Call for Papers: Embodying Feminist Discourse in Comics & Graphic Novels

by: , June 22, 2021

Comics and graphic novels by female practitioners that explore themes of identity and belonging from a feminist or LGBTQ+ standpoint are at the heart of a current resurgence of the medium. Whether fiction or autobiography, and across a wide range of genres and discourses, critiques of mainstream patriarchal culture are a key aspect of their narrative content, context and structure.

This CFP invites papers to explore graphic novels across cultural and social boundaries and through a range of critical methodologies. These could focus on a theme or movement or the work of salient practitioner(s).

For example, Alison Bechdel is a leading proponent of comics autobiography, using the form to interrogate received and gendered ways of being and seeing. From Rutu Modan’s range of tightly plotted urban fictions to Isabel Greenberg and Emily Carrol’s reworking of myth and fairy-tale, and Tillie Walden’s LGBTQ+-inflected SF, are just a few landmarks in this innovative, culturally and creatively diverse field. Although these examples spring from the field of “literary” comics, mainstream and superhero comics are, of course,  a potentially rewarding field of study, from Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis’ Lumberjanes to G. Willow Wilson’s groundbreaking reinvention of Ms Marvel, to name but two.

In addition, as a multimedia journal, MAI welcomes original creative contributions, such as creative writing, comics and video or visual/comics form essays.

There have been a number of studies of specific genres, such as autobiographical comics, and monographs on individual authors, but this special issue seeks to bring together an exploration of feminist strands across genres and forms of the graphic novel that are usually treated separately. Linking these disparate genres, and exploring the parallel and contrasting ways they present women as embodied subjects, narrators and will enable us to trace the ways in which this form has re-energised contemporary feminist discourse.

We would especially like to encourage contributors to submit papers on the following creators, topics or texts as indicative examples. This list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Alison Bechdel
  • Marjane Satrapi
  • Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
  • Tillie Walden
  • Rutu Modan
  • Lucy Knisley
  • Willow Wilson
  • Vera Brogsol
  • Manga genres and female representation
  • Lumberjanes
  • Marvel
  • Bandette
  • Tarpe Mills / Miss Fury
  • Wonder Woman
  • Female Superheroes in mainstream comics
  • YA and All-Ages comics
  • Kate Beaton
  • Wimmin’s Comix
  • Bitch Planet
  • Trina Robbins
  • Licensed comics (such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who)
  • Batgirl, Batwoman and Oracle
  • “Women in Refrigerators”
  • Nora Krug
  • Emil Ferris

A thematic approach is actively encouraged. Suggested (but not exclusive) areas of examination could include:

  • Memoir, autobiography and the re-constructed female subject
  • Good grief! Is grief gendered?
  • Somewhere I’ve ever travelled: SF and gender/genre hybridity
  • Feminist approaches to space and place, both in terms of representation and the formal spaces of the comics page
  • Monsters, the monstrous and feminist approaches to subjectivity and embodiment
  • Revisionist feminist history and formally hybrid narratives
  • Reframing: exploring popular genre tropes/characters with a feminist lens
  • Gender and play/playfulness in popular/literary comics
  • Revisiting and reframing patriarchal constructions of the heroic
  • Translations, adaptations and other retellings of comics
  • Trans/gender and polyphony – adaptation and multimedia treatment of comics characters and narratives
  • Postcolonial Feminism and non-European comics
  • Gender, the gothic and myths/ fairy-tales

This issue of MAI will be guest-edited by Houman Sadri (, Ariel Kahn ( & Laura Antola (

300 to 500-word Abstracts Deadline: 6  December 2021

Full Articles Deadline: Aug/Sept 2022

MAI considers submissions in the following formats:

Academic research articles (6000-8000 words)

Interviews (1000-3000 words)

Creative writing (poems, short stories, creative responses, max 3000 words)

Video essays (5-10 min + a brief supporting statement 800-1000 words)

Photographs or visual/audio-visual art

Comics or comics-essays

All articles will be peer-reviewed.

In addition to inclusivity of content, we are delighted to embrace the diversity of critical, cultural and personal backgrounds and orientations, and would especially encourage contributions by early-career academics.

Proposed publication date: Spring 2023

MAI formatting guidelines:

Please send your abstracts to: &


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