexts, raising questions of ownership and exploitation.

These are just indicative outlines of some of the many avenues that comics and legal research could travel. In short, they show that comics bring rich cultural, practical, and aesthetic contexts and mediations to long-standing and emerging legal problems and settings.

What is law?

Law and justice are understood broadly, and go far beyond the texts of judgments, statutes and policy documents. Questions of state authority, of the social and cultural role of law, of crime and punishment, of moral choice and responsibility, of human nature and value, of the limits of text, of the regulation of creativity, of technology, of normativity and judgment, of social life and the political order, of economics and history, of aesthetics, philosophy, and critical thought. All of this falls under the wide concerns of law and justice, and yet is not an exhaustive list.

What is comics?

Comics are also understood broadly, and goes far beyond the Western superhero mainstream. All genres and modes of publication are relevant, from glossy spandex to zines to webcomics, and everything else besides. Comics, graphic fiction, bandes dessinées, fumetti, manga—all are included in the scope of the Alliance (although the complexity of the text-image relationships in comics, as well as the unsettled nature of debates on the definition of the form, mean that even these labels are open to challenge).

What about their intersection?

As already indicated, the crossover between law and comics is an expansive and open one. The connections above are merely indicative of possible intersections, and the concerns of the Alliance traverse any potential intersection between law and comics—both broadly defined. Such as:

  • Representations of law and justice in comics, including politics, sovereignty, lawyers, judgment, crime, punishment, policing, the justice system, governance, gender, race, sexuality, human difference, etc…
  • The regulation surrounding comics as a cultural art-form, including copyright issues and disputes related to comics, issues of free expression and censorship in comics; the development and future of the medium’s regulation; questions of comics production; etc…
  • The way meaning, reading and communication works in comics and/or image/text, including semiotics, aesthetics, cultural theory, theories of comics (particularly those focused on text-image relationships), methods of visual communication, the role of arts/visuality in public discourse, etc…
  • Examining comics as a form of discourse on moral, legal, philosophical or jurisprudential concerns, including reading comics as moral philosophy/jurisprudence; exploring symbolic, metaphoric or allegorical representations in comics; examining the ways comics narratives and discourse can challenge or expand traditional mainstream/textual discourse; etc…

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For more information, please contact contact@graphicjustice.org